Thursday, June 30, 2011

The Kinds of Stories

This is from a medieval Irish list of the kinds of stories in old Irish literature, arranged in groups of three:
destructions, cattle raids, wooings
battles, terrors, voyages
deaths, feasts, sieges
adventures, elopements, plunderings
eruptions from lakes, visions, hostings
That about covers it, right? What else could happen in a saga?


Unknown said...

What about a trial? That's one of the centerpieces of many Icelandic sagas, and also Roland and the Cid, if one considers them sagas.

John said...

That's interesting. I can't think offhand of a trial in an Irish story, although they had an elaborate legal system. Perhaps the word doesn't alliterate with anything, so the compiler of the list couldn't put it in.

Unknown said...

I wonder if there was some guild-type boundary, like bards couldn't talk about druid or brehon things, etc. In that sense, we would have a compelling motive for the topics of sagas memnonic that you quote ("you can talk about these things, and not others").

It's always struck me that it is peculiarly difficult to reconstruct anything meaningfully religious or druid-like from the myths (druid-like in the sense of the social-religious role the Romans report for them, for what that's worth).

Then again, it could well just be an issue of alliteration, or meter, etc.

John said...

If you're really curious I suggest you read Jean Markale. He's a New Age flake, but he has convinced me that New Age flakes can get closer to the thinking of the druids than more rational historians can. He thinks the doctrine of the druids was mystical and esoteric, something the young druids were supposed to absorb gradually from rituals, stories, and the occasional gnomic utterance, rather than something anyone would explain. If you look into modern Hinduism you discover that some yogis attach all sorts of mystical significance to what look like fairy tales about monkey kings.