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If history is normally written by our masters then it’s good to be reminded that the myths and legends of folklore are foremost imagined and passed down by the common people, revealing a wealth of queerness that the official historians chose not to talk about. I learned something fascinating on every page.
Christine Burns, MBE

Queer as Folklore

Sacha Coward
Status: supporters list closed
Publication Date: TBC
  • Hardback£18.99511 Pledges

    First edition hardback and the name of your choice printed in the subscribers’ list at the back of the book.

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    A copy of the Ebook and the name of your choice printed in the subscribers’ list at the back of the book.

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  • Art Cards
    Art Cards£15.0014 Pledges

    Five Art Cards inspired by Queer as Folklore. Each card will centre a mythical creature or monster from the book. Frame them for your own collection or gift them to friends.

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  • Mythical Creature Tattoo
    Mythical Creature Tattoo£5.0017 Pledges

    A temporary tattoo of a mythical creature, inspired by Sacha's book.

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  • Queer History Statement T-shirt
    Queer History Statement T-shirt£45.0040 Pledges

    Loud and proud folklore fan? This LGBTQ+ inspired tee is for you! Available in S, M, L, XL.

    40 Pledges
  • Virtual Talk on the Queer History of Monsters
    Virtual Talk on the Queer History of Monsters£50.0012 Pledges

    A virtual one hour talk with Sacha exploring the queer history of monsters, with interactive activities. You'll have the opportunity to ask Sacha questions at the end of the session. LIMITED TO 50

    12 Pledges
  • Patron£850.002 Pledges

    Be one of the book's biggest supporters and have your name published in a special Patron list in front of the book.

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  • Museum Tour
    Museum Tour£65.008 Pledges

    Join Sacha for an intimate two-hour group tour of the British Museum, where you'll hear the hidden queer stories behind some of the Museum's collection, with interactive activities. LIMITED TO 8

    8 Pledges
  • Cemetery Tour
    Cemetery Tour£25.0020 Pledges

    Join Sacha for an intimate group tour of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, to uncover new tales of queer history. Warning: mythical monsters may make an appearance.LIMITED TO 20.

    20 Pledges
  • Donate a Copy to Your Museum£30.005 Pledges
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  • Signed Hardback£35.00804 Pledges

    Signed first edition hardback and the name of your choice printed in the subscribers’ list at the back of the book.

    804 Pledges
If history is normally written by our masters then it’s good to be reminded that the myths and legends of folklore are foremost imagined and passed down by the common people, revealing a wealth of queerness that the official historians chose not to talk about. I learned something fascinating on every page.
Christine Burns, MBE

Join any Pride march and you are likely to see a glorious display of papier-mâché unicorn heads trailing sequins, drag queens wearing mermaid tails and more fairy wings than you can shake a trident at. But these are not just accessories: they are queer symbols with historic roots.

 

Queer as Folklore is an exhilarating journey across centuries and continents which reveals the unsung heroes and villains of storytelling, magic and fantasy. Featuring images from archives, galleries and museums around the world, each chapter investigates the queer history of different mythic and folkloric characters, both old and new.

 

Leaving no headstone unturned, Sacha Coward will take you on a wild ride through the night from ancient Greece to the main stage of RuPaul’s Drag Race, visiting cross-dressing pirates, radical fairies and the graves of the ‘queerly departed’ along the way. Queer communities have often sought refuge in the shadows, found kinship in the in-between and created safe spaces in underworlds; but these forgotten narratives tell stories of remarkable resilience that deserve to be heard.

 

To truly understand who queer people are today, we must confront the twisted tales of the past and Queer as Folklore is a celebration of queer history like you've never seen it before.

 

'One delight after another. Told with an open heart, a questing curiosity, and a healthy sense of mischief, Queer as Folklore is essential for every seeker of hidden histories' Patrick Ness, author of the 'Chaos Walking' series

 

'This book is a joy and a revelation. I have forever been obsessed with myths, legends and the occult ever since I was little. This gives a strong argument for why. It’s also really inspiring! Where’s my makeup brush?' Divina De Campo

Perhaps the most direct and powerful example of a mermaid being used by a queer person to communicate something about their life is that of Hans Christian Anderson. Hans may be most well-known for his children’s stories and fairytales, but within his diaries and letters we get a much fuller picture of the man. Hans was a tortured and emotional soul, pouring his heart into everything he wrote and into every person he met. Yet despite his fervor, it seems none of these romantic advances were ever reciprocated. In his diaries, Hans writes with surprising candor about his desire for sex and intimacy, even including symbols and codes which many believe related to masturbation. Hans was also a biromantic man, falling head over heels in love with many men and women throughout his life.

One clear example was his affection for the handsome young Edvard Collin. The two communicated frequently through letters, and the surviving letters from Hans leave no secrets about the extent of his affection. ”I long for you as though you were a beautiful Calabrian girl.” Calabria being a part of Italy famous amongst European men for its beautiful women. Being besotted with Edvard, it is clear from Hans’s diaries that when Edvard decides to marry a woman, he is heartbroken. After the nuptials, Hans seems to fall into a depression, and it is here when isolating himself on the island of Fyn, he wrote the first treatment of the story that would become The Little Mermaid.

The original account of The Little Mermaid is quite far from the version created by Disney 150 years later. In Hans’ story, the nameless mermaid must have her tongue cut out with scissors by the sea witch. It’s much more bloody and gruesome than Ariel’s experience and significantly less family friendly. When she comes onto land with her new legs, every step the mermaid takes with her feet is like walking on broken glass. To make matters worse, the mermaid does not get her prince in the end, instead she sacrifices herself for his happiness. And as a final downer, mermaids do not have souls in Hans’s story. When she dies, she is turned into seafoam, with only the dangling promise that one day she might earn her place in heaven.

The writing of this tragic tale, of a half-formed creature, whose voice is taken and who is doomed to be unloved, is a clear response to Hans’s own grief and turmoil over Edvard. It seems Hans never got the men or women he longed for, so neither does the little mermaid.

Seeing the original The Little Mermaid as more than just a children’s story, but as an allegory for a queer man’s unreceiprocated love puts the whole tale into a new light. It is powerful, and no coincidence, that Hans chose the mermaid as a symbol to represent his own painful and repressed emotions. When Hans wrote ‘But a mermaid has no tears, and therefore she suffers so much more.’ there is a poignantly personal tone, one of someone who, like the half fish protagonist, cannot express their heartbreak. In many ways The Little Mermaid is not just a fairytale, but it is the most tragic love letter never sent.

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Updates

The book is nearly ready...

Hello everyone, sorry it's taken a while to give another update, but it's for good reasons... namely LGBT History Month which takes place in the UK every February, which is where I do a lot of my work...

05.03.2024
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