Great Nonfiction: The Vanishing People, by Katherine Briggs

The Vanishing People: Fairy Lore and LegendsThe Vanishing People: Fairy Lore and Legends by Katharine Mary Briggs

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“The fairy people in the British Isles, not to say all over the world, vary so much in character, size, appearance and powers, that it is not surprising to find that they inhabit all kinds of places on land and water, under the earth and above it”. So writes Katherine Briggs in a chapter introduction, and in this exhaustive study, she draws upon folklore, oral history, and scholarly research to illustrate the extraordinary range of “others” once believed to live along side humans, though usually invisible. As in many things, different cultures all over the world held amazingly similar beliefs about this topic, considered rather esoteric today. This collection of tales and traditions is fascinating, but perhaps even more valuable is the appendix to The Vanishing People, in which she includes a glossary of the types of fairies (woodwives, water horses, and their like), an index of tale types (visits to fairyland, changelings, etc.), and an index of motifs (taboo, transformation, and magical substances, for instance.) Interesting reading and a great reference as well.

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