Did you know that the leprechaun is just one of dozens of supernatural creatures that inhabit the legends and superstitions of Ireland? Irish mythology is packed with fairy folk of all kinds– mermaids & mermen, dwarves & giants, changelings, seal people, pig-faced women, and the mysterious Salmon of Knowledge. Beware the wailing banshees, the fearsome female spirits who usher in death with their high-pitched, mournful screaming. And watch out for the kelpies, too, the enchanting water horses dripping with seaweed who lure humans into the ocean and devour them—leaving only their livers to rise to the surface.
Lately there are all sorts of Celtic characters roaming teen literature. You may have seen many of these magical creatures pop up throughout the Harry Potter books. Melissa Marr’s otherworldly romance Wicked Lovely features a version of the faerie Gancanagh, who seduces women with the addictive toxins in his skin. Franny Billingsley’s bewitching novel Chime weaves a dark world of witches and swamp spirits with deep roots in Celtic mythology. You can check out a whole host of fairy folk by picking up The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, in which a girl named September finds herself on a whirlwind journey through a realm of dragon librarians, soap golems, and shape-shifting pookas.
Maggie Stiefvater (author of Shiver, Linger, and Forever) is clearly a fan of these Celtic tales. She wrote about folkloric faeries in her books Lament and Ballad, and her latest novel, The Scorpio Races, puts a new spin on the bloodthirsty water horses of Irish legend. In the book, a small island town is overtaken each year by an old tradition in which brave riders capture and race the gruesome capall uisce, or water horses. As the island prepares for the deadly races, the lives of two young riders begin to intertwine. 19 year-old Sean Kendrick has spent his life with the horses, while the slightly younger Puck is the first female rider ever to sign up for the competition. Check out a copy of The Scorpio Races to find out who survives!
If you’re in the mood to wander into the Otherworld of strange Celtic creatures, you can celebrate all things Irish this weekend by picking up one of these supernatural tales. Happy reading!