THE EROTIC WORLD OF FAERY by Maureen Duffy. Published by Hodder and Stoughton, £3.50
The title is possibly misleading, the book is not a collection of erotic faery stories, but a serious study of the development of the faery/folk mythology. More deeply it examines how each successive stage of folk culture was influenced and often brought into being by the various societies that have existed in Britain for the past 1,500 years.
The book begins with the contrast between the great cauldron of myths and religions which spread from country to country in pre-Christian times and the intolerance of other religions and suppression of folk culture by the ever powerful Christian Church.
From the new and frowned upon folk mythology which came out of this supression, Miss Duffy takes us on an interesting century-by-century trip through faeryland. She discusses very lucidly Shakespeare’s plays. King Arthur, the Renaissance, English painting, the Gothic creepy stories, bringing us right up to Arthur C Clarke, James Blish and modern sci-fi fantasy.
Although the author at the beginning apologises for the book being “necessarily superficial” I did not find it so, and the range of legends, plays, paintings and poems it examines is considerable. One of my favourite poems as a schoolboy was Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” but now its real sexual content has been brought to my attention I shan’t ever be able to read it in the same light again.
To sum it up this is a very well researched, constructed and thoroughly enjoyable book.