S.M.W. Dunnit, editor,
Irish Lore & Legends
(Barnes & Noble, 1993)

Irish Lore & Legends is one of my favorite Irish folklore books for developing sessions of oral storytelling. These stories are the classics in the field. There are 17 stories, although one of them has two distinct episodes from the characters' lives that should be considered different stories.

These stories range from tales about everyday life and events to extreme horror. There is something for every taste. The writings are lively and fully invoke the imagination. The book states that the thing that distinguishes Irish folklore from all other types of folklore is the "mix of lyrical fantasy and magical realism."

I have to disagree with that statement because many other peoples have the same type of mixture in their folklore. It is especially prevalent among the indigenous peoples, where all things had to be explained and they could only use what they knew to provide the explanation. When you cannot provide a sound reason, you will reach for the fantastic. Since the Irish folklore sprang out of Druidic and Celtic beliefs before mixing with Saxon and Norman beliefs, it is based in these indigenous "explanations."

It is impossible to select a favorite from among these stories. I loved every one of them and enjoy sitting down with this book over and over. The stories never grow old and are ideal for retelling a thousand times. If anything, the characters will grow deeper and more colorful with time and familiarity. They become like old friends.

"The Chivalric Quest" will take you on a roller coaster of emotions. It teaches us that age-old lesson about always keeping our word. The hero knight does not actually mean to break his word. He just gets a bit forgetful when he gets in the company of his friends. (Yes. This one could be titled "Boys Will Be Boys.") His woman is scorned and deals with him excessively harshly. The poor knight. Will things work out in the end, or is all lost for him?

"The Demon Cat" is about a fisherman's wife and the devil. The devil takes on the guise of a huge black cat and begins to sneak into the house and eat all the best fish. Eventually he gets brave enough to confront the woman and her friend. A passerby hears the women screaming and rushes to their rescue. But he is driven from the house with deep scratches pouring blood. The cat is extremely powerful and manages to drive the women from the house. What will they do? How will they regain possession of the home? Can anyone help them?

Get this book and enjoy these splendid tales of Irish culture and beliefs. It will become one of your most treasured books!

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 15 March 2003