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Strange Terrain

The Fairy World in Newfoundland

By Barbara Rieti
Categories: Folklore, Cultural Studies, Newfoundland And Labrador Studies
Series: Social and Economic Studies
Series Number: 88
Paperback : 9780919666719, 288 pages, December 1990
Paperback : 9781894725804, 372 pages, July 2021
Paperback : 9780919666719, 288 pages, January 1991
Paperback - Unavailable

Table of contents

Foreword by Diane Tye (ix)

Epigraph (xvi)

Preface to the Second Edition (xvii)

Preface to the First Edition (xxv)

Acknowledgements (xxvii)

A Note on the Documentation and Transcription of Sources (xxx)


Always Going and Never Gone? (1)

Fairy Forms and Narrative Contexts: An Overview (17)

Bread, Wind, Old Paths: The Texture and Planes of Everyday Life in Fairy Narrative (65)

Tradition and the Interpretation of Experience (109)

Fairies, Devils, and Other Impostors in Bishop’s Cove:  Tales of a Trickster (153)

UFOs: Urban Fairy Oddities, and Some Modern Influences  on the Genesis and Evolution of Fairy Tradition (189)

Fairy Tradition as Discourse on Time and Change (227)

Conclusion (265)


Notes (271)

Bibliography (309)

Informant Index (337)

Thirty years after its original publication, a special anniversary edition of Barbara Rieti's iconic work Strange Terrain: The Fairy World in Newfoundland.


  • Winner, Raymond Klibansky Prize 1993


Fairies might be good or bad, and encounters with them funny or fatal. They can take on the form of people or animals, or they may have no form at all, as when a person walking in the woods is “led astray” by some irresistible force. This variability in fairies is matched by the diversity of human attitudes about them.

Barbara Rieti’s study began in 1983 when she met a young man who told her that he had been followed by the fairies. Subsequent research drew on the hundreds of archival accounts of fairies and on Dr. Rieti’s own fieldwork on Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula. Rieti describes the specific contexts in which fairy experiences are recounted and the manner in which they are told, keeping the storytellers at centre stage. She also highlights themes such as connections between fairies and nature, and the relationships between fairies and people. Comparative material sets the subject in historical and international context and demonstrates the remarkable tenacity of these old yet persistent tales.

The fairies may be going, but they are not gone yet. The stories still to be heard offer a window on everyday folklife, as well as on an extraordinary world.


"Strange Terrain is an excellent book. Rieti has made a major contribution by documenting and analysing fairy lore as living tradition. "

- Ranald Thurgood, Culture & Tradition

"Barbara Rieti's Strange Terrain marks a renaissance in fairylore studies, moving the study of fairylore from a literary study to one informed by ethnographic, psychological, phenomenological, and religious perspectives. "

- David E. Gay, Folklore Forum

"Strange Terrain is an interesting and unusual book: the first extensive study of belief in fairies in Canada . ... This is an important book for anyone doing research into popular beliefs and superstition. "

- Edith Fowke, Books in Canada

"One of our best modern fairy books. "

- Simon Young, Fairies, Folklore and Forteana