• Clive Gilson


Updated: Dec 14, 2019

So, the obvious question... why call a book containing a selection of Spanish folk and fairy tales Tales From The Land of Rabbits?

John A. Crow explains it perfectly in Spain, The Root and the Flower, University of California Press, 1985:

Spain was first called Iberia, a name given to it by its Iberian inhabitants (from North Africa). The name was supposedly based on the Iberian word for river, Iber. They reached Spain around 6000 BCE. When the Greeks arrived on Spanish soil around 600 BCE. they referred to the peninsula as Hesperia, meaning "land of the setting sun." When the Carthaginians came around 300 BCE. they called the country Ispania (from Sphan, "rabbit"), which means "land of the rabbits." The Romans arrived a century later and adopted the Carthaginian name of the country, calling it Hispania. Later, this became the present day Spanish name for the country, España. Thus, because of the Romans and their language, the rabbits won over the sunset and over the river.

Tales From the Land Of Rabbits contains stories either written by or collected by Rachel Harriette Busk, Charles Sellers, Gustavo Adolfo Becquer, Andrew Lang and by José Muñoz Escámez. Translations from Becquer are by Cornelia Francis Bates and Katherine Lee Bates.

Switching from northern climes and coming south sees a definite shift in the style and content of these tales. The landscape and climate are obviously different, but so are some of the social & political settings. Catholicism in particular is more evident as are references to the Moors and their distinct cultural impact on Spanish thinking.

There are one or two tales here where I've adapted the original to remove the odd overtly racist reference, although throughout the collection there is a strong sense of Spanish identity. The fact is that in eighteenth and nineteenth century Spain (indeed Europe), cultural norms were very different to those that a modern reader might expect, and, for the most part, I have tried not to interfere too much in the telling.

As ever it’s been a delight to work on these stories, many of which I had not read before working through some of these original collections. There is a real flavour of the peninsular in these stories, reflecting as they do Spain and Portugal’s long history of thought, religion and conflict. I hope you enjoy these stories.