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4.8 out of 5 stars18
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 23 January 2011
Hares are splendid animals that seem not to have attracted as much scientific enquiry as you would expect for such a visible animal. The same cannot be said for the amount of folk wisdom and lore that the hare has generated. Hares are witches which have undergone a shape change, they are symbols of bad luck, they are all male, but can still give birth, and yet they can also be a symbol of the sacred as well and so on and on.

Although the first chapters of this book, first published in 1972, are about the biology of the hare, the real meat of the book is about the mythological hare, the hare in the mind, rather than in the field - or at least how the hare was known prior to the industrial and agricultural revolutions.

This book builds a lucid case to explain the rich folk history of the hare, both as animal to be hunted and as a symbol of "other worldliness". In this way it is actually superior to the more modern Hare (Animal) which covers much the same ground, but without similar clarity.

Much of the content of the book has been drawn from interviews with (presumably) old "country-men", who must now be long dead and who may have been the last link to the British countryside of the horse and manual labour. Thankfully, the transcripts of these interviews have made no attempt to render their accents phonetically, which makes these section not only more accessible but probably less patronising than they would have been if the accents had be reproduced with non-standard spellings.

This is a really interesting book based on the sets of wisdom that were built around close observation and contact with hares and rural life in general. Many of the ideas and myths that are presented in the book no longer seem to make much sense, but this is not because the people who devised them were in anyway less intelligent than us, but because they had a different relationship with the environment. As a window into a lost view of the world this book is worth reading even if you are not really interested in hares!

But, if you at all interested in how our understanding of an animal can build over time I would recommend this book. If you are only interested in the modern scientific view of the hare, this may not be for you. But if that is the case, you will miss out on an interesting study of a neglected animal.

Recommended.
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on 25 February 2011
A book for those who are interested in the hare as a mythical as well as factual beast. This book covers the history and folklore surrounding the hare. Of course,the hare doesn't know this , it just lives in our fields and tries to avoid being killed by senseless hunters!! In times past the hare has been revered, feared , ridiculed and loathed as well as eaten! There are many myths associated with hares and this book covers most of them. For example, did you know that hares are always referred to as "she" regardless of gender?
Hares are now protected in the UK, so much the better when one considers the hell they have been put through in the last 200 years. A fascinating read which will give the reader a true appreciation of this beautiful creature.
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on 16 July 2012
I knew nothing about hares and after reading this poetic meditation on hares I know and feel a lot more about and for these creatures. I enjoyed it, and it was a new subject entirely. Perhaps if I knew about hares beforehand I would not be so impressed. But this book is well written and entertaining in a way that few nature writers seem to be.
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on 31 August 2013
Everything you need to know about the life and mythology of hares, written in an easy to read and accessible style.
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on 5 March 2014
A must read and probably the most comprehensive guide on the mysterious hare ever written. So much detail to absorb a book I shall be reading time and time again.
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on 11 November 2014
'Spoken History' was the book which first introduced me to the valuable work of George Ewart Evans, and although this is a fairly narrow subject area (a study of folklore and mythology surrounding the hare throughout history) it is extremely well researched and written. For those interested in the oral history of the English rural working people I would also recommend the sound archives at the British Library, available online, which contains a large number of GEE's sound recordings.
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on 29 March 2016
A classic and fascinating book. I'm not sure how it compares with current thinking and research but a great read all the same and probably why our craft shops are overrun by poor quality hares. Whilst better than dolphins, perhaps it's time for a cull.

I also recommend The People of the Sea. Another fascinating account of the many seal and selkie myths along the western sides of our shores, written by David Thompson, half of the writing team above.
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on 29 April 2015
This is more a reference book but read it from cover to cover to give this review. I learned things that I didnt know even though I read every book on hares I can find so is very comprehensive highly recommended as a book of reference .Some of the details on hares boxing is now know to be incorrect.
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on 19 October 2014
Very interesting insight to the behaviour of wild hares. Also a great insight to English village life in times past.
A reference in one of Terry Pratchett's books started me on this author.

Warrior193.
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on 2 June 2016
Am a big fan of G.E.Evans' writing and this does not disappoint. A wealth of historical information and country lore.
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