Wool of Bat
Introduction & Series Review
Wool of Bat is a specialty series of publishing house Eye of Newt, focusing on the preservation and promotion of folklore and oral history from around the world. Works and artists are sourced from the countries in question and there is an emphasis on authenticity of the text (so, parents be warned that most of the books contain mature themes and the original, violent tales). The books are usually well constructed, typically featuring sewn signatures in a hybrid binding, but they do not form a cohesive series as many different size formats are employed. The Welsh Monsters title has simply stunning artwork and is my personal favourite of a strong series.
List of books
Dr. C. Lillefisk's Sirenology: A Guide to Mermaids and other under-the-sea Phenomema
“Dr. Lillefisk presents her field notes, sketches, and research on the rich and expansive mermaid ecosystem and how it exists alongside the human world. The growing environmental threat that humans impose on these creatures is at the fore of Dr. Lillefisk’s appeal for attention, with each mermaid featured inspired by a real or mythological creature and blended with fantasy, imagination, and a fantastical pseudo-natural science that reveals the fantastical world beneath the waves of planet Earth’s lakes, oceans, and seas.”
Hausgeister!: Household Spirits of German Folklore
“The household spirits of German folklore inhabit the pages of this book just as they settled the homesteads of ancient Germany. Belief in these creatures was ubiquitous and shaped daily life for the German people for centuries. The legends of these creatures, first shared orally and later written down and compiled, most famously by the Brothers Grimm, has shifted and changed through the tides of time.”
My review: Journeying through the pages of Hausgeister!, one is immersed into the heart of German folklore, where domestic dragons and moss women, Kobolds and Wichtel, roam free. This is a gorgeous coffee-table photography book, with lifelike sculptures that have been meticulously crafted based on historical descriptions, then beautifully photographed in dark and mysterious German landscapes. (Not for children – think of it more like the sinister uncle of Elf on the Shelf, creepily peering in through a window at night!). For those familiar with the broader sweep of Germanic folklore, the text is a refreshing dive into lesser-known details of the creatures in focus; for newcomers, it’s an invitation to explore a world of the enigmatic spirits that inspired the Brothers Grimm. A sumptuous blend of eerie and enchanting.
Welsh Monsters & Mythical Beasts: A Guide to the Legendary Creatures from Celtic-Welsh Myth and Legend
Written and illustrated by C.C.J. Ellis, introduction by Sian Powell, foreword by Stephanie Law. Eye of Newt Books. 9781777081775. August 2022.
“Upon the dramatic landscape of Wales there have been born many creatures and beings of legend. This lushly illustrated guide delves into the dragons, beasts, fair folk, and spirits of Wales. Detail and colour lift these beings off the page and bring this compendium to life.
This new edition includes a Welsh language guide so that each of the creatures might be known by their original Welsh names. “
My review: The strength of this book undeniably rests in Ellis’ captivating watercolour illustrations, detailed renderings that breathe new life into old legends and immerse readers into a world where myths and magical artwork dance in a seamless embrace. From the iconic Red Dragon (Draig Goch) that adorns the national flag of Wales to lesser-known entities like the eerie Water Leaper (Llamhigyn Y Dŵr) and the dangerous Water Horse (Ceffyl Dŵr), Ellis does more than merely sketch: he reintroduces and revitalizes Welsh history and language. This is a work of profound love and reverence for Welsh culture, sure to enchant both folklore enthusiasts and art afficionados.
Museum of Hidden Beings: A Guide to Icelandic Creatures of Myth and Legend
“Iceland, a country of striking and sometimes surreal beauty, is matched by its rich and extensive folklore. Since time immemorial, Icelanders have told tales of strange encounters and experiences they have had while on their travels. First published in Iceland as Duldýrasafnið, The Museum of Hidden Beings is now available in English, so that the creatures of Icelandic legend might knock on new doors.”
My review: The book’s strength lies in its variety, introducing readers to a myriad of creatures that hail from a rich tapestry of tales woven into Icelandic culture. The grotesque blend of human and beast in much of the artwork may be unsettling for some readers, although it makes for memorable visuals that merge horror and allure. Information provided for each creature is quite concise, so consider this one an artwork companion to other more in-depth options. Recommended for those with a love of the macabre.
Bestiarium Greenlandica: A compendium of the mythical creatures, spirits, and strange beings of Greenland
“The world of Greenlandic mythology is inhabited by creatures that have played a vital role in Inuit beliefs and stories throughout the ages. The Bestiarium is a collection of what is generally known about these diverse beings, spirits, and animals. Their stories are gritty, cruel, and reflect from the harsh landscape and lifestyle of ancient Greenland. Descriptions are paired with illustrations by contemporary Greenlandic illustrators.”
My review: Compiled from various sources within Greenland, the book presents an array of mythological creatures and spirits that have deeply influenced Inuit beliefs and narratives for ages, and takes readers on an enchanting journey into the heart of Greenlandic mythology. Ancient tales are melded with contemporary cartoon-like illustrations that reflect the animation focus of most of the artists, adding a whimsical element to the book. The introductory section provides a history of Greenland and the shaman tradition, which sets the stage for understanding the socio-cultural context in which these myths were birthed and perpetuated. Since a bestiary traditionally delves deep into the nature and characteristics of various creatures, the title might mislead some readers, as many creatures are humanoid, and all receive only a paragraph of description. Parents are advised to exercise discretion, as despite their brevity, tales remain true to their original, uncensored forms, containing mature themes. Overall this is a visual treat and a tribute to the nation’s rich folklore.