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Sunday, July 3, 2011

Irish Folk tales

Some time ago, four months to be exact, while I was writing the article on the African folk tales It was very Interesting to see two countries who had lots of folk and fairy tales of their own. One of them was Pakistan and the other was Ireland. For those of you who don't know about Ireland as a country, without going into details, it is a country situated at the east of United Kingdom and mostly consists of the rural areas. Ireland has a long history of strange stories and fairy tales and there is  a long list of them, I'll share the ones which one of my Irish friend rated as top 10 with you people.

Banshee: According to the Irish traditions Banshee is the spirit of a woman, which moans and roars whenever someone is about to die in the country. By doing this She informs people in advance that something bad is about ho happen. People of Ireland consider the wails of Banshee as bad luck and call it the voice of death because it brings death with itself. Old myths tell that Banshee is seen in different getups at different times. Sometimes she is in the form of an old women whose dress is all torn up, sometimes she is seen as a pretty young lady, sometimes she is visible as a woman washing blood stained clothes from which wails are heard. According to another myth who ever sees Banshee cries in a deadly voice and sometime later, someone from the family of that person passes away. There are particular families who are believed to have banshees attached to them, and whose cries herald the death of a member of that family It is also said that the King of Scotland, James I, had this fear that he has listened to the cries of Banshee and due to his fear he died a terrible death.

The Pookas: Pookas are one of the most feared creatures in Ireland. Although their fairy tale is also famous in the Scottish territory and Wales but it is basically considered an Irish folk tale. Pookas are short and sling creatures who always create problems for human beings and therefore It can be said there name origin comes from the Scandinavian word for nature spirit pook or puke. They may appear as a horse, rabbit, goat, goblin, or dog. According to the Irish people pookas are a type of spirits or fairies who always want this world troublesome. According to the tradition Pookas appear in the rural areas and they destroy the crops of people with happiness, dry the wells, make the animals run away from the farm. When its the worst, Pookas appear in the city and call names of people living, and who ever comes out of the house is taken away by the silly creatures and is never seen again. Pookas also create problems for the ships who come to the Irish shores for business purposes and lead them to the wrong direction. It is also said that many ships have been also destroyed by the Pookas.

Changelings: According to the oldest of traditions Changelings are the fairies who give birth to unbaptized children. But the problem is that these fairies only like kids who are good looking and hate all the other ones. Because they only give birth to the children who are not good looking so the only solution they have found out is that they leave their child in the world and take away the good looking ones, by doing this they are satisfied that they have not stolen anyones child as they left one in place of the real. These changelings children also have emotions but the only problem is that they are only happy at a place where there is troubles, someone is dead or someone is hurt. It is said that this thing continued on for centuries. William Shakespeare  also mentioned such types of creatures in his play 'A Midsummer Night's Dream'.

The Children of Lir: The Children of Lir is an Irish folk tale. The story goes as, Lir was the king of Sea. He was living a happy life with his family of four children and a wife but one day his wife died and his life became dull. To get rid of his loneliness he married Aoife, the sister of his wife. Aoife hated the children right from the start and always wanted to get rid of them. So one day she took them to the lake near by. The children were very happy coming to the lake, they jumped in the lake and started playing in the water. Aoife was waiting for this opportunity, she turned the children into Swans with the help of magic and left them in the lake. The children could not do anything and were helpless in front of the witch. Many days passed when the children heard the bells of the near by church. They traveled the sound of bells and reached the river, from where they reached the waterfall where the church existed. They waited for the church bell to ring for almost 900 years when at last Saint' Patrick came to Ireland and rescued them from the evil magic of Aoife.

Dagda's Harp: He was a famous priest of his times in the Irish folk tales. He kept a big and beautiful harp with him all the time and people recognized him with the harp. During a war the opponent tribe stole the harp from Dagda and hid it in a far away fort. Dagda followed them, reached their territory and asked them to return the harp but the people of the enemy tribe gave no importance to what he was saying and ignored him. Seeing this, Dagda called the harp himself and to the amazement of the people it did return to him. After that Dagda played such deep emotional tune with the harp that all the people present started to cry. Soon Dagda played another tune and all the people started to laugh and smile. He did not stop here and played another tune that made everyone sleep and he was able to come back safely.

Calces-Selkie: In Ireland the stories of Calces and Selkie are also famous. They have resemblance to the Mermaids but the only difference is that Selkie change themselves to human beings at night whereas Mermaids remain the same all the time in their natural look which is, half fish and half woman. It is famous that Selkie are some of those fishes that are strike the shores of Ireland in the summer season. Myth says that many men catch the Selkie in their human form at night and marry them. Selkie are so trustworthy that they spend all their lives serving their husbands but long for the sea water. If their husbands set them free they return to the sea happily and take care of the whole family to which they had served.

The Shamrock: The three green leaves of Shamrock are more Important to the people of Ireland than just the unofficial state symbol. One of them, Marshmallows or Candy is considered a good luck sign for Irish people. Shamrock has very detailed history and Importance for Ireland. Druids are of the opinion that Shamrock is a holy plant which serves as a protection from bad and evil spirits. Where as Celtics think that Shamrock has some supernatural powers who are beneficial for humans especially because of the three heart shaped leaves, they also give lots of importance to the number 3. Some Christians also believe that Shamrock is a symbol of Trinity (God-Jesus-Gabriel).

Fin MacCool: According the the Irish history Fin MacCool is a fairy tale hero who is found in many stories and tales of Ireland. Here a story of the Solomon fish is very famous. Solomon was a fish who was very knowledgeable and learned, even more than the humans. Fin MaCool decided that he should eat the Solomon so that all the knowledge and Intelligence is transferred to him. He caught the fish and cut it, when he did so the blood of the fish and her thorns injured Fin MacCool's thumb and it started to bleed. To lessen the pain he started sucking his thumb and that was the moment when all the knowledge from the fish transferred to him. It is said that whenever he sucked his thumb after that he was able to answer every question asked and solve every problem that he faced.

Faeries: In every tradition and myth faeries are always present in one way or the other but in Irish traditions they are of utmost importance. It is said that the only faeries that only exist now are in Ireland. They can change themselves to humans whenever they want and are still present as normal people within the irish community. Although they can change themselves to anything they want but they prefer their human shape. All the faeries are very powerful and have strong magical powers but their bad luck is that they cannot resist against anything for long. They are also considered bad luck to humans and try to avoid interactions with them as they don't want to hurt anyone because of themselves.

Leprechaun: The famous Irish dwarf, Leprechaun is mainly related to faeries and is thought to be present only in Ireland, its origins are found in the middle ages as well. These dwarfs are actually longer than the usual dwarfs thought to exist in the world. The are mostly found as old aged men who are not so small and are opposite to the natural thinking of dwarfs. Their face resembles to those of small kids and are always wearing green dress. Old myths tell that these Leprechaun are very fond of collecting gold which they collect in different utensils and hide it in the rainbow. Whenever they are caught by some humans they have to fulfill their three wishes in order to get free.


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