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Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Irish Folklore: Fairy Coin

I had this post all ready to go the week of St. Patrick's Day, but for whatever reason didn't publish it.

We return to Sean O'Sullivan's Folktales of Ireland for another story of the fair folk. This one, told by Diarmaid Mac Seain in Donegal, 1946, concerns itself with the tension between the old (fairies) and the relatively new (Christianity). Like the other tales of fairies in Ireland, it's a legend; meaning it has the benefit of the doubt in regard to veracity. It's told of a man from the city of Teelin.
This fisherman was in Church on a Sunday when he was overcome by a strange weakness. He left the church and stumbled along the road, feeling a little better. He came up on a gentleman, who asked what was the matter. He told the gentleman, who pulled a florin out of his pocket and handed it to the fisherman with the words, "Go to the public house and buy yourself a glass of whiskey. It will do your heart good."
The fisherman thanked him and headed for the pub. The florin was valuable, so he ordered the finest whiskey in the house. He put the change in his pocket, drank the whiskey, and chatted with the bartender--Eamonn--about his trouble.
The next day he was going fishing, and wanted tobacco. He went to the shop, and when he reached into his pocket to pay for the tobacco he found the florin where he thought only to find his change from the day before. He said nothing about it, paid for the tobacco and went fishing. At the end of his work, he went back to the pub for another whiskey. He found that the florin had returned to his pocket. This sort of thing happened every time he paid for anything for the next few days, until he began to worry. He thought that no good could come of it, and he worried that the man who had given it to him might not be a man at all. It got so that the fisherman was worried to go out on the sea to do his job with the coin in his pocket.
Eventually, he went to Eamonn's pub and, when paying for his whiskey he could take it no more. He flung the coin on the counter and said, "May the devil go with you!"
He told Eamonn the whole story. Eamonn said the fisherman was a fool to say that about the coin; he should have kept it. Intent on inspecting the coin, Eamonn went to his till to find it.
It had vanished.
The fisherman told the story to everyone he met, convinced he'd been given the coin by a fairy.
It's a good story, exhibiting the usual attribution (Eamon is named specifically, even his surname) and localization (Teelin, a church in Carrick). O'Sullivan points out that this story can be found in Israel and Norway as well.

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