Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Book of Ballads by Charles Vess

The Book of Ballads is a book that I think should be in the collection of any lover of folklore, fairy tales, ballads, myths, legends, and fantasy. It's one of the most well compiled collections I've seen in a long time and it's presented in such an amazing format with a lovely introduction by Terri Windling, beautifully illustrated throughout in graphic novel form by Charles Vess, stories told wonderfully by some amazing authors, and it includes a discography of ballads at the end. The book begins with Terri Windling giving us the history of ballads and how they have been passed down throughout the ages from their earliest roots where they were tales sung and rarely written down, an "ancient folk poetry" as she puts it, to their more modern roots of being recorded and reinterpreted by modern novelists. She explains the different instruments used to perform the ballads and explains to the reader the different types of ballads that exist: mainly magic, love, death, and family troubles. Those are all illustrated throughout The Book of Ballads. It's impossible for me to go through all 13 ballads in this collection, but they were all exquisite. There wasn't a single one that I didn't enjoy. As I said, they're presented in graphic novel format and beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess. He was made for this project and it was a project that was his own vision as he is a long time lover of ballads. Here's the amazing table of contents for this project: The False Knight on the Road by Neil Gaiman King Henry by Jane Yolen Thomas the Rhymer by Sharyn McCrumb Barbara Allen by Midori Snyder The Three Lovers by Lee Smith Tam-Lin by Elaine Lee The Daemon Lover by Delia Sherman Twa Corbies by Charles de Lint Sovay by Charles de Lint The Galtee Farmer by Jeff Smith Alison Gross by Charles Vess The Black Fox by Emma Bull The Great Selchie of Sule Skerry by Jane Yolen I had no idea that some of these amazing stories were actually ballads. Honestly, I didn't know where many of them had originated and now I do. Each author interpreted the story in their own way but most of them stuck pretty close to the original story. What I loved most about this book is that at the end of each story, the full text of the original ballad was included, so this is really a treasury of some of the most well known ballads. It's such a special book really. At the end of the book, they've included a discography that includes a list of recordings for each ballad in the collection where you can find numerous musical performances of the ballads. I can't wait to listen to some of them. This was truly an amazing read and I'm so happy to have read it. Hope you do the same! In fact, I loved it so much and think that it is such a great resource that I'd love to give away a copy! So if this sounds like something that you'd be interested in, leave me a comment and I'll draw a name next Sunday, May 31st (plenty of time) and you'll be entered for a drawing for it!

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