Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Gaelic Ghosts by Sorche Nic Leodhas

The ghosts in Gaelic Ghosts by Sorche Nic Leodhas (aka LeClaire Gowans Alger) are the least frightening, most good-natured haunts you'll meet in a long time. Half the fun of Nic Leodhas' stories resides in the telling. Nic Leodhas' writes the stories as they would be told by an expert Scottish storyteller. The written brogue is natural and wry, and not so thick that it's unbelievable (if you've ever read Caleb Balderstone's dialogue in The Bride of Lammermoor, you know what unreadable brogue looks like).

Gaelic Ghosts includes about 20 woodblock illustrations by Nonny Hogrogian, but book remains fairly text-heavy, although short (110 p.).

In this collection of ten non-terrors, the task of ghosts is not so much to frighten but to correct a wrong. In "Sandy MacNeil and His Dog," "The Grateful Old Cailleach," and "The Old Laird and His Dogs" the ghosts reward and protect those they "haunt." In "The Giant Bones," "The Gambling Ghosts," "The Walking Boundary Stones," "The Lady's Loaf-field," and "The Holy Relic of Bannockburn" hauntings serve to set people back on the straight and narrow. Most of all, however, the ghosts serve as reminders not to value the past too lightly.

Gaelic Ghosts ends on the farcical tale "The House that Lacked a Bogle." My memory is that this story (or a very similar version) appeared in a Halloween issue of the children's magazine Cricket, and several online sellers are marketing Gaelic Ghosts as a children's book. I hadn't considered the book a children's collection while I was reading it, but like the best folktales, the stories in Gaelic Ghosts should amuse readers across a wide span of ages.

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