It only seems like a short while since the fantastic Storyland was released, but a whole year has passed and Amy Jeffs returns with a new book entitled Wild: Tales from Early Medieval Britain and introduces us to The Exeter Book, a tenth-century anthology of poetry, and one of the largest collections of surviving old English literature
Wild, however, is not just a book about a book, although that’s undoubtedly where its inspiration lies, but a vivid reimagining of some of the central themes of the texts. What is presented in Wild is a vivid and haunting fusion of fact and fiction, spanning a millennium that invigorates the imagination today as they did during the times they were written. Spanning seven chapters, each setting their own theme (Earth, Ocean, Forest, Beast, Fen, Catastrophe and Paradise) the reimagined prose and the history of the work that accompanies these tales bring back to life the tales of monsters, religion and unrequited love, accompanied with the author’s original wood carvings and a selection of a new translation of the original Exeter Book as an Appendix to the book, which is a fascination unto itself.
Many of the themes within Wild remain as prevalent today as they did over a thousand years ago when they were written, which not only is a testament to these texts, but a significant reminder that human issues are issues that remain throughout time, and not just our time. The times when these texts were written, were a time of particular piety, and this is certainly discernable when reading as, for me, one of the main themes was that of religion, and with the texts possibly being written by a monk, this would certainly make sense. However, the tales in Wild are certainly not pious, reimagined in a way that highlights the themes of the original text, and in a style that is certainly reminiscent of stories at the time, such as Beowulf, Wild is a wonderful introduction to a world of unbridled storytelling for a modern reader.
- Wild: Tales from Early Medieval Britain by Amy Jeffs is published by Quercus Books (£20.00). To order a copy go to www.quercusbooks.co.uk
Founder and Editor of Pilgrim House, currently researching folklore and early Welsh Christianity and curator of the archives of the lost village of Pontyddim.