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Hag: Forgotten Folktales Retold

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Carolyn Larrington, the tales in this collection bring attention not just to great female authors but also to perhaps forgotten gems of British and Irish folklore. The grammar was a little all over the place, sentences that should have had commas but just didn't, so the flow was off. Overall, I thought this was a decent collection, though there were some stories that definitely are catered to a specific audience. She is the talk of the town as no one knows who the father of her baby is and she keeps it a secret as well.

Some of the stories are more ambiguous than fairytales generally are, hinting at explanations that are less overtly paranormal influence and more mental illness, grief, or human violence. So, the copy I have did not have any of those issues, the grammar was spot on so maybe that's why I enjoyed it more. Mahsuda Smith is represented by The Panther’s Tale, which combines an anecdote linked to a Midlands’ aristocratic family’s coat of arms with shapeshifting legends drawn from the author’s Bengali folk heritage. Exploring otherness, identity, faith, religion, gender and sexual trauma, Hag brings together a gripping collection of tales that are unsettlingly timely and wickedly sinister. After reading the original story, I'll say that this is more like an extended version down a few generations rather than a full-on re-telling but it works here, at least for me.

Perhaps it was unfair to give this implicit standards to live up to, but nevertheless they were not met. That said, the old tales do reach deeper into the darker and creepier shadows that inhabit our landscapes and all the authors of these stories have managed to convey that feeling of dread that you can sometimes get with the old stories both.

Mahsuda Snaith is winner of the Bristol Short Story Prize 2014 and SI Leeds Prize 2014, which she won with an early draft of her debut novel 'The Things We Thought We Knew' (Black Swan). She herself a stranger in the land before she had dreamt of the wide flat skies and horizons, the sprawling dappled green landscape, windmills dotted along the Broads' periphery spinning like moored gods. From the islands of Scotland to the coast of Cornwall, the mountains of Galway to the depths of the Fens, these forgotten folktales howl, cackle, and sing their way into the 21st century, wildly reimagined by some of the most exciting women writing in Britain and Ireland today. For the most part, the stories lack rigour and originality and will soon slip away to wherever the things we forget go. Also enjoyed that they original tales can be read in the back of the volume for context and comparison.Undoubtedly, this is one of the most appealing and riveting short story collections I've read in recent years, and I can't recommend it highly enough for those who enjoy old myths and legends, and even the supernatural or fairytales, and one of the best aspects is that this book doesn't just retell the prominent stories we all know, hence the use of ’forgotten’ in the title.

As professor Carolyne Larrington, the expert who wrote the introduction and chose the stories, says, ‘the last fifty years have seen a remarkable upsurge of interest in Britain’s traditional imaginary’. We even have a panther, the Goddess Kali, tales of exploitation, trauma, and the exploration of the relationship between sisters.They are also matched up with stories from their own region, encouraging both them and us to re-evaluate the places we think we know well. Some stories stayed within the old-fashioned setting of the originals, but I preferred the ones that updated the scenery and put a modern, forward-thinking twist on the plot. Daisy Johnson starts Hag off with a story that poses the question at the heart of any retelling: Is it mine to tell?

They are all very singular stories with the common theme being they are based on folklore retellings so I found this easier to read in parts as the stories are so distinct in styles and topics. Both she and Johnson explore the problems of writing new versions of unstable stories that developed from a flexible and amorphous oral culture that has reshaped itself over time. This kind of commentary, butting into the narrative every so often, comes off as comic; but it also reminds us that because these tales have no original per se, since they are defined by their endless retelling. The folktales take you across the country from Suffolk and green children, to boggarts in Yorkshire, Panthers in Stafford, selkies in Orkney and more. Just as the Brothers Grimm codified Germany's rural folk lore, Hag catalogues the early myths and legends that have shaped the UK's storytelling heritage.I found the retellings both poignant and compelling as they held a much stronger contemporary critique.

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