• Ali Isaac

Irish Mythology & the Movies

Updated: Nov 13, 2020

Apparently, Hugh Jackman of Wolverine fame will be bringing Irish Mythology to the big screen. You might think I would be happy about that.

It seems that the Wolverine character has Irish blood. As a result of that, he is coming to Ireland in search of his heritage, and Mr Jackman thinks it’s a good idea to include Cuchullain and Fionn mac Cumhaill in his supporting cast.

Jackman is reported as saying, “A friend of mine from Ireland gave me a book of them (Irish legends), and Cuchullain and those stories, they’re amazing.”

Well, thanks! Glad someone noticed.

Needless to say, Irish media is in a fawning frenzy all over the poor guy. I’m sure the making of part of a blockbuster Hollywood movie would bring a lot of revenue to Ireland, and heaven knows, we could do with it.

I have always wanted to bring the wonders of Irish mythology to a new audience, to keep it alive. But not this way, not by cheapening our two greatest mythological heroes as Wolverine’s sidekicks in a trashy X-men movie.

Don’t get me wrong; I have no problem with adapting the old stories into modern ones which speak to the youth of today. Even the seanchaí of old did that, when tales were spoken rather than written down. But at least do so with respect.

Some movie-makers have done just that. Ondine is a beautiful, powerful, emotional movie based on Irish folklore, which I highly recommend.

Ondine was filmed in Castletownbere in 2009, and is an Irish romantic drama directed and written by Neil Jordan, starring Colin Farrell and Alicja Bachleda. This film explores the selkie myth.

Interestingly, out of all the movies made since 1948 based on Irish mythology (there are 24 of them), 3 are about fairies, 1 about ghosts, 6 about selkies, and 12 about leprechauns. Only 1 was about Fionn mac Cumhaill.

Leprechauns! Is that really the best we can do? Is that what the outside world really thinks of us, when it thinks about Ireland?

Our heritage tells of the adventures and exploits of the Tuatha de Danann, the tall red-headed folk with magical powers, upon whom Tolkien based his elven races. George Lucas’s Sith in the Star Wars series is just another spelling of the Sidhe, Ireland’s fairy folk descended from the Tuatha de Danann.

We have Gods, Kings, warriors, lovers, druids, epic battles, magic, tragedy, shape-shifters, sea voyages, mysterious other worlds, you name it, we got it, and yet half our movies involved Leprechauns.

This year’s movie, Song of the Sea, is yet another based on the selkie. Whilst undeniably beautiful, disappointingly, it’s hardly original.

So come on you movie-makers! There’s more to Irish mythology than selkies, fairies and leprechauns. If you’re not sure. I can point you in the right direction to stories which will thrill and enthral your viewers all around the world.

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