Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Irish Fairy Tales

I mentioned in an earlier post that I took a trip to Ireland late last year.  If you're lucky enough to have been to Ireland you know what a beautiful place it is.  But even if you haven't visited you're probably aware of Ireland's rich history of folklore and storytelling.  And it just so happens that on our trip, we created a few stories of our own.

I promised my mother I would write these down for her.  I've been slacking on doing so.  So, Mom:  sorry this took so long!  I hope I did justice to these fun anecdotes from our trip.

The Gruber Ghost of Adare

The cemetery is very old, and sits in a quiet little section of Adare away from the tourist destinations and shops.  The church around which the graveyard sits has long since crumbled to ruins, and for years the place was overgrown with brush and greenery.

Only recently has the old cemetery been cleared – and that is, perhaps, how the Ghost escaped.

You wouldn't expect a German ghost in a small Irish cemetery.  And though you'll hear many stories of how he came to be there, no one person can say for sure.  All that is known is that on one grey, windy day, the tumbled tombstones inside the crumbled church were disturbed.

It was quiet enough at first that you could easily think you had imagined the sound, or that the wind had rattled something and caused the noise. But soon the quiet mutterings grew louder and there could be no mistake.  Something was awake inside...

The clouds darkened, and the wind whipped, and a lonely face appeared between the stones of one long-fallen wall.

"I'm a long way from home," you might have heard him say, if you were close enough. (Or you might not.  The voices of ghosts are soft and easily carried away on the breeze.)  "How will I get out of here?"

And the Gruber Ghost began to climb.  He tested each wall, until finally he found a very tiny opening that spilled out onto a very tiny path.

And the Gruber Ghost began to crawl, and to squeeze, and finally he tumbled to the ground.

And had you been there, you may have seen the clouds part just the slightest bit.  You may have seen the sun break through for a few seconds between drizzles of rain.  You may have felt the gusts calm to a quiet whisper of a breeze carrying a lost traveler home.   

 The Burglar of Ballybunion

Some say that the creature known as the Burglar of Ballybunion is a descendant of the Gruber Ghost.  He has such skill at slipping in and out of small spaces, they say, that surely he must be cut from the same cloth.  But no one has ever been able to ask him him – he's much too fast to catch – so none can say for sure.

He's called the Burglar of Ballybunion, but the name is not entirely accurate as he isn't known to steal much (unless you happen to leave some chocolates where he can reach them).  In fact he's quite neat, making sure to remove his shoes after slipping inside your windows and cleaning up any mess he's left behind.  Sometimes the only way to know he's been there is to hear his impish laugh as he scurries away into the dark Kerry night. 

By day he is believed to hide amidst the waves at Ballybunion Beach.  He splashes and plays and laughs until night falls, when he seeks the comfort of a warm bed and fire.  He is especially fond of the tourist houses – the windows are easily opened and visitors often have the best food.

If you should encounter the Burglar of Ballybunion, have no fear.  He will do you no harm.  But try to catch him and you'll find yourself disappointed.  There is rumor that he was captured once by a powerful Earl and thrown into the dungeon in his castle.  The Burglar's cries of anguish at being so confined could be heard through the night... but come morning, the dungeon was empty.  None could explain how he escaped, and no one has managed to catch more than a glimpse of him since. 

The Red Owl

"I know why you sleep so late," said the little boy to his aunt.  "It's because you're an owl!"

Your aunt is a real night owl, someone had told him.   She stays up all night and that's why she can't get up in the morning!

"That's right," the aunt replied, shaking copper bangs out of her eyes with a laugh.  "I'm tired in the daytime because I spend all night flying around!"

Incredulous, the little boy looked at his aunt with wide and quizzical eyes.  "You can't really fly!"

"Oh, but I can!  When the sun goes down I turn into a great red owl and I fly all over!  My night vision is excellent."

"If you were an owl, you would eat mice!" the little boy said.

"Mice are delicious." 

The little boy laughed, sure that his aunt was spinning another of her crazy tales.  Dinner was eaten, teeth brushed, and the little boy went to bed.  He stirred ever so slightly in his sleep at the sound of the great red owl's talons closing around the branch outside his window.  But he did not wake to see her watching over him for a few minutes before soaring into the night. 

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