Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales from Burns to Buchan, ed Gordon Jarvie

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The Independent Culture

So many of these tales are concerned with loss and death – the loss of children or a partner, or the threat of extinction from an alien hand – that it's no surprise to learn many were written either against the backdrop of war or famine, or about a specific battle or conflict. The hope of survival in another form is apparent too, with vanished lovers or children being transformed into birds or animals, giving many of the stories an added poignancy.

As the title suggests, the fairy or folk tale is also a form that has attracted the best and most famous of Scotland's writers – Burns, Hogg, Robert Louis Stevenson, John Buchan and Arthur Conan Doyle all feature here. It would seem neither J M Barrie nor Sir Walter Scott wrote a folk or fairy tale, and yet they're the two writers one would have expected to embrace the magical, and the sense of loss, most readily. One small quibble – I'd have liked to have known, where possible, when the stories were written or published, as dates can be both significant and revealing.

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