We are absolutely delighted to be taking part in the blogtour for bestselling author Sue Bentley’s latest novel, We Other. As part of the blog tour, Sue has kindly written a fascinating guest post about Why English folklore is important to her.
Why English folklore is important
Guest Post by Sue Bentley, author of the novel We Other
I’m Northamptonshire born and bred. I need travel only a very few miles, before I enter a quiet country churchyard and gaze upon the graves of generations of my family. The greater number of them have ’ag lab’ – for agricultural labourer, or farm worker – beside their names on contemporary census forms. So I come from a long line of ‘soil grubbers’.
Like them I have my feet, and my heart, in the soil of the UK. From my ancestors comes my love of its beautiful landscapes, extraordinarily rich wildlife, and diverse folklore. I have always had a thirst for ‘green’. As a child from a crowded and noisy household, I was happy in my own company, content with my own thoughts. I’d spend hours in local parks or rambling through the woods near our house, a creature of shady bowers and babbling brooks. A collector of pebbles, acorns, ash keys, a piece of twisted bark, in which I’d glimpse a gnome’s face. I loved ferns, mosses and shy, pale wildflowers – for fairies, nymphs and pixies dwelt in those wild and secret places.
It was a natural progression to explore the folklore of these isles. It began with reading – as have so many things in my life. Many of the books I read as a child, were steeped in folklore. ‘The Little Grey Men’ written and illustrated by ‘BB’ – the pen name of Denys Watkins-Pitchford – a Northamptonshire author – was about the last gnomes left in England. It’s a beautiful lyrical book, with a thread of darkness running through it.
I also loved the edge of cruelty in the Red, Yellow, and Blue fairy books by Andrew Lang. It was there wherever I looked more deeply into the folklore of the British Tradition. My interest soon extended to the fables and tales of other cultures. The collected stories of the Brothers Grimm, Hans Christian Anderson’s tales, Perrault’s fairy tales, Norse sagas, One Thousand and One nights (Arabian Nights) I’ve always preferred ‘proper’ fairy tales to watered down, prettied-up versions. I relished the blood and teeth, sorrow and hot-iron and witches who tempted children into ovens with promises of iced-gingerbread.
My own sensory experience of the UK landscape, is reflected in my reading and writing. The smell of the soil and grass, the rushing of peat-coloured water over rocks, wide cloud-filled skies, cotton grass bobbing in bogs and marshland, dappled shade, bees buzzing lazily through a glade in the afternoon. In Irish, Welsh and Scottish fairy tales, I find echoes of a particular sentiment that calls to me. Perhaps it’s the damp, grey weather that has me hooked on Celtic laments? The heat, stark sunlight and endless sand have their charms, but give me the dark sacred night over the bright blessed day.
I have amassed a collection of fairy and folklore books. A Dictionary of Fairies by Katharine Briggs, is always on my desk. As well as British Fairy Origins by Lewis Spence, The Fairy Mythology by Thomas Keightley. I’m enchanted by the beautiful and disquieting illustrations of Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Walter Crane and Brian Froud. These and many others continue to inspire my writing. Jon Anster Fitzgerald’s nightmare fairy paintings made a big impression on me, as did other Victorian fairy painters. A visit to an exhibition of these at the National Gallery in London, some years back, is directly reflected in a key scene, with Jess Morgan, the main character in We Other.
Folklore, in all its guises, continues to fascinate me and inform my work. I look forward to #folklorethursday every week on Twitter – and sharing and commenting on all the wonderful tales and superstitions from around the world. There’s always something new to learn and add into the melting pot of ideas.
Thank you, Sue, for your fantastic guest post about Why English Folklore is important to her, we would love to hear from readers about why English folklore is important to them too.
Family secrets, changelings, and fairies you never want to meet on a dark night.
Jess Morgan’s life has always been chaotic.
When a startling new reality cannot be denied, it’s clear that everything she believed about herself is a lie. She is linked to a world where humans – ‘hot-bloods’ – are disposable entertainment. Life on a run-down estate – her single mum’s alcoholism and violent boyfriend – become the least of Jess’s worries.
About the author Sue Bentley
Sue Bentley discovered a love of books at an early age. She worked for Northamptonshire Libraries for many years, while teaching herself the craft of writing. She is the author of the worldwide bestselling Magic Kitten, Magic Puppy, Magic Ponies, Magic Bunny series for age 5-9 years. She also writes for children and adults under various pen names. A lover of English Folklore, her books often contain elements of the otherworld and the darkness within the everyday. Her books have been translated into around 20 languages. We Other is her first book for Young Adults.
Connect with Sue Bentley
Win a signed copy of We Other and a personal letter
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Why is English folklore important to you?
We would love to hear from our readers as to why English Folklore is important to you.
Please feel free to leave a comment on our blog, or perhaps via Twitter.
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