Thursday, January 10, 2013

Book Review - Celtic Fairy Tales

Celtic Fairy Tales (Dover Children's Classics) - collected by Joseph Jacobs

I really enjoyed this short book of fairy tales. They are told in a conversational, story-telling style, making it a wonderful book for reading to children, or to memorize the tales to tell in some other setting. It includes some well-known stories, such as "Connla and the Fairy Maiden", where Connla rides with the fairies and steals the maiden they wanted to steal, and winds up marrying her; or "Fair, Brown, and Trembling", a celtic take on Cinderella. 

I particularly enjoyed "A Legend of Knockmany", though I've read it before. It's the story of how Oonagh, Fin M'Coul's wife, scared off Cucullin by pretending Fin was his own infant son. (All spellings from the book.) Upon seeing how strong the "baby" was, Cucullin realized the father must be immensely stronger than he himself was, and fled.

There are lesser known stories in the book as well, like "The Shee an Gannon" where a young man must discover what stopped Guragach Gaire from laughing in order to win the hand of the princess. I also enjoyed "Gold-Tree and Silver-Tree", in which a man's first wife is murdered by her mother out of jealousy over her beauty. His second wife revives his first, helps her kill her mother, and the two of them live happily with the husband ever after.

Some of the stories are simply re-tellings of other stories, like "Conall Yellowclaw" where a man disguises himself as a sheep to get out of the cave of a blind cyclops. Just like Odysseus and Polyphemus.

Overall, a very enjoyable book.


  1. They sound very intriguing. I'm particularly curious about "Fair, Brown, and Trembling" ;-)

    1. Well, Fair and Brown are the two elder sisters, while Trembling is the youngest. First you have the basic mystery lady who the Prince falls in love with and then has to find out who she is, but after they've married, Trembling bears him a child, and Fair comes to help her out for a little while. When she's recovered enough to go out, the two sisters walk upon the beach, and Fair pushes Trembling into the sea where she's swallowed by a whale.

      The next day the whale throws her up onto the beach, where a cowboy finds her, and she tells him she's under the enchantment of the whale and can't leave the beach, but he should go tell the Prince to come kill the whale with a silver bullet the next day. He says he will, but he's drugged by Fair and forgets. Same thing happens the next day, but this time he refuses to take the drink from Fair, tells the Prince, the Prince rides down, shoots the whale, and rescues Trembling. The sisters' father asks the Prince how he will punish Fair, and the Prince leaves it up to the father, who puts her out to sea in a barrel with enough provisions for seven years. (I don't know how those all fit in the barrel!)

      Trembling promises her next daughter to the cowboy for saving her life, and she and the Prince live happily ever after and have fourteen children.