370X: The Dark Fairy Prince (Solved!)

I read this library book as a teenager in the mid-1970’s, and it’s one of the last books from my childhood that I haven’t managed to track down, so it’s always lingered in the back of my mind. In fact, I may have sent a Stumper before, and it might even have been solved, but I can’t remember!
The plot involves a teenage girl -a young woman – on the cusp of adulthood anyway, who I believe is sent to live for a summer with an older woman in a rural wooded area, possibly in England, possibly in the US.  She might be an orphan, this might be her aunt or some kind of guardian. Or maybe she is the maid?
I think a traveling caravan full of circus performers and a fortune teller comes to town and she falls for a young man, the leader, who is exciting with an unpredictable whiff of danger about him and this is where the novel becomes a fantasy as I think he may be a fairy prince. I seem to remember the caravan exists in two worlds – the everyday, and then a dark/dream world, which maybe the girl can only access by drinking a tea or some such. She develops a relationship with the fortune teller also. It might be that her lover becomes ill and she nurses him and earns the gratitude of the others, maybe a disapproving mother?
The older woman warns her to be careful, but eventually the caravan moves on and the girls turns up pregnant, but I think this is only hinted at. She pines for her dark (fairy?) prince.  I think he eventually returns, to find she has a child, and maybe there is a happy ending? She doesn’t regret what’s happened and still loves him.
I think there is a ballad that provides a theme for the book, and something about corn. Summer of the corn?  I think the legend of the “Green Man” might be an underlying theme. The book is written in the first person. Maybe called “Corn Summer”?
It’s very possible I’m confusing the plot of two books here. Fantasy romance was right in my wheelhouse back then (still is.)  But I’ve never forgotten the hold this book had on me and would be happy to rediscover it.

Thank you so much.  

4 thoughts on “370X: The Dark Fairy Prince (Solved!)

  1. Beth DeGeer

    I’m pretty sure this book is based on the ballad of Tam Lin. There are several novels based on it, I will continue to look for one that matches your description, but “Tam Lin” might help your search.

    1. Lisa Kelly

      Hi Beth,


      Thank you so much for your reply to my Bookstumper! It was very helpful and I was able to track down the book I was remembering. It’s THE QUEEN OF SPELLS by Dahlov Zorach Ipcar, published in 1973, and it is definitely a retelling of the Tam Lin ballad. I was confusing this with the lore of the Green Man. The QUEEN OF SPELLS is pretty tough to find these days, and if you do, is pretty expensive.
      (Library of Congress | PZ7.I6 Que)

      I even realized I’d purchased a copy of the book 12 years ago, when I probably posted this stumper the first time. Now I just hope I can find it!

      For more information, the older solved Bookstumper is listed in the old SOLVED archives as #B231.

      And to see lots more information about the Ballad of Tam Lin and its adaptations, including a list of books, visit https://tam-lin.org/library/fiction.html. THE QUEEN OF SPELLS is included in this list, including the better known books by Jane Yolen (for kids), Pamela Dean, Elizabeth Marie Pope, Susan Cooper and Alan Garner.

      I love this site! Thank you to all for helping me solve my stumper! I only have one or two more “lost” childhood books left to find!

  2. Beth DeGeer

    I think it could be RED SHIFT by Alan Garner. From Wikipedia, here’s the plot: In Roman times, Macey is a soldier with a group of deserters. He has berserker fits in which he fights like ten men, using an old stone axe. Escaping from a local tribe, the “Cats” at Rudheath, the soldiers find a stockaded Cat village at Barthomley, which they pillage, killing the inhabitants except for a young girl, whom they take as a slave. They try to “go tribal”, pretending to be members of another tribe, the “Mothers”, and settle on Mow Cop. This is a sacred site to the Cats and the girl is their corn goddess. The Cats mine millstones on Mow Cop and bring food as offerings. The soldiers think they have engineered a truce, but the girl poisons their food and they have hallucinations, killing themselves. Only Macey is spared, as he never touched the girl, who was raped by the others. He and the girl leave together after he returns to Barthomley to bury the axe head in the burial mound, asking forgiveness for killing the villagers.

    In the English Civil War, Thomas Rowley lives in Barthomley with his wife Margery. They find the stone axe head buried in a mound and call it a “thunderstone”, believing it to have been created by lightning striking the ground. They intend to build it into a chimney to guard against future strikes. The village is besieged by Royalist troops, who have fought in Ireland, searching for John Fowler, the village leader who has sided with Parliament. The troops eventually kill Fowler and other men of the village. Thomas and Margery are rescued by Thomas Venables, a villager serving with the Royalists who once desired Margery. He leads them to a shanty town settlement at Rudheath and tells them to go to his family on Mow Cop once Thomas has recovered from his wounds. They take the thunderstone with them and embed it in the chimney of their new home.

    In the modern day Tom is a teenager living cooped up in a caravan at Rudheath with his parents. He is sustained by his relationship with his girlfriend Jan, who is leaving to become a student nurse in London. They agree to meet regularly in Crewe railway station. One day they follow an ancient path from Crewe to the village of Barthomley. Returning next time on bicycles, they go further to Mow Cop, a hill dominated by a folly tower. Here they find the stone axe head embedded in an old chimney. They decide to make it a symbol of their love. Tom and Jan have been avoiding sex, but Jan reveals that she had an affair while working as an au pair in Germany. After this, Tom becomes unstable. He insists on having sex but becomes even more self-destructive and unbalanced. He tells Jan that he has sold the axe head to a museum, as it was a valuable Neolithic artefact. Their relationship dissolves and they bid a final farewell as Jan’s train leaves for London.

    Pieces of the three narratives are alternated in an inconsistent pattern, calling attention to their similarities beyond the landscape: themes, circumstances, visual descriptions and even lines of dialogue echo throughout.

    1. Lisa Kelly

      Hi Beth,

      Thank you so much for your answer and for researching the book! RED SHIFT sounds interesting, but it’s not the correct book. In fact, I have been able to track it down based on the other reply I received. It’s THE QUEEN OF SPELLS by Dahlov Ipcar, from 1973.


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