Journeys to the Land of Faerie... and Telling the Tale

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  • From £3.25 – £14 Concessions available

Join writers, artists and musicians Ellen Kushner, Jeannette Ng and Terri Windling as they explore fantastical journeys.

This event takes place in the British Library and will be simultaneously live streamed on the British Library platform. Tickets may be booked either to attend in person, or to watch on our platform (online) either live or within 48 hours on catch up. Viewing links will be sent out shortly before the event.

Myths and stories about fairies and their worlds known as Faerie or Fairyland have a long and resonant place in British folklore especially. Multiple versions of these supernatural beings appear in ancient tales and classic texts from Gawain and the Green Knight to A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Peter Pan. Fairies abound in fantasy novels including Neil Gaiman’s Stardust, John Crowley’s Little, Big, Susanna Clarke's Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and Jeannette Ng’s Under the Pendulum Sun.

Fairies reveal themselves in our world throughout folk tradition and literature, but it is only through great courage or by mysterious accident that humans have travelled to the Land of Faerie itself.

Join writers, artists and musicians Ellen Kushner, Jeannette Ng and Terri Windling in conversation with Diane Purkiss as they explore these fantastical journeys, and the realms discovered.

Plus a rare chance to hear Ellen Kushner’s celebrated account of Thomas the Rhymer, with ballads performed by acclaimed singer Sam Lee.

In the classic story Thomas the Rhymer, who was a real 13th century laird and poet who lived in the Scottish Borders, is lured away by the Queen of Elf Land for seven years, after which he returned to the land of mortals and was given the gift of true speech – the ability to tell the future, but never to tell a lie.

J.R.R Tolkien wrote ‘Faerie is a perilous land, and in it are pitfalls for the unwary and dungeons for the overbold... The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may perhaps count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveller who would report them. And while he is there it is dangerous for him to ask too many questions, lest the gates should be shut and the keys be lost.’
– J. R. R. Tolkien, “On Fairy-Stories” 

Please note, this event is not aimed at those aged 14 and under. 

Doors and Bar open at 18:00. 

Half price tickets available for British Library Members, students, under 26s and other concession groups.

Ellen Kushner is the author of acclaimed works of literary fantasy, an award-winning audio book narrator and stage performer, the past creator and host of public radio’s national series Sound & Spirit, and a popular teacher and lecturer. She divides her time between New York City, Paris, and anywhere else that will have her. Among her works, Ellen published her first novel in 1987, the cult classic urban fantasy Swordspoint, which was followed in 1990 by Thomas the Rhymer (World Fantasy Award and the Mythopoeic Award), and further novels in her Riverside series.

Sam Lee is a Mercury Prize nominated folk singer, writer, conservationist, song collector, award-winning creator of live events, broadcaster and activist. Alongside his organisation, The Nest Collective, he has shaken up the music scene breaking boundaries between folk and contemporary music: inviting in a new listenership interrogating what the messages in these old songs hold for us today. His most recent album is Old Wow (2019) and his 2021 debut novel The Nightingale, notes on a songbird tells the epic tale of this highly endangered bird and their place in culture folklore, folksong, music and literature throughout the millennia.

Jeannette Ng is an author best known for her 2017 novel Under the Pendulum Sun, for which she won the Sydney J Bounds Award for Best Newcomer at the 2018 British Fantasy Awards. She also won the Astounding for Best New Writer in 2019, and the Hugo Award for Best Related Work in 2020. Originally from Hong Kong, Jeannette now lives in Durham, UK. She has an MA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. She runs live roleplay games, performs hair wizardry and sometimes has opinions on the internet. 

Diane Purkiss is Professor of English Literature at Keble College, Oxford. She is the author of the highly acclaimed The Witch in History, Troublesome Things: A History of Fairies and Fairy Stories and English Food: A People’s History

Terri Windling is a writer, editor, and folklorist specialising in fantasy and mythic arts. She has published over forty books, receiving ten World Fantasy Awards (including the Life Achievement Award in 2022), the Mythopoeic Award, the Bram Stoker Award, and the SFWA Solstice Award. She has edited many of the major fantasy writers in the field; writes fiction for adults and children, nonfiction on fairy tales and faery lore, and a long-running blog on myth, nature, and creativity: Myth & Moor.

Image from: An ancient mappe of Fairyland newly discovered and set forth designed by Bernard Sleigh (1918).

This event accompanies our exhibition Fantasy: Realms of Imagination, supported by:

Wayland Games   

If you’re attending in person, please arrive no later than 15 minutes before the start time of this event.

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Name: Journeys to the Land of Faerie... and Telling the Tale
Where: Pigott Theatre
The Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
Show Map      How to get to the Library
When: -
Price: From £3.25 – £14
Concessions available
Enquiries: +44 (0)1937 546546
Book now

* Please note that there is a £1.50 transaction fee when tickets are posted, or for telephone sales when an e-ticket is requested.