Spotted: Fairies with Katharine Briggs, Joseph Campbell & Marina Warner

The Fairies have been spotted sharing shelf space with Katharine Briggs, Joseph Campbell and Marina Warner. Not to mention Beowulf and a collection of Nelson Mandela’s favourite African folktales.


Briggs, Campbell, Fairies

Briggs, Campbell and Warner are giants in the field of folklore. Authors, folklorists, mythologists, and scholars – their work has inspired and guided countless explorers on their travels in the realms of folktale, fairytale and myth.

Katharine Briggs’ Dictionary of FairiesHobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies and Other Supernatural Creatures (1976) has served as a trusty reference to scores of fantasy authors, including Neil Gaiman and Susanna Clarke.

On starting his novel  Stardust (1999), Neil Gaiman says: “I bought a large book of unlined pages, the first fountain pen I had owned since my schooldays and a copy of Katharine Briggs’ Dictionary of Fairies. I filled the pen and began.” (Neil Gaiman on the importance of fairytales, in The Guardian.)

Researching magic for Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell (2004), Susanna Clarke, too, went back to English folk traditions and reached for a copy of Katharine Briggs. (Interview with Neil Gaiman and Susanna Clarke in Salon).

Lucy Cooper, author of The Element Encyclopedia of Fairies (2014), is delighted to see the book in such esteemed company. It’s her hope that Fairies, too, will serve as a trusty companion to those venturing into the realm of faerie…


Excerpt from The Element Encyclopedia of Fairies:

Briggs, Katharine


English folklore scholar Katharine Mary Briggs is best known for her numerous and comprehensive collections of fairy lore and folk tales of the British Isles. She was born in Hampstead, London, the daughter of Edward Briggs and Mary Cooper. The family originated from Yorkshire, where they had invested, with success, in coal mining. Her father was a watercolorist who particularly enjoyed painting Scottish scenery and in 1911 the family moved to Perthshire.

Briggs’ interest in stories began at an early age, possibly catalyzed by her father’s fondness for storytelling. She also heard many traditional tales recounted while living in Scotland. In 1918 she moved to Oxford, where she studied English at Lady Margaret Hall. She obtained her PhD after the Second World War with a thesis on folklore (Folklore in Jacobean Literature). She wrote extensively on the topic of folklore and her works remain among the most esteemed sources on British folklore and fairy lore today. Her publications include The Personnel of Fairyland (1953), the Anatomy of Puck (1959), Folktales of England (1965), the four-volume Dictionary of British Folk Tales in the English Language (1970–71), and her comprehensive A Dictionary of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies and Other Supernatural Creatures (1976).

Briggs served as president of the British Folklore Society for three years; an award was named in her honor after her death in 1980.