for choosing the book:
This book has been chosen not only because it is a highly acclaimed picture
book, but also because it reflects an aspect of Irish folklore.
This light hearted comic version of a traditional Irish folk tale explores
the differences between the Pagan Irish chieftain,Crom Dubh, who speaks
Irish and the Christian Saint Patrick who speaks Latin. It explores possible
misunderstanding between old Celtic pagan values of lavish hospitality
and extravagant expressions of gratitude and new Christian values of prayer
and restraint. The Gaelic Pagan chieftain Crom Dubh sends his servant
boy with three gifts of extremely large joints of meat to the saint. St.
Patrick expresses his gratitude not to the chieftain but to God, in what
to Crom Dubh is a confusing Latin phrase 'Deo gratias'. An insult is suspected.
Crom Dubh becomes more and more angry at what he perceives as St.Patrick's
bad manners. He challenges Patrick. The saint responds with typical cunning
. He weighs the meat, and the prayer written on pieces of paper. Miraculously
the prayer weighs more. Crom Dubh is convinced and converted to Christianity.
Anger is diffused.
P1. Crom Dubh was a pagan who lived in County Mayo in the time of St
Patrick. Patrick and Cromb Dubh lived near each other and became good
P2. One day Crom Dubh sent his servant to St Patrick with a present,
a fine joint of meat.
P3. 'This is a gift from my master' said the servant boy. 'Deo Gratias'
replied Saint Patrick.
P4. The boy went back to his master. 'Did Patrick thank me?' asked Crom
Dubh. 'I don't know because I didn't understand what he said' answered
the boy. ' He didn't speak in the Mayo dialect, perhaps it was Kerry Irish'.
P5. The next day Crom Dubh spoke to the boy again. 'I have another piece
of meat. Give it to Patrick and see if he'll thank me'. So the boy set
out for Patrick's house.
P6. The boy gave the second piece of meat to the saint, saying 'Here's
another gift from my master'. Patrick merely said 'Deo Gratias'.
P7. 'Did Patrick thank me today?' asked Crom Dubh. 'I don't know what
he said' answered the boy. He didn't speak in Mayo Irish, perhaps it was
Cork Irish'. Crom Dubh was very unhappy at that.
P8. Next day Crom Dubh sent another piece of meat to Saint Patrick. 'Another
gift from my master' announced the boy. 'Deo Gratias' said Patrick, and
he said nothing more.
P9. The boy returned to his master. 'Well, what gratitude did he offer
me today?' 'The same as on the other two days' replied the boy. 'Go back
and tell him to come here immediately' said Crom Dubh angrily.
P10. Saint Patrick came to Crom Dubh's house. Crom Dubh accused him immediately.
'You didn't thank me for my three joints of meat' he said. 'I thanked
you very much' said Saint Patrick. 'You didn't thank me at all' said Crom
Dubh. 'Oh I most certainly did thank you' answered Saint Patrick.
P11. 'Look' asked Patrick, 'Have you got a weighing scales?' 'I have'
said Crom Dubh. 'Have you got three joints of meat, as heavy and as fine
as the three you sent as gifts to me?' asked Patrick. 'I have,' said Crom
P12. 'Put them on the scales' ordered Patrick. Crom Dubh put the three
joints on one side of the weighing-scales. St Patrick simply wrote 'Deo
Gratias' three times on a piece of paper. Then he put the piece of paper
on the other side of the scales. The piece of paper was much heavier than
the three pieces of meat.
P13. 'Oh Patrick' said Crom Dubh, 'Please baptise me and all my household
and family, for the love of God.' Crom Dubh and his people were baptised
on that very day, the last Sunday in July, long long ago. Deo Gratias.
NB This is a working translation
for educational purpose only.
for use in school:
1. Any kind of comparative work on feasts and festivals across Europe,
especially harvest festivals, summer festivals, national festivals etc.
2. Use in work on manners and customs across Europe eg In France it is
polite to mop up ones plate with bread, in England the same custom is
not polite at all. Help children to understand that sometimes what is
perceived as rudeness is simply a different custom.
3. Use in work on confrontation and misunderstanding, how does Patrick
4. In Irish schools this little story would be very useful around St
Patrick's Day, the Irish National Festival, when it could be dramatised
by the children in class.
Focus on customs which reflect own culture. Discuss which of these could
be shared with children in other European countries.
literature and language-based activities can be found in
Picture Books sans Frontières available