THE FOLK KEEPER (was: RE: [DWJ] Slightly OT... but still fantasy)

Gili Bar-Hillel gbhillel at
Mon Dec 11 05:50:57 EST 2006

Sally asked:
Has anyone else noted the similarities between THE FOLK KEEPER (Franny
Billingsley) and THE PERILOUS GARD (Elizabeth Marie Pope)?

Actually, no, I wasn't struck by similarity, mainly because Kate is a normal
person encountering a fey culture, whereas Corinna herself is at least
partly of the fey, as is clear right from the begining. This is one of the
reasons that Kate is easier to identify with and warm to: the readers'
perspective is closer to hers, we unravel the mysteries alongside her;
whereas Corinna starts out with a body of arcane knowledge that we don't
know, she herself is part of the mystery to be unravelled. While they both
spend time underground, Kate is quite simply an unwilling prisoner, whereas
Corinna's situation is much more complex. Though she may not actually enjoy
being underground it is part of her job, it's something she knows and takes
pride in, it sets her apart from others which is how she wishes to remain.
Sorry, it's been a while since I've read either book, so I can't comment
more specifically - just my gut feelings talking here.

What I found most intriguing about THE FOLK KEEPER was that it is a take on
the Selkie myth, and I've always been fascinated by Selkies. Had I still
been a student I would have found some way to write a paper about how
Ibsen's "The Woman from the Sea" can be read as a Selkie story. Ibsen is
considered the great modern master, all about realism, but all I could think
about when reading his plays is how steeped in folklore they are: trolls in
"The Master Builder", a ghost horse (kelpie?) in "Rosmersholm", the Pied
Piper in "Little Eyolf"... and you begin to see how "Peer Gynt" came about,
and why it's not the great exception but merely a more obvious example of
Ibsen's use of folklore and the supernatural. I studied so much Ibsen as an
undergraduate, at three different universities, and nobody ever discussed
the fantasy elements; when *I* tried opening this for discussion people
would react with mild surprise and amusement, and shrug, and go right back
to talking about modernism and realism. I ended up feeling as though I were
the only one, professors included, who GOT certain aspects of Ibsen; perhaps
because I was the only voracious reader of fairytales and fantasy. Ever
since I've had an unsatisfied itch to direct an Ibsen play as a work of

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