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The Crock of Gold (Revised Edition)

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  627 ratings  ·  92 reviews
Truly unique, it is a mixture of philosophy, Irish folklore and the battle of the sexes all with charm, humour and good grace. The Crock of Gold contains 6 books: Book 1 – The Coming of Pan, Book 2 – The Philosophers Journey, Book 3 – The Two Gods, Book 4 – The Philosophers Return, Book 5 – The Policemen, and Book 6 – The Thin Woman's Journey. All rotate around the ...more
Paperback, 116 pages
Published September 27th 2006 by Echo Library (first published 1912)
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Elizabeth Clemens
Sep 19, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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.

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
Mar 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
J.M. Hushour
Feb 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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 ...more
Aug 15, 2015 rated it really liked it
It's easy to see after reading the Crock of Gold where Flann O"Brien spent his formative years. Aside from the pub, I mean, or in addition to it. Which is to say, in between the lines of a book wherein forest philosophers (and their long suffering wives) consider carefully the mystery of lost washboards, pursue recalcitrant leprechauns, seek redress from the ancient Angus Og, and finally battle wits with policemen. Though perhaps "wits" is overstating it. They are policemen, after all. (Sans ...more
Nov 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a hard book to describe. The plot, as much as there is one, involve two philosophers, a bunch of leprechauns, a crock of gold, two gods and police who can’t be bothered to investigate. It is a rambling book, where characters come and go as the author seemingly gets tired of them. The plot takes a backseat to philosophical conversations in which whatever character the philosopher meets will put their world outlook and it he will ignore them and put out his own (usually after they ask him ...more
Mar 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
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
Steve Morrison
Sep 16, 2014 rated it it was amazing
A wondrous and delightfully odd little fantasy with leprechauns, philosophers, and gods. It reminds me a bit of the experience of reading The Wind In The Willows, because it is a book that refuses to settle on being only one thing. From section to section the book continually reinvents itself, while always remaining constant in its gentle charming spirit. I've also learned that James Stephens was Joyce's choice to complete Finnegans Wake, if Joyce became unable to do so, which is gleefully ...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.
Jonathan Bogart
My first, earliest, and maybe deepest love in literature was the cozy British fantasy of C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien, but I'm much more likely to care about the writers who influenced them than the hundreds and thousands of the writers they influenced whether positively or negatively. I can't recall coming across a reference to James Stephens in the mountains of Lewisiana I consumed between the ages of ten and twenty, but his name's unmemorable enough that it would easily have slipped my ...more
Feb 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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.
Jan 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
This book changed my view on life.
The Usual
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Well... Maybe three and a bit.

This is the second of Wreade1872's Other Things That Aren't LOTR (the thing that isn't LOTR is Titus Groan, and if you haven't read it then do so immediately), and as a physical object is my very favourite kind of book - one rescued from the bottom of a mouldering pile of donations. There's a charm to that, don't you think? An e-book, free or otherwise, just wouldn't be the same. And serendipity is a lovely word.

The first of Wreade1872's pre-Tolkien fantasy
Kenneth Shersley
Mar 01, 2019 rated it liked it
A remarkable book, but commentators who wonder why it's not better known shouldn't be too surprised; beautifully written though it is, it's a book of Celtic metaphysics - and if you're not in the mood for leprachauns and gnomic utterances (regardless of what truth you might find in them), you won't enjoy it. I enjoyed it enormously until, somewhere round about p100, it lost me. I suddenly lost the will to puzzle out the meaning of passages such as:

"The name of male Thought as it faces the world
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.
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.
Jul 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have an original copy of this book, though I am afriad to open it up and ruin what's left of the binding, I have read a revised copy of it. I love it to pieces!
"a silence that was only skin deep"

That's such a beautiful phrase.

I will read this book again at a later time, in a few years when my focus is better and I can follow the long twisty philosophical pontificating of the various characters and the narrator. It won't be hard, because the book is relatively short and feels like sitting down and listening to an elderly Irish man spin a yarn.

I picked up the book after learning that song-and-dance man Gene Kelly liked to return to this book from time

My dear old friend Einar Peter Adams urged me to read James Stephens' "The Crock of Gold" and so I finally did. I'm sad that the old brigadier has gone on to his last muster before the Almighty and therefor I am unable to report to him that I accomplished the mission and very much enjoyed the tale. Stephens (1880-1950) was an Irish poet and novelist. He both read and spoke Gaelic as well as English from childhood and was immersed in the myths and fairy stories of his native Ireland. His deep
Jul 02, 2019 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A lot of ideas are presented in this book and some of them are the standard "keys to happiness" wrapped up in different packages, offhand observations of societal absurdities, or the justification of spirituality and a greater connection to nature and god. Very pagan stuff. All of this is stitched together loosely and thrown over a very thin plot line and left out in the breeze to admire or pass by. But for all of that it is very charming, exceedingly so if one already knows and appreciates ...more
Clark Hays
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
“…hunger and love and curiosity are the great impelling forces of life.”

Apparently, the god Pan is occupying my thoughts. After finishing The Great God Pan by Arthur Machen, my next book happened to be Crock of Gold, by James Stephens.

Stephens is an Irish writer and, like Machen (who was Welsh), was steeped in the myths and legends of Ireland. Crock of Gold, first published in 1912, is about what happens when the god Pan visits Ireland and draws the attention of Angus Og, the Celtic god of love
Feb 22, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A lovely, enchanting book.
Apr 11, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a very, very strange book. Also infuriating, frustrating, thought-provoking, and ultimately both touching and lovely. It deals in a lot of Irish stereotypes--leprechauns, scholars, pots of gold, thornbushes, the Shee, and so on. Yet there are also travelers, policemen, judges, and other modern characters. The plot, such as it is, concerns a philosopher who lives in a deep pine wood with his brother, their wives, and their two children, Seamus and Bridget. Early in the book, the ...more
Eleanor Toland
James Stephens's obscure fantasy novel The Crock of Gold begins as a straightforwardly goofy battle-of-the-sexes comedy about two obtuse philosopher brothers and their argumentative wives but quickly blossoms into something else, something convoluted, endlessly strange and magical in the most genuine way.

Fair folk, police, and a robin redbreast are just some of the characters jostling for space in this relatively short volume. There's a murder trial, a fairy war, a love triangle involving two
Nikos Karagiannakis
...where folklore takes philosophy by the hand for a delightful walk through Irish culture...
William Korn
Mar 27, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy
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, ...more
Mar 23, 2018 rated it really liked it
Great descriptions and funny characters. Confusing ending.
Sep 18, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own
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
This is a golden oldie: a mad experimental novel that blends fantasy and social commentary. James Stephens, a central figure in the Irish Literary Revival, created a realm of philosophers and leprechauns and mythical creatures. In this novel there is the otherworldly but there’s also the suggestion of a real world of hardship and need. Creatures in different stages of bewilderment and enlightenment abound. Nature is magical and animals and humankind are not quite created equal. Dogs “are a most ...more
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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 ...more
“What the heart knows today the head will understand tomorrow” 12 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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