Magical Celtic Tales
I’ve always loved folk tales, especially ones from our Celtic past. Una Leavy’s nine tales come from Brittany, Cornwall, the Isle of Man, Wales, Scotland and Ireland. They tell of the bravery of heroes; the woman’s world, which demands cunning as well as weaving skills; of dragons and selkies, giants and fairies. These stories have survived because they tap into something very deep within us: the importance of doing the right thing.
Take the Scottish tale: The Seal Catcher’s Story. Poverty-stricken Hamish decides to sell seal skins, which are much prized. His family is aghast; it’s bad luck to kill seals, for some of them are selkies and can become human. Hamish takes no notice until he is tricked and thrown into the sea. There, he meets a selkie he wounded and must cure; only then will he be released. He must learn to respect his fellow creatures and vow never to hunt them again.
This story is about your place in the world and your responsibilities to others, be they human or animal.
The Magic Pail is a Cornish story, which explores another truth. Here, Jenny and her husband are given an elf-child in a magic pail by an old woman, who sings: Sometimes it’s better/ to give back a treasure. The pail captures a skylark’s song, which delights Jenny, and she vows to keep it. But the elf-child pleads that the skylark needs his song to find a mate. Jenny remembers the old woman’s saying and returns the skylark’s song.
This story looks at that difficult lesson: you cannot chain someone you love. You must learn to let them go.
These stories, evocatively illustrated by Fergal O’Connor, are both about everyday Bronze Age life, and about the problems of being human. Recommended for all ages.