Folk tales

Tales from the Mabinogion and Swedish Folk Tales.Snow musters out of brooding grey skies and a powerful chill wind scatters wheelie bins like leaves. We aren’t managing to walk to school as often these days but when we do we stomp in icy puddles and count the colours in the wintery sunrise. One morning we spot a pied wagtail hopping across the pavement and tell him about our full but rarely visited bird feeders. I hope he pops in. Specks of snow confetti the air at hometime so no one hangs around for a blether at the school gate . We exchange gloomy weather forecasts and scuttle home again, heads down. The wind finds its way inside Finch’s hood. He blinks rapidly and gulps repeatedly, as if someone is throwing water in his face. It’s weather for staying in the warm and I can recommend two beautiful books for snuggling down with.

I received both of these for Christmas and they are both volumes of folk tales. One is Tales from the Mabinogion by Gwyn Thomas and Kevin Crossley-Holland. The Mabinogion are medieval Welsh folk tales, all at least 700 years old. They are utterly bizarre but totally beguiling, and this is a wonderful re-telling. My favourite character is the giant king Bendigeidfran, who wades across the Irish Sea to rescue his sister, Branwen. This version of the Mabinogion is made all the more special by the illustrations of Margaret Jones. I love the mystery and nobility to be found in her illustrations. All the creatures in her images could have stepped right off the page of a medieval manuscript but with a beautiful fluidity all of Margaret’s own. Margaret Jones is especially inspiring to me because she didn’t start illustrating commercially until she was 60 and just seems like such a nice person. You can read more about her here.

The second book is called Swedish Folk Tales, published by Floris Books. The tales are written by various authors but what brings them together in this volume is the incredible illustrations of John Bauer. Bauer was born in 1882 in Sweden. These illustrations date from around 1912-13. I love Bauer’s work. It’s so full of atmosphere and other worldliness. I don’t have any evidence to support this but I’m sure Bauer’s work was used as a reference for the Disney film Frozen. The trolls in particular appear to owe a lot to Bauer.

Lots of happy reading!

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