Once upon a time in Ireland...
For centuries, Irish storytellers have been crafting up tales of fairies and times almost forgotten. Also known as seanchaí (shan-a-key), these Irish storytellers traveled across Ireland to share their thrilling legends with kings and peasants alike.
Thoughts From A Storyteller
Helena Byrne, a modern day seanchaí, has traveled the world while telling tales of evil faeries and brave emigrants. Today, you can find her in the Brazen Head, Dublin’s oldest pub, giving tourists a taste of Irish folklore.
“Once you start introducing people to Irish folklore, it gives them a much better sense of who Irish people are and explains why Irish people are the way they are today,” Byrne said.
Helena Byrne shares her love of storytelling in an upstairs room at the Brazen Head pub in Dublin, Ireland.
Byrne tells Irish emigration tales and gathers her inspiration from real historical events like the Titanic or the Wild West. She also enjoys telling stories that involve fairies, who are mythical creatures that lurk around Ireland.
“The fairy folk were not Tinkerbell or anything like that,” Byrne said. “They were characters and creatures that Irish people truly believed in, and they would live their lives a certain way so as not to upset the fairy.”
Before Byrne became a full-time storyteller, she was an actress and singer. Tourists who are lucky enough can hear her sing a song or two between stories. Between acting and storytelling, Bryne said she enjoys storytelling more because it allows her to interact with the audience.
“When you’re on the stage in a play, you don’t really have much of a relationship with the audience, but when you’re telling stories, you’re looking right into people’s eyes,” Byrne said. “You can see every response and every reaction to the story coming through.”
Less than a minute into her stories, audience members are hooked. They’re laughing and participating in the storytelling experience without a care to what is happening outside the pub or on their phones. And that’s just the way Byrne likes it.
“I think it’s very important to keep Irish storytelling alive,” Byrne said. “I think, particularly in this day and age, we’re so reliant on Facebook and all these different forms of social media.”
While she said she believes social media connects people, she also said that it can disconnect people. Byrne thinks there is an opportunity for a “renaissance” in storytelling where people realize the importance of face-to-face interaction.
“There’s nothing better than having a chat with somebody face-to-face over a cup of tea or coffee,” Byrne said. “You’re not going to get that same enjoyment from messaging and texting.”
Listen to a story
Listen below to an abbreviated version of one of Bryne's stories.
Those interested in hearing one of Byrne’s enchanting tales can go to her website helenabyrne.com to find out more information on where she will be next.
Top 3 Must Dos
Since the Brazen Head Pub is located in the heart of Dublin, it's only a 10-minute drive from most places.
The Brazen Head Pub is about a 30-minute walk from most places in the city.
Pro tip: If you're walking from the east, walk along the River Liffey for some beautiful views of the water at night.
Irish Folk Tours Info
Address: 20 Lower Bridge St, The Liberties, Dublin, D08 WC64, Ireland
Phone: +353 1 218 8555
Cost: Adults - $58. 79 (€52) Student - $54. 27 (€48) Child - $32.79 (€29)