The Book of Ballads by Charles Vess

The Book of Ballads is a book that I think should be in the collection of any lover of folklore, fairy tales, ballads, myths, legends, and fantasy. It’s one of the most well compiled collections I’ve seen in a long time and it’s presented in such an amazing format with a lovely introduction by Terri Windling, beautifully illustrated throughout in graphic novel form by Charles Vess, stories told wonderfully by some amazing authors, and it includes a discography of ballads at the end.

The book begins with Terri Windling giving us the history of ballads and how they have been passed down throughout the ages from their earliest roots where they were tales sung and rarely written down, an “ancient folk poetry” as she puts it, to their more modern roots of being recorded and reinterpreted by modern novelists. She explains the different instruments used to perform the ballads and explains to the reader the different types of ballads that exist: mainly magic, love, death, and family troubles. Those are all illustrated throughout The Book of Ballads.

It’s impossible for me to go through all 13 ballads in this collection, but they were all exquisite. There wasn’t a single one that I didn’t enjoy. As I said, they’re presented in graphic novel format and beautifully illustrated by Charles Vess. He was made for this project and it was a project that was his own vision as he is a long time lover of ballads. Here’s the amazing table of contents for this project:

The False Knight on the Road by Neil Gaiman
King Henry by Jane Yolen
Thomas the Rhymer by Sharyn McCrumb
Barbara Allen by Midori Snyder
The Three Lovers by Lee Smith
Tam-Lin by Elaine Lee
The Daemon Lover by Delia Sherman
Twa Corbies by Charles de Lint
Sovay by Charles de Lint
The Galtee Farmer by Jeff Smith
Alison Gross by Charles Vess
The Black Fox by Emma Bull
The Great Selchie of Sule Skerry by Jane Yolen

I had no idea that some of these amazing stories were actually ballads. Honestly, I didn’t know where many of them had originated and now I do. Each author interpreted the story in their own way but most of them stuck pretty close to the original story. What I loved most about this book is that at the end of each story, the full text of the original ballad was included, so this is really a treasury of some of the most well known ballads. It’s such a special book really.

At the end of the book, they’ve included a discography that includes a list of recordings for each ballad in the collection where you can find numerous musical performances of the ballads. I can’t wait to listen to some of them.

This was truly an amazing read and I’m so happy to have read it. Hope you do the same! In fact, I loved it so much and think that it is such a great resource that I’d love to give away a copy! So if this sounds like something that you’d be interested in, leave me a comment and I’ll draw a name next Sunday, May 31st (plenty of time) and you’ll be entered for a drawing for it!


26 Responses

  1. I’d love to be entered, thanks! It sounds like something I’d really like!

  2. well you flew thru that book! lol and umm, i’m not in for the drawing.. leave it for those who’d really enjoy it!

    running right for OSC eh? lol.. you are enjoying this way too much! lol

  3. Becky, I’ve got you in for the drawing! It’s a great book!

    Deslily, Yeah, I couldn’t stay away from the OSC for long…:p I’m hoping it’s not as depressing as the last apocalyptic books…this one is about nuclear warfare I think. Can you believe this is the first book of his I’ve read all year and it’s almost the end of May!

  4. I’d love to put my name in the hat for the drawing! I’ve become a real Charles de Lint fan although I’ve only read two of his books. I loved each one, so it’s a pleasure knowing I have so many more ahead of me to enjoy.

  5. It has been so long since I’ve read this that I forgot that Terri Windling did that introduction. You are right, this is a marvelous treasure that every happy participant in the fairy tale challenge should own. I already have my own so please don’t include me in the drawing, but I’m thrilled that you are doing this because someone is going to end up with a beautiful book to cherish.

  6. Please add my name, and wow, you make me want a book of ballads, Chris!!! This goes right on to my To-get list. Look at all the authors writing their story of the ballad, and then to have actual copies of the ballads being performed! wow. thanks so much for bringing it to our attention (well, mine anyway, since half your commentators seemed to have/know about this book already!)
    Is your dad’s operation still a go on Friday? I’ll be thinking of you all….

  7. How cool that it comes with a disc! I totally want to be in the drawing. πŸ™‚ And I’m sending good thoughts your father’s way.

  8. Put my name in, please – it really sounds like something I would love.

  9. wow! yes. definitely.

    this is a must! thanks chris for bringing it to our attention!

    ’cause its funny. many of us fantasy lovers love ballads, and yet i’ve never thought of actually getting a collection of one – and even if i did i wouldn’t know what would be good…

    so thanks!

    (and, it doesn’t hurt that windling, gaiman and vess are involved either… πŸ˜‰ )

  10. oh, and de lint!

  11. Wow, this really does sound like one beautiful book! Thanks for the chance to win it!

  12. Oh Chris! I loooooove ballads. So many of my stories are based on them. Wind Follower was based on “He’s love but he’s daily growing/The trees they grow tall.” At least in the beginning it was. I’d put myself in the drawings except I KNOW if I got the book I’d read it. And I’m trying to avoid non-review reading. I’d so love to see how The Demon Lover and The False Knight were depicted. -C

  13. Robin, Got you in the hat! You’ll really enjoy this one. The two de Lint stories are great…I was really pleased to see that he had not one but two stories in the collection!

    Carl, It’s a really great introduction by Terri Windling! She writes so well and I learned so much by reading it. I hope that whoever ends up with the book really enjoys it!

    Susan, Definitely adding you to the list! Good luck! I think there may have been some confusion though with the post…it doesn’t actually come with recordings of the songs, it just gives a list of recordings at the back of the back…but still a great resource! Yep, dad’s operation is tomorrow…thanks for your thoughts!

    Eva, Got you in the drawing! I might have to go back and edit my post…I think I was misleading :/ It doesn’t actually come with a disc, but it has a list of where to find performances of the ballads. Still a great treasury though!

    Nymeth, Got you in the drawing! You would totally love this one! Everything about it πŸ™‚

    JP, This one is right up your alley. I’ll put you in the drawing for it. You’re right…many of us fantasy lovers do love ballads! They make me think of renaissance festivals and lovely maidens singing next to harps πŸ˜€ This is definitely a great collection to start out with! Great authors, eh?

    Debi, It is quite the beautiful book! I’ve got you in the drawing! Good luck πŸ™‚

  14. Carole, You should really enter yourself! It’s such a quick read…I read it in all of 2 hours πŸ˜‰ Of course you could spend much much more time with this one if you chose to. The Daemon Lover was one of my favorites in this one. It stuck extremely close to the ballad using almost identical text throughout the graphic novel version with beautiful artwork by Vess. This is going to be a shocking revelation, but I really wasn’t that impressed with The False Knight! And it was Gaiman’s story! I don’t know if it was his fault or not, but it was just my least favorite of the ballads included and he didn’t change anything with it really…just didn’t do much for me. I had no idea that Wind Follower was based on a ballad!! I’m so going to go look that one up right now!!!

  15. This is SOOOOO cool! I love to teach the ballad form! I wish I had had this to teach Intro to Lit in the past!!

  16. I bought a copy when you first mentioned it and am really looking forward to getting around to it. I think it will definitely be one of my choices for the Irresitible Reviews Challenge. Thanks for the review πŸ™‚

  17. This is great book. I’m so glad you loved it. When I saw you were reading it it brought a smile to my face. I was just thinking back to when I had discovered it and how much I learned from it as well. I just knew you would love it as well. I already own a copy so I don’t need one but if it’s legal put my name in the hat anyhow and if I win it send it to JP. I know he’d love it as well. Take care Chris! – Jeff

  18. oh wow! thanks jeff!

    “lovely maidens singing next to harps”… πŸ˜€

  19. let me know how the first day of work goes!!!

  20. […] Hopefully posts will be back to usual now that dad is safe and sound and the new job jitters have settled down. Now if I can only get myself to read again! Oh…and don’t forget to sign up for the drawing for Charles Vess’ Book of Ballads this Sunday! […]

  21. Does my earlier comment count? I’d love to be entered in the drawing!

  22. I haven’t posted about this one on my blog, but it is a truly gorgeous book isn’t it?

  23. I’m going to read this for the Once upon a time challenge and I’m so glad you wrote this cause it makes me want to read it even more. The cover did most of the job to be honest, it’s just so beautiful and it fits perfectly in the “folklore” category πŸ˜›

  24. I agree. This is a lovely book and a wonderful collaboration of great fantasy authors. I finished it yesterday and just reviewed it on my blog. I hated to turn my copy back into the library! I am so sorry to have missed out on the drawing!

  25. x2q30PUURAAHg

  26. […] Reviews: Books and Other Thoughts, Stuff as Dreams are Made On, Stella Matutina, Rhinoa’s Ramblings, Libri Touches, The Written World Have you reviewed this […]

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