10 books on magic, monsters and myths to read for Halloween [reading list]

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From its origins as an ancient Celtic holiday celebrating the end of the harvest, Halloween has grown over time to become a day of goodies, spooky movies, costumes, and carved pumpkins.

From witches to werewolves, explore a range of titles curated by the OUP Arts & Humanities team for you to read before Halloween.

The Dragon in the West: from ancient myth to modern legend by Daniel Ogden

How did the dragon get its wings? Everyone in the modern West has a clear idea of ​​what a dragon looks like and what kind of stories it inhabits, including fantasy enthusiasts JRR Tolkien, JK Rowling, and George RR Martin. Cross between a snake and a formidable mammal, often sporting colossal wings, they live in caves, rest on treasures, maraud and breathe fire. They are extraordinarily powerful, but even so, ultimately defeated in their battles with humans. What is the origin of this creature? A popular creature in contemporary fiction and cinema, Ogden reveals how the dragon was known to the ancient Greek and Roman worlds, and has come down to us through early Christianity, Anglo-Saxon and Norse legends.

Read The Dragon in the West: from ancient myth to modern legend

The ghost in the picture: technology and reality in the horror genre by Cécilia Sayad

Our century has seen a proliferation of ghost-hunting reality shows, haunted documentaries, and horror films presented as found images. The horror genre is no longer exclusive to fiction, and its narratives actively engage us in web forums, experiential viewing, video games, and creepypasta. The ghost in the picture offers a new interpretation of the place of supernatural phenomena in everyday life, arguing that the relationship between the genre of horror and reality is more intimate than you like to think.

Read The ghost in the picture: technology and reality in the horror genre

Oxford’s Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic edited by Owen Davies

This richly illustrated story offers a fresh take on the complex history of witchcraft and magic. Spells written on clay tablets to the boy who lived, magical beliefs and practices have been woven throughout our history and culture for over 4,000 years. Oxford’s Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic explores the anthropology of magic around the world, investigates what the archives really tell us about the witch trials of the 16th and 17th centuries, and watch the witches in the film by The Wizard of Oz To Buffy the vampire slayer.

Read Oxford’s Illustrated History of Witchcraft and Magic

A guide to horror movies for a very nervous person by Mathias Clasen

Horror expert Mathias Clasen delves into the psychological science of horror cinema to shatter some of the worst myths and correct the biggest misconceptions surrounding the genre. In short and very readable chapters strewn with anecdotes and living examples, he answers the most pressing questions of the nervous person.

Read A guide to horror movies for a very nervous person

The werewolf in the ancient world by Daniel Ogden

The Werewolf Tales are well established as a sub-thread of the popular horror genre; less known is the remoteness in time of their origin. This is the first book in any language devoted to the tales of werewolves that survive from ancient times, exploring their place alongside witches, ghosts, demons and flying souls in a world of history. share.

Read The werewolf in the ancient world

Horror: a very short introduction by Darryl Jones

Four in the morning, and the lights are on and there is still no way to sleep, not after the movie we just saw. The book we just read. Fear is one of the most primitive human emotions, and one of the most difficult to reason and dispel. So why are we scared? It almost seems crazy that we are scared of ourselves for the fun of it, and yet there are thousands of books, movies, games, and other forms of entertainment designed to do just that. Exploring the genre’s key tropes, including its monsters, psychological thrills, and love affair with the macabre, Horror: a very short introduction explains why horror stories bother us and how society reacts to literary and cinematic representations of horror and taboo.

Read Horror: a very short introduction

A Supernatural War: Magic, Divination, and Faith in WWI by Owen Davies

A supernatural war reveals the startling stories of extraordinary people in a world overtaken by the promise of occult powers. By discovering and examining contemporary beliefs, practices and opinions regarding the role of the supernatural during the war years, Owen Davies explores the larger questions concerning early 20th century Western society, the psychology of the supernatural in wartime. and the extent to which the war brought to light the pervasive persistence of popular belief in magic.

Read A Supernatural War: Magic, Divination, and Faith in WWI

Monstrous forms: the horror of the moving image through the media by Adam Charles Hart

It makes us jump. It makes us scream. It haunts our nightmares. So why do we watch horror? Why are we playing it? What could possibly be appealing about a genre that tries to terrify us? Why submit to shocks causing screaming, or spend dozens of hours watching a TV show about grotesque carnivorous monsters? Monstrous shapes offers a theory of horror that works across the genre across a wide range of contemporary moving image media: film, television, video games, YouTube, gifs, streaming, and virtual reality.

Read Monstrous forms: the horror of the moving image through the media

Cyclops: the myth and its cultural history by Mercedes Aguirre and Richard Buxton

A Cyclops is generally assumed to be nothing more than a one-eyed, flesh-eating monster. In an accessible, elegant and academically authoritative survey, this book seeks to demonstrate that there is much more than that, aside from the fact that in myths, Cyclops are not always one-eyed! This book offers a detailed, innovative and richly illustrated study of the myths relating to the Cyclops from classical antiquity to the present day.

Read Cyclops: the myth and its cultural history

Ancient Norse Mythology by John Lindow

Ancient Norse Mythology provides a unique insight into Scandinavian mythology: the gods Þórr (Thor) with his hammer, the cunning and deceitful Óðinn (Odin), the devious Loki and other fascinating characters. They create the world, fight their enemies and die at the end of the world, which arises again with a new generation of gods. These stories were Viking mythology, but they were not written until long after conversion to Christianity, mainly in Iceland.

Read Ancient Norse Mythology

Featured Image by Ganapathy Kumar of Unsplash


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