Book Review of The Irish Cinderlad: Fairy Tale About a Boy From the Emerald Isle Folklore of Ireland

by DerdriuMarriner

Many cultures have Cinderella stories. The rags to riches experience is not just restricted to picked-on girls. Shirley Climo tells about a picked-on boy in “The Irish Cinderlad.”

Cinderella can be recognized by how shiningly she cleans up from ashes and rags. She claims the most beautiful of features and the most graceful of forms despite layers of stepmother and stepsister imposed grime and tatters. She corners the market in terms of:
• extremely amiable disposition;
• most enduring loyalty;
• super-strong work ethic;
• very understanding heart.

She epitomizes daintiness with:
• littlest of hands;
• smallest of feet.

What happens if the undeservedly despised youth is male, not female? The answer is defined by the culture:
• Balkan;
• Hungarian;
• Indian;
• Irish;
• Japanese;
• Scandinavian.

In the case of the Emerald Isle, “The Irish Cinderlad” may be recognized by:
• beautiful, thick, red hair;
• super-big feet.

Purple clover (Trifolium purpureum): Old World native plant favored by cows ~

The three cows Becan watches for his father enjoy grazing in fields of purple clover.
Trifolium purpureum - purple clover


Ireland’s Cinderlad answers to Becan. The name becomes him because the redhead measures in the lower ranges for his age as:

  • Baby;
  • Boy;
  • Youth.

Perhaps being carried in egg baskets and fed milk porridge contribute to the “Little One” remaining small … except for super-sized feet. Happy “Little Bigfoot” nevertheless experiences grief at 13, with:

  • The death of his mother;
  • The remarriage of his needle- and pin-peddling father to a big widow with three large daughters.

He almost expires from:

  • Guarding his father’s three purple clover-grazing cows sunup to sundown;
  • Supping on crusty scraps.

But a red-speckled, white-faced bull’s red ears harbor noontime, white tablecloth-wrapped meals of:

  • Boiled turnips;
  • Bread, cheese, sausage;
  • Honeyed oaten cakes;
  • Partridge pie.


Popular biscuit- or cracker-like flatbread of British Isles: Oaten cakes, an oatmeal-based flatbread baked in an oven or cooked on a griddle ~

Becan enjoys oaten cakes supplied to him by his fairy godfather, a red-speckled, white-faced bull with red ears.


Becan’s bull acts as the Cinderlad’s fairy godfather until fatal encounters with a grey bull. His tail then becomes Becan’s magic belt against:

  • A giant refusing to share apple trees and grassy meadows with a gentleman’s donkey, four cows, horse, and three sheep;
  • A lizard rising on the Day of the Dragon to devour Princess Finola of Kinsale.

The belt helps Becan to:

  • Divest the giant of boots and sword;
  • Sink the monster.

But true love is more powerful than any enchantment. The taurine godfather knows when he no longer is needed. Rescuing the king’s daughter means:

  • A damaged sword;
  • A lost belt;
  • A missing boot.

But fitting into the mislaid boot means becoming a royal son-in-law.


Historic port of Kinsale is hometown of Princess Finola, who sees beyond a rustic boot, into the heart of cowherd Becan.

Kinsale, County Cork, southeastern Republic of Ireland
Kinsale, County Cork, southeastern Republic of Ireland



The world abounds with Cinderella tales. Cinderella’s story appeals to readers of:

  • Ancient formats;
  • Modern versions. 

Recognition as an imaginative spin among twentieth-century retellings belongs to The Irish Cinderlad. The 1996-released, U.S.A.-printed book for kindergarteners to second-graders aged 5 – 8+ brings together the experience and expertise of:

  • Shirley Climo as author; 
  • HarperCollins as publishers; 
  • Loretta Krupinski as illustrator. 

Specialists in children’s literature consider the award-winning painter and writer experts in educational entertainment. They esteem the former’s:

  • Bluewater Journal
  • A New England Scrapbook

They give the latter super-high marks for:

  • Atalanta’s Race and Stolen Thunder, with Alexander Koshkin’s artistry; 
  • The Egyptian Cinderella and The Korean Cinderella, with Ruth Heller’s artwork. 

Merging the two talents is a must-own experience.


cows in Ireland: Irish CinderLad Becan watches cows and then marries a princess.

Kinsale, County Cork, southeastern Republic of Ireland
Kinsale, County Cork, southeastern Republic of Ireland



My special thanks to talented artists and photographers/concerned organizations who make their fine images available on the internet.


Ireland's folklore and mythology include legends of dragons:

Irish CinderLad Becan rescues Princess Finola of Kinsale from her fate on the Day of the Dragon in "The Irish CinderLad."
The Dragon Gates at Harlech House, Clonskeagh, Dublin, Republic of Ireland
The Dragon Gates at Harlech House, Clonskeagh, Dublin, Republic of Ireland

Sources Consulted


Bryant, Sara Cone. 2010. Best Stories to Tell to Children. Illustrated by Patten Wilson. Slough, Berskhire, England: Dodo Press.

Climo, Shirley. 1996. The Irish Cinderland. Illustrated by Loretta Krupinski. New York City, NY: HarperCollins.

Greene, Ellin, 1994. Billy Beg and His Bull: An Irish Tale. Illustrated by Kimberly Bulcken Root. New York City, NY: Holiday House, Inc.  

Hyde, Douglas. 1898. Four Irish Stories. Dublin, Ireland: Gill & Son.

Hyde, Douglas. 1905. “An Tarbh Breac (The Speckled Bull).” Easy Irish Texts, 2. Dublin, Ireland: Gill & Son.

MacManus, Seaumas. 2009. In Chimney Corners: Merry Tales of Irish Folk-Lore. Slough, Berkshire, England: Dodo Press.


the end which is also the beginning
the end which is also the beginning

The Irish Cinderlad (Trophy Picture Books) by Shirley Climo ~ illustrated by Loretta Krupinski

Folklorist Shirley Climo retells an old Irish tale with an unusual twist on the famous Cinderella tale. Like his female counterpart, Becan has a mean stepmother and stepsisters. Unlike Cinderella, he has large feet and a magical bull for a fairy godmother
Cinderella stories

Cinderella: black t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

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Celtic shamrock: kelly green t-shirt ~ Available via AllPosters

A popular symbol of Ireland, a paradise of otherworldly tales.
Celtic Shamrock
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Me and my purrfectly purrfect Maine coon kittycat, Augusta "Gusty" Sunshine

Gusty and I thank you for reading this article and hope that our product selection interests you; Gusty Gus receives favorite treats from my commissions.
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
DerdriuMarriner, All Rights Reserved
Updated: 10/19/2021, DerdriuMarriner
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