The Origins of Wizards, Witches and Fairies by Simon Webb

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Synopsis

This book tells the fascinating story of the origin of our ideas about wizards, witches and fairies. We all have a clear mental image of the pointed hats worn by such individuals, which are based upon actual headgear dating back 3,000 years to the Bronze Age. Carefully sifting through old legends, archaeological evidence and modern research in genetics, Simon Webb shows us how our notions about fairies and elves, together with human workers of magic, have evolved over the centuries.

After reading this book, nobody will ever be able to view Gandalf the wizard in the same light and even old fairy tales such as Beauty and the Beast will take on a richer and deeper meaning. In short, our perception of wizards, witches and fairies will be altered forever.

This exploration of folklore, backed by the latest scientific findings, will present readers with the image of a lost world; the one used as the archetype for fantasy adventures from The Lord of the Rings to Game of Thrones. In the process, the real nature of wizards will be revealed and their connection with the earliest European cultures thoroughly documented.

Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Origins of Wizards, Witches and Fairies by Simon Webb

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was super interesting. I would like to thank Pen & Sword for providing me with an advance readers copy via access to the galley for free through the NetGalley program. Anyone looking for a comprehensive telling of wizards, witches, and fairies in how they came about in their true form, how portrayal in pop culture compared the the past has evolved, as well as how perception and characterization has changed over time. Would be a good resource book for anyone needing reference and for anyone interested in such topics.

The Story
I enjoyed the commentary on preservation of oral history, context, meaning, application, conduct, as well as proposed theories about such beings and how they were portrayed in literature and pop culture today.

I would have liked to have seen a bit more related to how such characters are portrayed and used in other media, such as the fairies in The Legend of Zelda and other video games, but that’s just personal preference for my curiosity when it specifically comes to fairies.

Etymology was interesting and the book went into detail of the symbolism in their clothing, decor, flutes, and horns. There were some aspects that were incredibly informational where it was less persuasive and what was more persuasive had less information, which was pleasant to read through without being dry, but also in some ways I think that came down to overall tone and maybe more an objective of the book than oversight.

The Writing
It’s a very approachable book.

I received an ARC so I won’t comment on the organization as I think it was still being refined and I deeply appreciated the topics it touched upon no matter the order.

A lot of research in this shows the depth of date and place reference accuracy, originating concept, and overall depiction. Some presuppositions that make you feel like you’re on the bandwagon, other times there were questions particularly related to Christianity, that I think were answered with certain historical figures and references rather than overall concept or message. As a result, at times there was lot of opinion, commentary, personal tone that I found to be interesting but came with more questions than answers, particularly how Christianity is mostly the sole contrast to the examples that were given. One to argue with rather than from point of discovery and possible relationship. Mentioned religious appropriation of other cultures but I would wonder if overall it proposes the question of asking if law and formalities preceded nature and behavior, or the other way around? Of which speculation that no one could ever confer as a hijacking of Christianity, not as a title of religion, but overall relationship which is something you can’t ignore both in value and principle, but I appreciated reading about such thoughts nonetheless.

Illustrations
These were super beautiful and interesting.

View all my reviews

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