Example of Folktale: Will-o’-the-wisp

The following tale is, notably, associated with the Will-o’-the-wisp, a light seen over boggy and marshy places in Ireland and Britain.

In many accounts recorded in the National Folklore Collection, the Will-o’-the-wisp is said to lead people astray, and the tradition may have been associated with real incidents of people going missing on bogs, or bodies found in bogs, as recorded in the following legends from the National Folklore Collection: Jacky the Lantern.


1.       There was a man long ago, he was going home from Cill Cilan. When he was going home it was dark [and he] saw a light and he thought it was coming from his house. He followed the light, and he was following the light till the morning. It was Jacky the Lantern. He puts people astray.

NFC 347: 520. Sráid Bhaile, Déise, Co. Wexford. Summarised from Irish. Collected by Nioclás Breathnach, a full-time collector from Coill Mhic Thomáisín, Dungarvan, Co. Wexford, on June 9, 1937, from Mrs. Uí Chadla, Baile na Bánóg, Co. Wexford.


2.       I was over at Connor’s house late one night and when I was coming home I saw the light away from me. I thought it was the light in the house here.

‘What the devil is on her to be up at this hour of the night,’ says I in my own mind.

It was very late at the time when I was crossing the field, The Rabs the field is called. Well I was wandering around all night and couldn’t find the ditch, and it was half past four in the morning when I got home. After wandering around for a long time I sat down and then I found my way. When I got in home the wife told me that there was no light lighting in the house since nine o’clock that night.

- NFC 107: 414 -5. Collected by Tómas Ó Ciardha, a part-time collector from Cill-Úird, Co. Cork, May 1935, from Johnny Pinder, Scar, Dúnchormaic, barony of Bargy, Co. Wexford. The information refers to Co. Wexford.


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