Monday, October 26, 2009

Mrs.McCool And The Giant Cuhullin - An Irish Tale

TITLE: Mrs.McCool and the Giant Cuhullin
PUBLISHER: Henry Holt and Company
AGES: Good for "Read Aloud" and "Read it Yourself".

The joy of folktales is something that we recently discovered at our home. Stepping aside from classics and contemporary humor , we seem to embrace folktales, quite effortlessly. The book that I have with me is an Irish folklore, bearing a tale very similar to the ones that were orally passed on to me while I was growing up.

The central characters in this tale are legendary giants Cuhullin and Finn McCool. Mrs. Oona McCool is the one with the brains and quite intuitively, also the one to save her husband oftentimes from Cuhullin. Now, Cuhullin has a magic finger that makes him strong and Finn has a magic thumb that bestows upon him, the power to foresee things. Finn uses his magic thumb and announces (in jitters of course) the impending arrival of Cuhullin. Mrs.McCool to the rescue! A simple story you think, buckle up for a good dose of slapstick humor! Children will be laughing boisterously as they see fun illustrations and hear goofy dialogues.

Mrs.McCool is quick witted. She drops Finn with a bonnet in a cradle and welcomes Cuhullin for tea. She makes unreasonable, rather unrealistic (not that there is realism to worry here) requests that demand extreme brawn from Cuhullin. And this she does, so nonchalantly that Cuhullin is led to believe that the tasks are all a routine in the McCool household. Just look at the front cover - there is Cuhullin trying to lift the house so Oona can broom off the dust underneath! Here is also a sample of silliness to taste - "Goodness!" exclaimed Cuhullin. "Look at the size of him! Look at the moustache! If this is the baby, what must Finn be like?" , as Cuhullin mistakes Finn for a real baby. He also ends up sticking his finger in the "baby's" mouth, only to have his magic finger bitten off! Petrified, the shrinking Cuhullin runs amok, leaving a cheery couple dancing!

"It was nothing, dear Finn," said Oona."Big is Big. But brains are better!" . Probably the profound truth that this story intended to convey to little children and just as the message drives home, you are still not really far from the jocund moments. The magic of folktales it is. Loony and wacky, oh yeah! But did you also realize the feminist undercurrent, the portrayal of the woman endowed with brainpower, the one to thwart a giant - amazing to think of it when there is still so much gripe in contemporary children's literature about the roles women or girls are given! Quick paced with bright collage like illustrations, this book is wonderful to be read aloud to children!

There is never enough said about folktales. Flavorful, informative and historic, with so much room for imagination. These hand me downs from wonderful storytellers, sometimes didactic and sometimes just for laughs. Timeless.


Poppins said...

LOL that was a cute twist :) I like the feminist undertones especially :p

Nice review

sathish said...


Choxbox said...

Echoing Poppy!

Praba Ram said...

A bubbly review on a very funny folktale! A fantastic female heroine, indeed! :-)

Stories involving giants, always fun to read to little ones!

Wonder why the two giants Cuhullin and Finn, have the same last name McCool, like the couple. I think I know why...of course, the giants are Oana's husband's side relatives? LOL!!! :-)

Choxbox said...

Also, fwding this to my Irish pal S. Bet she'll love it!

Anusha said...

:) would love to read out the goofy dialogues. a fun find, Meera!

Meera Sriram said...

Poppins, Sathish, Choxbox -:)-ing back at you! Kodi's mom, you are sure to hear lots of giggles! Praba, they do NOT have the last names - Cuhullin is just Cuhullin. Finn and Oona, the couple. You seem to be adding a different type of twist here:)))

Praba Ram said...

ok - got it, M!

so - they are all giants.. the husband one giant running away from another, right? got it!! :-)

obviously, very confused with the three names...In fact, I wanted to ask you, what's the husband's name? hilarious indeed! :-)

Sheela said...

echoing choxbox echoing poppy :)

Funny! I must check it out!

Meera, I see what you mean when you said it in Love and Roast Chicken - we are folktales fans at home - adults primarily, and now the 4-yr-old who has so many "Why?"s that are hard to answer :)

So, did you try to read with an Irish accent too? That should be a hoot! D likes to do accents at home - does it pretty well :)

darn - i should've asked him for some Welsh folktales and kids books for the fest - makes it difficult when he is just a motion-blur in the house :)

Meera Sriram said...

May be I should have been clearer and isolated the names:)
Yes Sheela:) I don't think I can pull off an Irish one. My daughter who loves identifying accents might like it though. We do a British one whenever we have pretend tea-parties:)

utbtkids said...

My goodness, what a riot this sounds like :)

Sheela said...

Meera, had to drop a note: For a good 2 weeks in October, Ana chose to read this book to herself at bedtime every night! Laughing merrily at the "silly giant Finn looking like baby with his huge mustache", wondering, "Oona looks normal-size like us, but why did she marry Finn who is a giant?"... stating, "Oona just tricked Cuhullin, but maybe he will come back when he realizes that she tricked him"...

It was quite entertaining to hear her talk about this book endlessly! Thanks for pointing us to this one :)

Meera Sriram said...

Valid question Ana:) Glad to know this Sheela!

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