University of Exeter Press

The Exeter Companion to Fairies, Nereids, Trolls and other Social Supernatural Beings

European Traditions

    • 352 Pages

    Fairies, elves, and other magical beings… they’re so much more than just children’s tales.

    For centuries, Europeans believed in a parallel supernatural realm inhabited by these beings who lived much like humans in their own communities. This ‘social supernatural’ world mirrored ours with troll weddings, pixy battles, nereid picnics, dwarf migrations, and the like. Social supernatural beings were thought to interact with the human world in profound ways: they whipped up storms, ensured good harvests, and healed (and, all too often, caused) illness.

    The Exeter Companion to Fairies, Nereids, Trolls and other Social Supernatural Beings dives into the rich folklore and oral traditions around the social supernatural across Europe; in fact, it pioneers the term ‘social supernatural’ as a folklore and supernatural category. Bringing together eighteen experts, this is the first comprehensive Europe-wide look at these beliefs and practices. Through in-depth studies, the volume explores how diverse cultures from Ireland to Ukraine, and from Norway to Greece, envisioned their supernatural neighbours and how these parallel societies reflected human concerns and desires. Our authors employ ancient, medieval, modern and, in some cases, contemporary material to tease out the ‘hidden people’ from obscure and, all too often, forgotten sources.

    The book resurrects captivating stories and traditions. For anyone fascinated by European folklore, magic, and mythology, it provides a rich research seam with up-to-date bibliographies for a dozen European countries. It will be of use to folklorists, historians, ethnologists, sociologists and also the general reader interested in the supernatural beliefs of traditional European societies.

    Simon Young, ‘the foremost chronicler of Britain’s fairies’, teaches at the University of California (Accent), Florence. He has published The Boggart: Folklore, Place-Names, History and Dialect (2023) with UEP and The Nail in the Skull and other Victorian Urban Legends with Mississippi, which was awarded the 2023 Brian McConnell Book Award.

    Davide Ermacora earned his PhD in Anthropology at the University of Turin, Italy, and at Lumière University Lyon 2 in France. His research interests include the history of religions, supernatural belief systems, and traditional and contemporary legends. His first book, Monstrous Animal Siblings in Europe: From the Frater salernitanorum to the sooterkin, was published in 2022 in the Boletín de Literatura Oral series.