Benjamin Franks’ The Quest for The Wicker Man: History, Folklore, and Pagan Perspectives

9A13103D-50E1-45BF-B088-98D2E6E3B57FIt’s difficult to explain the long lasting appeal of The Wicker Man film.

Certainly there’s the music — haunting, bawdy, and creepy by turns–and the wild beauty of the isolated Scottish location, and the exuberant Pagan elements. There’s the cross-genre appeal — the film is a suspenseful mystery, a horror film, and something of a social commentary on how the beliefs of a group can subvert the norms of a patriarchal culture. Last but not least, there are the questions regarding how such a strange little film was made, how the film managed to become a cult classic despite receiving so little corporate support, and how it has resulted in inspiring many people to explore Paganism and alternative culture, even influencing such events as The Wickerman Festival in Scotland and Burning Man in America.

The articles in this book emerged from an academic conference held on the subject of “The Wicker Man” at the University of Glasgow in 2003. Despite the academic beginnings, all of the articles in the collection, which totals under two hundred pages, are very accessible to the general reader.

The subjects explored include representations of Paganism in “The Wicker Man” and its influence upon Pagan ritual (“‘The Wicker Man,’ May Day and the Reinvention of Beltane” by Richard Sermon, “Ritualistic Behaviour in ‘The Wicker Man’: A classical and carnivalesque perspective on ‘the true nature of sacrifice’” by Paula James, and “Music and Paganism with Special Reference to The Wicker Man” by Melvyn J. Willin) and the folkloristic sources used for the film (“The Folklore Fallacy: A folkloristic/filmic perspective on ‘The Wicker Man‘” by Mikel J. Koven. This last article is particularly fascinating, as is the article by feminist film scholar Brigid Cherry, “The Wicca Woman: Gender, sexuality and religion in The Wicker Man.”

In addition to the scholarly articles, there are commentaries from the film’s creators, such as an interview with director Robin Hardy, Hardy’s “The Genesis of ‘The Wicker Man,’”and musician/composer Gary Carpenter’s “Wicker Man, Wicker Music.”

The Quest for The Wicker Man is highly recommended for any dedicated “Wicker Man” fan and especially for academics writing about this classic cult film.

(Luath Press, 2006)


Kestrell Rath, reviewer, is a bibliophile, owner of the Blind Bookworm page, and runs a mailing list for blind readers using new technology. She attends college in Boston.

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