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Eddie Lenihan. Photograph by John Kelly

Eddie’s new take on Irish legends

THREE books by Crusheen author Eddie Lenihan have simultaneously hit the shelves, telling new stories of Fionn Mac Cumhaill.

Speaking about the creative process behind his books, Eddie says it takes him quite a bit of time but that it is important to get some other perspectives on the work.

“You can only do it gradually. The one I’m doing now, Foreign Irish Tales for Children, you’d be interrupted and interrupted and then when you have it finished, you’d have to go over it all again or give it to someone else and ask them what they think of this, give them a chance.

“The problem is what I think is funny, someone else might be scratching their head at. It’s like Mrs Brown’s Boys, I think it’s a disgusting, repulsive programme, whereas Mary [his wife] loves it. Humour is a very strange thing.”

He doesn’t see any problem with giving new adventures to ancient Irish heroes. “You might be inventing the new stories but you’re only putting new facts together and, of course, there were no facts originally, it was all legend, so you’re free to do what you like with it.”

While the Irish might have a rich oral tradition and centuries worth of legends, he feels these aren’t reaching the new generation.

“Eighty per cent of the stuff is English and we have so many stories, legends of all kinds, heroes of our own and their story should be told. It doesn’t matter whether it’s my version or the original ones but I think the original ones have kind of been beaten to death, so why not have a different version, Fionn Mac Cumhaill doing something else for a change.”

There is still a lot of interest among children when they are exposed to Irish tales of long ago. “I was in a school in North Galway and I was telling them about piseógs and they had never heard of them. I told them to go home and ask their grandparents about them. There’d be no point in asking the parents but I told them, ‘ask your grandparents, any of you who are still lucky enough to have grandparents still alive’. They said they would and I have no doubt that they will because they were mighty interested. They kept me for 35 minutes beyond the time I was supposed to be there asking about piseógs, so the interest is there.”

The young delight in the type of carnage that feature in many of his stories, he feels.

“I don’t ever tell anything except Irish stories, mainly stories I’ve collected from older people over the last 40 years and the more horrible the better. That’s what they want, blood, murder and mayhem. By God, they can have it because a lot of the stories I have collected have been pretty horrible.”

He praised his publisher for being willing to bring out books that have to compete with English ones, which are working in a far bigger market.

“It’s great to see that a publisher is willing to take a risk and bring out Irish-themed ones. The most important thing is to bring them out at a price that can match the English ones. The English ones publish for a huge market. We can’t possible match that because the market is so small but these ones have.”

Owen Ryan

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