Éilís Ní Dhuibhne – Writer

Éilís Ní Dhuibhne is an acclaimed writer in both Irish and English. She often references folklore and folktales in her work of contemporary fiction and she is deeply immersed in both Irish and Icelandic folktales through both her own extensive academic research and also through that of her late husband the Swedish folklorist Bo Almqvist.


Éilís first visited Iceland in the late 1970s, a time when few Irish people had the opportunity to go there, and when Iceland was quite a remote and isolated country. She returns often and has many Icelandic friends and colleagues including Professor Gísli Sigurðsson (who we talked to in an earlier episode).


Gísli was a student of Bo Almqvist at University College Dublin and it was during his time studying under Almqvist that he wrote his master thesis on the gaelic influences in the Icelandic Sagas. At the time his mentor and friend thought Gísli was overstating the Irish influences in both the settlement of Iceland and its literature but as Gísli himself told us the genetic research from DeCode Genetics, showing that over 65% of the women in the first generation of Iceland were gaelic, has proven his theory.

In this conversation for Mother’s Blood, Sister Songs producer Helen Shaw sat down with Éilís at her home in Dublin to talk about Ireland and Iceland, what connects us and what defines us, and how our folk stories resonate with often dark and malevolent spirits, and where fairies are not tinkerbell but creatures who can steal your child, perhaps showing how closely our ancestors, particularly the women, lived with death and the precarious nature of life and birth itself.


Éilís has been involved in UCD’s Ireland-Iceland project and you can hear a seminar she participated in last year about cultural connections between the two places called ‘cultural dialogues and parallel histories’. You can find out more about Éilís Ní Dhuibhne’s work here.