If you’ve read some books like Ireland by Frank Delaney you understand the role of the seanchaí in Ireland. If you haven’t, here’s a great explanation from author Eve Bunting.
In my upcoming novel Annie’s Stories, Annie is mourning the loss of her father, Marty Gallagher, who was a well respected seanchaí. He wrote down some of his stories for her, which she treasures. Stories have great meaning to her.
My favorite historical resource on Ireland is this wee book, a second edition published in 1908. Here is what Joyce had to say about storytellers:
“There were professional shanachies and poets whose duty it was to know by heart numerous old tales, poems, and historical pieces, and to recite them, at festive gatherings, for the entertainment of the chiefs and their guests…for though few could read, the knowledge and recitation of poetry and stories reached the whole body of the people. This ancient institution of story-telling held its ground both in Ireland and Scotland down to a period within living memory.”
A man who did that for a living certainly would be important. That is where my inspiration for Marty Gallagher came from.
Storytelling is not a lost art. There are organizations and even festivals. Teachers of young children and children’s librarians are storytellers. I found out firsthand that just entering a pub in Ireland will increase your chances of hearing some good tales. Most cultures have their own stories told by storytellers.
If you’d like to know how storytelling is doing today in Ireland, this link will lead you to an Irish TV program about a storytelling festival in County Kerry. http://youtu.be/Q4J15pTyZCU
When was the last time you heard a really good story told aloud?