Peter Alderson Smith, W. B. Yeats and the Tribes of Danu

  • Rosalind Clark
Part of the Yeats Annual book series (YA)


W. B. Yeats and the Tribes of Danu gives the reader a thorough background in the lore of the supernatural people of Irish myth, legend and folklore. It discusses Yeats’s creative use of this material in his early poetry, demonstrating that Yeats’s work “has very deep roots in tradition and is yet intensely personal” (p. 19). The book is in three parts. Part I describes the Tuatha Dé Danaan, the most prominent supernatural race of early Irish mythology; part II examines the fairy faith of modern Irish folklore. Part III traces Yeats’s growing involvement with fairyland and the fairies in The Countess Cathleen, “The Rose”, “Stories of Red Hanrahan”, and The Wind Among the Reeds, and his unsuccessful struggle between two conceptions of the Otherworld (as fairyland and as the land of death) in The Shadowy Waters, and finally interprets selected poems from In the Seven Woods and Responsibilities, including “The Two Kings”, as showing a gradual decision to abandon fairyland and the escapism it supposedly entails.


Royal Irish Academy Primitive Race Gradual Decision Fairy Story Cold Iron 
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  1. 1.
    T. H. White, The Once and Future King (New York: Berkley Books, 1966) p. 101.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    “Fairy”, entry in Funk and Wagnall’s Standard Dictionary of Folklore, Mythology and Legend, ed. Maria Leach and Jerome Fried (New York: Funk and Wagnall, 1945–50). This dictionary lists the theories outlined by Smith and comments, “With the probable exception of the first [the theory of folk memories of the original inhabitants conquered by the present people], these theories may explain varying aspects of the fairy and fairyland. No one is sufficient to account for them all.” I am indebted to Mary F. Clark for pointing out the information in Funk and Wagnall and in Katherine Briggs’s The Vanishing People.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Rudyard Kipling, Puck of Pook’s Hill (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1906) pp. 14–15.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Lady Gregory, Gods and Fighting Men (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1904), pp. 100–1.Google Scholar
  5. 6.
    On Fairy Stories’, in J. R. R. Tolkien, Tree and Leaf (Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin, 1965). This essay contains a wealth of information relevant to Smith’s book, including a discussion of the fairies of tradition as opposed to the tiny fairies of such authors as J. M. Barrie, and theories of the origins of myth and legend which do not pretend to be more than speculation. Tolkien manages to entertain the possibility that fairies exist without sacrificing his own credibility.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rosalind Clark

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