Fantastical creatures — fairies, dragons, elves, slithy toves and more — take centre stage in these new reads.
This splendid book will appeal to admirers of John Ronald Reuel Tolkien (1892-1973). It is published by the University of Oxford’s Bodleian Library to commemorate its current Tolkien exhibition, running from June 1 to Oct. 28. The Bodleian is the keeper of the Tolkien Archive and a number of its treasures are reproduced in this impressive oversized volume, including essays, photographs, artwork (the painting on the cover is Tolkien’s 1937 depiction of Bilbo at the Huts of the Raft-elves), and letters from his many admirers, from Joni Mitchell to Iris Murdoch.
Martin Arnold has set himself a vast topic for scrutiny: every culture across the millennia has conjured up fantastical fire-spewing raptors, perhaps as a projection of all that humankind most fears. This social history of dragons begins in the mythologies and legends that have come to us throughout recorded history and ends in the present day, with The Game of Thrones’ Daenerys and her aggressive brood. Arnold is the author of The Vikings: Culture and Conquest and Thor: Myth to Marvel.
Richard Sugg, author of Mummies, Cannibals and Vampires, wants to disabuse you of any nonsense you may harbour about fairies being small, whimsical and affectionate. The fact is, for much of recorded history they were regarded as dangerous and malicious. Traditional fairy belief has it that they were the original fallen angels, who accompanied the Proud Angel to a realm between Heaven, Hell and Earth. Sugg writes well, and amusingly, about the evolution of fairies from Terror to Tinkerbell.