The Magic of W.B. Yeats

W.B. Yeats is one of Ireland’s most celebrated writers and a Nobel Prize winner. A poet, a playwright, a journalist, and a collector of folklore, he is also one of the primary collectors of local tales surrounding the sidhe or fairies.

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Born in the suburbs of Dublin in 1865, he spent his childhood days in County Silgo, and it’s no coincidence that so many of his stories and folk tales come from there.

His first book of poetry, published in 1989, may have been a daunting and drawn-out love letter to poets like Edmund Spenser, Percy Bysshe Shelley, and the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood, but he soon came into his own style, earning the Nobel Prize in 1923.

Reading W.B. Yeats from a modern perspective is something of a wild ride. In many of these rural communities, people would blame anything from bad weather to bad luck on the fae.

Sometimes it was an explanation for mental illness, those who “heard voices” or had strange behaviors were believed to be plagued by faery mischief. Sometimes it looked like an easy way to win an argument to say “the faeries did it”.

Many of these stories came from the turn of the century, “modern” to Yeats. Reading them makes it apparent that the coming of that age was an odd clash of the new and old. In one such tale, a child is driven out to a superstitious location by a car.

Not only that, but these stories are an intriguing blend of pagan and Christian themes. Some believe the fae were fallen angels, or ones who weren’t wicked enough to be cast into Hell. Some thought they were the old pagan gods or ancient Irish heroes – many famous faery figures share the same names.

I ended up borrowing a lot of Yeat’s writing and research to use for inspiration for Faehunter.

Creatures such as the aquatic merrows appear (although none of Yeats’ green-toothed, pig-faced men) appear beside the noted house-spirits and capricious faery Queens. Locations like the faery rath, which feature often and with great importance in these tales of folklore, are the centerpiece of numerous scenes. In many of Yeats’ stories, herbs such as hawthorn and sage are mentioned to be sacred to the fae which are a major aspect of faery culture in Twinefold.

Reading Yeats in the modern age may take a fair bit of patience – it’s amazing how much language has changed, nevermind when thick Irish accents are written phonetically. That being said, I highly recommend taking a look for anyone interested in faery folklore or Irish myth.

Further Reading:

W.B. Yeats on Project Gutenberg
Irish Fairy and Folk Tales Barnes and Noble Library of Essential Reading
Mythologies by W.B. Yeats on Amazon.com

See Also:

Short Story: “Shannon in the Wilderness”
The World of Faehunter: The Solitary Fae
The World of Faehunter: The Court of Air and Darkness

 

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