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

Monday, March 30, 2015

"The Fairy Goose" by Liam O'Flaherty (1927)

"For some reason, it was made manifest to them that the goose was an evil spirit and not the good fairy which they had supposed her to be. Terrified of the priest's stole and breviary and of his scowling countenance, they were only too eager to attribute the goose's strange hissing and her still stranger cackle to supernatural natural forces of an evil nature. Some present even caught a faint rumble of thunder in the east and although though it was not noticed at the time, an old woman later asserted that she heard a great cackle of strange geese afar off, raised in answer to the little fairy goose's cackle."

Liam O'Flaherty (1896 to 1984) was born in Inishmore on one of the Aran Islands, off the west coast of Ireland.  His cousin was the famous Hollywood movie director  John Ford.    Like Frank O'Conner and Sean O'Faolain he was involved in the Irish War for independence against the British (largely a guerrilla war)1919 to 1921.    It was a bloody war of brother against brother in many cases.   It ended in Southern Ireland becoming an independent country with largely Protestant Northern Ireland staying under British rule.    

O'Flaherty worked for a time as a teacher until he became successful with novels like The Informer (which his cousin made into a movie) .     O'Flaherty moved the USA around 1923 to live in Hollywood so he could work with his cousin, among other reasons.   He was for a time a communist but returned to his Roman Catholic roots in latter years.  He was deeply into the reading life with a passion for French and Russian literature.    Even though much of his adult life was lived in the USA, his  writings nearly all deal with Ireland.    I first read his work during what was then Irish Short Story Week in 2011.  

"The Fairy Goose", set in rural Ireland, is just a wonderful story, I cannot imagine anyone into the form not loving it.  Compressing a bit, the story begins when an older village woman's sitting hen died and she hatches a goose egg by the firre.  The Goose is strange, never gets more than half normal size, never loses its yellow down for the white coat of an adult goose, and does not hiss at strangers.  Soon many people in the village begin to regard the goose as a fairy.  The old woman charges others to have the fairy goose cure sick cows and such and gains the reputation as a wise woman.  I want to quote a bit from the story as the prose is just so beautiful.

"That was done, and then the gosling became sacred in the village. No boy dare throw a stone at it, or pull a feather from its wing, as they were in the habit of doing with geese, in order to get masts for the pieces of cork they floated in the pond as ships. When it began to move about every house gave it dainty things. All the human beings in the village paid more respect to it than they did to one another. The little gosling had contracted a great affection for Mary Wiggins and followed her around everywhere, so that Mary Wiggins also came to have the reputation of being a woman of wisdom. Dreams were brought to her for unravelling."

Of course the local priest hears of this, a wise woman in a nearby village informed him, and he comes to denounce the Goose Fairy.  The ending is really exciting and I will leave it unspoiled.  I for sure felt I was back in Ireland in 1927, far beyond the Pale.

Mel u

No comments: