Document Type


Publication Date

Winter 2004


Excerpt: "In popular culture, the idea of Irishness has long been associated with the idea of fairies and leprechauns. This association has been explored by scholars who treat the Sidhe—also known as the daoine maithe, or the “good people”—as either a sociological or a literary construct. Most often, the sociological con- struct is somewhat insidious and the literary construct tends to be romantic. Recently, Angela Bourke has explored how the folkloric understanding of the fairies may be used to explain the otherwise inexplicable—for instance, when hormonal changes that come about through puberty or menopause were explained by saying that the fairies have taken the real person and left a changeling instead. Bourke’s The Burning of Bridget Cleary (1999) examines the case of Michael Cleary, who burned his relatively independent wife to death in the hopes of forcing the fairies to change her back to the acquiescent wife that he desired. Bourke finds the mythology of the fairy world so deeply ingrained in Irish culture that it blurs the lines between the literary construct and the sociological use"


Originally published in New Hibernia Review, Winter 2004. 8(4), pp. 101-116. Published by Center for Irish Studies at the University of St. Thomas.