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Fairies, flutes and flowers...

July 09, 2015 by Nora Nagy

Lusmore and the Fairies - an Irish folktale

What are the first things that come to your mind when you think of Ireland and Irish folktales? Green fields, quaint villages, enchanting music and when it comes to folktales, there has to be at least one fairy among the characters. Lusmore is a well-known folktale about how a deformed man is rewarded for his kindness, it is also a profound reflection on the power of music. Let's preview this version for young learners retold by Richard Northcott and illustrated by Michele Rocchetti. 

The reader is recommended for young learners who are learning about the narrative tenses. The story is packed with action verbs, vocabulary to talk about music, nature, the days of the week and feelings. Although it is a level e Young Reader, we recommend it to younger and older readers, too. Since the reader has full page illustrations, lower level and younger readers can first use it as a picture book. Older and higher level readers will enjoy an Irish folk tale, and they will love the illustrations.

Who is Lusmore? What is his story?

The story of Lusmore is an excellent example of the intriguing and ever-changing life of fairy tales. When you start researching this tale, you will come across a number of versions, each with different titles and running at different lengths. Start with the story of Lusmore with your young learners today, and they will feel comfortable and fascinated when they open an edition of Fairy and Folk Tales of the Irish Peasantry edited by W. B. Yeats. There you can read Lusmore's story under title The Legend of Knockgrafton retold by T. Crofton Crocker, and you can even find a short piece of music on this website.

Here is the plot without any spoilers. Lusmore lives in a small village in Ireland. He has a big hump on his back and people laugh at him and say bad things. Lusmore is sad. One evening Lusmore is coming home from the market when he hears the fairies singing. What happens when Lusmore joins in? And how do the fairies change Lusmore’s life forever?

Double page from Lusmore and the Fairies, retold by Richrad Northcott and illustrated by Michele Rocchetti. © Helbling Languages

Nature, time and music

Nature appears right in the title as lusmore comes from the Irish word for 'foxglove', a name already reminding us of fairy tales. In The Natural World in Celtic Mythology: A Bitesize Introduction we can read about this flower. 'The Irish name for the poisonous foxglove literally means 'fairy fingers'; the Hiberno-English name for this flower, lusmore, means great herb. Our friend, Lusmore got his name because he always wears a flower in his straw hat.

Time also has a significant role in this tale. Magic and transformation happen at night, when the fairies start singing in the countryside. Lusmore goes inside the hill as if he was going into deep sleep, and by the morning, when he wakes up, magic has already happened. We can chant the days of the week with Lusmore and the fairies to have a sense of time passing in this timeless story.

Music is present all through the story. First there is singing, then there is chanting, and when Lusmore goes underground, we can hear the beautiful music of the fairies. There are flutes, fiddles and even dancing. It is music that brings about the magic in the story, and music that makes the fairies angry, too. The power of music in Irish folktales should never be underestimated.

Reading the story of Lusmore with young learners

How can this story work best for young learners? Start by exploring the illustrations, and then move onto the Play Station activities before the book. Read the story slowly, get lost in the details on the images, and discuss the questions on each double pages. The Play Station activities will let you revisit the language of the story, and don't forget to learn the chant on page 29. The Play Station Project will help you to make connections and place the story in a greater context by learning about Ireland.

Have you read or heard about a different version of the story of Lusmore? Do you have similar transformation stories in your own culture? Share your stories with us.

Want to know more about the illustrations in this book?

Read more about Helbling Young Readers and folk tales here.

Check out the Helbling Young Readers series and explore the resources. You can download the free guide 'How to help your child to read in English' with lots of practical ideas.

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