Charged with drama and beauty, this memorable collection by a master storyteller weaves a magical world of possibility and power from female myths of physical renewal, creation and change. It is an extraordinary immersion into the bodies and voices, mindscapes and landscapes, of the shape-shifting women of our native folklore. We meet the Water Horse of the Isle of Lewis, the huldra, the Scandinavian supernatural forest-dweller, and the Baba Yaga of Slavic folklore (but will she help you or kill you?) Here too is the Snow Queen; the wild bird-woman of the Sliabh Mis Mountains; Blodeuedd, the Welsh ‘flower-faced’ woman.
Drawing on myth and fairy tales found across Europe – from Croatia to Sweden, Ireland to Russia – Sharon Blackie brings to life women’s remarkable ability to transform themselves in the face of seemingly impossible circumstances. These stories are about coming to terms with our animal natures, exploring the ways in which we might renegotiate our fractured relationship with the natural world, and uncovering the wildness – and wilderness – within.
Sharon Blackie is not an author I’ve come across previously, but I was enticed to read this collection purely based on the front cover recommendation of Holly Ringland, whose debut novel ‘The Lost Flowers of Alice Hart’ was my first ever book review last summer, and remains a favourite of mine today.
These are short stories based on re-imaginings of myth, fairy tales and folk-lore, which have long held a fascination for me, but I’ve always shied away, feeling somehow intimidated by them. They’ve always unsettled me, and I can’t really explain why.
The book itself shimmers with the air of the mystic; the cover is beautifully striking, and yet ominous. At the back of the collection are a set of notes detailing the origin of each story. I preferred to read this first, before beginning the story. For me, having context allowed me to drink in the incredible language; these stories are so beautifully written that there were sections which gave me actual goosebumps. The first paragraph of the story ‘Foxfire’ in particular, I’ve read over and over.
I didn’t find this collection an easy read. It is an extraordinary read, but not one that I could sit and binge read. Instead I read it as I read poetry; slowly and carefully. I found that after almost every story I felt the need to sit and be with my thoughts.
On first read the stand outs for me were ‘Foxfire’ and ‘The Water-Horse’, however I want to read them all again, as they are all so rich in terms of language and story that I feel as if one read is just scratching the surface of what they want to tell me. The theme of womanhood is timeless and I feel connected to these stories.
This collection is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It has ignited a desire to push past the feeling of intimidation and learn more about myth and folklore – there is a power in the words that links the present with the almost forgotten past, as the voices of our ancestors echo between the lines.
About the Author
Dr Sharon Blackie is a writer, mythologist and psychologist, and an internationally recognised teacher of the mythic imagination. Her bestselling book, If Women Rose Rooted, won a 2016 Nautilus award, and laid out a haunting heroine’s journey for every woman who finds power, inspiration and solace in the natural world. She has an international following through her online communities, and the courses of workshops she offers through ‘The Hedge School’. Her first novel, The Long Delirious Blue, was described by the Independent on Sunday as ‘hugely potent’. She lives in Connemara, Ireland. http://www.sharonblackie.net.
*I received a copy of Foxfire, Wolfskin and other stories from the publisher. The decision to read was my own, and this review forms my honest opinion.