Favorite Irish Folk Tales – a Review

Seumas MacManus retells fifteen marvelous Irish folk tales that are full of adventure. The similarities between many of these folk tales and a lot of the fairy tales I was already familiar with astounded me. These tales have not been watered down any, so some of them are violent and bloody.

Favorite Irish Folk Tales by Seumas MacManusA lot of these tales are written in one extremely long paragraph, so it is easy to lose your place when reading.  You also have to read carefully so you can keep track of who is saying what and to whom they are saying it.

Even though the Irish brogue is at times hard to understand, the stories were a lot of fun to read. I didn’t have that much trouble understanding most of it, but some of it was a bit above my head.

As I read each story, I imagined a bunch of people sitting around a campfire and all of them had their attention on just one individual. This individual was the one who told the stories  I pictured that individual as an old Irishman with his cap on and smoking his pipe.

The Stories:
“Billy Beg and the Bull” – This is the story of a boy and the bull that is very special to him.

“Murroghoo-more and Murroghoo-beg” – This is a story about two cousins, Murroghoo-more and Muroghoo-beg. From their names, you should be able to tell which one was rich and greedy. Things don’t go to well for Murroghoo-beg, and his greedy cousin poked his eyes out and left him in a church to die. Thanks to a group of cats that frequent this church at night, his luck turned around. And Murroghoo-more walked right into a trap. He deserved it, but he really should have known better.

“The Queen of the Golden Mines” – The king has three sons, and the youngest one is the weakest of them all. The two older ones leave home, and the younger one follows. They try and try to get rid of him, but in the end, he turns out to be the bravest one of all.

“The Widow’s Daughter” – In this story, a mother is beating her daughter because of her laziness when the Prince rides by and hears the daughter crying out. He ends up taking the daughter with him to be his bride.

I don’t want to give the story away, but I will say that it reminds me of “Rumpelstiltskin.” The story isn’t bloody or gory like the original “Rumpelstiltskin,” but I’m not sure that I would have wanted to read it to my daughter when she was young.

“Shan Ban and Ned Flynn” –  A part of this one sort of reminded me of one of the other stories in this book. Two neighboring farmers set out to find their fortunes.

“When Neil a-Mughan was Tuk” – Willie-the-Wisp taunts and distracts those who are travelling.  Who is Willie-the-Wisp, and why does he do this? The story of how he tricked the devil many times and was kicked out of hell is great.

“The Black Bull of the Castle of Blood” – They say that curiosity killed the cat. Well, in this tale about a prince searching for a suitable wife, curiosity can kill the bride-to-be.

“The Old Hag of the Forest” – This tale has witches and enchantments, magical animals, and three sons of the king and queen who set out one at a time to make their own fortunes.

“Rory the Robber” – This is the tale of a boy who outwits the greatest robber in the whole country.

“Myles McGarry and Donal McGarry” – Myles McGarry is hired by a man who mistreats him something awful then sends him home without his ears. Donal McGarry is out to avenge what was done to his brother.

“Nanny and Conn” – This story shows how massively ignorant some people can be.

“The Apprentice Thief” – The king tells a father to find someone to apprentice his son, to, or the son will be put to death. The father apprentices him to a thief. After three years, the young man faces a challenge by the king. If he passes it, he will live. If not, he will die.

“Manis the Besom Man” – Once again, this story shows how readily some people can be taken in. A man is tricked into buying a horse that he is led to believe can do something so special that he will never run out of money.

“Jack and the King Who Was a Gentleman” – Who can come up with a tale so unbelievable that the king actually calls him a liar? This story is my favorite out of the bunch of them.

“The Giant of the Band-beggars’ Hall” – The king’s son, Jack (a popular name for king’s sons in these tales), is continually being dissed by the trout in their river. This leads to a bridge being built that won’t stay built, which leads to an even bigger adventure. I thought Jack was a spoiled brat, but the story is enjoyable.

I bought my copy of this book from Dover many years ago for my daughter, and I just now read it. I wish I had read it sooner. The similarities between the fairy tales I already knew and these surprised me a bit.

Those interested in folk tales or the Irish culture would appreciate this book full of folk tales. If you would like to purchase a copy of this book for your own reading pleasure, I have provided an Amazon link below.

Amazon Link: Favorite Irish Folk Tales

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