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Preface

Fairies and Folk of Ireland

"SHOULD YOU ASK ME, WHENCE THESE STORIES?"

The story which runs through and makes up the bulk of this book is my own. The intention has been, however, to make it conform to the laws governing certain beings commonly regarded in this country as mythical, as those laws are revealed in the folk-lore of many peoples, and particularly of the Irish people. Almost every incident in which the fairies are concerned might occur, and very many of them do actually occur, in Irish folk-lore. But in a real folk-tale there are usually only two or three, or, at any rate, only a few, of the characteristic incidents, while this story attempts to combine many of them.

The shorter stories wherewith the main story is interspersed are all, to the best of my information and belief, genuine Irish folk-tales. I have told them in my own way, of course. I have sometimes condensed and sometimes elaborated them, but I have seldom, if ever, I think, materially changed their substance. I have never had the opportunity to collect such stories as these for myself, and if I had, I should probably find that I had not the ability. I have therefore had to turn for the substance of these tales to collections made by others—men whose patient and affectionate care and labor have preserved a great mass of the beautiful Irish legends, which, without them, might have died.

It seems hardly right to give to any one of these collectors a preference over the others by naming him first. But when I count up my indebtedness, I find that the book to which I owe more stories than to any other is Patrick Kennedy's "Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts." From this book I have borrowed, as to their substance, the story of Earl Gerald, in Chapter II. of my own book; the story of the children of Lir, in the same chapter; the account of the changeling who was tempted by the bagpipes, which Naggeneen tells of himself, in Chapter V.; the changeling story which Mrs. O'Brien tells, in Chapter VI.; and the most of the story of Oisin, in Chapter IX., besides part of the story of the fairies' tune, in Chapter VII. With respect to Oisin I got a little help from an article on "The Neo-Latin Fay," by Henry Charles Coote, in "The Folk-Lore Record," Vol. II. The story of the fairies' tune is in part derived from T. Crofton Croker's "Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland." This delightful book as well deserves the first place in my list as does Kennedy's, for it gave me one of my most important stories, that of O'Donoghue, in Chapter I., and it gave me Naggeneen. Him I first saw, with Mr. Croker's help, sitting on the cask of port in the cellar of old MacCarthy of Ballinacarthy, as he himself describes in Chapter III. It is not enough to say that after that he came readily into my story; he simply could not be kept out of it. The tale of the fairies who wanted to question a priest, in Chapter X., is also from Croker. Mrs. O'Brien's method of getting rid of a changeling is founded on one of Croker's stories, and a story almost exactly like it is told by Grimm. There is also a form of it in Brittany. Two books by W.B. Yeats have been of much value—"Irish Fairy and Folk Tales" and "The Celtic Twilight." Of the former Mr. Yeats is the editor, rather than, in a strict sense, the author, though it contains some of his own work, and his introduction, notes, and other comments are of great interest. From this book I have the story of Hudden, Dudden, and Donald, in Chapter VII. Mr. Yeats reproduces it from an old chap-book. A version of it is also found in Samuel Lover's "Legends and Stories of Ireland." Those who like to compare the stories which they find in various places will not fail to note its likeness to Hans Christian Andersen's "Big Claus and Little Claus." The story of the monk and the bird, in Chapter IX., Mr. Yeats reproduces from Croker, though not from the work of his which has already been mentioned. I could not resist the temptation to better the story, as I thought, by the addition of an incident from a German version of it, and everybody will remember the beautiful form in which it appears in Longfellow's "The Golden Legend." From Mr. Yeats's "The Celtic Twilight" I have the little story of the conversation between the diver and the conger, in Chapter II. It is a pleasure to refer to two such fine and scholarly works as Dr. Douglas Hyde's "Beside the Fire" and William Larminie's "West Irish Folk-Tales and Romances." From the former of these I have borrowed the substance of the story of Guleesh na Guss Dhu, in Chapter IV., and from the latter that of the ghost and his wives, in Chapter VII.

Having thus confessed my indebtedness, it would seem that my next duty was to pay it. I fear that I can pay it only with thanks. I have not taken a story from the work of any living collector without his permission. It thus becomes my pleasure, no less than my duty, to express my gratitude to Mr. Yeats for permission to use the stories in "Irish Fairy and Folk Tales" and "The Celtic Twilight;" to Dr. Hyde for his permission to take what I chose from "Beside the Fire," and to Mr. Larminie and his publisher, Elliott Stock, for the same permission with regard to his "West Irish Folk-Tales and Romances." My thanks are equally due to Macmillan & Co., Limited, for permission to take stories from Kennedy's "Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts," the rights to which they own. I wish to say also that in each of these cases the permission asked has been given with a readiness and a cordiality no less pleasing than the permission itself.

I have learned much concerning the ways of Irish fairies from Lady Wilde's "Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland" and "Ancient Cures, Charms, and Usages of Ireland," and I have gained not a little from the books of William Carleton, especially his "Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry," but from none of these have I taken any considerable part of a story. Indeed I have found help, greater or less, in more books than I can name here.

It may seem by this time that I am like the lawyer who conceded this and that to his opponent till the judge said: "Do not concede any more; you conceded your whole case long ago." But I have not conceded my whole case. I have used the threads which others have spun, but I have done my own weaving. The shorter stories have been told before, but they have never been put together in this way before, and, as I said at first, the main story is my own.

W.H.F.

New York, September 1, 1900.

Fairies and Folk of Ireland

Myths and Folk Tales of Ireland


Notes
: Contains 11 Irish folktales.

Author: William Henry Frost
Published: 1900
Publisher: Charles Scribner's sons, New York

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