Irish Farey Tales



In 2023 I started reading Irish Fairy Tales by James Stephens (1880-1950) with illustrations by Arthur Rackham (1867-1939). The book was published by Pook Press who republish Children’s Fairy Tale and Classic books from the past. The book was originally published by Macmillen & Co in 1920.


James Stephens has been selective in the stories he has chosen to interpret. He covers 10 and I have followed his example with the same number of paintings. There are also some drawings. The works interpret two notions of reality as they are divided by a central, vertical line creating two sections. Neither side differs greatly from the other except in structure, so just as the characters in the stories can be undermined by where they are, so should the viewer be also.


The stories are not moralistic but do document the way the ancient Irish heroes and warriors moved between the real world and the land of fairy. This was either a matter of perception or their imaginations and their activities were based on success or failure and in that sense are much like our own lives. Men dominate the stories but women play a part too. In a world that is essentially misogynist they hold their own by being interlectually different or have some independence. Value systems differ from age to age and the ancient Irish were no different.


I then began reading Irish Myths and Legends by Lady Augusta Gregory (1852-1932), published by New Island Press in 2022 and originally published by John Murray as 'Gods and Fighting Men' and 'Cuchulain and the Red Branch of Ulster' in 1902/1904. Her stories place greater emphasis on the magical aspects of the myths and legends than Stephens did as he concerntrated more on the personality of the various characters. Her's are also more comprehensive and far-reaching as is indicated by the necessity to publish them in 2 volumes.   


I have begun paintings based on these stories. See Gallery Page, Irish Farey Tales, for addded images in time.


Note: In the stories, Stephens refers to the land of Farey as opposed to Fairy. I have chosen to use this archaic title for this page.