Review Blog

Jan 09 2013

Spellbound: Tales of enchantment from ancient Ireland by Siobhan Parkinson and Olwyn Whelan

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Frances Lincoln Children's Books, 2012. ISBN 9781847801401
(Age: 8+) Recommended. Myths and legends. Irish myths. I haven't often come across ancient Irish folk tales so this was most interesting to read and so acquaint myself with those stories from their past. Beautifully illustrated in that flat patchwork style of illustrations peculiar to books of myths and fairy tales, full of rich colour and often with borders, the book kept me reading until the end.
The eight stories contain magic and mystery, telling of the ancient times, and will intrigue readers. Some reveal a man who by his own hand, destroys or upsets the love shown by a beautiful woman. In Butterfly girl a young very beautiful girl called Etain, is buffeted by those who both love and hate her. Beloved by a local lord she marries him only to find he already has a wife, who takes serious revenge upon the girl. From then on many things happen to her, but eventually she and her husband are reunited as swans. It's an amazing story of love (particularly the woman's) and retribution, of overcoming evil, of finding your way in the end.
Another, The enchanted deer, has a young woman found in the forest as a deer by day. She marries her rescuer only to be left alone for too long, so returns to the forest where her husband later finds their son. In Lord under wave, again, the man marries a woman who initially appeared as an old ugly hag, only to find in the night she changes to a beautiful young woman. They marry and all he has to do to keep her is not remind her of her past. He does! She flees! And then he spends time looking for her. Another odd mixture of love and magic, around a man's ability to see only what he wants and not the needs of his wife. The stories are all unusual and will make a great treat for students wanting to hear different stories read aloud or study as part of a different culture. For older readers, these may form the basis of a study of folk tales and their presentation of male and female roles. Each would be superb read aloud and set up a neat platform for discussion.
Fran Knight

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