The Monk of Moscow

In March of last year, Crusheen folklorist and story teller Eddie Lenihan travelled to Russia, to see how his work was being used to teach students in the University of Moscow. The trip was an interesting, if cold, experience and the start of the chain of events that could now see his work translated into numerous languages and shared right around the world.
“I had some very funny experiences in Russia. It was very good over all. I had a few minders with me – not minders in the bad sense but people who helped me with the language and understanding the signs,” said Eddie
“I found it very odd that when I would be getting on the subway, people would be getting up for me – even old people. I though it was very strange because normally you would get up for old people. So I would be gesturing at them to sit down with my hands.
“After a while I got the nudge from my minders who said that I shouldn’t do that. I didn’t understand it but they told me that the people thought that I was a priest because of the beard, and some people even thought I was a monk because of the long hair. So they would automatically get up for you. The Russians are very religious, especially the older people and Communism only reinforced that.
“It [the Russian trip] all came about when I found out that my book ‘Meeting the Other Crowd’ is now being studied in Moscow University, which is a great thing to think that Irish storytellers are being studies over in Moscow. It was amazing, I met Russians over there who could play Irish tunes on the fiddle and could speak Irish. Russians that could put us to shame.
While in Russia, Eddie also had a brush with one of the darker figures of Russian history, when he stayed in the house of Lavrentiy Beria, the head of Stalin’s secret police.
“It was a very interesting trip. I stayed in the house of Beria – Stalin’s secret policeman. He was a man who murdered millions and was a sinister character. The woman of the house, her grandfather was a general in the red army and his cap was still hanging on the wall,” continued Eddie.
“I studied some of the Russian folk stories while I was over there and they are very similar to ours. I think that is possibly why they became interested in my book ‘Meeting the Other Crowd’.”
A number of Eddie’s books on Irish folklore and notable Irish people, like Biddy Early, are currently being translated into a variety of different languages, with Irish folk tales soon to graces the shelves in Japan and China.
“My fairy book ‘Meeting the Other Crowd’, will come out in Japanese in July. You just don’t know where these stories are going to go. The hardback book, ‘Irish Tales of Mystery and Magic’, is looking like it will come out in China later this year. One of the stories in that book is ‘Fionn mac Cumhaill and the Feathers from China’ and I think that is where the interest comes from. China is a big market and you just don’t know where the stories will go,” said Eddie.
“I am also working on a new book of Fionn mac Cumhaill stories. The book will have the funny title of ‘Foreign Irish Tales for Children’. The book is about the adventures that Fionn mac Cumhaill had in foreign lands, becuase he is a man that travelled to the four corners of the earth.
“There has also been a lot of requests for the Biddy Early book, which is out of print at the moment. Just last week I spoke to a man who would like to bring out an Italian translation of the book. A publishing house in Italy want to do an Italian print run, but we have to wait until the ninth edition is reprinted in English, which is supposed to happen next month.
Eddie has been nominated as one of 168 artists from all over the world for the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award. The awards, which this year features shortlisted entrants from 39 countries, comes with a first prize of 5 million Swedish Krona (or €569,675).
“I can’t tell you how I got nominated because the Astrid Lindgren people let you know if you have been nominated or not. You have no idea who nominated you. You don’t put yourself forward or anything like that,” said Eddie.
“It’s a great honour to be put forward alongside the likes of Terry Pratchett and people like that. Your chances of winning it with 168 people nominated is small enough but it’s great to be just in consideration.
“All you can do is send them on information about yourself and your work in the hope that it might help them to make a decision. After that then they will either call or they won’t.
“I can tell you if I was to be the winner I would put the money back into the work that I have always been doing. I wouldn’t be buying a big car or going on a fancy holiday; it would all go back into the research that I have always been doing.”


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