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Féar Gortach

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Féar Gortach

In Ireland there is a legend known as Féar Gortach, which translates roughly to "Hungry Grass." It is believed to be cursed by malevolent spirits, and the patches of dead grass were feared as harbingers of death. Whoever walked over a patch of Féar Gortach would be doomed to perpetual hunger.

Yet such stories are often seen as fairy tales in today's society. In fact, one of the alternative names for Féar Gortach is literally "Fairy Grass," as Irish mythology attributed the curse to the fairies, who in mythology were spirits of nature and the dead. This is unlike the modern versions we have come to associate with children's tales.

As a lover of folklore, I admit Ireland has fascinated me, but I have never actually gone there myself. Instead, I often explore my own nation's mythology. However, I have family who moved from Ireland during the "Troubles." They shared with me what most would consider a fairly standard ghost story, yet I still feel it is worth sharing.

The story concerns a man, his dog and his young son—all of whom were native to the land and often explored the more remote areas of Ireland that tourists don't tend to frequent. They enjoyed their treks through the countryside and the man often shared stories with his son.

One day, the man was walking along a patch of grass when he suddenly felt a pain in his stomach. His son came over to see what was wrong. The dog, however, barked repeatedly and would not go near the patch of grass.

The man would soon head home with his son. Their troubles had just begun. Over the next few days, the man developed a ravenous appetite yet continually lost weight; his hunger became so great he would even begin to eat dog food from the can and often neglected his son.

As a result, the son also grew weak and soon local authorities were called in. They decided to take the son into temporary care while they had a doctor evaluate the father. He was becoming so thin that he was almost literally "skin and bones."

The doctor couldn't find out what was wrong with the man, and despite going to the hospital, he continued to fade away until eventually he died. This was a devastating blow to his young son, who now faced an uncertain future as his mother had long been absent from his life. This left authorities with little choice but to put him into a foster home until he could be adopted, a high price to pay for stepping on a patch of grass in the remote corners of the world.

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