Lost and found

“It was meet that we should make merry, and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again; and was lost, and is found.”
— from the Parable of the Prodigal Son

I’ve written before and at length about that sense of bereavement when a treasured book is lent out, who knows when to who knows whom, and is then seemingly forever lost to view.

I felt this about Graham Anderson’s Fairytale in the Ancient World (Routledge 2000), a study which I was certain I’d lent to one friend or other but couldn’t for the life of me remember who; and all enquiries led down dim cul-de-sacs.

Great was the joy when on a recent visit to friends (no names, no pack drill) the long lost volume was discovered sitting snugly between studies on art, architecture and psychology. I can tell you that I did indeed make merry and was glad!

To replace it would have cost me close on twice as much as I’d paid for it nearly two decades ago. But it was not so much the money that concerned me as the absence of an inanimate friend which had enlightened and comforted me for the few years I’d had it with me.

The comfort came from the solid evidence that stories had sustained the human mind over thousands of years in forms that had, in essence, not changed at all. “Did the familiar children’s fairytales of today exist in the ancient world?” asks the blurb on the back cover. The simple answer is of course a resounding yes, but the devil is in the details, details I hope to tease out in a future review.

As the author says in his preface, he set out to address his study to specialists — to classicists, to scholars of folktale and children’s literature, and to comparative literary specialists — but I think we can all, academics and the general public alike, appreciate what he has done, for

“when the undergrowth is cleared away we have a castle full of Snow White and Cinderella, Rumpelstiltskin, and the rest — all in the same room. Most amazing of all: they have been lying there not for a hundred years, but in some cases for several thousand; and parts of the castle are not medieval, but built of classical columns on even earlier foundations.”

Fairytales are not just for children; they’re wonder tales for all of us.

Moreau’s ‘Fée avec des griffons’

9 thoughts on “Lost and found

    1. Thanks, Lory, I really want to reread it and hopefully get a review posted but mostly I found it stimulating and inspiring — and these days we all need something positive to counteract the depressing news.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I look forward to a review of this one, Chris; it sounds fascinating.

    As for being reunited with such a treasured ‘friend’ – yay! I totally understand how it feels.


    Liked by 1 person

  2. My dad used to have a saying that serves me well too. “Never lend what you can’t afford to give”. Be happy when it does, but not surprised when it doesn’t. I lend or give books all the time. Other books I will only loan to people I trust will actually return them. It’s a trust thing.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True enough. In this case I know it was a genuine oversight on my friend’s part—they’ve had other issues on their mind, such as health matters—but as a rule I prefer to give away rather than lend. It’s a pragmatic thing more than trust: not everyone places the same value on books in general or on treasured copies in particular.


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