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Irish Fairy and Folk Tales by W. B. Yeats

Irish Fairy and Folk Tales (1888)

by W. B. Yeats (Editor)

Other authors: William Allingham (Contributor), William Carleton (Contributor), T. Crofton Croker (Contributor), Samuel Ferguson (Contributor), Gerald Griffin (Contributor)7 more, Douglas Hyde (Contributor), Patrick Kennedy (Contributor), Lady Wilde (Contributor), Samuel Lover (Contributor), Letitia Maclintock (Contributor), Standish O'Grady (Contributor), J. Todhunter (Contributor)

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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WB. Yeats has two books available legally and free at Project Gutenberg: "Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry" Pubbed">http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/33887

"Irish Fairy Tales" Pubbed">http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/31763

These are two separate novels but Goodreads seems easily confused by this.
  EMaree | Feb 11, 2014 |
To me interesting chiefly for Yeats' introduction, in which he (a practicing magician with the Golden Dawn at one time) makes clear tat he entertains the possibility that the fairies are real. ( )
  antiquary | Jan 22, 2014 |
This book is so great! ( )
  paakre | Apr 27, 2013 |
“People think I am merely trying to bring back a little of the old dead beautiful world of romance into this century of great engines and spinning Jinnies. Surely the hum of wheels and clatter of presses, to let alone the lecturers with their black coats and tumblers of water, have driven away the goblin kingdom and made silent the feet of the little dancers.”

W. B. Yeats, then goes on to state that Old Biddy Hart, in her thatched cottage has little use for such opinions, will hold no truck with the “learned sorts” and their new fangled knowledge. She knows that to offend the old ways will lead to ones come-uppance and any one not rightly respectful of the ancient folk, cannot be alright in their head, regardless of the books & words they claim to know. This is part quote, part paraphrase from the introduction to a lovely book of Irish Fairy Tales compiled in 1892 by William Butler Yeats.
The book is divided under four main headings – Land and Water Fairies, Evil Spirits, Cats, and Kings and Warriors, it also has a fascinating appendix, which explains the classification of Irish Fairies divided into The Sociable Fairies,The Sheoques,Merrows and Solitary Fairies such as The Lepricaun, The Pooka & The Dullahan etc. This is followed by a section listing the authorities on Irish Folklore & a biography of Yeats himself.
What makes this a great read is the universality of the tales. I wrote a post last year about a similar book, Italian Folktales (Fiabe Italiane, pub’ 1956) compiled & edited by Italo Calvino and although this isn’t of that scale, what he wrote in his introduction holds true here.

“These folk stories are the catalogue of the potential destinies of the men and women,especially for that stage in life when destiny is formed, i,e, youth, beginning with birth, which itself often foreshadows the future, then the departure from home, and finally through the trials of growing up, the attainment of maturity and proof of one’s humanity. This sketch although summary, encompasses everything: the arbitrary divisions of humans, albeit in essence equal, into Kings and poor people, the persecution of the innocent and their subsequent vindication, which are the terms inherent in every life, love unrecognised when first encountered and then no sooner experienced than lost; the common fate of subjection to spells, or having one’s existence predetermined by complex and unknown forces. This complexity pervades one’s entire existence and forces one to struggle to free oneself, to determine one’s own fate; at the same time we can liberate ourselves only if we liberate other people, for this is a sine qua non* of one’s own liberation. There must be fidelity to a goal and purity of heart, values fundamental to salvation and triumph. There must also be beauty, a sign of grace that can be masked by the humble, ugly guise of a frog; and above all, there must present the infinite possibilities of mutation, the unifying element in everything: Men, Beasts, Plants, Things.”

http://parrishlantern.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/irish-fairy-taleswb-yeats.html ( )
  parrishlantern | Jul 4, 2012 |
From what I was able to dig up, this book is a product of the late 19th century Gaelic renaissance. Yeats did not collect all these stories himself, he simply gleaned all the best ones from a variety of sources which are all well documented in the bibliography. At the point of this book's creation, I believe that Yeats was rather well known and he was using his notoriety as a poet to bring attention to the disregarded tradition of Irish folk tales. The general consensus among Yeats and his fellow Irish intellectual contemporaries was that Irish culture was 1. slipping away as the older people died and modern culture was advancing, 2. that through a concentrated effort, Irish language, art, music, and written word could revitalize the peoples identity as a separate culture from England, and 3. perhaps spark a nationalistic fervor in the hearts of the peasantry. This collection of folk/fairy tales was one of Yeats attempts to add to this movement.

From a cultural history point of view, its a fine collection, and I think it says a lot about what Yeats considered to be the cultural values worth passing on. Some of the stories are written phonetically, so if one were to read it out loud, one could practice a Donegal or Connemara accent. This proved quite entertaining as I read my wife to sleep from this book. The collection is also divided up into categories so that chapter headings have titles such as: Solitary Fairies, Trooping Fairies, Merrow, Ghosts, Banshees, Witches, The Devil, Giants, ect. Some are written as first hand accounts and some are written in the classic "Once upon a time..." format. I found the story entitled "The Banshee of the MacCarthy's" to be particularly effective and unnerving, despite my complete disbelieve in the existence of such entities. Regardless, a culture's folk tales help describe the fears, hopes, and values of the community who pass them on. This is a fine collection which certainly accomplishes this and I recommend it as a good starting point for delving deeper into the tradition of Irish folk tales.

ps. the cat with the fish on the cover of this Folio Society edition is a depiction of a cat who is an agent of Satan, a "demon cat" if you will. Apparently they were quite common back in day, always stealing peasant's food. After reading this story, I am now considering the possibility that one of my gluttonous cats is likewise possessed by Lucifer; a rumor I fully intend to cultivate. ( )
1 vote BenjaminHahn | Sep 18, 2011 |
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Yeats, W. B.Editorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Allingham, WilliamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Carleton, WilliamContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Croker, T. CroftonContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Ferguson, SamuelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Griffin, GeraldContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Hyde, DouglasContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Kennedy, PatrickContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lady WildeContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lover, SamuelContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Maclintock, LetitiaContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
O'Grady, StandishContributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Todhunter, J.Contributorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
Lynch, P. J.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raine, KathleenForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0880290730, Hardcover)

Includes tales of fairies, changelings, ghosts, witches, saints, the devil, giants, kings, queens, and robbers.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:20:17 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

Includes tales of fairies, changelings, ghosts, witches, saints, the devil, giants, kings, queens, and robbers.

» see all 3 descriptions

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