Troublesome Things: A History of Fairies and Fairy Stories
Titania and Oberon, Puck and Peaseblossom capture our modern idea of what fairies are or might be. Show me a child who hasn't clapped their hands to keep Tinkerbell's fluttering heart from fading away or watched in delight as Disney's fairies flit across a woodland glade. But this pretty pastel world of gauzy winged things who grant wishes and make dreams come true 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 Diana Purkiss explains in this engrossing history, ancient fairies were born of fear: fear of the dark, of death, and of the 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.