Briggs, K(atharine) M(ary) (1898–1980)
British folklorist, critic, novelist, former president of the
Folklore Society, London, and expert on folk tales and fairy
lore. She is best remembered for her many books on the folklore
of the British Isles. Born November 8, 1898, in Hampstead,
London, she studied at Lansdowne House, Lady Margaret
Hall, Oxford University (M.A., Ph.D.). For fifteen years, she
headed an amateur touring company, produced plays in the air
force, and wrote and produced plays locally in Perthshire and
Oxfordshire. During World War I, she served in the Women’s
Auxiliary Air Force, then became a free-lance writer. She was
a member of the Bibliographical Society, the Historical Association,
the American Folklore Society, and the English Folkdance
and Song Society. In 1969, she was awarded a D.Litt. by
Oxford University.
Her Dictionary of British Folktales in the English Language is
widely regarded as a monumental scholarly achievement; her
various works on fairy lore also established her as a preeminent
scholar in this field. However, in spite of her encyclopedic
knowledge of fairy lore and her enthusiasm for the subject, she
did not believe in the reality of fairy life, stating specifically
‘‘This is not an attempt to prove that fairies are real. . . . I am
agnostic on the subject.’’
Briggs died October 15, 1980, in Kent, England.
Sources
Briggs, Katherine. The Anatomy of Puck An Examination of
Fairy Beliefs among Shakespeare’s Contemporaries and Successors.
London Routledge & Paul, 1959.
———. A Dictionary of British Folktales in the English Language.
4 vols. Bloomington Indiana University Press, 1970–71.
———. An Encyclopedia of Fairies Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies,
and Other Supernatural Creatures. New York Pantheon
Books, 1976.
———. The Fairies in English Tradition and Literature. 1967.
Reprinted as The Fairies in Tradition and Literature. London
Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1967.
———. Folktales of England. Chicago University of Chicago
Press, 1965.
———. The Personnel of Fairyland A Short Account of the Fairy
People of Great Britain for Those Who Tell Stories to Children. 1953.
Reprint, Detroit Singing Tree Press, 1971.

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