Saturday 15 October 2022

Book Review: The Watkins Book of English Folktales by Neil Philip (Folklore)

Title: The Watkins Book of English Folktales
Author: Neil Philip
Publisher: Watkins Publishing
Publication Date: 11 October 2022
Pages: 384
Format: eBook - EPUB
Genre: Folklore
Source: ARC via NetGalley

This is a golden treasury of over one hundred English folktales captured in the form they were first collected in past centuries. Read these classic tales as they would have been told when storytelling was a living art – when the audience believed in boggarts and hobgoblins, local witches and will-o’-the-wisps, ghosts and giants, cunning foxes and royal frogs. Find “Jack the Giantkiller”, “Tom Tit Tot” and other quintessentially English favourites, alongside interesting borrowings, such as an English version of the Grimms’ “Little Snow White” – as well as bedtime frighteners, including “Captain Murderer”, as told to Charles Dickens by his childhood nurse.

Neil Philip has provided a full introduction and source notes on each story that illustrate each tale’s journey from mouth to page, and what has happened to them on the way. These tales rank among the finest English short stories of all time in their richness of metaphor and plot and their great verbal dash and daring. 


The Watkins Book of English Folktales was a lovely collection. I particularly enjoyed the fact that each tale had a note of its source (i.e. when recorded and from whom) and also end notes offering commentary on the story including other tales it links to etc. I also appreciated the preservation of dialects and accents within the texts. Many of the tales were already familiar to me, albeit sometimes in slightly altered form, but a few I had not come across before. Overall, it is a nice addition to the library of anyone interested in English folklore. It gets 4 stars from me.

I received this book as a free eBook ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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