Richard Folkard wrote his unique thesis in order to organize and present many legends and folk stories with the plants to whom they are associated. The correlations between the attributes of these old stories, and the plants themselves, are meticulously examined over the course of sixteen chapters. This book is characterized by a bold eclecticism, wherein flora in folklore is examined and interpreted from multiple angles.
Folkard aptly begins with the Biblical story of the Garden of Eden, noting how plants acquired significance in mythology during earliest antiquity. The significance which the ancients applied to the plants they encountered, in particular the phenomena of the sacred trees and groves, are greatly expounded upon. We are also told how early naturalists connected certain plants to animals, providing a fertile ground from which mythic lore could root.
Mythic creatures as diverse as wood nymphs, fairies, naiades and witches feature in Folkard's inquiry. The continuing significance of these mythic entities, and their relation to flora, is encapsulated in quoted verse which succinctly captures their essence and purpose. Furthermore, Folkard discusses at length how the natural world became inextricably linked with the paganism and polytheism of the ancient world, as well as to early healing and folk remedies.
The second half of the book is an encyclopedia of plants, arranged alphabetically. Designed for ease of reference, this lengthy list contains poetic references to mythic lore, as well as the physical and botanic characteristics of these plants. Their introduction to different locales, and the myths in which they feature most prominently, make this encyclopedic portion a wealth of assembled knowledge.
A unique melding of scientific knowledge with folklore and wisdom, Plant Lore, Legends, and Lyrics is as valuable a source on its topic today as when it first appeared in the 1880s. Richard Folkard took great pride in his work, personally presenting it to Queen Victoria for the Royal Collection in 1884; an era in which the English interest in plants blossomed with the introduction of greenhouses as both public works and private projects.
This new edition of Plant Lore, Legends, and Lyrics is presented with all of the original illustrations and diagrams first appended by Folkard.
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