Anyone up for some faery treasure? Because that what happens when you bring together historian, teacher and bestselling author John Matthews (How to See Fairies, Pirates et. al.) and young but already renowned mixed media illustrator/artist Matt Dangler (The Secret History of Mermaids) for Faeryland: The Secret World of the Hidden Ones which is a wonderful and collectable beginner’s guide to the world of the “Fae” intended for humans aged 12 or older.
But, this is no ordinary compendium of ordinary facts and figures. From the sparkly pixie dust gilded cover to the full color pull out of a 19th Century map of faeryland from the House of Congress, this is 60+ pages of informative enchantment to delight the senses.
Scholars and newbie fairy enthusiasts alike will find this book’s layout and content accessible with thirteen easy to read (but not too easy) sections including the following:
A Brief History of Faeries
Good Faeries vs. Bad Faeries
Readers are introduced to not only the usual suspects of common faerylore in the Celtic and UK traditions made famous by authors like William Shakespeare and his tales of Oberon and Titania, but to global denizens of note from places like Scandinavia, Africa, Russia, China etc. Other refreshing surprises include precious little pull out envelopes which contain fully illustrated invitations to a Faerie Court, usable postcards with the allegedly real faery photos taken by British children Elsie Wright and Frances Wright in 1917 (several decades before Photoshop), a small grimoire of Faery Spells and Charms which can prove very helpful if faced with the hidden ones in all their wonderful and/or terrible glory and much more hidden bounty to unearth. The thoughtful inclusion of several faery songs, spells to summon faeries, classic poems like The Original Balled of the Merry Deeds of Robin Goodfellow, all set apart from the narrative in their own neat little groves of this densely packed but never busy looking Faeryland, really add to the ethereal aura of the stories and allow the reader to get lost as their eyes bounce from place to place with ease and grace.
The artwork is a magical land all on its own, if only because there are so many different genres and time periods to choose from. The reader is presented with photography (which is usually reserved for more academic texts on the subject) of trees sacred to Faeries, rocks haunted by fairies, herbs used by faery healers etc. but images from professional and hobbyist photographers alike of what they are calling real faeries. Classic artwork (mainly paintings) reproduced in vibrant color, from the Victorian, Symbolist, Romantic eras etc. by famous “free thinkers” around the globe like William Blake, Henry Fuseli and even a couple from one of my personal favorites, the visionary artist William “AE” Russell dance nimbly among more contemporary images from artists like Virginia Lee and of course the star of this art show Matt Dangler. We are gifted with so many of his visions of life in the faery realm. There are more traditional, or romantic images like a tiny door in a tree trunk (next to a J.R.R. Tolkien quote no less), or sentinels watching over faery gold. Yet, it is the risks he takes creating worlds for the lesser known inhabitants of the lore like the often ignored Abatwas battling the Tokolosh or the English Brownies who people apparently bake cakes for to gain favor, in a two page spread so whimsical and vibrant it is worth the reasonable price of the book alone, that sets him apart from his peers.
In short, this book makes a wonderful gift or an addition to a collection because there is really something for everyone. Whether you like your faeries magical and lucky or spooky and menacing, you are well covered. More importantly though even being comprehensible and fun, is that the author and artist really seem determined on every page to create something of quality. It is not so much a genre book but a love affair with the genre. Fantastical memories of this book and its pages will last through trends or leaps in age, should you be so inspired to find a faery yourself, and get stuck with them for a little while.