Random Excerpts from Irish Fairy Tales, by James Stephens

Some extracts from this absolutely charming book I just finished reading on Irish fairy tales. Just had to share. The book is full of wonder, just as any faery tale should be, and even its sadder moments are colored through with a fascinatingly philosophical approach to all of life and its troubles. My only regret is that I did not come across these stories sooner. Fee free to go through some of these random excerpts from the book, and I am certain you will want to read it yourself. Peace!

The mind flinches even from the control of natural law, and how much more from the despotism of its own separated likenesses, for if another can control me that other has usurped me, has become me, and how terribly I seem diminished by the seeming addition!

This sense of separateness is vanity, and is the bed of all wrong-doing. For we are not freedom, we are control, and we must submit to our own function ere we can exercise it. Even unconsciously we accept the rights of others to all that we have, and if we will not share our good with them, it is because we cannot, having none; but we will yet give what we have, although that be evil. To insist on other people sharing in our personal torment is the first step towards insisting that they shall share in our joy, as we shall insist when we get it.

~~~

So vast was the slaughter made by these sheep and so great the terror they caused, that no one could stand before them, but by great good luck there was a wood at hand, and the men of Ulster, warriors and princes and charioteers, were forced to climb up the trees, and they roosted among the branches like great birds, while the venomous sheep ranged below bleating terribly and tearing up the ground.

Fiachna Fim was also sitting in a tree, very high up, and he was disconsolate.
“We are disgraced,” said he.
“It is very lucky,” said the man in the branch below, “that a sheep cannot climb a tree.”
“We are disgraced for ever,” said the King of Ulster.
“If those sheep learn how to climb, we are undone surely,” said the man below.
“I will go down and fight the sheep,” said Fiachna. But the others would not let the king go.
“It is not right,” they said, “that you should fight sheep.”

“Some one must fight them,” said Fiachna Finn, “but no more of my men shall die until I fight myself; for if I am fated to die, I will die and I cannot escape it, and if it is the sheep’s fate to die, then die they will; for there is no man can avoid destiny, and there is no sheep can dodge it either.”

~~

“It is not nice of you to laugh at us,” said Fiachna Finn.
“Who could help laughing at a king hunkering on a branch and his army roosting around him like hens?” said the stranger.
“Nevertheless,” the king replied, “it would be courteous of you not to laugh at misfortune.”
“We laugh when we can,” commented the stranger, “and are thankful for the chance.”
“You may come up into the tree,” said Fiachna, “for I perceive that you are a mannerly person, and I see that some of the venomous sheep are charging in this direction. I would rather protect you,” he continued, “than see you killed; for,” said he lamentably, “I am getting down now to fight the sheep.”

~~

Mongan did not want to say anything more then, but the King of Leinster was so intent and everybody else was listening and Duv Laca was nudging his arm, so he said: “What is it that you do want?”
“I want DuvLaca.”
“I want her too,” said Mongan.
“You made your bargain,” said the King of Leinster, “my cows and their calves for your Duv Laca, and the man that makes a bargain keeps a bargain.”
“I never before heard,” said Mongan, “of a man giving away his own wife.”
“Even if you never heard of it before, you must do it now,” said Duv Laca, “for honour is longer than life.”
Mongan became angry when Duv Laca said that. His face went red as a sunset, and the veins swelled in his neck and his forehead.
“Do you say that?” he cried to Duv Laca.
“I do,” said Duv Laca.
“Let the King of Leinster take her,” said Mongan.

~~

Still, if you keep on driving a pig or a story they will get at last to where you wish them to go, and the man who continues putting one foot in front of the other will leave his home behind, and will come at last to the edge of the sea and the end of the world.

~~~

“Is that the sun I see shining, my friend?” the king asked.
“It may be the sun,” replied mac an Da’v, peering curiously at the golden radiance that dozed about them, “but maybe it’s a yellow fog.”
“What is life at all?” said the king.
“It is a weariness and a tiredness,” said mac an Da’v. “It is a long yawn without sleepiness. It is a bee, lost at midnight and buzzing on a pane. It is the noise made by a tied-up dog. It is nothing worth dreaming about. It is nothing at all.”

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