‘Impossible to summarise and delightfully absorbing, Hadley’s book is comfortably the most unexpected history book of the year’ Sunday Times
A luminous journey through a thousand years of folklore and English history.
Once upon a time in a Hertfordshire field, an ancient yew tree hid a dragon hunted by a giant named Piers Shonks. Today, the dragon and its slayer are the survivors of an 800-year battle between rural legend and national record, storytellers and sceptics.
In this brilliant and lyrical history, Christopher Hadley journeys from churches to tombs to manuscript margins, to explore history, memory and legend, and the magical spaces where all three meet.
'Impossible to summarise and delightfully absorbing, Hadley's book is comfortably the most unexpected history book of the year' Sunday Times 'A sensitively intelligent excavation into Hertfordshire history, the English imagination and omnipresent myth' Country Life 'Christopher Hadley's celebration of English folklore across 800 years delights in these imaginative tales which have shaped and coloured the cultural landscape of the nation ...Enriching and at times surprising ... Anchored by memorable tales, the narrative over-turns long-held historical beliefs as it goes ... Hollow Places has an innate charm ... The book's real success lies in being alert to what makes these superstitions and rituals special - the understanding that imagination trumps truth' TLS 'Hadley wears his scholarship lightly but at the heart of this antiquarian wild goose chase is an ingenious meditation on what history, in all its complexity and unevenness, really is.' Guardian 'Enthralling' The Oldie 'This meditation on the power of folk myth lives up to its billing as an 'unusual history'. It's also engaging, wide-ranging stuff, exploring how stories become ties that bind' BBC History Magazine 'The past is animated with imagination and knowledge ... Shonks and his story, the tomb and the now vanished yew are a starting point for a digressive and affectionate exploration of a local tradition that has survived for 800 years ... Authoritative and well-researched.' Spectator 'Both the piercing dissection of a folktale and a thrilling delve into the thickets of the English imagination. In fluid and satisfying prose, Hadley succeeds in transforming the most outwardly parochial of subjects into a means of illuminating the tangled roots of storytelling ... there are few subjects more compelling.' Thomas Williams
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