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Twilight of the Godlings
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Book description

Throughout the recorded history of Britain, belief in earthbound spirits presiding over nature, the home and human destiny has been a feature of successive cultures. From the localised deities of Britannia to the Anglo-Saxons' elves and the fairies of late medieval England, Britain's godlings have populated a shadowy, secretive realm of ritual and belief running parallel to authorised religion. Twilight of the Godlings delves deep into the elusive history of these supernatural beings, tracing their evolution from the pre-Roman Iron Age to the end of the Middle Ages. Arguing that accreted cultural assumptions must be cast aside in order to understand the godlings – including the cherished idea that these folkloric creatures are the decayed remnants of pagan gods and goddesses – this bold, revisionist book traces Britain's 'small gods' to a popular religiosity influenced by classical learning. It offers an exciting new way of grasping the island's most mysterious mythical inhabitants.


‘As Francis Young acknowledges, folklore studies have moved away from the question of origins because of problematic past approaches. His new book boldly returns us to this question by reminding us of an important fact: that folklore is history and can (and should) be studied from a historical perspective, drawing on literary and material evidence to trace the development of folkloric figures. Because of its novel approach, the book will certainly appeal to historians and folklorists alike, bridging the divide between the two – and, with any luck, convincing each of the benefit of the other's viewpoint. Because of its accessibility, the book will also attract the general reader interested in folklore and history. Twilight of the Godlings is a brilliant achievement.'

Ceri Houlbrook - Lecturer in Folklore and History, University of Hertfordshire

‘This is a bold, erudite, exciting and genuinely original attempt to solve one of the most intractable of questions concerning medieval British culture. It is very readable and enjoyable, and undoubtedly makes a notable contribution to debate.'

Ronald Hutton - Professor of History, University of Bristol, author of Pagan Britain (2014)

‘Twilight of the Godlings is nicely combative, making considerable and justifiable claims for its own originality: tracing the history of various folkloric beings through from Roman Britain to the late medieval period. The author firmly eschews outmoded ideas of a ‘Celtic hypothesis – the belief that later Celtic-language tales, in particular in Irish, can explain the origins and development of such creatures. Dr Young has a background in classical literature and an unusual competence in comparative religion, which is very useful in broadening his comparative frame of reference. He writes clearly and authoritatively and his book is both timely and persuasive.'

Carolyne Larrington - Professor of Medieval European Literature, University of Oxford, author of The Land of the Green Man: A Journey through the Supernatural Landscapes of the British Isles (2015)

‘This is a magnificent book and I am very proud to have my name associated with it. The real proof of its magnificence is that I disagreed with large parts, but still loved reading it. Twilight of the Godlings will stir up debate and act as a fantastic stimulus for supernatural folklore studies. The critical accompaniment is always fascinating and provocative – and at times intoxicating. Packed with fruitful ideas, it is the only post-war volume to look at the development of British fairylore from earliest times to the Middle Ages.'

Simon Young - Lecturer in History, University of Virginia (CET), Siena

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