Thw Five Mile Press, AUD29.99, ISBN 1-74178-243-0
Don’t be fooled by the cover of The Encyclopedia of Fantasy: People of the Light into thinking that this is a book suitable for kids. Well, that is, unless parents don’t mind their kids looking at illustrations of female bare bosoms and texts that mention things like erotic nymphs and seductive dryads. Having said that, I’m sure some kids will love this – it can be their My First Boobie Book with a packaging that fools their parents into smiling happily because junior is finally showing interest in quality books.
Édouard Brasey, who has an eclectic career as author, actor, and everything else you can think of, has put together a gorgeous collection of information of woo-woo folks from Celtic, Greek, Roman, Germanic, Nordic, and some, with some lovely illustrations either reproduced from famous artworks or original ones by Sandrine Gestine. There are many types – angels, banshees, boggarts, brownies, centaurs, dryads, dwarves, elves, fairies, fauns, ghouls, gnomes, goblins, genies, imps, leprechauns, mermaids, naiads, nymphs, pixies, pucks, pygmies, salamanders, selkies, sirens, witches, will-o-the-wisps, and on and on – divided into several chapters: the Air People (look at those wings, ooh), the Forest People (sexy things and animal-like things in woods and such), the Water People (mermaids and other naked woo-woo folks), the Earth People (the bearded and mostly not-so-sexy types that live under the ground), and the hill people (stumpies, tiny things, etc). Kids looking for boobies will know which chapters to focus on, I’m sure.
Mr Brasey’s original text is in French, and here, it has been translated into English by Lorraine David. The whole thing still flows well and is easy to write, without that “obviously translated” feel that some of these works may have. While nothing here is too deep, I confess I learn of some interesting things. For example, prior to the Renaissance era, mermaids are not the friendly types we know today – they are considered “lascivious temptresses” out to seduce sailors.
Often they have forked fishtails which they hold apart with both hands, in lascivious poses.
It’s kind of sexist and annoying that these lascivious temptresses are always female. Where are the sexy male mermaids? Why can’t they hold apart their forked fishtails too with both hands?
There are also historical anecdotes here, such as this priest claiming to have seen a gnome or that English nobleman claiming to have come across a sleeping satyr while out hunting. The author also ties in whenever he can certain woo-woo folks to their counterparts in popular media, often pointing out where the portrayal goes right or wrong.
All in all, this is an entertaining read, although I have no idea how accurate the information here is. Then again, can anyone actually verify anecdotes and folklore? We can other collect the stories to preserve them for those that will come after us, and if this had been the author’s intention, I believe he’s done a good job here. Ironically, I suspect this book is pretty hard to find, and folks who wish a copy will have to settle for used copies. The author has the original French copy in a lovely new edition up for sale on his website, however.
Really, though, these European folklore has way too many sexy naked female things and way too many short, ugly, bearded male things. Am I supposed to believe that there is a shortage of hot sexy male woo-woo creatures out there? Hmmph!