Thursday, November 04, 2010

Hobgoblins by Professor Ari Berk

I first came to know of Ari Berk through the fantastic The Endicott Studio for Mystic Arts (which is now no longer updated but is still up for viewing and reading pleasure). Then, I found his book he did on Runes of Elfland with Brian Froud, belatedly realising he also worked on the Lady Cottingly's Pressed Fairies book. But it was the Runes of Elfland where I knew that there was something about Mr. Berk that I really liked. Here was someone who took myths and legends about fae creatures and made them tangible and real and writes about them in a serious and scholarly fashion whilst maintaining the mystery and beauty of the subject.

This is my review of his most recent non-fiction book from Templar called Secret Histories:  Hobgoblins and it is effectively a guide to these shy, quiet creatures who live side by side with humans all over the world.

The write-up from Templar says:

The Order of the Golden Quills, an ancient collective of scribes from various species of Secret Folk, invite you into the hidden world of hobgoblins – the helpful housemates of humans for thousands of years. But beware, when humans break the Laws of Hospitality, even the friendliest hobgoblin may turn tricksy…

As Magister and Scribe of the The Order of the Golden Quills, Professor Berk travelled to the far corners of the world to collect the various bits of lore for this wonderfully illustrated book on Hobgoblins. Illuminators who worked on this include Gary Chalk, Alan Lee, Virginia Lee, Larry MacDougall and Fernando Molinari.

As we work our way through this invaluable guide of lore and fact we learn about Hobgoblins throughout history and discover that they were part and parcel of Roman life (and maybe even before then!). We are introduced to their daily habits and find out some interesting magical lore about their clothes and why they would wear specific pieces of clothing. We are shown the secret places they may take up residence in our homes and some of the more obvious places too. Of course, it’s not just our suburban homes that are under the protection and care of these fine creatures, but also certain farms and livestock.

Hobgoblins live busy lives and as they ally themselves with humans, they obviously make some enemies. We are shown some of these creatures (nasty redcaps!) but we also get to see some of the hobgoblins’ weapons. There is a swathe of interesting wandering folk out there who are good friends with the hobgoblins and those are introduced to us too, so that we know who to trust and such. And my favourite bit of the book is where are allowed to the hobgoblins charms as well as their book of blights. This small charm is a particular favourite:

Night Light
Kindly flame
And hall-orb light
Lead all to bed
And rest this night

With permission from Templar, I took some photos, to show off the wonderful layout, interior and design of this unique book.

The first set of pages giving us background about The Order itself. 

These small extra information flaps are throughout the book. 

Beautiful illustrations accompany the research. 

Here we are allowed rare access to some of the hobgoblin weapons

The emblem of The Order.

I have to say that I chose to review this specific book as one of my books for National Non Fiction Day because it goes a long way to prove that non-fiction does not have to be boring. And that although it contains a lot of research and facts and illustrations, it is still a tremendously fun and interesting book that will appeal to all ages. I particularly love it for its in depth research and know that it will enhance my own collection of books on fairy and supernatural lore that I have managed to build up over the years as research.

I think this Secret Histories book will sit well with enthusiasts of all ages.  There is so much to think about, to make notes about, and to research should you so wish, in this beautiful book that I think it's a boon to creative storytellers in classrooms and for those parents who are fond of telling their own bedtime stories to young folk.  It is definitely a fascinating resource and I can see that there are opportunities for small groups in classes to work together to create their own lore or even create their own legends about these fascinating creatures. Or, in art class, for those enthusiasts who have the ability to, to draw these creatures.  I also own the equally wonderful Giants book and will be ordering the Mermaids book for myself as a gift from me to me at Christmas.

Find Professor Ari Berk's specially designed website showcasing the Hobgoblin book here.  And also make sure to swing by the official National Non-Fiction Day website.


Nana Fredua-Agyeman said...

Your love for such stories is undoubted. I am not much of a fun but following you has planted some seed of interest. This is a book I would love. I guess if I loved Lord of the Rings I would love this too.

Nikki-ann said...

Oh, wow! That book looks brilliant! I'd love that :) Great review!