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The Crock of Gold
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The Crock of Gold

4.09 of 5 stars 4.09  ·  rating details  ·  339 ratings  ·  48 reviews
When their hidden gold is stolen, the leprechauns of Gort na Cloca seek revenge from local villagers. Captivating, unique fantasy, written by one of modern Ireland’s best-loved authors, abounds with bizarre adventures, curious characters, and weird sights. A wise and beautiful fairy tale for grown–ups, "full of sympathy and tenderness and sly satire, of merriment and of po ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published November 30th 2011 by Dover Publications (first published 1912)
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Elizabeth Clemens
I first started reading Stephens when I was studying in Ireland- this book is by far his best. You would do well to be familiar with Irish Mythology and his contemporary writers to understand a lot of the humor, as he pokes fun at both throughout the book. Like any book, you can read it on different levels and put it into different contexts, but at its base, The Crock of Gold is a really delightful fantasy/adventure that will make you wonder why Stephens is not more well known.

I love these passages:
"A thought is a real thing and words are only its raiment, but a thought is as shy as a virgin; unless it is fittingly aparelled we may not look on its shadowy nakedness: it will fly from us and only return again in the darkness crying in a thin, childish voice which we may not comprehend until, with aching wings, listening and divining, we at last fashion for it those symbols which are its protection and its banner." (p. 39)

"Why should thought be apparent to us, so insiste
Molly G
Picked it up at a garage sale because it looked magical, and indeed it was. Funny and lovely and unpretentious, flipping between lyrically wise and hysterically judgmental (would be offensive, e.g. on gender analyses, if the passages weren't clearly in character and deliberate, and were later evened out perfectly by flipping condemnation to the opposite party, and/or by developing into genuinely sage points). Loved the treatment of issues and philosophies, loved the internal seemingly digressive ...more
I listed this book although I don't own a copy now. I read it at my college library, perhaps out of curiosity piqued by its small hardbound copy, old and classical-looking, or maybe by the opening lines quoted here in Goodreads, which I have completely forgotten. But although I've forgotten the words, the magical glow of the experience of reading it comes back anytime I think of the book itself. And the sad part was I never read anything else of James Stephens since then. It was also the time wh ...more
J.M. Hushour
Written almost a century ago, but far surpassing in wit, poetry, and sublimation pretty much almost anything written since then. The Leprecauns of Gort na Cloca have their pot of gold stolen and for revenge kidnap the Philosophers' children Seamus and Brigid which sets into motion a series of events involving Angus Og, the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath, Pan, the fairy folk of the Shee, and the wise and profound musings of all involved. Tolkien meets Musil, and thus they steal "even the Intellect of ...more
Steve Morrison
A really wonderful, unique book that I was lucky to discover. Stephens was James Joyce's appointee to finish the monumental Finnegans Wake in the event that Joyce was unable to do so. The book reminded me a bit of The Wind in the Willows--it seemed that several charming novels were happening at the same time. The plot (inasmuch as there is a central plot) hinges around philosophers and leprechauns, by the way. Utterly delightful.
Found an ancient copy of this book in Portland Oregon at Powells book store and what a find. A delightful story and storytelling. Full of wit and satire. Usually a book written during this time period is challenging to read but not so with Crock of Gold.
This book changed my view on life.
With a recommendation like this from the genius that is Tom Robbins:

"Are you familiar with James Stephens and his amazing book, "The Crock of Gold"? The Harry Potter books are ABOUT magic, "The Crock of Gold" IS magic."

How could I refuse, so my last read was this magical book. It was perfect for me right from the outset - I love trees, I love magic, I love wisdom and I love Pan whom I first encountered in Tom's very own book 'Jitterbug Perfume' (another classic!) all of which are to be found wit
William Korn
This has got to be the most delightful, warm, funny, and philosophical Irish fairy tale ever written. It concerns two Philosophers, their wives (women of the Sidhe, or "Shee"), their children, and how their affairs become intertwined with a band of Leprechauns. The conflict grows and spreads until the the "real" Ireland of the early 20th century is pitted against all of Faerie. To add to the joyous confusion a foreign God invades the Irish uplands, contending with the a Great One of Faerie, Angu ...more
Red Fox
What a great imaginative tale; funny and absurd.

I wish I'd had this book as a child but I am glad that it found its way to my life at last.
Darrell Madis
Very entertaining, poetic with a lot of humor.
What a wonderful book. Great stuff.

This turn-of-the-(19th) century volume is written in the bright and fanciful style that we now associate with E. B. White or the fantastic stories of Jack Vance (but without the deliciously chilling glimpses of horror that you get from Vance).

With a book like this, the joy is all in the language rather than in the plot, which, such as it is, involves hermit philosophers and their difficult wives, leprechauns, the gods Pan (visiting Ireland) and Angus Og (living there), and the Irish village poli
An intriguing blend of Irish folklore, philosophy and poetic thoughts, this novel was a very interesting read. On the one hand, I was very taken by it's atmosphere and the straightforward whimsy of the characters and their issues. I am not very familiar with Irish folklore and I wonder if that would have helped me appreciate this story better, as I did find it a little too leisurely in pace, and sometimes the characters seemed unsympathetically ridiculous. Although the writing is beautiful it is ...more
Among his other work, James Stephens, a contemporary and friend of James Joyce, turned his writing skills towards the retelling of classic Irish folk tales.

An early-20th-century copy of this book was in a batch of books destined for recycling at a local 2nd-hand bookseller - & was immediately rescued by my daughter so that she could use the illustrations in her artwork. Once we began reading the text, however, it became clear that this is an absolutely brilliant literary gem of incredibly a
An Irish fairy tale that is at times deep, dense, diverse -- and can be quite funny. The plot is fairly simple, and the theme can be condensed to "Don't Mess With Leprecauns". But the book takes a path that is anything but direct, with philosophical essays and stories-within-the-story.

Stephens was a poet and it shows in his prose, with paragraphs that are quite lyrical and poetic. Sometimes the philosophical "tangents" get a bit dense -- similar to Melville and Conrad, but with a decidedly Iris
Exceptional. A masterfully crafted tale. Philosophical, spiritual, magical. Certainly one to add to my list of all-time-favorites!
Meehawl MacMurrachu's old skinny cat kills a robin redbreast on the roof one day, forging the first link in a long, peculiar chain of events. For the robin redbreast is the particular bird of the Leprecauns of Gort na Gloca Mora, and the Leprecauns retaliate by stealing Meehawl MacMurrachu's wife's washing-board, and Meehawl asks the Philosopher who lives in the center of the pine wood called Coilla Doraca for advice in locating the washboard...and the chain leads on and on, up to Angus Og himse ...more
There's some fine prose in here from Stephens, and a good deal of wisdom and humor about philosophy, myth, and how to live, but Stephens loses interest in the story he is telling as he goes along, and by the end he has abandoned it altogether for some kind of apotheosis, which it's difficult to credit from a storytelling standpoint, and altogether false from the standpoint of fairy stories. Characters have to have changed utterly, not necessarily for the better, from their contact with the fairi ...more
Jason Downey
This is a witty story that reads, for large swaths, like someone telling you a story over a campfire. Very unselfconscious; very unconcerned with prosaic acrobatics. It's got a plot, and it's charming and entertaining enough, but the plot is threaded through with long conversations that are really fun reading. I highlighted more passages in this book than any other I've ever read, and nearly all of the passages were inconsequential--it was just full of fun sentences and sayings that I want to re ...more
James Stephens was part of the Irish cultural revival around and after the turn of the 20th century. In this sublime modern folk tale, the Greek god Pan comes to Ireland and shacks up with a local farmgirl in a cave, the inadvertent killing of a robin redbreast triggers retaliation by leprachauns, a philosopher engages in hysterical dialog with policemen by night as they bring him in for murder, the "murder" is really just suicide by spinning-in-circles, and your stir-about is on the hob.
Despite the extremely charming narrator (audiobook), I found it really hard to focus on this one. Listened to it while biking and kept realizing that I'd gone a far bit but had tuned out the story.

That said, the parts I was able to focus on were also charming. :P Lots of little bits of wisdom packed into this smattering of folk tales that were at once distinct, but all part of a greater story.
Fiaba per "adulti" in pieno stile irlandese: ci sono esseri e divinità delle leggende, e tante, tante meravigliose assurdità! Ma, soprattutto, si parla della vita, l'universo e tutto quanto, e lo si fa attraverso gli occhi del Filosofo e di tutti coloro che incontrerà nel suo cammino. Consigliato a chi volesse riscoprire il vero gusto della vita (ma anche a tutti gli altri!).
T P Kennedy
Not for me though I'm sure that second generation Irish would love this. It's a mix of Irish mythology (not particularly well told), whimsy and story telling in a high edwardian style. It's not kiltarten but it's not as philosophical as it would like to be either. There's some great language and some good aphorisms present but it doesn't knit together.
Kevin Coady
Fanciful, intelligent,funny and strange. I was told that Stephens was James Joyce's favorite author. Do not know if it is true but I understand how he could be. "And she didn't go with him for love, nor because she understood the words he said, but because he was naked and unashamed."
Yes folks, it is that kind of wondrous writing.
Philosophical story featuring leprechauns, policemen and the Great God Pan. Funny, occasionally depressing and very thoughtful. The leprechaun story elements seem a little confused and some of the descriptive or philosophical passages can be a bit long. However i REALLY enjoyed this one and tore through it very quickly.
The funniest book I've ever read. The end.
The audiobook started out okay, but I soon learned that this wasn't a book to be listened to, but needed the printed word on the page. It was too easy to get distracted by 'the pictures in my head' and I'd have to keep backtracking to listen to what I missed.

Most likely it's not the book's fault. :-)
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James Stephens was an Irish novelist and poet. James' mother worked in the home of the Collins family of Dublin and was adopted by them. He attended school with his adopted brothers Thomas and Richard (Tom and Dick) before graduating as a solicitor's clerk. They competed and won several athletic competitions despite James' slight stature (he stood 4'10" in his socks). He was known affectionately a ...more
More about James Stephens...
Traditional Irish Fairy Tales The Charwoman's Daughter The Insurrection in Dublin The Demi-gods Deirdre

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“What the heart knows today the head will understand tomorrow” 9 likes
“It has occurred to me, brother, that wisdom may not be the end to everything. Goodness and kindness are, perhaps, beyond wisdom. Is it not possible that the ultimate end is music and gaiety and a dance of joy? Wisdom is the oldest of all things. Wisdom is all head and no heart.Behold, brother, you are being crushed under the weight of your head. You are dying of old age while you are yet a child.” 5 likes
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