Friday, January 13, 2012

Seeking help on book of fairy tales featuring Oona

I have a mystery this morning that perhaps we can crowd-source the answer to.

I rarely log in to my Wikipedia account these days (although I use the site all the time). But I logged in yesterday to find that I had a message from someone named Simon back on December 21.

Here is Simon's message:
"This is a real long-shot but I wondered if you might be able to help me. My grandmother is in the early stages of senile dementia, and with this in mind the family have recently been making an effort to talk to her about her childhood, which she still remembers vividly, rather than more recent events (which sadly she does not).

"In our last conversation she was reminiscing about a book she read repeatedly during her childhood. She could not remember its title, only that it was a book of fairy tales, and that the main character was a fairy called Oona (she was certain of that spelling). She said she read it between the ages of 7 and 9, which would mean c. 1932-35 (although of course the book may have been published before that).

"I have been trying to see if I can identify the book, and get hold of a copy, since I think it would mean a lot to her to read it again. My research indirectly led me to the Ruth Manning-Sanders page, which it appears you are largely responsible for, although it appears that only a handful of her publications are early enough to fit the bill. And sadly I can find no details of those books anywhere.

"Any advice you could offer would be greatly appreciated. Does the name Oona ring any bells? Are there any other online resources or catalogues that might prove fruitful?"
I'm going to do some searching this weekend. But I wanted to throw it out there to all of you, to see if we can come up with as many leads as possible for Simon and his grandmother. Spread the word!

Leave anything you find in the comments or email me at


  1. I found this informaion, but I'm not sure if it will help becaus of the publication date.

    Ruth Sawyer's lyrical Christmas story, originally published in 1941, and now hauntingly illustrated by Max Grafe, will melt readers' hearts and make them long for a white and magical Christmas.

    A hundred years ago and more, on a stretch of road that runs from the town of Donegal to Killybegs and the sea, a drove of tinkers went their way of mending pots and thieving lambs. Having a child too many for the caravan, they left it, new-born, upon a cabin doorstill in Carn-na-ween.

    So begins the life of Oona Hegarty, who grows up to be beautiful, kind, talented and clever — but doomed , as a tinker's child, never to marry or have a home of her own. She spends her life wandering from cabin to cabin, nurturing others' children or tending the sick and the old, only to be turned out again when her usefulness has passed. Then comes the snowy Christmas Eve when Oona, an old woman now, finds herself homeless, hoisting a bundle of donated treasures almost too heavy to lift. With a famine turning human hearts to stone and not a soul who is willing to take her in, it seems Oona will end her days with no place to rest her head or warm her bones. But what of the Gentle People said to live in the boglands near Carn-na-ween — will they let an old woman's lifelong kindness go unrewarded, especially on a white Christmas?

  2. There is a fairy called Oona in the 1985 movie Legend.