Tom Stampton

Apple & Wave Press

ISBN: 095220455X Faerie Folk

ISBN: 0952204525 Rara Avis

Beyond the borders of Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland there is a lucky minority, those who “get’ Irish humour. If you, too, pick up on the artful, droll playfulness that is the hallmark of this art form, chances are you are going to crack many a smile reading these slim volumes. The experience will, in fact, give you a craving for more of Stampton’s prose and artwork. You are in luck. There is more than I address here in this one review. Much more.

Hint* My favourite joke: translate the Latin name for the Basilisk. It’s unlike any basilisk I’ve ever seen portrayed in illustration or prose; look forward to the upcoming SyFy channel original “Mecha Basilisk vs the OctoBull Singers”!

Taken together, these books add up to a mere forty-three pages. Mere? Yes, if it was only prose used to convey the same images and wry humour that would be the right adjective, but it could not be done in so few pages. RAVA AVIS and IRISH FAERIE FOLK are created by an artist of words and a variety of mixed media.

Study the illustration of the Frost Spider — easily the creepiest creature in the volume to all you arachnephobics out there (Hi, Dad!) — in which every detail must be perfectly aligned. Now, remember it is illustrated by special etched and copper engraved plates, a labour-intensive process seldom seen in book illustrations anymore, what with so many less expensive and time-consuming processes in software and hardware available.

While RARA AVIS OF THE SEA OF MOYLE is obviously a scientific treatise, SOME LESSER KNOWN IRISH FAERIE FOLK is Stampton’s recess, a chance to go out in his yellow rain boots and jump in puddles. This author may not have had the chance to play with all of these folk when he was a child, but he has caught a glimpse of them, there, just out of there corner of his eye even now. Surely, there has never been a Turf Goblin in a Stampton house for many generations. Some sprites and pixies are impossible to guard your wardrobe against, however.

How sad that no matter where you travel in Ireland you will never see the Bear Trolls. Even more devastating: where are those Trolls going now that the North Pole is melting away? Maybe we can protest for them. The Selkie on the introduction page appears to be genuinely crabby; let’s put her in charge of that!

My best friend is a Master Fly Fisher and Tyer in Lisdoonvarna. Odd that he never mentioned these Water Sprites. Perhaps, he’s not as amazing as…or the enormous fish he caught and released…what about the ones he didn’t catch? If the author can get a message through maybe I can find out the truth.

Maybe we were better off not knowing about the existence of some of these Folk and Rara Avis? We cannot live in ignorance, though, and Stampton has wised us up in a delightful way. Enjoy the unique illustrations and the clever, dry humour of the text. This combination in the two volumes makes for an amusing experience, a dusting of some kind of Celtic magic that keeps you between the covers much longer than the appearance of the few pages would seem. Look up and see the clock has run away from you. You’re late for something. An hour ago you said you’d be up in a minute.

Blame Tim Stampton. Or check your house for Clockwork Pixies.