Wednesday, March 16, 2016

St. Patrick's Day Fun: Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Darby O'Gill and The Little People was released in 1959. I remember be taken to it as a four or five year old in the 1960's for a movie matinee and being so scared when the pooka scene came on, and crying so loudly that my older sister had to take me out of the movie theater. She was a teen, and was not very happy with me for ruining her Saturday at the matinee.

Well, since then, I've gotten over that childish fear, and this movie is one of my all time favorites for St. Patrick's Day. To see my other favorite movie, go here Luck of the Irish

In Darby O'Gill, Sean Connery plays an Irish caretaker to an estate in Rathcullen in what appears to be an early 20th century time. Mostly horses and wagons for transportation. Connery's character is not the main character, however.

Darby O'Gill is an aging caretaker to an estate in Rathcullen. The owner of the estate decides to hire a younger caretaker and pension Darby off at half pay. Darby is upset. He's not the best caretaker, to be honest. He spends most of his time in the pub drinking and telling stories about his encounters with the little people. He has tried to capture one for some time, and succeeds. But, when he opens the bag in the pub to show his companions, he finds that King Brian has turned himself into a rabbit, and so everyone thinks he's just a deluded old fool. Darby has a daughter, Katie, and he doesn't want Katie to know he's losing his job because he's ashamed. This means they have to move out of the cottage they live in as well.

Darby's replacement arrives, a handsome Dubliner named Michael (Sean Connery).  Darby begs Micheal to not tell his daughter Katie that he's being replaced.  Michael agrees for the time being.

Meanwhile, the King of the Lephrechauns, Brian, kidnaps Darby. He's taken to the inside of a mountain and held as a guest of the little people. There is gold beyond imagination there, feasting and song. It seems a paradise, except for one thing, Darby can never return home. He soon tires of this and misses his daughter Katie. So, he begs the King so set him free. King Brian warns him that if he did so, others of the little people might be tempted to take their ire out on his daughter, Katie. Legend says that once someone is kidnapped by the little people, they can never go home.

Darby is a clever old fellow. He plays a song on the violin during a feast for the lephrechauns, stirring them up with a song of the hunt that makes them wish to leave the inside of the mountain and go out riding on the hunt. The mountain opens, and Darby escapes.

Darby in King Brian's lair inside the mountain

Michael and Katie have been having a little romance. They go about exploring the countryside together, having fun. Michael (Sean Connery) sings to her, and they sing a cute song together  "She's my dear, my darling one, my smiling and beguiling one, no other, no other, can match the likes of her!"  My husband and I still sing it together today, it's catchy!
Sean Connery as Micheal, Janet Munro as Katie

So, handsome Michael is the romantic lead, and also a problem character for the main protagonist, Darby. He's younger, and has taken over Darby's job.  Katie has a temper, and she and Michael end up sparring words. The lephrechaun's do their mischief against Darby by making Katie severely ill with a fever. The coiste-bodhar (the death coach) and the banshee make their appearance. Darby tries to bargain with the little people for Katie's life.  Of course, once Katie recovers, Michael and Katie have a happily ever after.

This movie is fun, romantic, and PG. It's something kids can enough along with their parents. Granted, CGI had not been created at the time so the graphics might seem cheesy, but it is a treasure from the Disney vault and worth the effort to find. The little people are played by real people, not just special effects creations.

The movie is based on two books by Hermione Templeton Kavanagh;  Darby O'Gill and the Good People,  and Of Ashes and Old Wishes and Other Darby O'Gill Tales.  The movie, of course, takes a few liberties with the books, but that is to be expected when books become films.

Two things I have to say about the folklore:

  • The term 'little people' actually is used for the fey folk, fairies, not lephrechauns true Irish folklore, so in this film I see a blending of Lephrechaun lore and Fairy lore.  Lephrechauns were little shoemakers who hoard gold.  Fairies lived inside of mountains, and were known to kidnap humans in lore. They (fairies) were often called the 'Other Folk' or Other Crowd by the Irish.  
  • For a discussion on The Other Crowd and reference to a good book on the subject, see this post Fairy Magic, have you met any of the good folk?
  • The idea of lephrechauns living in the mountains and taking on the characteristics of the fey is troublesome if you actually know Irish folklore. The fairies and the lephrechauns of legend are two very different types of magical beings. 
That said, there is still a lot to enjoy in this very old movie that celebrates Ireland. Enjoy the trailer below: 

If you are looking for an Irish Romance in books, I am offering my two historical romance novels for free on St. Patrick's Day.  This offer is one day only, March 17th, 2016

Some Enchanted Waltz, a full length historical romance featuring an Irish rebel as a hero in 1798. 

Bright Scoundrel, a full length historical romance featuring an Irish rake returning to his ancestral home to find it full of ghosts and dark creatures. 

Thanks for visiting my blog, and have a Happy St. Patrick's Day!  

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