The Fairy Ring OR Elsie and Frances Fool the World by Mary Losure (Walker Books)
PB RRP $16.95
Reviewed by Anastasia Gonis
Mary Losure is the author of the brilliant non-fiction work, Wild Boy: The Real Life of the Savage of Aveyron. She’s back with another intriguing piece of non-fiction for the 10+ year-old age groups, with the story of the two girls who claimed to have seen and photographed the Cottingley fairies.
Frances Griffiths was nine years old when she moved with her parents to Cottingley in Yorkshire to live with her cousin Elsie Wright, who was almost sixteen. It was 1920 and her father left for the Great War. Elsie had left school at thirteen and a half, and worked at a meaningless job. She was a daydreamer, bad at school and always criticized by her highly talented father. The only thing she was good at was drawing and painting. The two became best friends.
Because Frances went to an exclusive school in Bingley and not to the local one near her home, she never got on well with the local children. She spent most of her time alone exploring the valley that ran off their home and playing in the beck.
It is during one of these solitary jaunts that she sees a little man about 18 inches tall dressed in green, walking along the bank. Later she would see more of these little men, then fairies.
When she finally told Elsie and their parents, the girls were teased mercilessly. They set out to prove them wrong by photographing the fairies. How they went about it is unbelievable. So was born one of the greatest hoaxes of the 20th Century.
This highly interesting book tells the story that fooled many famous people into believing that the Cottingley fairies were real. Even Sir Arthur Conan Doyle who had a passionate interest in the spirit world, fairies and gnomes, and the Theosophical Society were drawn into a web of deceit that was never confessed to till the girls were quite old.
Did Frances actually see something? Elsie’s part in it all questions that. But her greatest achievement in life may have been that she persuaded educated and famous people, into believing that what they saw was real.
This is a great read and for anyone who loves mysteries and non-fiction. Whether it was true or not is left to the reader to decide.