I love reading old fairytales and folktales. They’re often charming and can be good for story inspiration. This is going to be a little review for a little book because the stories are so short and simple, there’s not much that can be said about them.
I enjoyed this book. It’s only 136 pages in a little, nearly pocket sized book. Each story in the collection is told by some well known writers who were also folklorists, including Oscar Wilde’s mother, Lady Wilde. While I enjoyed the tales, I have to admit some were confusing. I think it was just how they were written with very long run on sentences and interruptions. It’s nothing unfamiliar or unexpected in a book like this, but it can make the story harder to follow. The story most negatively affected by the writing for me was Pat Diver’s Ordeal but it was so short that it was still a breeze to get through. The Pooka was an amusing tale but was also loaded with those pesky run on sentences. The Bunworth Banshee suffered the opposite issue—it made perfect sense with normal writing but wasn’t fun at all. Not all of the stories are meant to be charming or fun stories the way we may picture Irish fairytales, but this one was really lacking. It was sort of boring, if I’m honest. One of my favorite stories, The Priest’s Soul, read more like a parable than mythical fairytale because it taught a more religious life lesson but I really enjoyed how it was told and the symbolism of the butterfly at the end. The longest story of the book was The Three Wishes. It’s about a man named Billy Dawson who tricked the devil himself into giving him money so many times that even Satan was fed up with his ways. I liked it but I’m sure I’ve read another version of it before involving a boot full of money with a hole in the bottom. Both were good.
Overall, this was a very quick read and not a bad one to be finishing on All Hallow’s Eve, especially with the story about Billy and the devil. I didn’t love any of the stories, which makes this book a bit disappointing. In a way, it was exactly what I was expecting but it was also a little less magical than I’d wanted and wasn’t as great a source of inspiration as I’d hoped. If you’re looking for an Irish or Celtic book to use for story research or inspiration, I’d highly recommend The Book of Celtic Myths. That one goes more into the Celtic people’s actual beliefs while this one focuses on telling the tales themselves. Give this book a shot, though, if you’re interested in Irish tales. You may be happier with it than I was.
Thanks for reading,