Sunday, 10 July 2016

The Land of the Green Man

Carolyne Larrington
I.B. Tauris

The folklore of Britain abounds with local tales about the activities of one sort of supernatural being or another giants, elves, hobs, boggarts, dragons or shape-changing witches. The stories are vivid, dramatic and often humorous. Carolyne Larrington has made a representative selection, which she re-tells in a simple, direct way which is completely faithful to the style and spirit of her sources. Most collectors of local legends have been content merely to note how they may serve to explain some feature of the landscape or to warn of some supernatural danger, but Carolyne Larrington probes more deeply. By perceptive and delicate analysis, she explores their inner meanings. She shows how, through lightly coded metaphors, they deal with the relations of man and woman, master and servant, the living and the dead, the outer semblance and the inner self, mankind and the natural environment. Her fascinating book gives us a fuller insight into the value of our traditional tales

Subtitled 'A Journey Through the Supernatural Landscape of the British Isles' this book is an examination of the supernatural creatures and places of folk tale and legend and their role in shaping modern British identity.  Well, I say British but maybe English and Scottish may be more correct as for the most part Wales is conspicuous by it's absence.  There are scattered mentions but they are few and far between.  Ireland fares a little better and so does France. I'm quibbling though, mostly because I'm Welsh and it's our way, although I think I do have a point; a look at the map on the inside cover reveals only two Welsh places and one of them is a sunken land off the coast of Aberystwyth.

The book in truth is a fascinating and fairly comprehensive exploration of the way we have come to understand ourselves through the stories we create, whether they be about the 'Selkies' of Shetland,  the giants of the Yorkshire and the West Country, 'The Knockers' in the Cornish mines, the 'Black Dogs' of East Anglia or modern interpretations of folk and faerie lore in 'The Lord of the Rings', 'Harry Potter', or Alan Garner's 'Alderley' books.

In many ways the book offers a travelogue of England and Scotland identifying and discussing many key locations and their associated stories.  Larrington's writing is delightfully succinct, peppered with personal observations and driven by an enthusiasts joy in the subject matter.  Her knowledge of the topic and the connections she makes show a land where stories helped to understand, to define and to explain as well as to entertain.  A tradition continued here in this fascinating book.

Buy it here -  The Land of the Green Man: A Journey through the Supernatural Landscapes of the British Isles

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