Here’s a delightful little snippet from my recent sojourn in the Monash University Rare Books Collection.
One of the books in their collection is Australian Fairy Tales, by Hume Cook, illustrated by Christian Yandell. The book was first published in 1925 and includes the following rather interesting Foreword by the RT. HON. W. M. HUGHES, P.C., M.P. Formerly Prime Minister of Australia:
War and Science between them have played havoc with the old order. Ancient landmarks have been swept away; cherished superstitions exposed. The World has changed, but man remains the same. His faith in Kings may have gone, but his belief in Fairies remains. In childhood, he lives to-day as he has lived throughout the ages, in a world which knows not change, and where the cold, hard light of science can never penetrate. A wonderful world, inhabited by glorious being with shimmering wings and glittering diadems and wands; to whom nothing is impossible; for whom neither time nor space exist, save at their will.
“Where is this wonderful world?” sneers Mr. Gradgrind; “I cannot see it–it does not exist!” No, not for you, my dear Sir! You are one of those who are not privileged to pass its magic portals. But it is a very real world for all that. It may indeed turn out to be no less real than this, which is the only one you deem worth knowing, and which it is very obvious you do now know at all.
It is the world in which the children of all the world live: the world of Bogies and Dragons, Fairy Princes and Princesses, Giants and Giant Killers. It is the world we knew so well when we, too, walked with fearful joy amid its mystic, thrilling groves. To dull and prosaic souls it does not exist, for, lacking imagination, they walk in outer darkness. Those fairy forms–so real to the vivid mind–are to them but the shadows of trees in the flickering light of the moon.
Hitherto, the Fairies we have known, though very delightful beings, have had their habitat in far-off lands. Thanks to the researches of Mr. Hume Cook, we are now able to wander through the enchanted Bush with real Australian Fairy Princes and Princesses; share in the thrills of their amazing adventures; rejoice in the triumph of virtue; and be glad at the downfall of vice.
The dwellers in Australian Fairy Land, although akin to those of other climes, have a distinct character of their own. Even the wicked Desert Fairies endear themselves to us. Although they do not vomit fire, as did the dreadful dragon of our childhood, one feels that, given a sporting chance, they would make that boastful beast curl up like a salted worm.
As for the other Fairies, everybody will love them. The stories are well told, and the book is beautifully illustrated. Mr. Hume Cook’s book is, in very truth, a really and truly Fairy Story Book, which Australian children of all ages will read with avid interest and take to their hearts.