There have been two main categories of research for Malevolent Creatures. First is the folklore itself: stories, traditions, rituals and beliefs from the British Isles that center around fairies and other supernatural creatures. The second is how those beliefs fit together, how they have changed over the years and the various theories about where they came from and the meanings behind them.
One of my favorite pieces of reading has been Karen Armstrong’s book A Short History of Myth, which traces the evolution of mythology from the Paleolithic period to the present day. In considering the place of mythology in our world Armstrong writes that “The imagination is the faculty that produces religion and mythology…the imagination is also the faculty that has enabled scientists to bring new knowledge to light.” She also points out that “…like science and technology, mythology…is not about opting out of this world but about enabling us to live more intensely within it.”
That intensity is evident in nearly all of the individual stories and beliefs we discovered and is one of the reasons they have been retold and appropriated over and over; by poets, by scholars and by writers of literature for all ages. I am personally very interested in how fairy stories have been rewritten by authors of young adult and children’s literature and one of the pleasures of this research process for me is that it has given me an excuse to re-read some old favorite children’s books that incorporate British and Celtic myth. If you are interested in British folklore but maybe don’t feel like getting into the heavy academic side of things, I recommend these titles as both fun and worthwhile.
The Weirdstone of Brisingamen by Alan Garner
The Dark is Rising (series) by Susan Cooper
The Moorchild by Eloise Jarvis McGraw
The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O’Shea