The Features of Traditional Irish Storytelling

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The Features of Traditional Irish Storytelling

Fairytales are probably the most popular mean of entertainment not only for children but also for grown ups no matter which form they may take on: a story read or told by the parents, a play or an animated film. People rarely consider that while enjoying tales they contribute to the preservation of folklore, which also ‘includes all the traditional forms of expression that circulate without the aid of books – the art, speech, and literature created through personal interaction rather that through the printed medium’ (Swann-Jones 2002: 2). It may be argued that fairytales are not traditional form of folklore anymore as nowadays they do not circulate without books since people usually read them instead of just telling them. However, it cannot be denied that their primal form was spoken, that they transmitted from one generation or land to another by being told directly to other people. That is why there usually are no authors of fairytales but there are people such as Brothers Grimm, who collected them, as well as there are more than one common version since almost every person telling a tale would change or add something of his own. Although fairytales always make a part of folklore in every country, some countries have more of them than others. Ireland is one of the richest of them as it, according to Irish folklore scholar J. H. Delargy, ‘has the largest body of collected folktales in the west of Europe’ (1945: 31). This is the result of traditional storytelling which not even a century ago was one of the main social entertainment forms and therefore a very important part of life of Irish people. The purpose of this essay is to discuss the main features of storytelling: the time and the place, the teller and the audience, and finally the tales themselves, at the time when it was one of the most common activities in Ireland. To begin with, storytelling was typical for a specific time and place....
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