Darby O’Gill and the Little People

Darby O'Gill and the Little People

Walt Disney long wanted to use Irish folklore in one of his films, visiting Ireland in 1947 to research ideas. He eventually decided upon the “Darby O’Gill” stories of Irish-American author H.T. Kavanagh and the result was an enchanting tale featuring leprechauns and OO7 himself, Sean Connery. Released in 1959, Darby O’Gill and the Little People remains an underrated and charming classic.

Darby O’Gill’s village knows the old estate caretaker as a fine fiddler and storyteller. When he learns that he is to be soon replaced, the devastated Darby sets out for home to tell the sad news to his daughter, Katie. Alas, on the way he tumbles down a well and ends up in the land of the Leprechauns where King Brian of Knocknasheega holds sway.

The king doesn’t want to let Darby ever return to the surface world, but Darby manages to trick his little royal highness into the topworld. This earns Darby three wishes – we’re talking Leprechauns, after all – and, although King Brian tricks Darby out of two of them, our hero succeeds in using the third to lock in a happy marriage for Katie and the handsome new caretaker.

But complications arise when Death arrives on the scene looking to claim a soul. Both Darby and the King are forced to act nobly in the face of the dilemma arising from the Reaper’s demand.

Walt Disney put a lot of time and effort into making this screen gem a believable and fully realized fairy tale. There was even a title at the start dedicating the movie “to King Brian of Knocknasheega and his leprechauns, whose gracious cooperation made this picture possible.”

Unfortunately, the careful detail and cleverness, the charming story, and the special effects still didn’t add up to a big box office success. In the ensuing decades, however, interest in Darby O’Gill and the Little People has picked up, with curious movie fans, sometimes interested in seeing the pre-James Bond Sean Connery, checking out the little people of Disney’s long-brewing vision of Irish folklore.

Did you watch Darby O’Gill and the Little People as a child? If so, we would love to hear your memories of this classic Disney offering in our comments section below.

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