Archive for the ‘Non Fiction’ Category

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!

(4 out of 5)

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For as long as I can remember, I have been interested in both medieval life and culture – the way in which people of the era lived, survived and managed their day-to-day lives. As a kid I was fascinated with dragons (I still am), and knights..and swords..and castles, and yes magic. Some of these, of course, have little to do with the real life of the middle ages – at least that of battling fiery dragons and sea serpents, but the time in general has always struck something inside of myself – an interest that has grown stronger with time (which is partially due to my love of fantasy novels). For this reason, I have decided to take this fascination to the next level and actually do some real research! That is why I purchased the book “Life in a Medieval City” by Joseph and Francis Gies.

Life in a Medieval City by Joseph and Francis Gies covers a huge range of topics and issues – essentially anything you can think of when it comes to a Medieval City – at least the city of Troyes. The book focuses in on the city in the year of 1250 – a year in which, as described by the book, was a relatively safe and prosperous time. A time where society and civilization had truly begun to progress and advance, from medicine to architecture, to schools and to business.

While many history related books tend to bore me – not necessarily because of the content within, but because of the writing itself – I found that “Life in a Medieval City” did more than an adequate job of not only education and enlightening, but doing so without ever becoming dull or robotic. The writing didn’t drag on and on, the author was to the point, and the book in its entirety was written in a more down-to-earth tone. This format, along with the wealthy abundance of interesting content – truly made for a compelling and informative read. I found myself immersed within nearly each page, and came out knowing far more about the subject than I had when going in.

Oh, and did I mention that “Life in a Medieval City” is completely jam packed with information? Just looking at the index had had me salivating. From homes, to churches, to medieval housewives, to childbirth and children, to weddings, funerals, schools, businesses, doctors, natural disasters and more – nearly every aspect of Troyes was covered. Along with this, there were several great illustrations – artwork of the time, as well as actual photos of the city as it stands today. I personally found the chapter on doctors and medicine to be most fascinating – but was was intrigued by the chapters on home life. I’ve always had an interest in the people of that era; of how they spent their daily lives and simply lived. There was a great deal of material on this, and I found enjoyment in every bit. It was also quite interesting to compare and contrast life as it is today, with life as it was then – to note the things that have changed so much, as well as the things that really haven’t.

Overall this was a great and informative work. From the large array of topics, to the excellent writing – I have very few qualms when it comes to this. After finishing “Life in a Medieval City”, I can definitely say that I have learned so much – and would certainly suggest it to those who may be like myself; those who have an interest in medieval studies but have never actually put that interest into action. In other words, this is an excellent starting point when it comes to studies of the Medieval era – especially when it comes to the medieval city. I’ll also say that the two authors have several other published works on the subject, including “Life in a Medieval Village,” “Life in a Medieval Castle,” “Marriage and the Family in the Middle Ages,” “Technology and Invention in the Middle Ages“ and more – all of which have rather favorable reviews.

As you can probably tell, I was quite pleased with this read and will continue to delve further into the studies of medieval life. This book has a lot of re-readability, and is a great overview of what the city of Troyes was like in the year 1250. Not only was it informative – but it was full of life. While reading “Life in a Medieval City,” I felt as though the words brought out the true essence of the time – for it wasn’t simply a compiled list of already established information – but a nicely structured piece of work, with great detail and vivid description. Overall this was a fascinating read, and I again, would recommend it to anyone interested in the Middle Ages.

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