Myths, fairies and other magic from Kensington Reference Library

Maja Erhovnic, Tri-borough Reference Librarian, writes:

In the 1960s and 70s London libraries collaborated to create designated specialised collections that would together form a remarkable London-wide collections net covering different sections of the Dewey Decimal Classification. Kensington Central Library’s subjects were 920 (Biographies) and 390 (Folklore and Customs).

Although the idea of a centrally co-ordinated mega collection has disappeared from the local authorities’ agendas, some libraries keep and maintain their specialist collections up to date. Here in Kensington Reference Library we stock the Folklore and Customs Collection.

The Folklore and Customs Collection covers a variety of interesting topics that range from Witchcraft, Sex & Marriage, and  Feminism, to Mythology and Death Customs (take a look at our previous post, Vikings, Pumpkins and Dancing with Deer Horns).


A large sequence covers a family of tales (fairy tales, folk tales, myths etc) from across the globe.

One of the values of these types of collections is archiving books that would have otherwise been withdrawn – probably decades ago. What we have here is a rich source for anyone interested in how people all over the world tell stories of their existence, how those stories change over time and how over time their essence stays the same. What’s the essence of people’s tales?

The way I personally see stories is that storytelling is about the reasoning, struggles and joys of our existence through imagination.

And that imagination is as vast as the universe. And imagining doesn’t have to stop once the story is told, even in cases when one story is already written down. Stories transform, they always will. Because life changes, the world changes, why would stories of our existence stay the same? They don’t, they change.

Thinking about this recently, I noticed how the notion of transforming the stories we thought were set in stone seems to be talked about more and more, and how these story transformations are reaching mainstream. I think that’s a good thing. I read Russell Brand’s children’s story The Pied Piper of Hamelin yesterday and though it was beautiful.

Russell Brand's Trickster Tales: The Pied Piper of Hamelin, 2015
Russell Brand’s Trickster Tales: The Pied Piper of Hamelin, 2015


But don’t let my opinion about tales and stories take over your view of what the essence of storytelling is. Make your own story. But before that, I invite you to listen to another story, another view – that of an author of a book, a writer of a song, a painter of a mural, a stranger at the till, a person down the pub, a colleague, a neighbour, a fellow traveller…What is their story telling you about you?What is the story you want to tell?

I wish all readers an open heart and an abundance of beautiful stories in 2015!

If you are interested in looking at any of the materials in our Folklore and Customs collection, please ask a member of staff or contact the libraries team.