Section Six Suggested Reading & Work Sheet

 

SUGGESTED READING 

The following title is essential core reading at this level: 

 

REES, Alwyn and REES, Brinley. _Celtic Heritage: Ancient Tradition in Ireland and Wales_ (1961). 
[Not only an excellent survey of the mythological aspects of the literary traditions, it also identifies pre-Christian themes and relates them to the larger Indo-European heritage. As a work of scholarship, it has stood the test of time remarkably well.] 

Other useful references: 

 


BROMWICH, Rachel, ed. and trans. _Trioedd Ynys Prydein_. 
CROSS and SLOVER._Ancient Irish Tales_. 
FORD, Patrick M. _The Mabinogi and Other Mediaeval Welsh Tales_. 
FORD, Patrick M. _Ystoria Taliesin_ [text of story in Welsh only, but good presentation of literary and mythological context] 
GANTZ, Jeffrey. _Early Irish Myths and Sagas_. 
GANTZ, Jeffrey. _The Mabinogion_. 
JACKSON, Kenneth. _A Celtic Miscellany_ [a nice overview of classic Celtic literature, with many extracts from mythological tales].

 

KINSELLA, Thomas. _The Tain_ [good, idiomatic translation] 
MacALISTER, R.A.S., trans. and ed. _Lebor Gabala Erenn_ (6 vols., Irish Texts Society). 
MacCANA, Proinsias. _Celtic Mythology_. 
MacKILLOP, James. _Dictionary of Celtic Mythology_. [alphabetized quick-reference work; pan-Celtic] 
MacNEILL, Eoin, ed. and trans. _Duanaire Finn_. (2 vols., Irish Texts Society). 
McCONE, Kim. _Pagan Past and Christian Present in Early Irish Literature_. [anti-nativist bias, but provides a necessary corrective to erroneously "pagan" approaches to Irish literature, and gives a good sense of the significance of the literature in its own time and place]

 

MEYER, Kuno, ed. and trans. _The Voyage of Bran_. 
NAGY, Joseph Falaky. _The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition_. 
O hOGAIN, Daithi. _Myth, Legend and Romance: An Encyclopedia of the Irish Folk Tradition. [despite its title, focuses more on literary tradition] 
O'RAHILLY, Cecile, ed. and trans. _Tain Bo Cualnge from the Book of Leinster_. 
O'RAHILLY, T.F. _Early Irish History and Mythology_ [a little antiquated in places, but still worth consulting] 
SJOESTEDT, Marie-Louise (trans. by Myles DILLON). _Gods and Heroes of the Celts_ [a seminal early work -- essential reading] 
SKENE, W.F., ed. and trans. _The Four Ancient Books of Wales_. (2 vols.) 


 

QUESTIONS 

1. Identify the following, place them in context and discuss their significance:

 

Erennan 
Gofannon mab Dôn 
Gwenwynwyn and Gwanar 
Nechtan 
Brian, Iuchar and Iucharba 
Tailltiu 
Net 
Nemglan and Mess Buachalla 
Aillaan Mac M’odhna 
Gwyddno Garanhir 
Fea and Femen 
Derg Corra 
Y Du Traheus

 

Fer I
Cnú Deireóil 
Labraid Loingsech 
Cano Mac Gartnain 
Morfran Eil Tegid 
Dubh Lacha 
Gwenddoleu mab Ceidio 
Fintan Mac Bóchna 

2. In Irish literature Dian Cécht  and his family are the physicians of the Tuatha De Danann. What elements in their story can you relate to the general mythology of healing in Indo-European tradition? 

3. i] Point out common elements in _Peredur_ and _Immram Maile Dúin_.

 

ii] What do you think these elements mean?

 

iii] What is it that links these two stories together? 

4. i] Discuss the structure of sacred space outlined in _Suidigud Tellaig Temra_.

 

ii]Can you see correspondences with the layout of ritual space in both the archaeological record and earlier Indo-European tradition? 

5. i]Find at least five examples in Celtic literature where two men are rivals for the affections of one woman.

 

ii] Do any of these stories suggest a "mythological" meaning?

 

iii] If so, how would you interpret that meaning (based on internal evidence from the tales themselves and the larger context of Indo-European tradition)? 

6. i] Chart out Cú Chulainn's interactions with women (human or supernatural) throughout his career.

 

ii] Does a pattern emerge?

 

iii] Are there ambiguities within this pattern?

 

iv] What do you think this says about second-function perceptions of the feminine? 

7. i] Analyse the trifunctional structure of:

 

a) Arianrhod's curse on Lleu;

 

b) the _gormesau_ in _Cyfranc Lludd a Llefelys_;

 

c) the three primary episodes of Cú Chulainn's "boyhood deeds";

 

d) the three primary guises in which the Dagda appears.

 

ii] Compare the similarities and differences between all these narratives.

 

iii] What overarching concepts appear?

 

iv] Can you extend them to a few other episodes in Celtic literature? 

8. i] Find seven accounts (try using both Irish and Welsh examples) in which a female figure confers sovereign authority (or whose presence is necessary to the proper exercise of that authority) on a ruler or a group.

 

ii] What is the basic pattern involved?

 

iii] What are some of the recurring images?

 

iv]Can you see a native theological model at the root of these stories? 

9. Find nine Celtic literary figures which bear a strong resemblance to attested pre-Christian Celtic deities.

 

i]Back up your identifications with detailed evidence.

 

ii] In each case, why do you think the deity was chosen to play that particular role in a given story?

 

iii] How much of the deity's original [Indo-European/pre-Christian Celtic] theological character and function has been retained?

 

iv] What has been changed? 

10. i] Describe the characteristics of the _síd_ and its inhabitants in Irish literature.

 

ii] How does this compare to evidence from folklore -- especially its ritual implications?

 

iii] What do you think is the origin of this tradition, in light of a wider body of evidence from the Indo-European world? Can you point to comparable material in Welsh literature?