Bedtime stories may be a distant memory of your childhood, but in modern society, with high levels of stress, people need help falling asleep at night. Cillian Murphy has narrated such a story to lull you to sleep and help you discover Ireland at the same time.
“Various studies worldwide have shown the prevalence of insomnia in 10%–30% of the population, some even as high as 50%–60%,” doctors Bhaskar, Hemavathi, and Prasad wrote in 2016, which shows that insomnia is a plague of our time. Several factors can explain insomnia, but the people who can’t fall asleep at night are usually more interested in solutions than reasons.
One of these solutions comes from our childhood: the bedtime story. A soothing voice can lull you to sleep because of the calming sounds’ effect on your state of mind, but the story itself is also useful in the way that it helps you to forget about a stressful day by diving into a peaceful tale.
One of the most famous phone apps providing these kinds of bedtime stories for grown-up adults is Calm. Claiming to be the number one app for meditation and sleep, it is known for its meditation sounds and calming background noises, but also for its bedtime stories read by celebrities, among them English singer Harry Styles, American actor Matthew McConaughey, and the one we are going to talk about today, Irish actor Cillian Murphy.
The bedtime story of a world-famous Irish actor and an established sleep-storyteller
Cillian Murphy needs no introduction. He seems to be one of Christopher Nolan’s favourite actors to direct because people have seen him in The Dark Knight trilogy (2005, 2008, 2012), Inception (2010) and Dunkirk (2017). Fans obviously also know him from his role as Tommy Shelby, the infamous gangster of Birmingham in TV’s Peaky Blinders (2013 – present day).
Born in Douglas, County Cork, Murphy is probably one of the most famous Irish celebrities in the world today and his characteristic voice, which has become a whole part of Tommy Shelby’s charm in Peaky Blinders, seemed to be a very good choice to narrate a story entitled “Crossing Ireland by Train”.
However, and probably sadly for some people, Murphy didn’t write the story himself. This is the work of Phoebe Smith, an adventurer, presenter, broadcaster, author, photographer, speaker, and podcast host who is also one of the most famous and productive sleep story writers.
She is described as “Calm’s (and the world’s) first official Sleep Storyteller-in-Residence and, in our view, the JK Rowling of Slow Literature” on the company’s website. Her stories have been read by Stephen Fry (“Blue Gold”), Joanna Lumley (“Elephants of Nepal”) and, as we have already said, Cillian Murphy, with “Crossing Ireland by Train”.
A journey across Ireland as a sleep story
Sleep stories are a way to transport your mind somewhere and help you forget about the real world; and to calm you. The words and how they sound are really important, but so are the images that they produce in your mind. “Crossing Ireland by Train” doesn’t only set the scene for the beautiful landscape of Ireland, it also recounts some tales and parts of folklore that help you drift into a dreamy world.
Murphy narrates a true road trip, visiting Derry/Londonderry and Belfast in Northern Ireland and then crossing what he calls an “imperceptible border” to continue the journey in the Republic of Ireland, through Dublin and various other places, before ending up in Cobh, in the southern province of Munster.
During this whole journey, the listener is carried away by Murphy’s words and the scene he’s setting: you are on a train with a peaceful and calm rhythm, near a window, and you observe the landscape and historical sites that you can see from your seat. The use of the pronouns “our” and “we” really play a role: you are with him, on this train, taking this journey, even if you’re actually in your bed ready to fall asleep.
Once the scene-setting is done, the journey begins: Murphy takes us to specific places like Whiterocks Beach or the Giant’s Causeway. Officially formed by an ancient volcanic eruption, the legends tell us that this Causeway was created by an Irish giant competing with another giant from Scotland. “Another time, we will come back here, immersing ourselves in this otherworldly place, where fact and fiction are indistinguishable,” Murphy says.
Going through small villages and the Dark Hedges, a tunnel created by more than 150 beech trees planted in 1775, the train takes us to Belfast, where you can see murals, “reminding both visitors and residents of the past while firmly looking to the future”.
(Credit: “Dark Hedges – Early Spring 2013” by eelcowest is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
Continuing south, the reader can hear about various places in the Republic of Ireland like Brú na Bóinne, the Neolithic circle older than the Egyptian pyramids and other fields that are the keepers of Irish fairy tales and other myths, before arriving in Dublin. Here, Murphy talks about the Guinness Storehouse and the historic garden of Saint Patrick’s cathedral, among other attractions.
Even if the train trip ends in Cobh, where people left Ireland for Northern American in the 19th century, Murphy also tells us about what you can find up north, if you go to Galway or Connemara. Through legends, myths, history, and landscapes, you totally dive into Ireland, discovering a whole part of the country in only 30 minutes.
A sleep story to go through all the stories related to Ireland
The emphasis is put on the history and myths behind the places and Murphy mentions how the Irish landscape and folklore have inspired various artists, explaining how Ireland stimulated very famous authors to create their own fantasy worlds in Narnia and Middle-Earth.
Indeed, both C.S. Lewis (born in Belfast) and J.R.R Tolkien found inspiration in Irish landscapes and myths to create their fictional world. Murphy tells us that Narnia, a world we actually thought only existed in books, can be found in Ireland. John Milligton Synge and William Butler Yeats also and famously found inspiration in Irish landscapes.
The medieval ruins of Dunluce Castle in Northern Ireland are described as “the first glimpse of Narnia” and are said to have provided the inspiration for Cair Paravel, the capital of the kingdom of Narnia. It is also told that Lewis found inspiration in Campbell College in Belfast: “It is as though we, too, are like young Lucy, ready to discover the unknown wonders that lie ahead,” Murphy narrates.
(Credit: “Dunluce Castle” by shwethashankar is licensed under CC BY 2.0)
For Tolkien, the Cliffs of Moher in The Burren are mentioned as an inspiration for Middle-Earth and here, you can also find a cave named Pollnagollum, that can be translated as Hole of Gollum. The name says everything.
In this sort of fairyland, Murphy concludes the sleep story in a poetic way:
“But this doesn’t mark the end of the road for us. The door to the tangible wonders of this island has only just been opened. Now the stories, legends, and landscapes are no longer found amid pages on dusty shelves for we have flipped through their chapters in real life, on our train ride across Ireland.”
This sleep story does more than just help you to sleep, here Cillian Murphy takes you on a journey across Ireland to discover both the landscape and the myths, the poetry surrounding a very romanticized country that has inspired more art than you can imagine. And you, do you use a sleep story? Did you listen to this one? Let us know in the comment section!
Featured image attribution: “File:Cillian Murphy Press Conference The Party Berlinale 2017 02cr.jpg” by Maximilian Bühn is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0