BookMusings: (Re)Discovering Pagan Literature

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Book Review: "Fairy Poems" and "Witch Poems"

Titles: Fairy Poems and Witch Poems

Publisher: Holiday House

Editor: Daisy Wallace

Illustrator: Trina Schart Hyman

Prices: vary (out of print)

I was first introduced to the artwork of Trina Schart Hyman as a very young child. My mother was a rabid devotee of the local library; I practically grew up there, and came to know its hallways and secret corners as well as my own backyard. My mother made sure that I enjoyed a healthy diet of fairy tales and mythology and so, one day, she brought home a copy of Snow White* by Paul Heins and Hyman. The lush, dark, haunting illustrations immediately pulled me in; while my childhood sympathies lay with Snow White, I was fascinated by the cunning, conniving witch-Queen.

I fell in love with Hyman's illustrations at that moment. Ever since, I have been slowly but surely collecting every book she has illustrated. My most recent acquisition is Witch Poems, the companion volume to Fairy Poems, which I snatched up four or five years ago. 

Both anthologies are edited by Daisy Wallace, who does an excellent job of selecting texts illustrative of the diversity of the theme. Fairy Poems, for instance, includes works by Jack Prelutsky, Shakespeare, Tolkien, Robert Graves, and Walter de la Mare, to name a few; and their fairies are mischievous, merry, menacing, and seductive. Likewise, Witch Poems includes the works of Shakespeare, L Frank Baum, Prelutsky, Lilian Moore, ee cummings, and others; and, again, the witches vary from the wholly malevolent to the misunderstood to the comical.

Hyman's illustrations in each volume are a treat, perfectly suited to the subject matter. The fairy Queen of Prelutsky's "She" is a mesmerizing beauty, while the dueling witches of Michael Patrick Hearn's "Curses!" are street-wise urban warriors, simultaneously amusing and frightening. Tiny "Queen Mab" is a delightful little monarch with a flower for a crown, while the headstone/sign which accompanies Steven Kroll's "Witch Baseball" reads Game Tonight! Screaming Mimis vs The Black Sox.

Both collections make excellent additions to any public or personal library. Highly recommended to fans of poetry, fairies, witches, and great artwork.


*If you enjoy fairy tales at all, I recommend you get a copy. Make due with the paperback, though, as the long-out-of-print hard cover goes for hundreds of dollars.

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Rebecca Buchanan is the editor of the Pagan literary ezine Eternal Haunted Summer. She is also the editor-in-chief of Bibliotheca Alexandrina. She thinks it is incredibly unfair that she must work for a living rather than being able to read all day. In her next life, she would like to be a library cat.


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