Anti-Traveller prejudice: The narrative within the Irish imaginary

Mícheál Ó hAodha

in ‘Insubordinate Irish’

Published by Manchester University Press

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780719083044
Published online July 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781781702437 | DOI:
Anti-Traveller prejudice: The narrative within the Irish imaginary

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This chapter describes the influence of folktales in the Irish tradition, and their influence on popular beliefs and attitudes regarding Irish Travellers, also making links to similar folktales as they exist in the European tradition. The folktales discussed here are tales that are referred to as the ‘Nail’, ‘Pin’ and ‘Bar of Gold’ tales. The Traveller is accused of inhospitality and a lack of courtesy in the ‘Pin’ legend. The ‘Bar of Gold’ legend depicts the Traveller as an untrustworthy good-for-nothing who is always capable of sharp practice, while the ‘Nail’ legend accuses the Traveller of complicity in the worst crime anyone can commit: deicide. These narratives undoubtedly had a certain psychological power for their audience. Travellers are the instigators of a powerful form of symbolic inversion in which their ‘Other’ status is shown to be a disguise for their function as ‘holy people’ or shamans.

Keywords: Irish Travellers; Pin legend; Bar of Gold; Nail legend; Irish tradition; folktales

Chapter.  20304 words. 

Subjects: Sociology

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