Jeremiah Curtin,
Irish Fairy Tales
(Barnes & Noble, 1993)

Irish Fairy Tales is a thin book with a drab green jacket that likely would not catch your attention when mixed in a table of books. But if you look closely at the sales tables in the retail stores of the publisher, you can find this darling book for almost nothing. I think I only paid $1.99 for mine. It has been worth many times that for the pleasure and enchantment it has provided.

Be warned that the font used is tiny and the printing is uneven, with some letters seemingly in boldface and others far too light for comfort. It is hard on the eyes and will cause eyestrain if you are in anything less than the best light. I highly recommend -- no, urge -- you to save this one for outdoor reading. It is perfect for taking to the beach or a park. The pages appear to have been copied from a standard paperback and reproduced in this larger hardback, for there is much wasted white space all around the printing. I assume that this edition is a reprint but an exhaustive search online yielded no prior publication unless the name was changed for this printing. Most of Jeremiah Curtin's books were originally released between 1884 and 1910 or posthumously in the 1940s. In his introduction, he dates his writing as the last decade of the 19th century. So we can date these stories at 1890.

The 30 stories in this book were gathered during Curtin's travels in Ireland. While staying at a farmhouse in the countryside, he eagerly sought out the elderly of the community and asked them to tell him the local fairy and ghost stories. He documented these stories as they were told and later assembled them into this book. In his introduction, Curtin states: "These stories will show how vivid the belief of the people yet, and will prove that fairies are not for all men personages of the past, but are as real for some persons as any other fact in life...."

My favorite story is "Fairy Cows." Tom Connors had a cow named Cooby. She was a big pet and was the picture of health. Then she started going into the fairy fort at the edge of the pasture. Tom and his family tried to drive her away from the fort, but every day she went back. Finally, they found her in the pasture with broken front legs. Being a poor family and not wasting anything edible, they killed and dressed her for food. A year later, Tom's wife saw Cooby going into the fairy fort. She came back out with a girl who milked her. Tom went to the fairy fort and demanded that they give him his cow. The man from inside the fort argued with Tom and Tom chased him into the fort. And you'll have to read the book to find out what happened to Tom, his family and Cooby next. This story has a twist that will leave you rolling with laughter. The fairies sure fixed Tom up.

In spite of the rough print, this is a fantastic documentation of Irish fairy tales for all to enjoy. These stories are of an ideal length for reading aloud and they will delight groups of all ages. It is a sound reference book for storytellers developing programs because it contains actual oral accounts of these fairy tales with all the standard Irish elements. If you have any interest in Irish folktales, you can't go wrong in purchasing this book. I have read it several times and still enjoy every story.

It should be noted that there is another, recently released book by the same name. Be sure to check the author's name when ordering a copy of either.

- Rambles
written by Alicia Karen Elkins
published 25 April 2004

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