Forgotten and Fantastic, But Also a Strange Symphony of Magical Grace

I have a special place in my heart for fairy tales, myths and fables, and have steadfastly refused to ‘grow up’ and put aside these so-called childish pursuits. There is a lot to be learned from fairy tales and the whimsy they invoke is not something I’m prepared to live without. Any opportunity to read a new collection will thus inevitably result in my snatching at it with greedy delight.

The collection causing such unbridled glee this time was The Forgotten and the Fantastical 3: Modern Fables and Ancient Tales, the third in a series of collections edited by Teika Bellamy and published by Mother’s Milk Books, an independent press which focuses on celebrating femininity and empathy.

This collection of fairy tales, designed for an adult audience, is sure to ‘get the grown-ups clapping’. Centred on the theme of transformation, this anthology reminds us that bears, trees and flowers may not be quite what they seem and that the world around us is always tinged with a touch of the mystical. Featuring unique works of fiction full of ravens, wise women and strange occurrences in the deep dark woods, this is an enchanting anthology designed to bewitch and surprise.   

This collection features work from seventeen authors, including Sarah Armstrong, Moira Garland and Sarah Hindmarsh, gathered together by editor Dr Teika Bellamy, a mother-of-two, and founder and editor-in-chief of Mother’s Milk Books. After gaining a Ph.D. in Chemical Research from University College London, Bellamy took a career break after having her first child and began to explore other avenues of creativity, setting up Mother’s Milk Books in 2011.

As well as editing and publishing a wide range of anthologies including Musings on Mothering in 2011, The Forgotten and Fantastical in 2015 and The Forgotten and Fantastical 2 in 2016, Bellamy has also been a guest editor of Breastfeeding Matters – the La Leche League members’ magazine. She has written articles which have been published in various parenting magazines: New Beginnings, Practical Parenting, The Green Parent, JUNO and The Mother.

The power and resilience of women is a strong theme throughout this collection

“First the computers came…the Net arrived which altered everything. The Net was all powerful, it couldn’t be seen and it couldn’t be touched, yet it held all the answers and the people were entranced by it.”

The magic of the modern world is explored in this anthology from a tale told from the perspective of the carriage driver, in charge of a thoroughly modern carriage in Midnight Riders by Dan Mickelthwaite to the little girl transfixed by her grandfather’s tale in The Narclops by Sophie Sellars and the astral traveller who comes face to face with the mystical potential of space in Airless by NJ Ramsden. By choosing to include these stories, Bellamy has drawn attention to the timeless lyricism of the fable and to the innovative power of the authors who have taken this classic narrative structure and used it to create fresh contemporary tales.

“After I almost gelded three of the village boys I was left alone and was quite content to be so.”

The power and resilience of women is a strong theme throughout this collection, from the healing power of community in Silence Rose From the Water Like Steam by Poppy O’Neill to the love between sisters in Bearskin and Bare-skin by Carys Crossen. Returning repeatedly to the strength of women, Bellamy has included stories that highlight the significance of female friendship and the resolve of women in the face of difficulty. The cautionary element intrinsic to fairy and folk tales remains ever present in this collection, including the cost of betrayal in The Web of the Wildwood by Lynden Wade, in which a beloved wife begins to suspect that the walls designed by her husband to keep intruders out may actually serve to keep her in, locked away in solitude.

Throughout this anthology, Bellamy has expertly orchestrated a beautiful symphony of magical grace, and has created a loving ode to the fairy tale genre. Drawing on old themes and new, this collection is filled with well written, thoughtful stories sure to stir the reader’s imagination and give a sense of melancholic nostalgia.

If you too have clung on to your love of the fantastical, this is the collection for you. Exploring beloved themes and narratives well remembered from childhood as well as new and innovative interpretations, there is something to satisfy even the most curmudgeonly reader. These are empowering, uplifting tales of love and compassion as well as thrillingly macabre odes to the darkness within us all.

The Forgotten and the Fantastical is a magical, moving collection, full of distinct voices and enchanting tales designed for readers who may have grown up but still feel the spark of whimsical joy when delving into the enchanting realms of magical mystery.

  • The Forgotten and the Fantastical 3, edited by Teika Bellamy and published by Mother’s Milk Books is available now

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