May 29th, 2010 • Travel Stories
Although we flew in and out of Dublin, we were more interested in exploring the Irish country-side and so didn’t allot more than half a day to walk around Dublin. The traffic was nuts – we managed to park our car two blocks from the Temple Bar neighborhood. We intended to cover as much of the City Center area as we could and marched into a brisk walk, stopping briefly to awe at interesting sights.
As it would happen, a strange little green sign for the “National Leprechaun Museum” caught my fancy. Even though we were short on time, we decided to follow the signs. Ten blocks down, we ended up at the museum. We were so curious about what such a museum could possibly have, that we bought the tickets! Absolutely unsure of what to expect, we walked inside with a group of Italians, Norwegians and a woman from North Carolina.
So turns out, it is not so much a museum as it is an interactive thesis on the storytelling tradition of the Irish. Our introduction to the museum began with a brief history of the leprechaun and its place in Irish stories and fantasies. As we traced the origins of the little green men, we learned a lot about the Irish penchant for storytelling and weaving tales. We also learned how the Irish bought the leprechaun stories to America and were shocked a few decades later when America packaged and exported back the leprechauns to Ireland in form of Simpons (the Leprechaun episode) and drawings on boxes of cereal. Cultural trade!
We also learned why storytelling is at the core of Irish culture. With its tumultuous history, the Irish often have had nothing but stories and tales and conversations to carry forward and pass on to the next generations. The magic, wonder and imagination is the gift they pass on – and evident in Ireland’s rich literary legacy. (Ireland is the only country that has three noble laureates in literature)
Anyways, so this exhibit was the brainchild of a local Dublin architect, Tom O’Rahilly. From what I was told, Tom is obsessed with storytelling and wanted to create a fun, experiential way to experience Irish stories. And boy, did he!
The museum has twelve rooms that you are free to explore, take pictures and play around in. Each room offers a very interesting perspective of dimension, color, story and play. There’s the Giant’s Causeway, the Tunnel (an important symbol in fantasy storytelling!) Life-sized furniture straight from Alice’s Wonderland, A room with a hundred thousand Rainbow colors, and a Wishing well room.
The Wishing well was one of my favorite rooms because we literally sat on the ledge of a largish well and peered down at the leprechaun gold (fake gold!) as a young literature student from Trinity College regaled us with Irish stories. I have fond memories of this kid – he was incredibly engaged and so intelligent. He weaved in stories from his own childhood and made our listening experience even richer. The room itself is a little dark and warm – exactly the kind of room that makes you want to curl up and listen to stories with a fire crackling nearby.
At the end of the museum is a place to chill, make drawings and read more about the rich Irish tradition of stories, faeries and leprechauns. We left our drawing on the wall – so who knows, maybe if you visit the museum, you might see our little drawing in its archives.
Storytelling is my passion as well. I wish I could do it as well as others but I try, in my little ways. Maybe that’s why this particular visit has so profoundly affected me. I can tell you one thing for sure, I’ll be courting Ireland and its stories for a long, long time to come.