Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Review: The Ash-Tree by M.R. James

Ghost Stories of an Antiquary:
by Montague Rhodes James
Ayer Co Pub (1977), Hardcover, 270 pages

‘It will be long, I think, before we arrive at a just estimate of the amount of solid reason - if there was any - which lay at the root of the universal fear of witches in old times.’ (p.85)

The Ash-Tree (1904) tells of Sir Richard Castringham who has just inherited a house, and an ash-tree.
Richard’s ancestors Sir Matthew condemned a woman to death for witchcraft. After that, the house has been cursed, but the real problem is the ash-tree.

James writes a ghost story about an ash-tree for many reasons, mainly connected with legends, superstitions, that tells of ash-trees.
Upon ash branches witches could fly; venomous animals don’t take shelter under an ash-tree; ash seedpods are used in divination; people don’t cut ash-trees for construction lumber: the houses could catch fire.

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