In Rónán and the Mermaid, a young boy is washed ashore on the eastern coast of Ireland and is found by a monk. The boy recovers and describes to the monks his rescue by a beautiful, golden haired mermaid. The monks recall a legend of an Irish princess, Liban, who was turned into a mermaid three hundred years before after her home was flooded. As the boy grows up, he develops an affinity for music and is always trying to remember the haunting tune he heard the night of his rescue. One morning, Rónán goes fishing and encounters Liban. The mermaid entreats Rónán to bring her to the abbey so that she can be blessed by the abbot. Rónán agrees and the abbot christens the mermaid Muirgen. Muirgen becomes St. Murigen and is known until today as the mermaid saint.
I really enjoyed this story and appreciated the happy ending (of sorts). The author, Marianne McShane, is a storyteller, which is reflective in her prose. This is a book that definitely deserves to be read aloud. I also appreciated the depth of the text used to tell this story. It would have been impossible to write using the word count constraint used by many publishers. Thank you, Candlewick Press! The illustrations by Jordi Solano use a muted palette which perfectly depicts the Irish seacoast.
If you are looking for an addition to your collection of mermaid stories and legends, this is definitely one to add to your library.
Queen of the Fairy Tales
Ruth Manning-Sanders was born on August 21, 1886 in Swansea, Wales. She died on the 12thof October in 1988 leaving behind countless books of poetry, stories, fairy tales and magic.
Ruth was the youngest daughter of three. Her father was John Manning, an English Unitarian minister. The three sisters spent their childhood reading books and putting on plays they had written. In her book, Scottish Folk Tales, Ruth describes spending the summer months in Scotland. During these vacations at the farm Shian (which means the place where the fairies live) an elderly woman, Granny Stewart, would tell her and her sisters’ folk and fairytales from all over Scotland. She describes swimming with seals, riding farm horse and even one time having a visit on her tenth birthday from “a gipsy with a dancing bear”.
Ruth won a scholarship to study Shakespeare at Manchester University but a serious, yet unnamed illness caused her to return home and end her studies.
In 1911, Ruth married the painter George Rawlings Sanders. The couple joined their two surnames with a hyphen, an act that was amazingly forward thinking for the early twentieth century.
For two years, the couple traveled around in a covered trailer with the circus know as Count Rosaire’s. Perhaps seeing the dancing bear when Ruth was ten was the inspiration for such an exciting and unorthodox choice. It wasn’t until their first child, Joan Manning-Sanders, arrived that they began to live in homes without wheels. Their second son David arrived in 1915.
As a poet, Ruth won several awards but none of her works sold well. She studied writing with Walter de la Mare and one of her first poems was published by the Hogarth press. Virginia Woolf described Ruth in her diary in February 1922 as “a bob haired, wide mouthed woman, dressed in a velvet dressing gown, plump, sandy haired with canine brown eye far apart. We liked her.”
With her poems critically acclaimed but financially unsuccessful, Ruth began to publish books for adults and children alike. Many of her children’s books at this time drew on her experience traveling with the circus.
Her husband, after an illness, was confined to the wheelchair. He abandoned his painting and began writing.
During the 1930s Ruth and her family lived in a house called “Esther’s Field”. The author Mary Butts moved into a bungalow nearby and soon she and Mary became good friends. Mary Butts describes many dinners and long walks shared. She considered Ruth her “accoucheuse” or midwife for her work and describes Ruth’s writing as being “like good bread and pure fruit”.
In 1952, George died in a road accident. As a widow in her 60s, Ruth began to write folk and fairy tales that she had learned as a child or heard on her travels.
Ruth wrote, with the help of her daughter Joan, for the rest of her life. Her last book, A Cauldron of Witches, was published when she was ninety-nine. Ruth Manning-Sanders died on the 12thof October 1988. She was one hundred years old. In her lifetime, Ruth Manning-Sanders published over ninety books.
Many of the fairy tales were illustrated by Robin Jacques. While only one of her books are still in print, A Book of Mermaids, many of them can be found in used bookstores around the world.
I grew up reading these amazing books in my dusty, small town public library. I fondly remember looking at a shelfful of her books on rainy summer afternoons.
Summer ended, we moved and other books took their place.
Forty years later, I re-discovered A Book of Mermaids in a hot warehouse full of old, used books.
I reread the book and fell in love again with the witty, crafty and of course magical mermaids. And in-between work, family and laundry, I spread the word about this wonderful book. After all, who doesn’t love mermaids? Unfortunately, the book was out of print and a used copy was expensive.
With this enchanting and beloved book in mind, I opened a publishing company, MAB Media. To my joy and delight, A Book of Mermaids by Ruth Manning-Sanders is now a MAB Media’s release.
Ruth Manning-Sanders was a fascinating person, not just because of her writing ability, but also for her way of life. She was a feminist and a lover of travel. A prolific writer, her fairy tales, both original and adapted, reflected a wide range of characters, both human and non-human, of all shapes, sizes, colors and creeds.
In A Book of Mermaids Ruth Manning-Sanders introduces the readers to sixteen stories of mermaids and their fantastical adventures. Within my wide collection of fairy tales and folk tales, these are by far my favorites.
The overall appeal of Ruth Manning-Sanders remains in part due to the difficulty of the human condition. In fairy tales, unlike life, Manning-Sanders explains in the forward to her title, A Book of Witches, it is the absolute and very comforting rule … that the good and brave shall be rewarded, and that bad people shall come to a bad end.”
How nice it would be if life was the same and we all lived happily ever after.
An incomplete bibliography of Ruth Manning-Sanders
The Pedlar, 1919 (verse)
Karn, 1922 (verse)
Pages from the History of Zachy Trenoy: Sometime Labourer in the Hundred of Penwith, 1922 (verse)
The Twelve Saints, 1926
Martha Wish-You-Ill, 1922 (verse)
The City, 1927 (verse)
Waste Corner, 1927
Selina Pennaluna, 1927
Hucca’s Moor, 1929
The Crochet Woman, 1930
The Growing Trees, 1931
She Was Sophia, 1932
Run Away, 1934
Mermaid’s Mirror, 1935
The Girl Who Made an Angel, 1936
Children by the Sea, 1938 (published in United States as Adventure May Be Anywhere)
Elephant: The Romance of Laura, 1938
Luke’s Circus, 1939
Mystery at Penmarth, 1941
The West of England, 1949 (non-fiction)
Swan of Denmark: The Story of Hans Christian Andersen, 1949 (non-fiction)
Seaside England, 1951 (non-fiction)
The River Dart, 1951 (non-fiction)
The English Circus, 1952 (non-fiction)
Mr. Portal’s Little Lions, 1952
The Golden Ball: A Novel of the Circus, 1954
Peter and the Piskies: Cornish Folk and Fairy Tales, 1958
A Bundle of Ballads, 1959
Circus Boy, 1960
Red Indian Folk and Fairy Tales, 1960
Animal Stories, 1961 (non-fiction)
Birds, Beasts, and Fishes, 1962 (editor, an anthology of natural history poetry)
The Smugglers, 1962
The Red King and the Witch: Gypsy Folk and Fairy Tales, 1964
Damian and the Dragon: Modern Greek Folk-Tales, 1965
The Crow’s Nest, 1965
Slippery Shiney, 1965
The Extraordinary Margaret Catchpole, 1966 (fictionalised biography)
The Magic Squid, 1968
Stories from the English and Scottish Ballads, 1968
The Glass Man and the Golden Bird: Hungarian Folk and Fairy Tales, 1968
Jonnikin and the Flying Basket: French Folk and Fairy Tales, 1969
The Spaniards Are Coming!, 1969
Gianni and the Ogre, 1970
A Book of Magical Beasts, 1970 (editor)
A Choice of Magic, 1971
The Three Witch Maidens, 1972
Stumpy: A Russian Tale, 1974
Grandad and the Magic Barrel, 1974
Old Dog Sirko: A Ukrainian Tale, 1974
Sir Green Hat and the Wizard, 1974
Tortoise Tales, 1974
Ram and Goat, 1974
Young Gabby Goose, 1975
Scottish Folk Tales, 1976
Fox Tales, 1976
The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse: Aesop’s Fable Retold, 1977
Robin Hood and Little John, 1977
Old Witch Boneyleg, 1978
The Cock and the Fox , 1978
Boastful Rabbit, 1978
Folk and Fairy Tales, 1978
The Haunted Castle, 1979
Robin Hood and the Gold Arrow, 1979
Oh Really, Rabbit!, 1980
Hedgehog and Puppy Dog, 1982
Tales of Magic and Mystery, 1985
A Cauldron of Witches, 1988
The fairy tale series illustrated by Robin Jacques
A Book of Giants, 1962
A Book of Dwarfs, 1963
A Book of Dragons, 1964
A Book of Witches, 1965
A Book of Wizards, 1966
A Book of Ghosts and Goblins, 1968
A Book of Princes and Princesses, 1969
A Book of Devils and Demons, 1970
A Book of Charms and Changelings, 1971
A Book of Ogres and Trolls, 1972
A Book of Sorcerers and Spells, 1973
A Book of Magic Animals, 1974
A Book of Monsters, 1975
A Book of Enchantments and Curses, 1976
A Book of Kings and Queens, 1977
A Book of Marvels and Magic, 1978
A Book of Spooks and Spectres, 1979
A Book of Cats and Creatures, 1981
A Book of Heroes and Heroines, 1982
A Book of Magic Adventures, 1983
A Book of Magic Horses, 1984
Butts, Mary and Nathalie Blondel, The Journal of Mary Butts. New Haven: Yale University, 2002
Hurst, Veronica, Sanders, Ruth Vernon Manning Online
Manning-Sanders, Ruth, “Forward”, Scottish Folk Tales. London: Metheun, 1976
Otto, Chris, Papergreat
Whistler, Theresa, Imagination of the Heart: The Life of Walter De La Mare. Michigan: Duckworth, 1993
Woolf, Virginia, The Letters of Virginia Woolf. London: The Hogath Press, 1976.