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Like Pete Castle’s other books with The History Press (Derbyshire Folk Tales, 2010 and Nottinghamshire Folk Tales, 2012), Where Dragons Soar is a delight. All sixty-seven stories in the volume are simply and engagingly told so they can be enjoyed by readers of any age and background. I suspect they’ll prove especially useful for storytellers who want to recruit material for gigs involving animal stories, because there’s a rich variety of tales here and each of them begs to be told. This is hardly surprising, since most of them have been in the oral tradition for longer that we can know. Pete has added a few modern tales to the brew as well, but these are no less tellable than their more venerable companions.
In compiling the book, Pete tells us he chose stories that can be called “British” because they’ve circulated in Britain for long enough to become “naturalised”, even if we know they’ve been imported from elsewhere. Another criterion for selection was that each story had to involve one or more animals as its principal focus. Some have human participants, too, but in those cases the humans play a secondary role, even when they spend parts of their lives in animal form (e.g. as werewolves or selkies). Most of the animals are mammals, but there are birds, reptiles, frogs and fish as well – and, as the title indicates, dragons. (Are dragons mammals or reptiles? The synonym worm or wyrm suggests the latter, but modern zoology textbooks are silent on the subject.) Apart from dragons, all our favourite folktale creatures are there: dogs and cats, foxes and wolves, bulls, horses, donkeys, bears, monkeys, hares, seals, lions, unicorns...
The book is divided into eleven chapters, each comprising stories about particular sorts of animals, and the text is interspersed with charming black-and-white illustrations. The author’s introduction is illuminating, explaining his selection from the hundreds (thousands?) of animal-related stories available, and there is a short bibliography at the end of the volume.

Review by Mark Henderson

WHERE DRAGONS SOAR and other animal folk tales of the British Isles by PETE CASTLE

“Pete's a good tale teller but when he picks up his guitar I hightail it out of there.” (Winston, next door's cat)

ISBN 978-0-7509-6186-8

Within these pages are tales of scheming creatures and ferocious animals from across the British Isles, passed down through the generations.
Amongst the more famous beasts of myth and legend, such as the Loch Ness monster lurking in Scotland’s black waters and the Hartlepool monkey that was mistaken for a French spy, are the less well-known stories of the peculiar, fantastical and extraordinary. Discover the fox Scrapefoot and his run-in with bears, the fisherman’s wife who was really a seal, and the two warring dragons hidden under Caernarf on – all brought to life by noted storyteller Pete Castle.
Illustrated with unique drawings, these enchanting tales will appeal to young and old, and can be enjoyed by readers time and again.

CONTENTS

INTRODUCTION

1 Here Be Dragons
The Knight and the Dragon; A Sussex Dragon; The Two Warring Dragons;
The Lambton Worm; Assipattle and the Muckle Mester Stoorworm; Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster

2 Man’s Best Friend
Greyfriars Bobby; Gelert, the Faithful Hound
Black Shuck and Other Spectral Dogs
The Suffolk Black Dogs; The Aylesbury Black Dog; The Black Dog of Lyme Regis;
The Black Dog of the Wild Forest

3 As Wild as a Wolf, as Wily as a Fox
Wolves
How Wolf Lost His Tail; The Wolf of Allendale
Werewolves
An Almost Human Beast; The Derbyshire Werewolf; Reynardine
Old Daddy Fox
Chanticleer and Pertelote; The Fox and the Cock; The Fox and the Bagpipes;
Old Daddy Fox; The Fox and the Pixies; Scrapefoot

4 A Game of Cat and Mouse
Alien Big Cats; The King o’ the Cats; Why the Manx Cat Has No Tail;
The Cheshire Cat; The Cat and the Mouse; The Tale of Dick Whittington’s Cat;
The Pied Piper of Franchville; The Four-Eyed Cat

5 Down on the Farm
The Roaring Bull of Bagbury Farm; The Black Bull of Norroway;
The Farmer’s Three Cows; The Dun Cow of Durham; Four Animals Seek Their Fortune

6 Bread and Circuses
Stories of Showmen and Their Animals
The Flying Donkeys of Derby; Who Killed the Bears? The Congleton Bear;
The Hartlepool Monkey; The Man, the Boy and the Donkey; Jack and the Dead Donkey;
The Parrot; The Frog at the Well; Love Frogs

7 We Three Kings
How the Herring Became the King of the Sea; Windy Old Weather;
The King of the Fishes; The King of the Birds

8 Here Comes the Cavalry
The Lion and the Unicorn; Grey Dolphin’s Revenge; The Horse Mechanic

9 Hares, Mares and Hedgehogs
Oisin and the Hare; The Heathfield Hare; Hare or Human;
The Kennet Valley Witch; The Hedgehog and the Devil

10 Magical Transformation
The Small-Tooth Dog; The Seal Wife

11 Exotic Animals
The Woman Who Married a Bear; Alligators; The Wonderful Crocodile!
The Tale of Tommy the Tortoise; The Lion Says His Prayers; The Two Elephants;
The Knight and the Dragon (reprise)

Index of Places
Bibliography
About the Author


£12 inc P&P

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