The Great Myths #15: The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne (Celtic)

The Great Myths #15: The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne (Celtic) Human Voices Wake Us

An episode from 1/15/22: Tonight we read from perhaps the great love story from the Middle Ages, since without it there would be no romance of Tristan and Isolde. How the Irish story of Gráinne, a young woman who casts a magic spell and puts her wedding party to sleep (she has just been married to a much older man) so that she can run off with a man named Diarmuid instead–how this tale grew and changed in the hands of British and continental authors and eventually became Wagner’s opera is interesting enough, but even more is the original story.

While the tale itself goes back to the tenth century, I read from a version dating to 1651, The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne (Tóraigheacht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne). I also read from the introduction, where we learn how important the story was to its original Irish audience. For example, as the title says, the story is a pursuit–the pursuit of the eloped couple by the “wronged” husband–and it was common for local communities, attached to the story as they were, to refer to parts of their own landscape (hills, caves, dolmens, etc.) as “the beds” used by Diarmuid and Gráinne, as they made their way across Ireland.

Since the climax of the story also involves that great Indo-European motif, The Boar Hunt, I also spend time talking about the mythology surrounding the boar, and point to my own essay on the topic.

The translations of the story I read from is by Nessa Ní Shéaghdha, was published as volume 48 in the Irish Texts Society, Main Series. The text of other translations can be found here. A summary is on Wiki here.

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