Title: East Yorkshire Folk Tales
Writer: Ingrid Barton
Publishing House: The History Press Ireland
Date of Publication: April 15th 2015
Rating: 4 stars
”May night is, as everyone knows, a chancy time of the year, the hinge between spring and summer, when all sorts of magic seep into our world from the Other. At that time it is possible to gather fern seed to make you invisible, you can even look upon the faces of those doomed to die in the following year-if you are brave enough.”
East Yorkshire is home to the beautiful chalk hills and the Yorkshire Wolds. A land invaded by the Romans, the Great Danish Army, the Normans. Populated with independent, razor-sharp people and rich in beautiful legends.
The Yorkshire Wolds is a land of mystery and legends. Since it was a site of worship from the prehistoric times, it is loaded with vibrant energy. Fairies, strange animals, ghosts, heroic ancestors, brave and ill-fated warriors, powerful priests, dragons and magic structures are only a handful of the elements that call the Wolds home. I was looking forward to read more about the magic that takes place here but unfortunately, Barton chose to focus elsewhere…Oh well….
The folk tales are divided into six categories. Stories about animals, sea tales, fables of saints and scared figures, oddities, supernatural tales and legends about villains and heroes. Scattered among the pages are 30 vivid, black-and-white illustrations and a useful map of East Yorkshire with the settings of the stories. Handy notes at the end of each chapter are also provided. Make room as dragon-slayers, wise women, witches, thugs, ghostly ladies, Vikings, warlords, elves, mermaids and numerous strange and fascinating visitors would like to keep you company.
My favourite tales are The Three Roses from the Wolds, a ghostly tale of love and sorrow that reminded me of Poe’s stories, and The Screaming Skull from Burton Agnes that makes use of the well-known legend of the skulls that are haunted by a wailing, demanding and frustrated ancestor. Now, while the selection of the tales is excellent and covers quite an extensive list of themes, I have to say that Barton’s writing wasn’t as satisfying. I don’t know what happened because I’ve read and loved her work in North Yorkshire Folk Tales. In this collection, the language is repetitive and the scattered use of local dialect doesn’t really help. Moreover- and this is strictly a personal opinion- I found her remarks on a particular religion offensive and inappropriate for a work that aims to win the interest of all audiences. As I often say, I will respect one’s belief if they respect mine, otherwise I’m sorry, we’re done. One-way relationships don’t work and respect should be mutual. Anyway, this is supposed to be a book on Folk Tales, not a propaganda for New Age dogmas and what-not. Therefore, my experience with this book wasn’t as enjoyable as I’d want.
I repeat that this is my personal opinion. I stand by certain views and I’m not ashamed to say so. Taken as a whole, this is a beautiful -if incomplete- showcase of the legends from the East Riding. The rest is for you to decide…