Fairy Stories of Hidden Ireland

Eddie Lenihan with Carolyn Eve Green. Meeting the Other Crowd: The Fairy Stories of Hidden Ireland. Gill and Macmillan, 2003.

This book is a collection of oral tales collected by professional story teller Eddie Lenihan from the mid 1970s onwards. These are a mixture of traditional and other hearsay tales and first-hand memorates, showing that the fairy tradition was still alive in the middle of the twentieth century. Lenihan now fears that these are being swept away by modernity and urbanization.

Magonia readers will see themes in these stories which are encountered elsewhere: tales of abduction, missing time, phantom houses, strange lights in the sky, notions of taboo surrounding fairy trees and prehistoric remains, complete with tales of shattering physiological effects. Note how these motifs can be found in America with Indian burial mounds replacing the fairy forts. Lenihan notes that the fairies are always conceived of in traditional terms, they play hurling not soccer, ride horses not drive cars, they are a culture-bound experience. Or rather as society modernizes 'The Other' is conceived of in technological terms.

The fairies, as Magonia readers will know, become 'aliens'.  Thus fairies, grays, ghosts and boggarts, cryptids and all the rest are culture bound representations which seek to give a familiar face of some sort for 'The Other', which in some way links the dead with wild nature. The incomprehensible motives of fairies and alien abductors are perhaps symbolic of the ultimate inhumanity and incomprehensibility of wild nature. On the other hand as representatives of the vast nameless dead, the fairies in traditional society enforce cultural mores.

Alternatively we see that there is an ideology in which breaches of customary mores are seen as opening a breach in the given world of culturally constructed reality letting in things from the wild outside, which in entering the cultural realm acquire some cultural garb, but one which still has the lineaments of its wild origin.  This book is an interesting and important collection of folklore memorates and tales.  -- Peter Rogerson

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