Depressing bedtime story?
September 15, 2009 7:47 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a poem or story about a desperate mother, her many children and a visit from the angel of death?

(Asking for a friend who's trying to find a poem from her childhood. She's Irish and in her late 50s but I think the story or poem is much older. Her mother used to tell this as a bedtime story.)

Possibly Irish or traditional poem or story about a woman with several children, either freezing or starving and praying. An angel (the angel of death?) comes and says that he'll take one of her children away, presumably to heaven, but she has to choose which child. She goes through all of the children, first suggesting a child but then finds reasons why she couldn't lose him/her. Maybe they're in a cellar and it might be winter? In the end, she can't choose a child and the angel goes away?

This sounds strangely familiar but I can't turn up any specific references and a google search with the words "angel of death poem winter mother children" isn't helpful. I'm convinced there are many variations on this theme so anything would be great - thanks!
posted by Arbac to Writing & Language (1 answer total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Could the angel she mentioned be a banshee? If it's a folk tale or old poem, it seems more likely to incorporate figures from the fairy world (something of the oldest beliefs) than figures that are more associated with Christianity (which would probably be seen as newer given the extent of mythology Ireland has).
posted by variella at 8:23 PM on September 15, 2009

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