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At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History…
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At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins,… (2000)

by Diane Purkiss

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200488,826 (3.98)2

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Showing 4 of 4
Purportedly a history of fairy tales, this book serves neither as a history nor a particularly good resource about legends. I had to give up on this after this passage,
"In later stories, Peter [Pan:] is joined by boys who have fallen out of their perambulators, their suspiciously womblike perambulators (is this a mere bowlderization of miscarriage--miscarriage--or stillbirth?)."

What. WHAT? I started skimming after that. It's not a very well organized book, and Purkiss's logic is all over the place. Her conclusions are alternately disappointingly obvious and amusingly crazy-eyed. Near the end, I discovered an entire sub-chapter about X-Files fanfic. Oh dear. ( )
  wealhtheowwylfing | Feb 29, 2016 |
This book attempts to dethrone our contemporary understanding of pretty little cute fairies (think the modern Disney revamp of "Tink" and all her sisters/cousins) and reconstruct a darker and more sinister lineage for fairies in Western culture. In chronological order, Purkiss moves from prehistoric periods to the present, studying how changing historical contexts have altered our interpretation of and relationship to fairies. I enjoyed the book but I do have some concerns with it.

It is published by a university press, but it is trying to be a popular history. I think this is a problem. It is neither fish (truly rigorous academic study) nor fowl (truly popular, accessible text). The author uses psychoanalytic and poststructuralist theories in places, and elsewhere the tone switches to an overly simplistic, conversational banter. It felt as if the editor was trying to satisfy two markets with the book and what resulted was a bit disjointed. Also, while the book appears to be well-researched, I take issue with the first couple chapters in which basically any ancient demon or liminal figure is redefined as a fairy. I learned something new reading this book, but I ended up feeling pretty neutral about it. ( )
  sansmerci | May 27, 2014 |
This is what I call a serious study. Purkiss examines fairy lore all the way back into the ancient cultures of Mesopotamia, moving through history up to today's obsession with aliens and Elvis. She cites numerous examples of fairy folklore, literature, comparative studies... there are more references here in the endnotes than I've seen in some academic textbooks. She really did her research, and wrote a fascinating and compelling book to go along with it. Forget dry history or lifeless folklore. While I may not agree with all her conclusions - and in some cases I wonder if her conclusions are pushing the boundaries of the evidence - this book is definitely worth reading for those who are interested in folklore, mythology, or faerie lore. ( )
1 vote dk_phoenix | May 6, 2009 |
This book is fascinating. Don't know how accurate it is (I definitely have misgivings about the classical portions) but the chapters on the Victorian era are great! ( )
1 vote Ancientgirl | Nov 10, 2005 |
Showing 4 of 4
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Book description
At the Bottom of the Garden is a history of fairies from the ancient world to the present. Steeped in folklore and fantasy, it is a rich and diverse account of the part that fairies and fairy stories have played in culture and society.

The pretty pastel world of gauzy-winged things who grant wishes and make dreams come true—as brought to you by Disney's fairies flitting across a woodland glade, or Tinkerbell’s magic wand—is predated by a darker, denser world of gorgons, goblins, and gellos; the ancient antecedents of Shakespeare's mischievous Puck or J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. For, as Diane Purkiss explains in this engrossing history, ancient fairies were born of fear: fear of the dark, of death, and of other great rites of passage, birth and sex. To understand the importance of these early fairies to pre-industrial peoples, we need to recover that sense of dread.

This book begins with the earliest manifestations of fairies in ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean. The child-killing demons and nymphs of these cultures are the joint ancestors of the medieval fairies of northern Europe, when fairy figures provided a bridge between the secular and the sacred. Fairies abducted babies and virgins, spirited away young men who were seduced by fairy queens and remained suspended in liminal states.

Tamed by Shakespeare's view of the spirit world, Victorian fairies fluttered across the theater stage and the pages of children's books to reappear a century later as detergent trade marks and alien abductors. In learning about these often strange and mysterious creatures, we learn something about ourselves—our fears and our desires.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0814766862, Paperback)

At the Bottom of the Garden is a history of fairies from the ancient world to the present. Steeped in folklore and fantasy, it is a rich and diverse account of the part that fairies and fairy stories have played in culture and society.

The pretty pastel world of gauzy-winged things who grant wishes and make dreams come true—as brought to you by Disney's fairies flitting across a woodland glade, or Tinkerbell’s magic wand—is predated by a darker, denser world of gorgons, goblins, and gellos; the ancient antecedents of Shakespeare's mischievous Puck or J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. For, as Diane Purkiss explains in this engrossing history, ancient fairies were born of fear: fear of the dark, of death, and of other great rites of passage, birth and sex. To understand the importance of these early fairies to pre-industrial peoples, we need to recover that sense of dread.

This book begins with the earliest manifestations of fairies in ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean. The child-killing demons and nymphs of these cultures are the joint ancestors of the medieval fairies of northern Europe, when fairy figures provided a bridge between the secular and the sacred. Fairies abducted babies and virgins, spirited away young men who were seduced by fairy queens and remained suspended in liminal states.

Tamed by Shakespeare's view of the spirit world, Victorian fairies fluttered across the theater stage and the pages of children's books to reappear a century later as detergent trade marks and alien abductors. In learning about these often strange and mysterious creatures, we learn something about ourselves—our fears and our desires.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:46 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Steeped in folklore and fantasy, "Troublesome Things" is a rich and diverse account of the part that fairies and fairy stories have played in culture and society. And in learning about these often strange and mysterious creatures, we learn something about ourselves too - our fears and our desires. For while few of us may actually believe that there are fairies at the bottom of our gardens, who can resist clapping their hands just in case.… (more)

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