April 21, 2012

The Reading Corner...Evidence of Fairies

"Aug 10th 1896.
I new ther was faereys behind the potting shed.
So I went and sat very still with my book open on my lap and
the faereys was curius and inkwizitf and
 they all came round to look at me and
one landed on my book and I went SNAP!
I banged the book shut and I cort the faerey
it is a reelly bewtiful one. I like it best." 

I fell instantly in love with this book, which is beautifully illustrated with a cute and whimsical story based on the Cottingley Fairies. This is the story a little girl named Angelica Cottington, who has the ability to see fairies, and loves nothing more then to spend her days, squashing them between the pages of her books. I thought this would be a perfect summer read for our Miss Abbigaile during her visits to Grandma and Papa's house!

Lady Cottington's Pressed Fairy Book

"July 6th 1895.
Nanna wuldnt bleive me. Ettie wuldnt bleive me.
Auntie Mercy wuldn't bleive me. But I got one.
Now theyv got to blieve me."
What young Angelica Cottington "got" was...a fairy.
And, you are holding the evidence in your hands! "

It really happened--a hoax perpetrated by two girls who claimed to have photographed actual "fairies". This remarkable parody, written by a former member of the Monty Python troupe, takes a sly look at what happened in a fashion that's riotously witty, visually extraordinary, and wildly original. In every respect, this "handwritten diary" captures the look of the age--though the fairies, it is true, do sometimes have a more malevolent aspect than one might expect. It is a fresh and funny take on the true story that inspired two movies,  Fairy Tale, A True Story and Photographing Fairies.

 Frances with a winged fairy close by her nose.

The Cottingley Fairies appear in a series of five photographs taken by Elsie Wright and Frances Griffiths, two young cousins who lived in Cottingley, near Bradford in England. In 1917, when the first two photographs were taken, Elsie was 16 years old and Frances was 10. The pictures came to the attention of writer Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, who used them to illustrate an article on fairies he had been commissioned to write for the Christmas 1920 edition of The Strand Magazine. Conan Doyle, as a spiritualist, was enthusiastic about the photographs, and interpreted them as clear and visible evidence of psychic phenomena. Public reaction was mixed; some accepted the images as genuine, but others believed they had been faked.

Elsie with a winged gnome

Interest in the Cottingley Fairies gradually declined after 1921. Both girls grew up, married and lived abroad for a time. Frances died in 1986, and Elsie in 1988.

Frances Griffiths and Elsie Wright, June 1917

"Aug 11th 1899.....A great many faeries came bzzing round me todday. They seemed quite exciteed and kept glaring at me and flying right up my nose. But I still caught one. I am going to call her FLORIZAL. She is an young fairy who was a little bit more daring than the rest. I wonder what she did in Fairy Land, and how old she was? Perhaps she was ten years old — perhaps thirty — perhaps thirty thousand. It's hard to know what is old with fairies." 

About the Author

Terry Jones is perhaps best known as a scriptwriter and member of the Monty Python team. He is a highly successful performer, writer, and director for film, radio, and television with classics such as Monty Python and the Holy Grail, The Life of Brian, and The Meaning of Life to his name. He played the role of the irascible Toad in his most recent film, The Wind in the Willows, for which he wrote the screenplay and also directed. Terry Jones has also received widespread acclaim for his hilarious award-winning children's books.

Brian Froud is a popular and highly acclaimed artist whose imaginative portrayals of fantasy worlds and people in particular are recognized world wide. He worked on Jim Henson's fantasy films and illustrated the best-selling Fairies and Goblins of the Labyrinth. His most recent book is the acclaimed Good Fairies/Bad Fairies.

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