Green Pagan

The folk tradition doesn’t encompass folk horror only.  I’ve been working on The Wicker Man, one of the initial folk horror classics, long enough that I sometimes need to remind myself of that.  Of course, it was the cover image featuring said movie that drew me to David Huckvale’s A Green and Pagan Land: Myth, Magic and Landscape in British Film and Television.  The descriptive subtitle more or less informs the reader what the book is about although it reaches further than that.  Huckvale also interprets novels, short stories, and classical music pieces according to landscape.  And sometimes it ranges beyond Britain, especially to other Anglo-Saxon cultures.  Richard Wagner, for example, plays a prominent role in one of the chapters.

Having written about popular media myself, I’m aware of how such issues can easily arise.  A movie too good not to discuss falls out of the precise range you’ve set for yourself.  And no matter how much media you can consume there will be tons more that you could, had you the time, add to your experience of it.  This book looks at mostly British media with an eye toward the pagan landscape.  That doesn’t always mean horror, but sometimes it does.  Huckvale always has interesting things to say about the media he addresses.  Whether the pieces go back to Arthurian legend or to more recent fictional pasts, the landscape has a role to play.

Indeed, folk horror is generally defined by landscape.  That makes sense considering that it’s all around us.  Many people in urban settings may have to struggle to find it.  Indeed, when they want to get away they head for it.  In Britain—and anywhere in which invasion has taken place—the earlier pagan ideas are imprinted on the land.  In Britain they’re perhaps more obvious; think of Stonehenge.  As later interlopers modern people see them and wonder.  And then we create stories—literary, musical, or visual—about the experience.  I’m so used to reading about folk horror that I’d finished the book before I realized it wasn’t really the focus of the entire thing.  While I don’t live in a major city, I too have blinders on for much of the time.  I’ve got a book deadline and I wanted to read this before making final revisions.  I’m glad I did.  There were places where I was just in the backseat, along for the ride, but there were also chapters where The Wicker Man was a crucial component.  And it reminded me of why I enjoyed living in that landscape for a few years.