What eeeesss a Seanachai?

by admin

I’m glad you asked. The explanation is a good story in itself. In Ireland, in the days before books and printing, there was a class of people called seanachai or storytellers. These folks made their living by traveling from village to village and telling stories. Sometimes they would spin tales from the great tapestry of folklore that comprises the mythology of Ireland and other times they’d just repeat the gossip from the town next door. They but they always entertained by their telling.
As romantic as that might sound, it’s not the wonderful part. The wonderful part is that centuries later, when Gaelic was being systematically suppressed, people calling themselves seanachai would travel from town to town seemingly for the sole purpose of carrying on the ancient tradition of telling stories. At night they would loiter in the pubs and spin their yarns (now that’s a living!) but during the day (I’m guessing more towards the afternoon) they would gather the children, lead them off into the countryside to teach them the Irish language and culture in secret.
What does all this have to do with a web site?
My we’re full of questions today. Well, the way I see it, a seanachai is a person who tells stories with a purpose. Especially the latter day seanachai with their covert educational agendas. As a writer this idea appeals to me very much because I believe that good stories seek to prove something in the telling. Not anything as crass and pedantic as who should be president those kind of stories are always awful. The kind of stories I’m after are the ones that are true for all time, not one instance. As John Gardner argued so eloquently in “On Moral Fiction”, a story is a kind of artistic proof. Delicate ideas can be framed, tested and communicated within the imaginary world of a well-told tale.
The McLuhan is the Message
Yeah, yeah, McLuhan whatever. (and if you don’t know who he is, he’s the man who said the “Medium is the Message” which set up me up nicely for that spooneristic subhead. The impact of which has been greatly lessened by all this senseless parenthetical explanation.)
Anyway, the point I was hoping to get to in that last paragraph is that some stories are better in the telling than they are reading. And technology has evolved to a point where we can eliminate the whole publishing hierarchy and get back to a more oral tradition. It’s not exactly a new medium, but it sure does feel like I’m playing with live ammunition.
With this line of thinking the name seanachai seemed perfect for the kind of storytelling and writing I wanted to play with.
The most important reason of all.
The reason this site exists at all is that I needed a woodshed to practice in. As Stephen King said, “Talent in cheaper than table salt. What separates the talented individual from the successful one is a lot of hard work.”
So it is my hope that the Seanachai will secretly teach me how to write while it overtly entertains you.