Lore of the Wild
Claire Cock-Starkey and Aitch
Wide Eyed Editions
A thing of beauty is this nature based collection of traditional tales, stories of creation and legends and more. Grouped under six themes: Animals, Birds, Insects, Flowers, plants and trees, Weather lore and Omens, each category begins with a story. That of Animals is a Welsh legend The Faithful Hound Gelert, telling how a prince’s favourite hound saves his baby son and heir from the clutches of a wolf, losing his own life in so doing.
Then follow five further spreads with short paragraphs of information on related topics, in this instance dogs and cats, farm animals, horses and donkeys, countryside animals (Brer Rabbit finds his way into this one)
and, reptiles. Each includes a wide variety of ideas from cultures, principles and belief systems from around the world both ancient and relatively recent.
Birds begins with the Celtic folktale The King of the Birds and then presents spreads on various bird groups including those found in the farmyard and at sea.
An amusing Twana tale Ant and Bear relating how light and dark came about opens the Insects section that also includes spiders. I was surprised to learn that in British folklore damselflies are known as the Devil’s knitting needle on account of their body shape and it was thought that should you fall asleep beside a stream these insects would stitch your eyelids shut.
I tend to be more of a plant than an animal person but hadn’t before come upon the Estonian folktale, Why The Trees Whisper that opens the oddly named Flowers, Plants and Trees section.
Should they so wish, readers can find legends/anecdotes relating to a single item on one spread: thus we read that in Japan the chrysanthemum is associated with royalty and is the symbol of the Japanese emperor, whereas in ancient China these flowers were linked to life and vitality because of their autumnal flowering when other blooms are fading.
No matter where you open this engaging, informative book, you’ll discover an elegantly designed layout with Aitch’s gorgeous folk-art style illustrations, making the entire thing a visual feast, as well as one to dip in and out of time and again. I was fascinated to see so many examples of the ways in which we humans search for meaning in the natural world.