Pic of the day: A Celt from Dark Age of Camelot. But that's not really my topic today ... it was just the most Celtic thing I could get in a hurry.
Celtic legends retold
Riders of the Sidhe, Kenneth C. Flint, published by Awe-struck E-books, sold by Fictionwise.com. Yes, another E-book. Perhaps you can get it printed in poison on dead trees too, but who would want that?
As a young man, I was fascinated by mythology. I read with interest the mythologies of several ancient cultures, and have done so up until now. But somehow the Celtic mythology fell outside this. I read a couple stories, but I found them boorish, rude and plump. They seemed to me not to be true myths, but rather like the drunken stories of none-too- bright laborers exchanging tall tales over one too many beer in a dimly lit village alehouse back in a primitive and illiterate age. Oversized characters having oversized action on the battlefield and in bed, but nothing more than the puerile drunken daydreams of simple men.
(I am aware that this was a mainstay of iron age religions, which are supposed to have mirrored the lifestyle of the local monarchs, only larger than life. Still, there is usually something more too. Like the deep psychological dramas of Greek mythology, or the stoic fight of the Norse gods in the face of unflinching fate and ordained defeat.)
This is not to say that I held all of Celtic culture in contempt. Certainly the ancient Celts had artisans and musicians of high repute, as do their descendants to this very day. But their myths, at least those I had read, barely even qualified as fairy tales. And so, even half a year ago, I would not have stopped to consider this book. I would not have wasted my time, much less my money and my time, on such. But during the last couple months, another factor intervened.
For half a year now, I have been playing the online RPG Dark Age of Camelot. Despite its name, it is not all Arthurian: It comprises three disparate realms, based on three different mythologies, and locked in a never-ending, meaningless battle against each other. Whenever one seems to gain ascendancy, the other two will converge on it, without ever forming an alliance or even truce with one another. These three mythologies are the Arthurian of Albion, the Norse of Midgard, and the Celtic of Hibernia. I am intimately familiar with the Norse myths, and so that was where I first started out. But I found this realm harsh and its reliance on cold metal too dreary, so I moved to the more open and magical realm of Albion. After a long stay there, I eventually upgraded my hardware enough to try out the magic-rich Hibernia, and I loved it.
The land of the Hibernia is steeped in magic, and it comes easily and effortlessly to the mageborn races of Elves and Lurikeen. Even the Celts and Firbolgs wield their own brand of nature magic, an Earthpower that can both heal and harm. Despite the unwieldy names of the places, my curiosity was ever more roused. And so when I accidentally found this book on the New Book list at Fictionwise, I decided to give the Celtic stories another chance. Not for one page did I regret it.
The story is certainly much altered from its origin. In it, the mischievous gods are humans and elves (actually they are not even called elves, but assumed to be remnants of some old race out of the past). They are competent, but mortal, and their eagerness to help one another is what saves their lives and help them triumph. Oh, and the book is rather family-friendly too, although small children would probably find it scary. There is even some romance.
In this first book, the land of Eire is occupied by a grotesque and degenerate people from across the seas to the north, the Fomor. Their physical and moral corruption is painted in the broadest of strokes, though the book gradually reveals hint of a colossal tragedy in their past that set them on this path. As an avid DAoC player, I could not avoid equaling the Fomor with the "middies", the raiders from Midgard that are always making trouble in the borderlands. (Of course, from the other side, the "hibbies" are held in similar regard. Though the Norse trolls are certainly the most inhuman looking race in the entire game.) You'd almost think this guy had played the game, or perhaps the guys at Mythic had read the book. Not that any of these is likely. It is just another funny coincidence, I guess.
Either that, or the Celtic myths are more like this book than I have believed, and less like low-brow drunkard's tales. Perhaps I should read more ...?
Visit the Diary Farm for the older diaries I've put out to pasture.