Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Field Guide to the Little People by Nancy Arrowsmith

First published in 1977, reprinted by Llewellyn in 2009.

In high summer meadows, nestled in the moors, near old castles, or behind the kitchen stove - these are the places where the Little People may be found.

Make the acquaintance of White Ladies and Red Caps, Church Grims and Hobgolbins, English Fairies, Leprechauns, Sirens, Hey-Hey Men, and all of their strange and mythical kin. Become wise in the ways
of these magical creatures, some beautiful and benevolent, others cunning, menacing, or morose.

For many years, this field guide has been as elusive as a Will-o'-the-Wisp. This is the first opportunity for fans to once again own an English-language edition of one of the most revered introductions to elf folk ever written.
(book back blurb)

A little about this book: it was originally released in the 70s and then went out of print. Thankfully for it, it developed a huge cult following which then led to its most recent reprinting. Apparently this book was highly sought after for years and those with copies held onto them for dear life (I have a few books like that). After reading it, it's painfully clear why.

There are many, many different types of Little People in this book and while the descriptions are not overly wrought or extensive, they give you just enough information to tantalize you and make you want to dig deeper into some of these creatures.

The amount of research Arrowsmith put into this book is amazing. The stories and information she gathered are all "true" accounts she gathered from traveling all over Europe. They're not stories based on other stories from people but documented from texts she spent years scouring.

The introductions take a little bit to wade through. There are a few, both old from the original book and new to make light of a few things, including how it hasn't been updated (like many YA books are now especially). References to the USSR and Czechoslovakia are made throughout. It's not like people wouldn't know what they were when reading (I mean, it's not rocket science) but is it really worth changing? I think it just gives the book that much more life.

What's also pretty neat is that if you're big into reading about faeries (Stiefvater, Marr, etc.), you read about the ones they write about in this book and it gives you a better understanding of just what they are. They don't have dramatized stories around them. You just get bare-bones "facts" about what they are. You can color in the rest of the picture for yourself.

The drawings are stunning and I've even marked off a couple of the Little People for potential stories later on down the road. Some of them are just so enticing I can't help but write about them. But maybe that's their plan . . .

So if you're looking for a somewhat short and to the point research book about the Little People (not just faeries) or are just generally interested in Them, then be sure to pick up this book. It's one of the most comprehensive and unbiased compendiums of Little People information out there. You don't want to miss is.

1 comment:

brizmus said...

This sounds super cool! I love the history behind the book. It's cool that they decided to reprint it. Now I want to read about the little people!

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