The Banshee in Art

By comparing the banshee’s visual evolution throughout history, the viewer observes both the Anglicization and dilution of Irish mythology. The first image, taken from Thomas Crofton Croker’s Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland, shows the banshee in one of her traditional forms. The second image, inked by an American illustrator, and entitled The Banshee Appears, focuses its perspective on the two men in the foreground and limits the banshee to the background. This removes the banshee’s agency and her role as a mourning woman, reducing her to a spectral smudge, barely there. This image, from 1862, reveals the Anglicization that occurs during this period and American perspectives that see traditional folklore as something fantastical and frightening. The final image, painted in watercolour from 1897 - 1901, reveals complete dissolution and disconnection from its Irish birth. The banshee, here, still surrounded by death, is now presented similarly to the death-bringer than one who warns of death to come. Still defined in relation to men, the banshee is now more of an avenging angel, leering over the dying man. The English painter reveals a further step in the dilution of Irish tradition and folklore entering the 20th century.

Banshee (Thomas Crofton Croker)



Woodcut illustration by W. H. Brooke, a British artist, for Thomas Crofton Croker's "Fairy Legends and Traditions of the South of Ireland." The banshee is depicted in her traditional form as a grieving woman.

The Banshee Appears

The Banshee Appears


American R. Prowse illustrated this drawing of the banshee in 1862. Although it is unclear where this drawing appeared, it shows the changing figure of the banshee. She is humanoid in appearance, but is extremely frightening. This images focuses primarily on the reactions of the men rather than on the banshee, herself. It is not similar to the Irish tales surrounding the banshee at all.

The Banshee

La Belle Dame Sans Merci (The Banshee)

By English painter Henry Meynell Rheam, this artwork shows a representation of the banshee that is based on a John Keats poem of the same name. This banshee is more of a siren, luring men to their death instead of inherent part of Irish culture that warns people of death to come.

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