Mythology: Irish Folklore

Around St. Patrick’s Day, I found myself curious as the origins of the holiday and the strange figure of St. Patrick himself. However, I did not know anyone with any first-hand knowledge of Irish mythology, so I went online and conducted a search on Irish folklore surrounding St. Patrick. I found on YouTube a publication called Irish Folklore Publications, that specializes in telling short stories about Irish folklore for children. The site aims to keep Irish folklore alive by digitalizing stories that can entertain modern children of all nationalities. The format is a woman telling the story, with visuals from pages of a book. The narrator is Maureen O’Hara who works in the preservation of Irish folklore. On either side of the page is the written words of the story she reads. Interestingly, the right side has the story in Gaelic, the original language of Ireland, and then the left side is translated to English. This provides a nice added touch, as it also helps keep ancient Irish traditions alive through language. The speaker actually uses some Gaelic within her reading of the story as well. I felt that the whole presentation was well done because it made for an interesting story, but one that made sure to incorporate Gaelic elements. As such, it was not only a fun story for children to hear about, but also a learning tool about Irish culture and history. Overall, I found the piece to be informative and helped me understand why the legend of St. Patrick is so important in Irish folklore.

This particular story is about St. Patrick and how he became such a major figure in early Christian Ireland. She reads, “fado, fado, many many years ago, way back in the fifth century, a very special baby was born.” This helps provide a time period for St. Patrick’s birth and life. It also introduces the story in a very similar manner as to many other fairy tales that begin with the tradition, “a long, long time ago” style introduction. The period is in Roman Britain and explains Patrick’s upbringing and eventually his growth into adulthood. It explains his conversion to Christianity, which was still not very popular among the Celtic pagans of Ireland at the time. He became a bishop and helped guide the early Christians at the time. One day, he was confronted with hysteric villagers in Munster who claimed that a giant snake was killing their livestock. So, brave St. Patrick went to look for the snake and found him near the “Galtee Mountains.” He lifted it up with a hook and placed it in a bucket where he threw him in a lake to be kept prisoner. Thus, St. Patrick is hailed for driving out the dangerous snakes of Ireland and making the land safe for farmers and their livestock.

Source: Irish Folklore Publications. (2010). St. Patrick’s Story.