Thursday, 3 November 2016

'Kelpie'

Today's story from Michael Eisele's first collection, The Girl with the Peacock Harp, features a relatively neglected being from Celtic folklore. I've always like the Kelpie, or water-horse. (One of the many Loch Ness investigations was named Project Water Horse.) Depending on which source you read the kelpie can be bad news, but in some cases it is benevolent.

The kelpie's ambiguous nature is evoked in this story, which is set in an Ireland not known to history. This is an land where witches are ducked in ponds and the Witchfinder General (a very English, Puritan concept that never crossed the Irish Sea) strikes terror into humble peasant folk.

Young Dara is known to be a girl with strange powers, but she survives ducking by an apparent miracle. Dara has some mystical link to the element of water, and enjoys the protection of the nuns at what appears to be a Catholic sanctuary. However, all is not quite as it seems.

This story shines when Eisele describes the emergence of the kelpie, and the way in which Dara tries to harness the elemental being. There is a poetic feeling of liberation as the put-upon girl rides away, and a coda that suggests her future will be even stranger than her past and present.

Another story reviewed in miniature tomorrow!

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