Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Happy St Patrick's Day!

What book must I read before I die?  Anything by Tolstoy or Dostoevsky!
Literary Blog Hop

In celebration of St. Patrick's day I am going to review one of my favorite genres of literature (as if I needed an excuse): Celtic folklore.

Finn McCoul:  The Legendary Irish Folk Hero by Brian Gleeson; illustrated by Peter de Seve

First is Finn McCoul. There are many varying stories about this legendary giant who supposedly helped make the Causeway between Ireland and Scotland but my favorite is a children's picture book that depicts Finn as loveable if a bit bumbling but, thanks to a clever wife, makes out all right in the end. This story, retold by Brian Gleeson and illustrated by Peter de Seve, is my favorite version. The illustrations are so dramatic and humorous. In this particular retelling, we have the origins of Finn- rejected by his father but saved by his grandmother who raises him in secret. He grows up to be a famous giant hero but he has one fear: an even bigger giant CuCullen. CuCullen has whipped every other giant except Finn. The reason for this being that Finn has the power to foresee the future when he chews on his thumb. This has enabled him to know when CuCullen was coming and escape.

Finally, Finn realizes there has to be a show down. He rushes home and laments his dilemma to his wife, the beautiful Oonagh. Oonagh calms Finn and tells him to leave everything to her. The rest of the story is how Oonagh, with Finn's cooperation, out wit the dreaded CuCullen in such a way that they never have to fear him again. I've read this story countless times to my music students and we've even put the story to music by inserting a simple poem refrain (created by the kids) to be sung at various intervals throughout the narration of the story.

The following books are a part of a huge collection of Celtic fairy tales and lore that I've accumulated over the years. Most of my books are out of print so I've only selected a few that might still be attainable.

Irish Fairy Tales and Legends by Una Leavy and Susan Field

I bought this book mainly for the beautiful illustrations that are rich in color and detail. A lot of gold, blue and red is used inspired, perhaps, by Medieval paintings. This book is a collection of ten stories including How Cuchulainn got His Name; The Magic Shoes; the Children of Lir, and The Giant's Causeway. Leavy gives background descriptions of each story in the back of the book and also a pronunciation guide since, frankly, none of the names sound like they are spelled.

Irish Fairy Tales by Jeremiah Curtin

This is a non illustrated collection that includes stories more about the supernatural and their dealings with ordinary folk rather than about legendary people. Stories include: John Connors and the Fairies; The Cattle Jobber of Awnascawil; The Midwife of Listowel; Daniel Crowley and the Ghosts, and Tom Connors and the Dead Girl -to name a few.

The Story of the Irish Race by Seumas MacManus

Seumas MacManus originally wrote this book, with the help of several Irish scholars in 1921. The book I have is a revised edition. MacManus gives a chronology of all the peoples who came to Ireland, conquered only to became absorbed by succeeding conquerors until we arrive at the Irish race as we know it today. I found this book particularly interesting for the descriptions of the different tribes and nations such as the Firbolg, Tuatha De Danaan, Milesians, Picts, of course, the Gallic tribes and later even the Danes who all contributed their culture and genes to the people of Eire.

This book also includes many famous legends and fairy tales as well as invasions of Britain ,stories about the Saints, Education and Irish Missionaries who went abroad. MacManus delves into customs and social mores of ancient Ireland and describes this history of Ireland from ancient times up to the 20th century. The book is written in a way that is fluid and interesting as if he were retelling a fairy tale even when he's recounting history.

Finally, I must leave you with a poem by one of my favorite Irish poets, William Butler Yeats.

Born in Dublin in 1865, Yeats grew up in the turbulent times of Irish resistance to English rule. As an adult he became actively involved in the struggle for Irish independence. His real contribution to Ireland, however, was his poetry which won the Nobel Prize in literature in 1923. He is Ireland's greatest poet and many believe that no other modern English or American poet can match his vision and versatility. (From the Introduction of William Butler Yeats: Selected Poems)

The following is one of his earlier poems:

The Fiddler of Dooney

When I play on my fiddle in Dooney

Folk dance like a wave of the sea,

My cousin is priest in Kilvarnet,

My brother in Moharabuiee.

I passed my brother and cousin:

They read in their books of prayer;

I read in my book of song

I bought at the Sligo fair.

When we come at the end of time,

To Peter sitting in state,

He will smile on the three old spirits,

But call me first through the gate;

For the good are always the merry,

Save by an evil chance,

And the merry love the fiddle

And the merry love to dance:

And when the folk there spy me,

They will all come up to me,

With “Here is the fiddler of Dooney!”

And dance like a wave of the sea.


bookspersonally said...

Lovely post today!

Sharon Wilfong said...

Thanks! Happy St Paddy's day! Hope you're wearing green;)

A Helicopter Mom said...

Very interesting. Happy St. Patrick's Day! :)

I'm following back. Thanks for visiting and following my blog.


Sharon Wilfong said...

@Helicoptermom: Thanks and a Happy St Paddy's to you! Cool name by the way.

Phyllis Winn said...

I feel as if I'm sponging off of your voracious reading habits...I don't have time or energy or really the inclination to read that much, (unless it's on the computer..blaah!) so I appreciate hearing about what you have read. Yeats' poem is so simplistic. I didn't realize the Irish had so many fantasies. Very interesting.

Sharon Wilfong said...

@ Phyllis: I'm not a huge fan of poetry but I really like Yeats. Happy St. Paddy's day!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz said...

Happy St. Patrick's Day to you, too. I've stopped in via the Literary Blog Hop and I've just become your 100th follower. Very cool!

Here's my blog post:

Sharon Wilfong said...

@DebNance: Yay!! My 100th follower. I'll be hopping by shortly.

Michelle said...

Thanks for coming by Southern Somedays. I hope you will come back soon! Happy Day After St. Patty's Day!

Leiah said...

Thanks for stopping by and deciding to hang around for a while. I did the same thing and am now follower 101 for you! Have a great weekend and thanks again!


"When life give you lemons give 'em a squeeze, throw them in a glass of sweet tea and Thank God you're a Southern Girl!"

Jamie Goldberg said...

Sharon, I just became a follower! I love the whole idea behind this blog, and I am particularly crazy about the picture that you have posted at the top. I look forward to coming again.

Gina said...

I am following you I love your blog and all of my family is in the Tyler, TX area so may have to say hi next time I am down that way. I am also of Irish decent Nice to meet you!

hugs n blessings

Sharon Wilfong said...

@Bella Michelle: It was a pleasure and I'll be visiting again soon!
@Leah: Thanks for visiting and have a wonderful Friday.
@Davida: Thank you. I'll be visiting you again as well. I look forward to your next post.

IngridLola said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sharon Wilfong said...

@ Gina, Tyler is just a hop and a skip from here. You are very welcome to come and visit. I also like going to the Barnes and Noble in Tyler...

@parridhlantern said...

The Brothers Karamazov would be a great place to start with Dostoevsky or The Idiot.

Sharon Wilfong said...

@Parrish: Yes! I'ver read the Brothers Karamzov twice so far. That book was a turning point in my life.

Jillian said...

Tolstoy is a popular answer on the hop! I'm so happy to be reading him for the first time this year. I haven't yet read Dostoevsky, but he's on my list.

Good to meet you. :-)

Sharon Wilfong said...

I was also pleasantly surprised to see how many people like Tolstoy. Good to know I'm not alone. Thanks for visiting, Jillian!

Leslie said...

Thanks for stopping by, I am now following. This is a fun site, I love the Irish fairy tales.

Sharon Wilfong said...

Leslie: Thanks for visiting and have a great weekend!

Anonymous said...

Happy St.Patricks Day. Sorry a Bit late. And you have a wonderful review.

Anonymous said...

I picked Tolstoy too. I had to read Dostoevsky in high school and really struggled with it. But I definitely need to read War and Peace or Anna Karenina one of these days.

Elizabeth said...

Love your header.

Stop by my blog for a giveaway of LINEN QUEEN courtesy of Sarah from Hachette Books and to see my answer to this week's Blog Hop question.

Sharon Wilfong said...

nlc-cruise: thanks and hope you had a Happy St Pat's as well.

the bookstop: I didn't read Dostoevsky until college. I don't know if I would have gotten through him at high school. Each book has to be read at the right season.

Elizabeth: Thanks for visiting. I'll be sure to hop back.

Victor Olisa said...

hello, i'm a fan of folktales and legends of any background so i myt as well get this book. Anyways it was an honour to have you visit my blog, being a newbie at blogging it is always refreshing to see comments and to know people actually read your post. Thank you so much, will be visiting here frequently/

Sharon Wilfong said...

@ JO: Thanks for visiting. I need to post more reviews of classic lit and folk lore since those are my favorite reads.
Ironically, since I review for about 5 pub co I don't review books that I normally read for pure enjoyment.
Thanks for visiting and sorry I didn't catch the humor in your post. I actually like a lot of Disney films-especially the old ones that were made with acrylics rather than computer graphics.