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

Overview

At the Bottom of the Garden is a history of fairies from the ancient world to the present. Steeped in folklore and fantasy, it is a rich and diverse account of the part that fairies and fairy stories have played in culture and society.

The pretty pastel world of gauzy-winged things who grant wishes and make dreams come true—as brought to you by Disney's fairies flitting across a woodland glade, or Tinkerbell’s magic wand—is predated by a darker, denser world of gorgons, goblins,...

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Overview

At the Bottom of the Garden is a history of fairies from the ancient world to the present. Steeped in folklore and fantasy, it is a rich and diverse account of the part that fairies and fairy stories have played in culture and society.

The pretty pastel world of gauzy-winged things who grant wishes and make dreams come true—as brought to you by Disney's fairies flitting across a woodland glade, or Tinkerbell’s magic wand—is predated by a darker, denser world of gorgons, goblins, and gellos; the ancient antecedents of Shakespeare's mischievous Puck or J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan. For, as Diane Purkiss explains in this engrossing history, ancient fairies were born of fear: fear of the dark, of death, and of other great rites of passage, birth and sex. To understand the importance of these early fairies to pre-industrial peoples, we need to recover that sense of dread.

This book begins with the earliest manifestations of fairies in ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean. The child-killing demons and nymphs of these cultures are the joint ancestors of the medieval fairies of northern Europe, when fairy figures provided a bridge between the secular and the sacred. Fairies abducted babies and virgins, spirited away young men who were seduced by fairy queens and remained suspended in liminal states.

Tamed by Shakespeare's view of the spirit world, Victorian fairies fluttered across the theater stage and the pages of children's books to reappear a century later as detergent trade marks and alien abductors. In learning about these often strange and mysterious creatures, we learn something about ourselves—our fears and our desires.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“Fascinating. . . . Rigorously researched. . . . Highly recommended.”
-Choice(Nov. 2001)

,

At the Bottom of the Garden is brilliant, always on the move, and bone-chilling. There's nothing cutesy about this highly suggestive, provocative scholarship; the creatures animating this book are about as cuddly as scorpions, wee rattlers, and black-widow spiders. Purkiss has written a witty and compelling work that will fascinate readers and haunt our imaginations.”
-James Kincaid,University of Southern California, author of Erotic Innocence

“. . . a scholarly overview of the role that fairies have played in culture from the past to the present.”
-Publishers Weekly

,

“Enchanting . . . witty . . . full of surprises and delights.”
-The Times

,

“Illuminating and enormous fun.”
-Spectator

,

Choice
Fascinating.....Rigorously researched.....Highly recommended.
Publishers Weekly
Anyone who has ever thought that fairies are 'tiresome little wingy thingies who are always good' will be swiftly disabused of that notion by this historical study. A British author (The Witch in History) and currently a fellow and tutor at Keble College, Oxford, Purkiss has prodigiously researched her subject, producing a scholarly overview of the role that fairies have played in culture from the past to the present.
Booknews
The pastel Disney world of tiny gauzy-winged creatures who make wishes and dreams come true is predated by a darker, denser world of gorgons, goblins and the gellos, warns Purkiss (English, Oxford U.). She begins her account in ancient civilization of the Mediterranean, and chronicles centuries of abducting babies, killing children and virgins, seducing young men, and finally alien abductions. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
Choice
Fascinating. . . Rigorously researched, the book is written in a style that is unorthodox for academic studies, and hence is at once disarming and disconcerting.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780814766866
  • Publisher: New York University Press
  • Publication date: 11/1/2003
  • Pages: 356
  • Sales rank: 1,448,252
  • Product dimensions: 5.20 (w) x 7.78 (h) x 0.65 (d)

Meet the Author

Author of The Witch in History, Diane Purkiss was formerly Professor of English at Exeter University and is now Fellow and Tutor at Keble College, Oxford.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Acknowledgements
Introduction: Fear of Fairies 1
1 Ancient Worlds 11
2 Medieval Dreams 52
3 Birth and Death: Fairies in Scottish Witch-trials 85
4 Desire of Gold and the Good Neighbours: The Uses of Fairies 116
5 The Fairy Goes Literary: Puck and Others 158
6 Into the Enlightenment 194
7 Victorian Fairies 220
8 Tinker Bell's Magic and the Fairies' Call to War 265
9 Photographing Fairies, and a Celtic Revival 284
10 Fairy Bubbles and Alien Abductions 304
Notes 323
Index 349
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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 16, 2002

    amazing

    This book was one of the best of it's kind that I have read. There was so much information and it was exciting to read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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