About a month ago, I was in Ireland’s oldest pub, being fed delicious, filling, homestyle Irish food and listening to a man who must be one of the world’s best storytellers. What could be better than that?
The pub was the Brazen Head in Dublin. It lays claim to having been established in 1198, not long after the Normans invaded Ireland.
Of course, the building has kept up with the times. It’s comfortably old now, not prehistoric. Among the modern conveniences are a fine kitchen and a cozy room just perfect for storytelling.
Respect for the Little People
Now, I don’t want to let any secrets out, but Michael Heavey can tell a story like nobody else. You walk in not quite knowing what to expect and you come away with total respect for the Little People. No more jolly leprechauns and gossamer fairies. Those are modern caricatures of something far more profound.
I remember reading Irish folk tales when I was about 10, and being fascinated by the invisible line dividing “real” from whatever else is out there. It’s a shifting, shimmering line. Just on the other side, that’s where the Little People operate. They’re the ones who can make your cow go dry or your hens stop laying. And that’s just a start; things can get very dark indeed if you cross them.
They don’t just do bad things but it seems to me you are more likely to be caught offending the Little People than winning their favour. Best to stay a safe distance and let them get on with their business, which has nothing to do with you.
Here’s a video from the Brazen Head featuring another of the gifted storytellers you might meet. My evening was a lot like what you see here.
I’d love to go back to Dublin, and if I do, the Brazen Head must be on my agenda.
Storytelling is an Irish art form
It was unusual for me to be in a country so consciously aware and proud of the power of story. The “Evening of Food, Folklore and Fairies” at the Brazen Head was sold out, and so was the Literary Pub Crawl we joined another night. When I took a taxi to the airport, I asked the driver did he mind if I sat up in the front seat. Here at home, some drivers don’t like that – the front is their private domain.
My driver said, “Yes! Otherwise it’s pretty hard for us to talk to each other.” Clearly, talking to each other is important, and I think that’s pretty healthy.
But there’s talking and then there’s storytelling by a master. Enjoy the friendly banter with friends old and new whenever you can. On top of that, get yourself to an Irish storytelling night. They take stories to a whole other level.
Disclosure: I was a guest of Failte Ireland, with some other travel bloggers. I wouldn’t be writing this if I hadn’t loved the whole evening. We had the same meal and the same experience as the other patrons, and it’s what you will get too if you go.