Children Into Swans
Fairy Tales and the Pagan Imagination
By Jan Beveridge
You might have noticed by now that I don’t necessarily review the most recent “it” book or novels on the NY Times bestseller list. In fact, a few times a year I’ll browse through an agent’s MSWL (Manuscript Wish List) site to see what they’re reading/raving about just to dip my toe back into the mainstream literary world. That’s because my TBR (To Be Read) list is usually 20-deep with books I’m reading based on what I’m writing – and this includes non-fiction. I’m also a big fan of using my local library. Seriously, I could never afford the number of books I read, even if I bought them on kindle. For a witchy novel I’m mulling over, I set out to learn more about fairies and how ancient pagans interacted with fairies and my library offered up this research gem.
Children Into Swans is not a collection of fairy tales, so if that’s on your radar, you’ll be disappointed. It’s an exploration of pagan folk tales that have survived to our time and, when appropriate, how they are tied into more modern fairy tales (thanks to early 19th century writers such as the Brothers Grimm who took the time to travel through many countries, collecting the stories before they were completely forgotten.) It’s astounding how many ancient tales have vanished and we owe a debt of gratitude to not only the Brothers Grimm, but also to Medieval monks for transcribing the records that exist.
While Children Into Swans begins with ancient Irish tales, it also delves heavily into Celtic and Scandinavian folk and fairy tales, with a good bit of information on Welsh derivatives. At times, the author will mention Germanic tales but the focus of the book is on Northern Europe and Scandinavia. This is a fairly scholarly work, but easily readable (i.e., not dry) and is divided into digestible chapters. These include: History (of fairy and folk tales); Characters (giants, elves, etc.); Stories from the Pagan Year (Beltaine, Samain, etc.); and Storyteller’s Themes (omens, spells, etc.). The author references several other works on ancient tales and sagas if you wanted to dig deeper. This particularly appealed to me since I’ve narrowed down my research needs to Welsh pagan beliefs so I’ve been served up several other avenues to pursue.
I find myself abandoning some research books mid-way through because they are either difficult to read or I’m not finding the information I thought they would contain. This book was an enjoyable immersion into pagan beliefs and folklore and I’d recommend it to anyone searching for a foundational knowledge of Celtic, Irish, or Norse mythology.
My rating system:
5 stars – Wow, I could not stop thinking about this book and/or I wish I’d writtn it.
4 stars – This was an awesome novel, I’d recommend it to friends.
3 stars – This was a good novel, I will look for more by this author.
2 stars – An okay novel, but I probably won’t look for anything else by the author.