After finishing the lovely “The Secret Lives Of Elves & Faeries” by John Mathews, I found myself with a rather severe dilemma. While I had just read a fun book..I really wanted to know more about these strange Faerie or Sidhe beings, but was all out of related material. So, like any other reading addict I abruptly decided to trek through the great Amazon.com on an epic quest to find more material! Book after book and link after link I searched and struggled, until one true gem made itself quite apparent. That was “A History of Irish Fairies” by Carolyn White. Coming in at just 82 pages, ”A History of Irish Fairies” is just that – a history of Irish fairies!
When receiving my copy of “A History of Irish Fairies,” I was a bit surprised by how thin it was. In truth, when I ordered the book from Amazon, I never took note of how many pages it had – so I suppose I was expecting a bit more. I will say however, that while it is only 82 pages – it is jam packed with information and lore – all of which was very interesting. From faerie food, to faerie beings, to how they interact with humans, to what to do if you see a faerie, to how to please a faerie (and avoid their wrath), and so on, “A History of Irish Fairies” covered a great wealth of topics. After closing the final page, I was truly amazed at how much lore was fit into such a small book – and done in a way that was not lacking or incomplete. Infact, White even covered other faerie related beings such as the leprechaun and screaming banshee!
For the most part, I found this to be a rather enjoyable read – one that presented a lot of new information to myself of the Sidhe race. Though I enjoyed nearly every aspect within this small guide, what really stood out for me were the unique folk stories told. Stories of human-beings taken and brought to the lands of faerie, only to return decades later with toes worn away from constant dancing – to tales of poets and writers, wandering into faerie lands, only to return with new-found inspiration and talent – to stories of changelings, love between mortals and faeries, and more. While reading these interesting little insights into how faeries are often perceived, I found myself deeply immersed within the vast quantity of lore.
Along with the interesting stories, there were also a number of unique theories concerning the “good people” (whom’ as the author states, are actually neither good nor’ bad). For example, Carolyn White states that many believe that fairies are in truth, fallen angels – beings cast down from heaven, yet too good for hell. There are those who believe that fairyland is even a sort of purgatory. Another presented theory is that the Sidhe race is so huge, it is actually larger than that of our own. Of course, however, because faeries live on a different plane of existence, we only see them when they deem it so. I also enjoyed the theory of changelings – a belief that neglected infants (always girls) are sometimes taken to live in the hills of fairyland – replaced in our world by a changeling — a similar being to the one taken, but unruly and chaotic. I also must note the interesting theory of Faerie glamorization. According to White, faeries like to glamorous. For instance, a beautiful faerie palace is actually a mound of dirt – faerie food may simply be rocks..so on and so fourth. In general, faeries give those who see them a glamorous version of what is true.
Finally, I’ll also note that I was impressed with the portrayal of Faeries. While some depict the Sidhe as innocent little beings with wings..and others depict them as evil little tricksters, this describes them as neither. According to White, faeries are neither good nor’ bad, evil nor’ pure. That isn’t to say they aren’t dangerous. If crossed or insulted, they WILL lash out and inflict punishment, such as a withering limb, the dying of crops, or even murder. I also found the portrayal of fairylands to be intriguing – and very reminiscent to how it was portrayed in my favorite novel, “Lud-In-The-Mist” by Hope Mirrlees. For instance, most who wander or are taken into the lands of Faerie return broken. Many lose their wits and cannot function. Many long to return, thinking only of the lands they left until the day they die. It also said that if one eats faerie food without certain precautions, they will go mad – which is similar to the idea of Fairyfruit in Lud. I found these similarities of interest – as the way faeries were described in this book closely resembled those portrayed in novels I have read and enjoyed.
All in all, this was a very informative little book, and I feel that Carolyne White did a great job in fitting so much into so few pages. My only real complaint was the writing. While it was certainly sufficient, there were a lot of areas that were oddly worded – and certain grammatical issues (and even a few typos) that stood out. Never-the-less, those are editing issues that failed to hinder my enjoyment. In the end, I came out with A LOT more knowledge of Faeries, and am very pleased to have made this purchase. I would have, however, liked to have seen more sources, as there were very few. So overall, this is just a great book on the history of Irish fairies; one that anyone could enjoy if having such an interest. I’d definitely suggest it, and can easily say that this was both an enjoyable and educational read. Now that I’ve read this, I’ll know that if I ever cross a faerie traveling in a dust cloud, all that must be said are the words “God Bless You”..as once this is uttered, one is completely protected from Faerie wrath!