Ultimate Fairies Handbook – Review

Ultimate Fairies HandbookThe Ultimate Fairies Handbook by Susannah Marriott offers 432 pages of charming illustrations and articles related to the faerie (or fairy) world.

Ms. Marriott is a British writer who recently moved to Cornwall, home of the “piskies” (discussed in my podcast, Flying Faeries – fairies that fly).  She’s been featured in the Weekend Guardian and Daily Record, and broadcasted on BBC Radio 4.

The Ultimate Fairies Handbook is described as ” a modern classic – a must-have addition to every fairy enthusiasts library.”  I agree.  Classic (and lovely) illustrations of faeries alternate with short stories, poetry, facts and folklore, and information about the faerie world.

I especially like this book because it doesn’t try to dazzle you with a lovely cover, and then leave you disappointed when you start reading it.

This is a book you’ll use as a starting point for more in-depth research.  You’re even more likely to keep it next to your bed, to read a little about the faeries each night before drifting off to happy dreams.

For me, this Ultimate Fairies Handbook is more entertaining than a fairy encyclopedia.  It’s certainly not as tedious as academic studies of the fae (or fairy) world, but this wasn’t assembled as a “just the facts” book.

This book provides lots of information, folklore, and delightful thoughts about faeries, and more rich illustrations than most books in this category.

Faerie enthusiasts will want to own a copy of this book.  It is charming and filled with happy images, prose and poetry.  If you love faeries, The Ultimate Fairies Handbook is truly a “something for everyone” kind of book.

[rating:4]

A brief history of dragons

The history of dragons is not an easy subject. Frankly, dragons appear in earliest recorded history. Nobody ever thought about where they came from, just as few people research where frogs come from. They just are.

However, there are few current stories about dragons, unless you include the Loch Ness Monster. Today, many people think that dragons are just legends and fairy tales. Until the early 20th century, people took dragons very seriously.

The earliest written tale of dragons may be the Sumerian/Babylonian/Mesopotamian creation legend, Enuma Elish, in which Mummu-Tiamat is sometimes represented as a dragon/goddess of the ocean or waters.

This story corresponds to the Bible account in Genesis 1:12 (NRSV) which mentions “sea monsters.” Dragons appear throughout the Bible, first as literal beasts in the Old Testament, and then as symbols of evil forces in the New Testament.

Dragons are mentioned steadily throughout written history, through the 20th century. In AD 67, Roman historian Octavus Livy described a battle that he had witnessed, involving a “leviathan” or dragon. Pliny the Elder mentioned dragons in his histories, too.

In the Dark Ages, generally prior to the 12th century, a dragon tormented Drachenfels, Germany and another was seen at Isle St. Marguerite in France. The latter dragon reportedly killed over 3000 people. He may be the same dragon as Drac, who lived in a cave near Beaucaire, France on the Rhone River.

The leading tale claims that St. Patrick banished both snakes and dragons from Ireland. However, in the 11th century, Tristan reportedly killed a dragon to win the hand of Isolde in marriage, perhaps for his uncle Mark. During that same time, yet another dragon terrorized Kiev, Russia.

In 1222, two years after Henry III’s coronation, dragons were seen over London, England. At the time, the dragons were blamed for ravaging thunderstorms and the flooding which resulted. That is the same year that St. George’s Day became a National Holiday in England, named for the famous dragonslayer.

(Although St. George probably lived in the third and fourth centuries, his dragon tales were popularized far later, in 14th century England. According to a leading legend, he killed a dragon in Pagan Libya, and the entire town immediately converted to Christianity.)

We can find many dragons as we casually browse history:

  • Two dragons fought near Canterbury, England, with many witnesses in 1449.
  • A dragon was killed on Vatican Hill in Rome in 1669.
  • In 1942, the German U-boat Reichland reported a dragon-like sea serpent.
  • These accounts continue, far more than could be catalogued here. However, these tales follow one after another in steady succession, many with credible witnesses.

    The most recent dragon lore may be the 1966 story of a British military unit practicing survival techniques in the Atlantic Ocean. According to this story–which may be urban legend–paratrooper John Ridgeway saw a huge, dragon-like sea serpent rise about him from the ocean.

    However, this account may borrow from a more documented story from the VietNam war, involving an exchange between a soldier named Ridgeway and a helicopter called “Dragon.”

    Regardless of the accuracy of individual dragon stories, the preponderance of evidence is surprising and almost overwhelming.

    In the face of so much history, the bigger question is: Why don’t we believe in dragons today?

    Learn more about dragons at our next article, Kinds of dragons

    Faeries in your family tree

    Bodium CastleDo you have fae ancestry? I mean really fae ancestry, the kind that can be written on your family tree?

    If you have Irish ancestry, the answer is probably yes! Most people with Irish roots also have faerie ancestors.

    Here’s a short version of the history.

    The Irish fae world includes the Tuatha De Danann, who were the “gods and not-gods” (in Irish: de agus ande) of early Ireland.

    The Tuatha De Danann were–and are–real people, or perhaps “beings” is a better word.

    And, they married the (very human) Milesians and had children, when the Milesians conquered Ireland.

    (This history is documented in many ancient sources, including The Annals of the Four Masters, one of Ireland’s earliest written histories, transcribed by monks.

    The Milesians were the people who populated modern Ireland. Their surnames are the ones that start with O’ and Mac.

    However, in recent times, those O’ and Mac prefixes were often dropped. For example, O’Baoighill became O’Boyle and then simply Boyle.

    (Murphy was O’Murchadha and Sullivan was O’Suileabhain, and the list goes on…)

    So, if you have Irish ancestry (and over 50% of people in the United States do), then you probably have Milesian blood in your veins.

    That means you probably have faerie ancestors, too.

    If you could trace your heritage back far enough, you’d get to the Irish ancestor who married one of the Tuatha De Danann, and you’d actually have the name of your faerie ancestor.

    (If you’re a FitzGerald from the Limerick area, the process may be a lot easier, since Lord Desmond, the third Earl of Desmond, married the Tuatha De Danann goddess, Aine. Their son, Gerald, fourth Earl of Desmond, is still seen riding from Lough Gur every seven years when the lake is dry.)

    My emphasis is on Irish faeries, because that’s my own ancestry.

    However, many cultures have similar traditions, from Scandinavian to Indian to Arab to African.

    Research your family tree and learn your faerie connections.

    You may find some wonderful surprises!