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Another short book as I am still ill, and this one a pleasure from the start to the finish. Alan Garner's collection has mostly versions of the stories one anticipates seeing in collections of fairy tales, but his language is so good that they are positively hypnotic. It's an interesting comparison with Giants, Witches, and a Dragon or Two, which is also linguistically inventive and lively, but which seems to emphasize the inherent absurdity of some of its stories in its choices among idiom and dialect; this one has a kind of gravitas which makes even the incoherent bits feel purposeful (and 'Billy Beg' is still pretty incoherent).

Also, any collection which includes the correct version of 'The Black Bull of Norroway' makes me happy, as that story makes me cry when it is told correctly, i.e. with joyous understatement at the end of it. After you've gone through the iterations of "seven long years I served for thee, the glassy hill I clomb for thee, thy bloody sark I wrang for thee, and wilt thou not waken and turn to me?" all you really do need is what Garner gives us: He heard, and turned to her. I have heard that one hurt in oral retelling by saying more than that.

And there's a version of 'Molly Whuppy' in here which makes sixteen times more sense than the previous, although my sympathies are still entirely with the giant.

Also, some very nicely eerie woodcuttish sorts of illustrations by Derek Collard.

I really haven't much to say about it, but this is so good I may well get a copy to keep in the house to use as a base text for some of these, the way one keeps D'Aulaire's to hand to people who need somewhere to start. Especially since Garner (bless him) cites his sources.


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March 2017

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