The legend of Diarmuid and Grania: its history and treatment by modern writers.
Candon, Thomas Henry
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The latter half of the nineteenth century saw the beginnings in Ireland of the Celtic revival, a literary movement which sent modern Irish writers who were using the medium of English back to the ancient Gaelic literature of their country for inspiration. Historians, translators, and linguistic scholars had uncovered, in their study of this Gaelic literature, a rich mine of myth and legend which the Anglo-Irish were quick to use in literary works of their own. The old Irish literature can boast of two famous cycles. The first, called the Ulster cycle, centers around the heroes of the Red Branch who lived in north-eastern Ireland and includes the many tales of the mighty Cuchulain. The second cycle, the Fenian or Ossianic, celebrates the deeds of the popular Irish hero, Finn MacCool, and his Fenian warriors. In both cycles there are stories which modern Irish writers have found appealing enough to re-tell in English, the language which Ireland now uses. Of the Fenian tales, one of the best-known and one that is still recited as folk-lore by Gaelic-speaking peasants is the legend of Diarmuid and Grania. It differs from most of the stories in this cycle in its portrayal of Finn , not as the generous, wise , powerful leader of his men, but as a jealous , petty tyrant. The legend tells the story of Grania , the daughter of Cormac MacArt, the High King of Ireland , and Diarmuid, the handsomest man in the Fianna and nephew of Finn MacCool himself. Grania, who is betrothed to Finn, falls in love with the chivalrous Diarmuid and forces him to elope with her. They flee from the court at Tara and are pursued throughoutIreland by the jealous Finn. Eventually Finn succeeds in sending Diarmuid to his death and wins back to himself the affections of the fickle Grania.[TRUNCATED] The manner in which an author re-tells an old story and gives it creative treatment of his own is always of interest to t he student of literature. The several authors who were attracted to the legend of Diarmvuid and Grania have all handled the old story differently and with varying degrees of success.(Brief mention has been made in this study of the allusive and symbolical references to the legend in James Joyce's Finnegans Wake.) Although the central line of action is the same, the characterizations, the selection of episodes from the original versions, and the actual method of unfolding the narrative all differ in these modern re-tellings. That so many writers found the old story appealing enough to warrant their giving it literary treatment of their own points to the human appeal and enduring interest of this old Celtic love story.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--Boston University
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