Breaking the Spell: Stories of Magic and Mystery from Scotland by Lari Don and Cate James

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Breaking the Spell: Stories of Magic and Mystery from Scotland by Lari Don and Cate James

Category: For Sharing
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Margaret Young
Reviewed by Margaret Young
Summary: A fun treasury of Scottish fairy tales for children.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 70 Date: September 2013
Publisher: 1847803423
External links: Author's website
ISBN: 978-1847803429

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I love folk tales and fairy tales and have a vast collection from many countries and cultures. Finding ones from Britain however is surprisingly difficult. I must have at least ten Asian folktales for every British one I own. Of course we love learning about other cultures, but children should learn about their own heritage as well. While we live in Northern Ireland, the cultures of Northern Ireland and Scotland have intertwined from the first human settlements in Scotland. In fact I would argue very strenuously that one of these stories is Northern Irish, originating in the Tain Bo Cuailnge, but in fact, many of these stories are told in more than one place, and I do feel that the stories of Scotland reflect a part of our heritage as well. Whether you live in Scotland, or simply have an interest in the heritage of this country, this book would make an excellent addition to a child's book shelf, and should be required reading within the Scottish schools.

Breaking the Spell contains ten short stories from Scottish folklore. The first is The Selkie's Toes is a variation of the common myth of the seal bride. Be warned though, this one is a bit more brutal than most with an cruel uncle cutting off a child's toes to prevent her from joining her parents in the sea. Breaking the Spell is the story which gives this book it's title and is one of the best parts of this collection. This is based on the story of Tam Lin, a beautiful love story in which love is proven to be more powerful than any fairy spells Some liberties have been taken with the original tale. Most notably Janet is cast as a child rather than a young woman, and of course her pregnancy is omitted, but this is still a wonderful story in which the damsel rescues the knight in shining armour through courage and determination.

The Witch of Lochlann shows us that wit can conquer where might fails, a lesson in life just as valuable today as it was centuries ago. No collection of Scottish fairy tales would be complete without a Kelpie story. The Loch Fada Kelpie is very tame as far as such stories go, and there is no bloodshed, but this could still prove frightening to some very young children. Whuppity Stoorie reads like a Scottish version of Rumpelstiltskin, but the authors claims that Rumplestiltskin may just be a German version of Whuppity Stoorie. Variants of this legend appear in so many cultures including Scotland, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Japan and South America that it would be very difficult for any one culture to lay claim to the basic premise of this story - a parent who must guess the name of their magical helper or lose their child. Regardless of where the story originated, this is one of the better renditions of it, and I did prefer this to Rumplestiltskin. The Ring of Brodgar was another favourite, and all the more fun if you act it out with plenty of stomping and shouting. Other tales include The King O' the Black Art, The School for Heroes which features Cuchulain, and The Three Questions which features two delightful riddles and one very obvious question. Our favourite of all though was The Monster of Raasay. This is a lovely story of a mother's love, which shows us that the true monster is not always the one with a frightening appearance.

Overall this is an excellent book. I love seeing the old stories preserved for another generation, and Lari Don has retold these perfectly for a younger audience. On the basis of the writing alone, I would have given this book five stars. However, while I would have been quite happy with the illustrations in a chapter book, for a picture book I did want just a little bit more. Rich and vivid illustrations really draw a child into this type of story, but my children were just as happy not to bother with the pictures after the first few, just listening to the words as I read. This isn't to say that they are terrible, they are not. It just doesn't seem that they suited the story particularly well. I would have liked a bit of magic and enchantment in the illustrations as well.

If this book appeals then we think you might also enjoy:

The Thousand Nights and One Night by David Walser and Jan Pienkowski

The Oxford Treasury of Fairy Tales by Geraldine McCaughrean and Sophy Williams

Buy Breaking the Spell: Stories of Magic and Mystery from Scotland by Lari Don and Cate James at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Breaking the Spell: Stories of Magic and Mystery from Scotland by Lari Don and Cate James at Amazon.co.uk.


Buy Breaking the Spell: Stories of Magic and Mystery from Scotland by Lari Don and Cate James at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Breaking the Spell: Stories of Magic and Mystery from Scotland by Lari Don and Cate James at Amazon.com.


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