Thursday, November 5, 2015

David Southwell, on the magic of Ruth Manning-Sanders

When I did my Q&A last month with Hookland creator David Southwell [See Part 1 and Part 2], I asked him a "bonus question" that was near and dear to my heart:

Did you read any of Ruth Manning-Sanders' folk- and fairy-tale collections when you were growing up?

His response is well worth its own post, and here it is...
"This is the point where I think you and I are brothers by another mother. Ruth Manning-Sanders is one those writers that were often an invisible part of childhood that you rediscover as an adult and take real joy in. She was an incredible woman — poet, circus elephant rider, folklorist — and that her output is now criminally neglected is a painful thing to see. While I often find myself disagreeing strongly with some of her views on fairy tales and folklore, I am always intoxicated by tellings of tales. There is connective grace to the wonder in the story that is always a delight.

"Every year my wife and I go to Penzance for the week of St. John's Eve — bone horses, bonfires, misrule — and let ourselves become possessed by the surrounding Penwith Landscape. It's the town that Manning-Sanders died in and there are traces of her and the way folklore lives in that place. However, where you can really connect to her and her work is Sennen Cove — one of the most glorious beaches in Cornwall and her home for several decades. I remember it from my childhood as a place that claims you with its beauty, works its way into your memory, your soul. In many ways Sennen Cove has become my metaphor for the work of Manning-Sanders — it works into your imagination with its beauty and power.

"To me, her animating spirit is still rolling in a horse-drawn caravan as Count Rosaire's Circus crosses the border into Hookland, it is still in Sennen Cove, in Penzance, in the Cornish landscape. In my imagination, in those places and in every story about pixies you hear while walking in the Penwith Hundred, her work is still alive. She made the landscape — internal and external — richer with her words. In the end, that's about the best a writer can ever achieve."

"Sennen cove at dusk" by Jim Champion - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.


  1. I see a journey to Cornwall in your future.

  2. Hi Chris, I blog about children's books at and would like to reproduce your photo of Manning-Sanders' books above, in a piece I'm writing with a debut author in the UK who mentions his own love of Manning-Sanders. I would of course credit the photo appropriately. Please do get in touch if I may use the photo -