Short tales, collected for an oral history project, relate Ireland’s traditional folklore of the fairies.
For most, the fairies of Ireland are about as real as the little man on the Lucky Charms box. Our loss, for Lenihan not only believes the Wee Folk exist but that they wield tremendous power for good or ill over anyone foolish enough to trifle with them. A renowned folklorist and storyteller, Lenihan has spent 27 years collecting the lore here. Most of the tales are quite simple, if occasionally hair-raising. “The Vicious Fairies” is a sort of fairy Genesis explaining the malevolence of the fairies as a consequence of their envy and anger upon learning (from a village priest) that only humans will be saved. Similarly, in “The Fallen Angels,” the fairies are presented as descendents of the fallen angels, who seek out priests to kill in revenge for their damnation. “The Bush That Bled” describes a fairy bush that indeed bled when a work crew tried to cut it down in the 1950s, while “The Fairy House” portrays the mayhem resulting when a man builds a wall astride the path between two fairy bushes (he later cuts a door in the wall for the convenience of the fairies and his own peace of mind). While many of the stories are so short as to be little more than sketches, some are rich and absorbing narratives told in a kind of homespun voice increasingly rare nowadays. The best of these is the last, “The Shanaglish Weaver,” the unhappy story of a weaver who did not believe in fairies and planted a garden in a fairy fort—only to suffer the most gruesome consequences.
Thorough, nicely arranged, with a minimum of editorial intrusions (footnotes, annotations, etc.) and free of the New Age cant that has infected so many contemporary accounts of traditional folklore.