Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, March 29, 2012

"Fergus O'Mara and the Air-Demons" by Patrick Weston Joyce

"Fergus O'Mara and the Air-Demons" by Patrick Weston Joyce (1879, 7 pages)

Irish Short Story Week Year Two
March 11 to April 11
Folk and Fairy Tales
March 29 to March 29

Resources and Ideas for Irish Short Story Week

Irish Short Story Week Year Two will be ongoing until at least April 11.   Everyone is invited to join us.
All you are asked to do is post on one Irish short story or a related matter and let me know about it.  Guests posts are also welcome, just contact me if you are willing to do a guest post for Irish Short Story Week Year Two.   You need not at all follow my schedule.  I have also expanded the event this year to include Irish-Australian Women.

Patrick Weston Joyce
This is the last of my posts on stories from two collections of stories by William Butler Yeats, Folk and Fairy Tales of the Irish Peasants and Irish Fairy Tales.  Both collections contain a number of stories selected by Yeats as well as an introduction  and commentary.   These books should be your first stop for understanding this very important foundation of the culture of the Irish short story writer.   If they were also your last stop you would also probably be OK outside of a serious interest in the area.   Fans of  the Harry Potter books, like myself,  will recognize a lot of things in these stories.    All of the stories I have posted on so far are fun to read.   

1879 saw the last of main  famines in Ireland.  Unlike the other famines there was mostly widespread hunger.   The improvements came from money sent home by those who had left the country, improved food distribution and the British government actually tried to help a bit.   The Irish Land League was formed to help tenant farmers.  

Patrick Watson Joyce (1827 to 1914-Ballyorgan, Ireland).  By profession he was a teacher and helped reorganize the national school system.  He received a B.A. from Trinity College Dublin.   He is considered a key figure in preserving the roots of the Irish Language.   He produced many works on Irish Culture and History.   From 1906 to 1908 he was president of The Royal Society for the Preservation of the Antiquities of Ireland.  

Many Irish folk and fairy tales are about the effects of the capricious interference in the lives of people by spirits, fairies, demons, and wee people, of a huge variety.  (One can go very deep into this)  Part of this, in my opinion, came from the sense of not having control of their lives that the turmoil, famines, and rule of the English vested in the Irish culture.   As legacy of the famine years, one also sees a lot of people described as "half wits" in the stories, people who grew up without enough food for their brains to develop.  The famines did not just get people and drive them out of Ireland, it deformed the survivors.  One can no more understand the Irish short story without facing the consequences of the famine years than one could understand the post war Japanese novel (one of my core interests) without having heard of WWII. 

"Fergus O'Mara and the Air-Demons" is the scariest of the Irish Folk and Fairy tales I have read for Irish Short Story Week Year Two.  Of all the demons, the Air-Demons hate humans the most.   The story centers on a farmer, his wife and their seven year old daughter who dies in the opening lines of the story.  She is very calm in the face of death, asking only that her parents put a lite candle in each of her hands as she dies.   Her father is a very good man, partially because he is a just a good man and partially because he believes if he goes away from the teachings of the church, he will fall pray to the Air-Demons.   The farmer is on his way to Mass one morning and he sees some hounds chasing a large deer.   The father joins the chase and he ends up missing mass.   He finds he was lead by Air-Demons who took the form of dogs and a deer to miss Mass, something he never did.  Suddenly from the dogs and the deer he hears evil laughter.   The he sees his daughter floating along with the air-demons.   Somehow his actions caused his daughter to become an air-demon.

The folk lore of Ireland is always lurking somewhere in the depths of an Irish Short Story.

Mel u


Caroline said...

Vishy has written a great post

Lady Bellicose said...

This is a fantastic thing you are doing. I've been meaning to read more Irish literature, specifically folk and fairy tales. :)