'The past is never dead...'
As with The Cheesemaker’s House, elements of folklore and its practice are central to The
Faerie Tree. It is a subject which never ceases to fascinate me and this book is dedicated to
my father’s memory because he introduced me to it.
Naturally the idea and existence of faerie trees – or a particular tree – is central to the story.
The tree does exist; people go there to communicate with the ‘faeries, elves and pixies of the
wood’ (as they sign themselves in their replies) and to leave them gifts. How much is done to
entertain the children rather than as an act of faith I can never tell, but somewhere deep in
the past there must be a shared folk memory of how things once were.
Equally important to the story is the fact that Robin is a heathen. Heathenry is a type of
paganism which springs from old northern European practice and is particularly close to
nature. It is this aspect of the religion which Robin holds most dear, rather than the belief
in the existence of spiritual beings such as wights – and faeries themselves. But he still
marks pagan festivals in the turning wheel of the year, much in the same way as a Christian might attend church at Easter and Whitsun.
Robin learns his faith from Jennifer, the elderly lady he lives with for much of his adult life. She was born in Iceland and brought her beliefs with her when she married an English serviceman after the Second World War – beliefs which are still common in her native country today.
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