Folktales: A way to preserve history

By Camille Douglas

May 20, 2016

The last day of the Shamrocker Bus Tour has finally come, and cabin fever had started to get to me. Nevertheless, the journey of exploring some of Northern Ireland’s key landmarks with Daithi and Johnny made up for the little nausea and headaches I was experiencing.

While I am a little sadden that our journey exploring Northern Ireland with Daithi and Johnny has come to an end, I am eager to see what Dublin has in store for us.

The first stop we made was at the Loughcrew Passage Tombs. Daithi’s mom and her dog, Pippin, guided us up the hills, through the poem blustering winds and pouring rain, to the ancient tomb. Once there, she told us the folklore tale about how the stone tombs were made. A very long time ago, a girl giant, who was striding across the land, dropped large piles of stones she had carrying in her apron.

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Even right before we reached Giant’s Causeway the first day on the Shamrocker, Daithi told us the tall tale on how landmark was created. According to legend, an Irish giant, Finn McCool, was in conflict with the Scottish giant,  Benandonner, across the water because Benandonner was threatening Ireland. Finn, upset and wanting to quarrel with Benandonner, started throwing rock chunks into the sea to create a path for him to follow, thus making what came to be known as Giant’s Causeway.
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The view of Giant’s Causeway from up on one of the cliffs.
To end our journey with the Shamrocker, Daithi took us to a fairy tree right before we headed into Dublin. Daithi told us that many Irish believe in the magic of fairies. They look to them in times of need, praying for maybe good health for a loved one or just good wishes in general. To make a wish, a person must find a fairy tree, have a string or a ribbon that will hold their wish to tie to a tree branch and dip their string into blessed water, all while saying a prayer. According to Daithi, tales of fairies granting wishes have accumulated throughout Ireland, spreading by locals. That day, I think I experienced a miracle from the fairies. When I was making a wish for a loved one, the way I bent down to dip my string into the water, my phone slipped out of my jacket pocket and fell right into the water. I grabbed it as quickly as I could and dried it off. I checked it to see if it was working, and to my surprise it still was and continues to be working perfectly, as if had never fell in! I am very grateful as my phone is the best form of communication to back home and without it, I don’t know what I would have done.
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The very last picture I took of the fairy tree, just before I dropped my phone into the water. 
Back in America, I don’t really hear of any folktales that we celebrate and that depict how things were formed, at least from my perspective and observations. The only thing I can think of that is similar would be stories that are practiced in one’s religion. For example, the stories and verses from the Bible that I grew up learning. I think that these tall tales that the Irish cherish are an essential custom as to how things, like the Giant’s Causeway, have survived throughout generations. It’s a way that helps to mold the characters of the two countries and preserves their history from being lost. Ireland and Northern Ireland are very old, and learning about some of the history of both countries has been very enriching. I cannot wait to continue discovering other unique customs of the people as we continue this journey.

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