Off the Shelf: Traditional Celtic Tales

Hello there. It’s been a while. Remember me?

I’m not sure how bloggers typically apologize after going dark for nearly…ahem…three weeks. I could give you a whole bunch of excuses as to why my life went into warp speed and why I haven’t had a spare moment to pick up a crochet hook since, seriously, the last time I blogged. Or I could just pretend like I’ve never been gone. Mmmm, I’ll go with option B. Let’s just pick up right where we left off like good friends do.

Before I was bombarded by summer madness, I checked out a new library bookshop. While it wasn’t that great, I did find this hulking copy of “Traditional Tales from Long, Long Ago” (1999 Dempsey Parr) a collection of Celtic folklore retold by Philip Wilson and illustrated by Sue Clarke, Anna Cynthia Leplar, Jacqueline Mair, Sheila Moxley, and Jane Tattersfield. Phew, that was a lot of artists!

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The book contains stories of leprechauns, innocent milkmaids, powerful kings, clumsy giants, horned witches, vengeful monsters and talking animals. Exactly what you would expect and wonderfully so. I haven’t read all the stories, but some of them are dark and morbid, which is in keeping with most fairy tales, right? More likely to give your kids nightmares than teach them lessons — unless the world was much scarier back in the day and kids weren’t so easily frightened.

Since there are quite a few illustrators, there are several different artistic styles. For example, there’s this traditional cartoony style with hard black outlines and fine details. (See how the mistress of the house is working with fiber? You go yarn lady.)

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Then there are highly stylized illustrations with few details but a lot of texture and movement. (Can anyone say phallic symbol?)

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I like this whimsical one with the spotted ocean.

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There is even one story in the book that I’d seen before. It’s called “The Haughty Princess” and it’s almost exactly the same as “Prince Hawksbeak,” which I featured in a previous Off the Shelf post. The only difference is that the princess in this story makes fun of the prince’s whiskers instead of his ever-so-slightly hooked nose. Here’s the princess-turned-beggar’s-wife dancing with the prince in front of the entire kingdom, and leftovers from the kitchen are falling out of her pockets, shaming her.

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I love how the prince is just enjoying himself, not seeming to notice what’s going on. Heh. Here are a few more interesting illustrations from this book. Enjoy!

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