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Reference Books for Fantasy Readers and Writers

Guides, dictionaries and encyclopedias for fantasy authors and interested readers: fantasy books, ancient and medieval myths and legends, religions and spiritual beings, fantasy creatures, the world of faery, witchcraft, more - great reference books for fantasy writers and readers alike.

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Encyclopedia of Fantasy
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The Encyclopedia of Fantasy
by John Clute and John Grant

"This huge volume is the first comprehensive encyclopedia of the fantasy field. Not only does it describe the genre authoritatively, but it redefines it, offering an exciting new analysis of this highly diverse and hugely popular sphere of art. With more than 4,000 entries and over one million words, this volume covers every aspect of fantasy-literature, film, television, opera, art, and comics. Written and compiled by a team of editors with unparalleled collective experience in the field, it is an invaluable reference for anyone interested in the art of the fantastic.
Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits
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A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels and Other Subversive Spirits
by Carol K. Mack and Dinah Mack

"Demons, fairies, and fallen angels are everywhere. They lurk at crossroads, crouch behind doors, hide in trees, slip into beds, wait in caves, hover at weddings and childbirths, disguise themselves as friends, relatives-even disguise themselves as you. They are powerful; they are protean; they are enchanting. And, to the uninformed, they are often invisible. This illustrated guide-the first of its kind-reveals the remarkable permutations of the demon and fairy species worldwide.

Packed with lore about each demon, detailing its origins, the culture surrounding it, and its reputed antics and exploits, A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits is a fascinating exploration of global mythologies. Perfect for the armchair traveler and the intrepid, seasoned demon-spotter alike, this complete guide to subversive spirits offers a behind-the-scenes look at the devilish mishaps, impish irritations, and demonic devastations that punctuate our lives." - book description.
Dictionary of Imaginary Places
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The Dictionary of Imaginary Places: The Newly Updated and Expanded Classic
by Alberto Manguel

"From Atlantis to Xanadu and beyond, this Baedeker of make-believe takes readers on a tour of more than 1,200 realms invented by storytellers from Homer's day to our own. Here you will find Shangri-La and El Dorado; Utopia and Middle Earth; Wonderland and Freedonia. Here too are Jurassic Park, Salman Rushdie's Sea of Stories, and the fabulous world of Harry Potter.

The history and behavior of the inhabitants of these lands are described in loving detail, and are supplemented by more than 200 maps and illustrations that depict the lay of the land in a host of elsewheres. A must-have for the library of every dedicated reader, fantasy fan, or passionate browser, Dictionary is a witty and acute guide for any armchair traveler's journey into the landscape of the imagination." - book description.
Giants, Monsters and Dragons
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Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth
by Carol Rose

"We have always conjured up creatures never seen in nature, from flying horses and two-headed birds to fire-breathing dragons and enormous killer skunks, as well as fantastic distortions of our own image, from giants to nubile maidens. In these pages you will meet extraordinary beings from Hindu and Navajo religions, Scandinavian tales, Russian folklore, Lithuanian stories, Irish oral history, American tall tales, and Aztec myth.

This illustrated encyclopedia not only identifies and describes individual beasts in their cultural context but also groups them together across cultures and discusses common mythological strands and conceits. 60 b/w illustrations." - book description.
Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion
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The Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion
Edited by Simon Price and Emily Kearns

"Drawn from the acclaimed Oxford Classical Dictionary, The Oxford Dictionary of Classical Myth and Religion offers a fully rounded guide to all aspects of religious life and thought in ancient Greece and Rome. Highly authoritative, this new book covers not only Greek mythologies and Roman festivals, but also devotes attention to topics such as Greek and Roman religious places, monuments, authors and texts, religious organization, imagery, divination, astrology, and magic.

Unlike many other references on ancient Greece and Rome, the Dictionary also includes many entries on Judaism and Christianity in the classical world. The editors, area advisors for the third edition of the Oxford Classical Dictionary, have selected, revised, edited, and in some instances completely recast a large number of entries from the OCD to create this handy and accessible reference. The main text is supplemented by an important introductory essay providing overviews of mythology, religious pluralism in the ancient world, and the reception of myths from antiquity to the present. - book description.
The Book of Fairies
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The Book of Faeries: A Guide to the World of Elves, Pixies, Goblins, and Other Magic Spirits
by Francis Melville

"Here's a charming and inspirational guide to the history and folklore surrounding faeries, and an examination of the meanings that these mythic beings have acquired in many cultures. Tradition defines faeries according to different general categories, which include nature spirits, helpers, tricksters and seducers, and angelic faeries.

The author summarizes the long history of faery lore, and explains how we can develop our intuitive powers and perceive the faery realm, which he claims truly exists in the universe. He goes on to describe more than 50 faeries, including: Nymphs, nature spirits, favored by the ancient Greeks and found in places of natural beauty, Elves, revered in Anglo-Saxon lore as guardians of woods, mountains, and wild places, Jack Frost, a playful spirit of cold regions who nips at children's fingers and toes, Brownies, worker spirits attracted to industrious households, and said to bring luck, Puck, a mischievous sprite made famous by Shakespeare in A Midsummer Night's Dream, Leprechauns, the memorable faery pranksters of Irish folklore, Genies, the celebrated wonder workers of Arabian folklore. - book description.
Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia
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Gods, Demons and Symbols of Ancient Mesopotamia: An Illustrated Dictionary
by Jeremy Black and Anthony Green

"Ancient Mesopotamia was a rich, varied and highly complex culture whose achievements included the invention of writing and the development of sophisticated urban society. This book offers an introductory guide to the beliefs and customs of the ancient Mesopotamians, as revealed in their art and their writings between about 3000 B.C. and the advent of the Christian era.

Gods, goddesses, demons, monsters, magic, myths, religious symbolism, ritual, and the spiritual world are all discussed in alphabetical entries ranging from short accounts to extended essays. Names are given in both their Sumerian and Akkadian forms, and all entries are fully cross-referenced. - book description.
Writers Complete Fantasy Reference
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The Writers Complete Fantasy Reference
by Writer's Digest Books, intro by Terry Brooks

This is a terrific desk reference on everything medieval (culture, history, weapons, dress, etc.) from around the world with a strong emphasis on Europe. A very handy book when you don't know the difference between a catapult and a trebuchet or want to describe a meal, an entertainment, or the heroine's attire.

Lots of info on religious rites, magic, monsters and cultural beliefs and customs as well. The entries are brief - this is not an in-depth history or encyclopedia, but a valuable quick reference tool.
Medieval Folklore
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Medieval Folklore: A Guide to Myths, Legends, Tales, Beliefs, and Customs
Edited by Carl Lindahl, John McNamara, John Lindow

"Over a decade in the making, Medieval Folklore offers a wide-ranging guide to the lore of the Middle Ages--from the mundane to the supernatural. Definitive and lively articles focus on the great tales and traditions of the age and includes information on daily and nightly customs and activities; religious beliefs of the pagan, Christian, Muslim, and Jew; key works of oral and written literature; traditional music and art; holidays and feasts; food and drink; and plants and animals, both real and fantastical.

While most books on medieval folklore focus primarily on the West, this unique volume brings together an eclectic range of experts to treat the subject from a global perspective. Especially remarkable are the surveys of the major medieval traditions including Arab-Islamic, Baltic, English, Finno-Ugric, French, Hispanic, Hungarian, Irish, Italian, Jewish, Scandinavian, Scottish, Slavic, and Welsh. For anyone who has ever wanted a path through the tangle of Arthurian legends, or the real lowdown on St. Patrick, or the last word on wolf lore--this is the place to look." - book description.
Encyclopedia of Celtic Myth and Legend
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The Encyclopaedia of Celtic Myth and Legend: A Definitive Sourcebook of Magic, Vision, and Lore
by John Matthews and Caitlin Matthews

"In Encyclopedia of Celtic Myth and Legend, authors John and Caitlin Matthews have compiled one of the most comprehensive collections of Celtic lore ever, drawing from every known source from the Celts' well-known classics, to neglected sources and forgotten archives. Their fresh translations and lucid commentary make this an essential text for students, researchers, and indeed, for anyone who has ever felt drawn to the Celtic spirit.

The tales and poems are arranged thematically in keeping with the bardic traditions from which they come, and transport the reader to the shores of distant lands, populated by heroes and heroines, gods and kings, fairy folk, maidens and magicians. Here the ancient legends unfold, telling of battles and births, voyages and visions, love and longing, wooings and wisdom, dreams and vengeance. - book description.
Norse Mythology
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Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs
by John Lindow

Norse Mythology explores the magical myths and legends of Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Iceland and Viking-Age Greenland--outlining along the way the prehistoric tales and beliefs from these regions that have remained embedded in the imagination of the world.

The book begins with an Introduction that helps put Scandinavian mythology in place in history, followed by a chapter that explains the meaning of mythic time, and a third section that presents in-depth explanations of each mythological term. These fascinating entries identify particular deities and giants, as well as the places where they dwell and the varied and wily means by which they forge their existence and battle one another. We meet Thor, one of the most powerful gods, who specializes in killing giants using a hammer made for him by dwarfs, not to mention myriad trolls, ogres, humans and strange animals. We learn of the ongoing struggle between the gods, who create the cosmos, and the jotnar, or giants, who aim to destroy it. - book description.
Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft
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The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft
by Rosemary Ellen Guiley

"With more than 500 entries and 100 black-and-white illustrations, The Encyclopedia of Witches and Witchcraft gives readers a detailed look at the Craft and its history from its pagan origins to its modern revival. Here, in A-to-Z format, readers will find unparalleled coverage of witchcraft practices around the world in different time periods and societies, including entries on magic, shamanism, the occult, and wizardry. Biographies of the most influential characters in the movement and how they shaped the traditions and practices of their followers are included. Completely updated throughout, this edition features expanded cross-cultural entries and additional historical data. - book descrition. Includes modern neo-paganism and Wicca.