Our Favorite Fairylore Resources

May 21, 2024

As we screamed about last week:


We promise, as soon as we have a pre-order link, we will share it at the speed of light/ the wild hunt.

When we ran the first round of The Carterhaugh Writers Society last month, we did something pretty ambitious/ ridiculous: we speed-wrote a full draft of the book in April. It is a hilariously messy draft, but it does exist! Much of the rest of this summer and fall will be going to rewriting and refining that draft (i.e. our pile of notes and observations cunningly organized into an outline.)

While we were writing, we read a lot of books. A lot of books. The full bibliography will appear in the eventual published version of our book, but we got a ton of responses to our email last week asking us to share some of our favorite resources. So let’s do it!

An Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures and The Fairies in Tradition and Literature by Katharine Briggs

If you know anything about fairylore scholarship, you know that Katharine Briggs (sometimes known as K.M. Briggs) is one of the most influential and prolific folklorists writing on the topic since the 1960s. Her books are incredibly comprehensive, but also written in a fun and easy to understand style. We knew that her publications would be some of the main sources we would look to, but these two in particular were wildly helpful.  

The Book of Yōkai: Mysterious Creatures of Japanese Folklore by Michael Dylan Foster

This book on supernatural Japanese creatures is honestly one of our favorite folklore books we’ve ever read. THANK YOU, MICHAEL DYLAN FOSTER, FOR THIS GIFT. It’s divided into two parts: Yōkai Culture (cultural context, basically of discussion for what yōkai are and why they matter so much culturally in Japan) and Yōkai Codex (a kind of heavily annotated list o’ critters.) Most books don’t do both of these things, let alone do both of them so well. If you’re a fan of Japanese culture, anime, or manga, you’ll love this. 

A New Dictionary of Fairies: A 21st Century Exploration of Celtic and Related Western European Fairies by Morgan Daimler

This is a great place to start for general Celtic and Western European fairylore. Daimler clearly did a massive amount of research and cites it heavily. This isn’t a “codex,” but an annotated dictionary of terms. So there are entries on fairies (“Púca”), places (“Avalon”), and concepts (“Christian Church Driving Out the Fairies”), which we like.

The Fairy Faith in Celtic Countries by W.Y. Evans-Wentz

We looked at a lot of older sources, but this one was probably our favorite. It’s admittedly got some outdated ideas and information (it was published in 1911 after all) but it also collects stories in a much more folkloristically sound way than most of the other older texts we examined. (We’re looking at you, T. Crofton Croker, and your not-folklore-at-all “Soul Cages” story… but we still love you.) Evans-Wentz actually went around and talked to people, which means that, while his text is a bit long and unwieldy, it gives a really good idea of how people actually thought about fairies in Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, Wales, Cornwall, and Brittany. (“YEAH!” Brittany says.)

At the Bottom of the Garden: A Dark History of Fairies, Hobgoblins, and Other Troublesome Things by Diane Purkiss

If you want to get a really good jump into what the study of fairylore is all about, we’d recommend starting with Diane Purkiss’ book. She covers all the major issues, and obviously has a lot of fun doing it, which makes for a really spunky AND informative read. It’s presented as a history, which means she covers a LOT in a relatively short space, but that’s part of why we think this is one of the best texts to dip your feet into the world of fairylore with – you get a sense of the breadth of the field and its importance. NOTE: You can find this one under a couple of slightly different names, but they’re all the same book! 

Bonus for Kids: The Fairy Atlas: Fairy Folk of the World by Anna Claybourne, illustrated by Miren Asianin Lora

This was one of the most delightful surprises of our April research binge! The Fairy Atlas is clearly for young kids, but it’s incredibly charming, beautifully put-together, and way more international than 99% of the stuff out there. It also was actually often really helpful to us, because it gave us names and some preliminary information for places like Africa and the Pacific islands, which are woefully absent from most resources in English on supernatural beings. If you have small children or you just want to look at an adorable picture book about fairies, definitely snag this one.

If you could read about any fairy in our book, what would you pick? Leave us a comment and let us know what’s at the top of your wishlist! 

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