CM Archive
CM Archive Book Review line

MacNiel, Joe Neil.

Translated and edited by John Shaw. Toronto, McGill-Queen's University Press, 1987. 267pp, paper, ISBN 0-7735-0559-8 (cloth) $50.00, 0-7735-0560-1 (paper) $15.95. CIP.

Grades 9 and up
Reviewed by Catherine R. Cox

Volume 16 Number 1
1988 January

Joe Neil MacNeil is a Cape Breton story-teller in the oral tradition who remembers and relates his tales in Gaelic. His stories have been translated and edited by John Shaw, who began recording Joe Neil MacNeil's stories in 1975. This book is published in a bilingual Gaelic-English edition as well as in the English edition under review.

This book is divided into three parts with a 27-page introduction. In the Introduction, John Shaw explains the tradition of folktale and story-telling and its place in Cape Breton and the world Gaelic culture. In Part One, Joe Neil MacNeil relates his story and describes the storytellers who were his sources in Middle Cape, Cape Breton, in the early part of this century. (He was born in 1908 and remembers a story he heard at the age of four.) Part Two contains the folktales. They are arranged by source, that is, by the story-teller from whom Joe Neil MacNeil heard the story. Part Three contains wit, lore and pastimes common in that part of Cape Breton in Joe Neil's time. Here we find general folklore, games, superstitions, proverbs and beliefs that Joe Neil remembers.

This is a book for the generalist as well as the folklorist. For the latter the book contains Notes and a Bibliography with references to the Gaelic tradition of which Joe Neil's Cape Breton tales are a part. The stories are often fragments and do not make exciting reading as stories, but the information contained in the Introduction and Part One make this book a useful addition to a school or public library collection. The history of folktales and the account of the life of a traditional story-teller, as well as the folklore explained in the book, make it relevant to the school curriculum. Recommended.

Catherine R. Cox, Moncton H.S., Moncton, N.B.
line indexes


1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995


The materials in this archive are copyright © The Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission Copyright information for reviewers

Young Canada Works