A New Dictionary of Fairies

Title: A New Dictionary of Fairies: A 21st Century Exploration of Celtic and Related Western European Fairies

Publisher: Moon Books

Author: Morgan Daimler

Pages: 416pp

Price: $27.95 / $10.99

Alp Luachra. Bogles. The Dearg Due. Gwragedd Annwn. Merrows. Nicnevin. Robert Kirk. Spriggans. Uraisg. Ylfig.

Recognize the names? No? Not surprising. Outside of their regions of origin — primarily Ireland and Scotland, as well as far western Europe — fairy lore tends to stick to a few well-known examples. Or are they well known? How much of what we think we know about fairies is based on original folklore, and how much is based on poor memories, bad translations, and fiction authors running wild?

I thought that I was moderately well-versed in fairy lore. The more I read of Daimler’s A New Dictionary of Fairies, the more I realized how little I knew, and that a significant portion of that (incorrect) knowledge was based on Disney films and pop fantasy novels. (To be clear, I have no objection to Disney films or pop fantasy novels. I watch the former regularly and I write the latter myself. The problem is when information is presented as ancient and authentic, and it is not, or when people assume that it is ancient and authentic, and it is not.) Daimler does an excellent job of separating the two categories — original versus new — and presenting examples and source material for the former. For instance, I had never heard of the Alp Luachra; now I want to read or write a horror story centered around one. Similarly, I knew of the name Bridget Cleary, but did not know her whole tragic story. And I had no idea that there were so many versions of the Wild Hunt scattered across a dozen cultures and just as many centuries.

The more I read, the more I wanted to pick up a highlighter and start marking the interesting bits. But I would have ended up with a book that was mostly highlights.

I have only two complaints, and these may or may not affect your decision to purchase a copy; ultimately, they do not affect my recommendation that you do add it to your personal library.

First, A New Dictionary needed a more thorough edit. Use of commas may come down to personal aesthetics in many cases, but here there were just too many missing — in addition to missing periods, quotation marks, and parentheses. There were also a number of spelling errors, with swapped letters resulting in the incorrect term being used; e.g., “signing” for “singing.”

Second, the dictionary lacks a pronunciation guide. I have absolutely no idea how to say Gwragedd Annwn. Is the w pronounced like a u or an i, or something else completely? Is that dd a th sound? While some readers who pick up A New Dictionary will have a familiarity with Gaeilge (Irish Gaelic) and GĂ idhlig (Scots Gaelic), I suspect that many others will not. I would have found it immensely helpful if unfamiliar terms had been sounded out at the beginning of each entry, or if a short introduction to non-English letters and letter combinations had been added.

That being said, I am keeping my copy of A New Dictionary of Fairies handy. It has a prominent place in my writing space, as I have found it wonderfully inspirational and informative. Highly recommended to fans of Daimler’s other books (especially from the Pagan Portals series), as well as writers, gamers, and anyone with an interest in fairies and fairy lore.

[Reviewed by Rebecca Buchanan.]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *