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  • Clive Gilson

Saints & Scholars

Updated: Dec 14, 2019

Book three is, in fact two volumes, so rich are the story-mining seams taken from just the few

Irish collections I have in my possession at the moment. Across the two volumes we have around one hundred and forty tales taken from pretty well every tradition, including classic tales of Irish legend, fairy and folk beliefs, and tales in the vernacular, oral tradition. For the most part these tales are as collected by my Victorian and Edwardian counterparts, but there are one or two tales where I have amended the original to suit modern language tastes and norms.


There are also a few stories that clearly share a common root, and appear similar at first reading, but there always seem to be sufficient and interesting differences to keep the reader’s attention.


Irish folklore and legend is full of tales of banshees, kings, leprechauns and people gathering around to tell stories of giants and strong men. As with so many folk traditions, these tales and legends were typically passed verbally from generation to generation or through bardic tradition. The Irish canon consists of many classics that are repeated to this day. Popular Irish folk tales include the Otherworld (An Saol Eile), which, as I've said, often revolves around the idea of supernatural manifestations and beings.


The Banshee is one of the most popular classics to this day, known by many different names (for example, Badh commonly used in the south of Ireland). The Banshee is also rumoured to have a connection with certain families, and is said to follow the prominent male members of an affected family. Some people are of the opinion that a banshee is seen as the ancestress of Irish families and is deeply concerned with the families' fortunes. Other classic elements and characters include leprechauns, fairies, rainbows, Cu Chluain, Children of Lir, Dullahan, Pookas and Changelings.


When Christianity was first brought to Ireland during the 5th century by missionaries, they were not able to totally wipe out the pre-existing folklore and beliefs in God-like fairies. But folklore did not remain untouched, and the myths and Christian beliefs were combined so that Irish folklore might reinforce Christian ideals while using and acknowledging those ancient motifs.


Christianity altered the importance of some beliefs and defined a new place for them in folklore. For example, fairies, who were previously perceived as God-like, became merely magical, and of much lesser importance. Along with this shift in emphasis came a fusion of folklore, legends and Christian doctrine. One of the major example of this is the existence of legends featuring both Saint Patrick, a central figure in the Irish church, and fairies. The Colloquy of the Ancients, for example, is a dialogue between Saint Patrick and the ghost of Caeilte of the Fianna, an ancient clan of Celtic warriors.


I hope you enjoy this ever-growing collection from a grand British and Irish heritage. These Irish tales have taken a lot of work to collect and sift and prepare, but as ever, I’ve loved putting this collection together.


As far as these isles are concerned I’ll move on to the English tradition next, where again, a brief perusal of my source material suggests that we may be heading towards a couple of volumes of collected tales. As ever, there's never any shortage of things to do...


Cheers for now,


Clive

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