A large part of my ancestry is Irish (but nowhere near all–I’m a mutt), and so I’ve taken an interest in Irish storytelling. When I was in high school, I asked for, and received, three books of Irish myths and folktales for a birthday. Some of the stories featured things often associated with Ireland, like leprechauns and Saint Patrick (though never both at once). Many did not. Many of the stories I had never heard about, but they were beautiful.
There’s a bittersweet feeling to a lot of those stories. Ireland has been through a lot of terrible things, and it shows in her legends. They have a combination of joy and loss. There are many, many sad endings. But even those stories that end sadly have moments of great light and hope.
I like that. It’s important to have hope–it’s what gets us through the worst things life can offer.
I especially like the stories about faeries.
Not like Tinker Bell, or Cinderella’s fairy godmother. The faeries of Irish myths, in all their varied forms, are far more powerful and dangerous than those. They have no particular interest in human affairs, except when they want something from us or a human catches their eye. They are capricious, willful, often selfish, and untamed.
Looking at them, I’m not entirely sure why I love their stories so much. I guess it might be because in some ways they are like forces of nature, which cannot be controlled however much humanity may damage it.
And they go to Tir na nOg and leave Ireland for human habitation, for reasons of their own, and return infrequently by human terms. They live on the edges of reality.
Last year, when I had the opportunity to dance as the Snow Queen in a local production of The Nutcracker, I tried to take inspiration from those characters, to put some of the wildness of the Irish faeries into the way I danced. I don’t know how well I succeeded, but I enjoyed it immensely. I’m planning to make a graphic novel of The Nutcracker sometime in the near future, because as much as I love the music and dancing, the plot and characters need fixing, and I’m taking inspiration for the character of the Snow Queen from the faeries.
That’s not the only place Irish storytelling has influenced my creative endeavors. Those bittersweet stories, swirled with light and dark, are too fascinating to me to not influence what I make.
Hopefully I won’t get any magical backlash for that.
As promised, a December blog post with no mention of Christmas. Except for in that last sentence. I was thinking of saving this topic to write about closer to Saint Patrick’s Day, but I think I’m allowed to be proud of my heritage whatever time of the year it is. 🙂