Books
Sylvia Townsend Warner

Of Cats and Elfins

With a cover endorsement by Neil Gaiman: ‘Sylvia Townsend Warner was one of our finest writers. I’m thrilled that Handheld Press are bringing some of her uncollected fantasy stories back into print to delight and amaze a new generation.’
Following the success of Handheld Press’s republication of Sylvia Townsend Warner’s fantasy collection Kingdoms of Elfin in October 2018, the remaining four Elfin stories are gathered together with the remarkable forgotten tales of The Cat’s Cradle Book (1940), eighty years after its first publication. This is a new selection of Warner’s remaining fantasy short stories, collected for a new generation of fantasy enthusiasts and Warner fans.
The twenty-three stories in Of Cats and Elfins encompass scholarship (Warner’s ground-breaking essay from 1927 on modern Elfinology), black humour, the Gothic, and the bizarrely anthropomorphic cats of The Cat’s Cradle Book, which reflect Warner’s preoccupation with the dark forces at large in Europe in the later 1930s.
The Cat’s Cradle opens with a story about the talking cats that die of a murrain in a manor based on Warner’s own Norfolk home with Valentine Ackland. ‘Bluebeard’s Daughter’ narrates the adventures of Bluebeard’s daughter by his third wife, and her propensity for locked doors. Warner mixes fables and myths with storytelling traditions old and new to express her unease with modern society, and its cruelties and injustices.
Greer Gilman has written the Introduction. She is the author of Moonwise and Cloud & Ashes, and two critically-acclaimed novellas about the poet Ben Jonson, as well as poetry and criticism. Her fantasy fiction has won the Tiptree, World Fantasy, and Shirley Jackson Awards.
265 printed pages
Original publication
2020

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