This week’s Random Book of the Week is a 1920s poetry collection for children, all about the little fairies that might live at the bottom of our gardens.
Through writing about the ‘fairy folk’ for children, Rose Fyleman became one of the most successful children’s writers of her generation. This collection (there were others, including the rather Dickensian-sounding ‘Fairies and Chimneys‘) creates a whole world for fairies, telling us that ‘fairies learn to dance before they learn to walk/fairies learn to sing before they learn to talk’, how ‘every fairy has a star/where all her tiny treasures are’, that ‘some days are fairy days. The minute you wake/you have a magic feeling that you never could mistake’, and, most importantly, that ‘if you meet a fairy/don’t run away/she won’t want to hurt you/she’ll only want to play’.
The opening poem, ‘Consolation’ is my favourite:
You may be very ugly and freckledy and small
And have a little stubby nose that’s not a nose at all;
You may be bad at spelling and you may be worse at sums,
You may have stupid fingers that your Nanna says are thumbs,
And lots of things you look for you may never, never find,
But if you love the fairies – you don’t mind.
You may be rather frightened when you read of wolves and bears
Or when you pass the cupboard-place beneath the attic stairs;
You may not always like it when thunder makes a noise
That seems so much, much bigger than little girls and boys;
You may feel rather lonely when you waken in the night,
But if the fairies love you – it’s all right.
My mum and I like to half-pretend we believe in fairies, a hangover perhaps from the Flower Fairies revival that dominated my 1980s childhood. So, we both squealed with excitement when we kept finding fairies in the undergrowth whilst clearing the garden of mine and Jason’s new home over the summer. Granted, these were of the plastic variety, but there was still something magical about finding them. Naturally, I gave them names (see below). Look out for the fairies!