Places: The Crock of Gold

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: 1912

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Fantasy

Time of work: Indeterminate

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Ireland

*Ireland. Crock of Gold, TheIsland nation west of Britain that was united under British rule in 1912–the same year James Stephens published The Crock of Gold. (In 1922, Ireland was partitioned into the Republic of Eire and Northern Ireland, which remained part of the United Kingdom). The Ireland depicted in the novel, however, is an Ireland of the imagination, carefully repopulated with all the lost idols of local mythology (and one visitor from overseas, the Greek nature-God Pan). Like William Butler Yeats and other champions of the so-called Celtic Twilight, Stephens believed that the soul of the Irish people was contained within its myths, and the territory mapped by his novel is a figurative internal landscape rather than a mere figment of geography.

Coilla Doraca

Coilla Doraca. Pine wood, in whose heart stands the small house in which two Philosophers live with their ambivalent wives, the Grey Woman of Dun Gortin and the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath. Except for one small clearing a short distance from the house, the wood is a very dark and still place, because neither the sun’s light nor the wind can penetrate the close-set branches. The hearthstone of the house eventually becomes the tombstone of one of the Philosophers and his wife, the Grey Woman of Dun Gortin.

Gort na Cloca Mora

Gort na Cloca Mora. Rocky field where a crock of gold is buried, having been hidden there by the Leprechauns (Leprecauns in the novel), one of six clans of fairies in the neighborhood of Coilla Doraca. The tree under which the crock was hidden sits atop an underground chamber, which becomes the temporary hiding-place of the kidnapped children of the two Philosophers. A neighboring field, which extends toward the top of a mountain, has a similar covert: the cave to which Pan takes Caitlin Ni Murrachu, where the Celtic god Angus Og comes to see her.

Cloca Mora was transformed into Glockamorra by E. Y. Harburg in the Stephens-inspired musical comedy Finian’s Rainbow (1947; film version, 1968); the song “How Are Things in Glockamorra?” has convinced many an American tourist that there really is a place of that name, but it has not yet appeared on maps of the real Ireland.

Cave of the Sleepers of Erinn

Cave of the Sleepers of Erinn. Resting-place of the gods of Ireland, located on a mountain, to which the Philosopher goes in search of Angus Og. When he leaves it again, he bears messages for Mac Cul and MacCulhain–the legendary heroes more usually known as Finn McCool and Cuchulainn.

Police station

Police station. Station to which the Philosopher goes in order to surrender, rather than hiding in the Leprechauns’ lair, resembles a military barracks. It has a walled garden, used as an exercise yard, but little can grow there save for creepers because the surrounding walls are so high. The cell in which he is confined is a subterranean cellar with a bench running around its walls, whose only window is a ground-level iron grating admitting a meager light. The cell’s only means of access is a wooden ladder extended from a hole in the ceiling.


*Kilmasheogue (kihl-ma-SHOHG). Hill south of Dublin that is transformed within the story into a mountain decked with fairy forts. On its heights the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath gathers a host of the Shee, representing every part of Ireland. (Shee is a phonetic spelling of Sidhe, the Gaelic word for the residual spirits of the ancient Irish dead.) The assembled host greets Angus Og and Caitlin before the entire company sets off on a delirious journey into bright and boundless space, seizing the Philosopher from his prison as they go–thus, symbolically, liberating human intellect from all the cruel jailers who stand guard over the realm of the mundane.

BibliographyBramsback, Birgit. James Stephens: A Literary and Biographical Study. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1959. Has a good chapter on Stephens that may be useful as a short overview of his life and work.Finneran, Richard J. The Olympian and the Leprechaun: W. B. Yeats and James Stephens. Dublin, Ireland: Dolmen Press, 1978. Has many quotes and insights from Yeats on Stephens and his place in Irish literature.McFate, Patricia. The Writings of James Stephens: Variations on a Theme of Love. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1979. Good at placing Stephens in historical and literary context.Martin, Augustine. James Stephens: A Critical Study. Totowa, N.J.: Rowman & Littlefield, 1977. Strong in critical analysis and debating themes.Pyle, Hilary. James Stephens: His Work and an Account of His Life. New York: Barnes & Noble Books, 1965. Groundbreaking work in separating fact from fiction in Stephens’ life. A sympathetic account traces his origins, motivations, and influence.
Categories: Places