Saturday, 7 March 2015

The Storyteller

Model: Seanie Larkin

The traditional Irish storyteller is the Seanchaí, which originally meant a 'bearer of old lore'.
These storytellers were part of the great oral tradition of Ireland who remembered and passed
on a large number of tales across the generations. Their particular style of speech and gesture,
as well as their role as custodians of folk tradition, are understood to link them back to the
filí, the poets of pre-Christian Ireland.

Some Seanchaithe travelled from one village to another trading their stories for food and shelter
whilst others settled and became the Storytellers of their particular area.
Many of the stories, which are still being told today, focus on special places within the landscape, Otherworldly animals or beliefs about the Sídhe and their customs.

One such story - The Oldest Creature is being told by the Seanchaí in the painting above:

"A certain man, amazed at the coldness of a particular night, wonders if there was ever so cold
a night before.
He sets out to discover the answer to this....

and first meets an otter lying in a deep hole on top of a rock. The otter tells him that he has been there so long that the hole has been worn in the rock by its body, but it has never seen so cold a night as recently.

Next the man meets....

 Seabhac Acla - the Hawk of Achill, Co. Mayo, which is perched on an anvil
and has been there for so long that the anvil is almost worn away by the rubbing of its beak after eating. Neither has it seen so cold a night.

Finally the man encounters....

the one-eyed Bradán Easa Rua - the salmon of Assaroe, Co. Donegal.
The salmon tells him that it does indeed remember a colder night an extremely long time ago.

It had frozen so fast that night that when the salmon had jumped out of the water to catch a fly,
the river had turned to ice when it returned.
The salmon had lain on the ice sure it would die until a bird came along and plucked out one of its eyes.
The heat of the blood from the eye melted the ice, and so the salmon had returned to the water. "
- from 'The Lore of Ireland' by Dáithi Ó hGáin.

One of the best known Seanchaí today is Eddie Lenihan and you can see him introducing his
art of telling a good story below.
You can find Eddie's book "Meeting The Other Crowd" HERE

Please contact me on the email form below if you would like to order  
an Art Card of The Storyteller /Seanchaí .


  1. Beautiful (as always) ~ the marriage of image and words perfectly matched, celebrated by a mad looking story teller going on about weasels has made my day! :)

    You always bring such richness ... I don't just read your blog, it's an experience, which leaves me contemplating ... and wondering about weasels, story tellers and my Irish gene's ;)

    Thank you x

  2. Thank you so much - that is such a lovely comment, Cymraes. Yes isn't Eddie great talking about weasels & fairies, makes you want to sit down and join him with a cup of tea :)

  3. The richness in your details of your paintings - the knowledge behind it all astounds and delights me, Jane!

    And I would also like to join you and Eddie with a cup of tea. Fascinating!

  4. Thank you Carol - so glad you enjoyed it. Yes, tea with Eddie would be great craic!

  5. (I had to look up the word "craic" - great word!)

  6. At the risk of intruding, can I join you all for tea with Eddie please? I will bring cake!
    I find the stories behind your art work fascinating and like Cymraes above I love reading your posts. I always save them until I have the time to read them properly, usually in front of the log burner with a good cup of tea, as I learn something new every time. Xxx

  7. Fran - of course you're welcome to join us -especially as you have the cake! So glad that you enjoyed the post over a cuppa by the fire - best way to read.


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