The Wren, The Wren, the King of the Birds


“The wren, the wren, the king of the birds,
On St Stephen’s Day was caught in the furze…”

An Nollaig, or Christmas is fast approaching, and bringing with it the most folklore-filled season of the year. On long, cold winter’s nights, with little to look forward to, the Christmas rituals from years gone by remind us who we are and where we have come from, shining a light that guides us through the darkness of the season until the new year brings hope again. 

In Ireland traditions surround a tiny bird in winter – but does the Wren Hunt have much more ancient roots?


Read the Podcast Script


Sources and Further Reading

Useful Introductions

Ireland’s Birds: Myths, Legends and Folklore by Niall Mac Coitir

Hunting the Wren: Transformation of Bird to Symbol by Elizabeth Atwood Lawrence

Swallow by Angela Turner

Mudcat message boards on the Wren songs and traditions: 1, 2


The Bodhrán Makers by John B. Keane

Jimeen by Pádraig Ó Siochfhradha (not cited, but this is a hilarious children’s book featuring a wren hunt)


An excellent video on The Manx Wren Tradition:


Pre-20thC  sources

The Golden Bough by James George Frazer

Curiosities of popular customs and of rites, ceremonies, observances, and miscellaneous antiquities by William Shephard Walsh

Researches in the south of Ireland  by Thomas Crofton Croker

Miscellanies upon various subjects by John Aubrey

Comparative Studies in Nursery Rhymes, Linda Eckelstein

The birth and life of St Mo Ling translated by Whitley Stokes


Sir Sop the Knight of Straw

An Historical Essay on the Irish Stage by Joseph C Walker

Heath’s Picturesque Annual, 1837



Wexford Carol by Karianne Pasma

Auld Lang Syne by Dexter Britain

Sí Beag Sí Mór, Snowy Path by Sláinte

The Wren in the Furze, by The Chieftains, from The Bells of Dublin

Northern Lullaby by Sergey Cheremisinov

Song for a Winter’s Night by The Nancies

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