Hello, hello. I promised a non-list post this week so a non-list post we shall have. I want to use my Folklore Thursday posts as a way to learn new things as well as a way to share things I already know and love. With that in mind, I’ve added a load of books to my wishlist but I couldn’t resist buying a couple now.
I am now the proud owner of Favourite Folktales from around the World edited by Jane Yolen, part of the Pantheon Fairy Tale & Folklore Library – I am now collecting it. I want all of them.
Every so often I will be dipping into this (and any other) book of folktales and reading a story I’m unfamiliar with. My knowledge of folklore is actually quite limited and I want to fix that. This book is a general overview but they have other titles from specific countries and regions (I already own their Russian collection).
I picked a little Irish story, from the Ghosts and Revenants section of the book, named ‘The Dream House’. The section’s introduction calls it a ‘delicious surprise’ and it’s not entirely wrong.
‘The Dream House’ is a tiny little tale which tells of a Mrs. Butler who sees a wonderful dream house when she sleeps. This becomes somewhat of a joke among her friends and eventually they stop talking about it altogether because it disturbs them. She and her husband decide to move to England because Ireland is going through a state of unrest, when they get to England they see many houses but none of them are to their liking. Until they visit a house in Hampshire. This house is the dream house and Mrs Butler knows everything about it, except one. A door has appeared. Since the asking price is so low and it is her dream house, they decide to buy it. It is only after they buy the house that they decide to question why it’s so cheap. They are told the house is haunted… but not to worry, it’s okay… MRS. BUTLER IS THE GHOST. What? I don’t…
I’m not sure what I was expecting. It was in the ghost section of the book, of course there’s a ghost somewhere. It caught me completely by surprise. I was fully invested in and expecting this to be a story about dreaming. So invested was I that I forgot which section of the book I was in. The story is literally eight paragraphs long. Eight. Eight, and I forgot where I was. Good job, E. Stellar work.
However, I’m not sure it truly is a ghost story. I do think it’s a story about dreams. More specifically dreamwalking. I wonder if Samantha Shannon has read this story, considering her dreamwalking Irish protagonist. I think I shall ask, I am curious.
Though it’s a traditional folktale (which has been made literary in André Maurois’s short story ‘The House’) it reads like something a lot more modern. Perhaps, it is just because I am a modern human female creature and so naturally, my brain will force something modern onto something that’s not. Or perhaps it’s just the nature of folktales. I suppose I will see.
I always took folktales as stories which mean to teach something, not quite parables or fables, but as a vehicle for understanding (a lot of folktales deal with death, for example – more on that in a later entry) but this one doesn’t. This one is just a little jaunt with an incredibly abrupt ending. We never do find out what that door is about. I am definitely going to have to read a few more Irish folktales to see if this abrupt ending is a trend or whether it’s just this story.
It got me hooked, that’s for sure.
Have you read ‘The Dream House’? What did you think of it, if so? Is there a theme of abrupt endings in Irish folklore? We will find out. But not next week, next week I am sharing a film I love (which also happens to be Irish).