Ireland's Immortals tells the story of one of the world's great mythologies. The first account of the gods of Irish myth to take in the whole sweep of Irish literature in both the nation's languages, the book describes how Ireland's pagan divinities were transformed into literary characters in the medieval Christian era--and how they were recast again during the Celtic Revival of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.Read more...
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Ireland's Immortals tells the story of one of the world's great mythologies. The first account of the gods of Irish myth to take in the whole sweep of Irish literature in both the nation's languages, the book describes how Ireland's pagan divinities were transformed into literary characters in the medieval Christian era--and how they were recast again during the Celtic Revival of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. A lively narrative of supernatural beings and their fascinating and sometimes bizarre stories, Mark Williams's comprehensive history traces how these gods--known as the Tuatha De Danann--have shifted shape across the centuries, from Iron Age cult to medieval saga to today's young-adult fiction.
We meet the heroic Lug; the Morrigan, crow goddess of battle; the fire goddess Brigit, who moonlights as a Christian saint; the mist-cloaked sea god Manannan mac Lir; and the ageless fairies who inspired J.R.R. Tolkien's immortal elves. Medieval clerics speculated that the Irish divinities might be devils, angels, or enchanters. W. B. Yeats invoked them to reimagine the national condition, while his friend George Russell beheld them in visions and understood them to be local versions of Hindu deities. The book also tells how the Scots repackaged Ireland's divine beings as the gods of the Gael on both sides of the sea--and how Irish mythology continues to influence popular culture far beyond Ireland.
An unmatched chronicle of the Irish gods, Ireland's Immortals illuminates why these mythical beings have loomed so large in the world's imagination for so long.
- ISBN-13: 9780691157313
- ISBN-10: 0691157316
- Publisher: Princeton University Press
- Publish Date: November 2016
- Page Count: 608
- Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.1 x 1.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2016-07-04
- Reviewer: Staff
In this weighty tome, Williams, a tutor in English at Lincoln College, University of Oxford, seeks to pull together the disparate strands of myth and lore over the course of centuries to provide a conclusive history of the Irish gods. “This book is the story of a nation’s fantasy, and of the crossing-places where imagination meets belief... from the early Middle Ages through the present,” he writes in his preface. In tackling such a broad and complicated topic, he confronts the odd dichotomies and paradoxes present in the body of Irish lore, in which humans and gods, mortals and immortals, and the natural and supernatural are almost interchangeable. He also traces the intermingling of pagan and Christian legends to see how they shaped each other. As he examines different narrative cycles, he shows how they’ve risen and fallen in popularity, flirting with obscurity before finding new life in popular culture. It’s a dense, academic affair, slow and studious, and more than a little daunting for its thoroughness. Those looking for lively adventures or entry-level stories may be disappointed; scholars and researchers will leap to add this to their collections. (Oct.)