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Richard Marsh

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The Legends and Lands of Ireland
by Richard Marsh   

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Books by Richard Marsh
· Over the Wall to the Trinity Ball and other poems
· Earn Fire
· Utmost Magpie
· A Blirt to the End and Other Stories
· English Like It Is: Right, Wrong and Changing Usage
                >> View all



Publisher:  Sterling/Penn ISBN-10:  1402707843 Type: 


Copyright:  2004 ISBN-13:  9781402707841


43 Irish legends profusely illustrated with photographs of the places where the legends happened.

"The Legends and Lands of Ireland is a book for slow times, a journey through the collective unconscious of the Irish race. You cannot speed through Richard Marsh’s rich, nourishing prose, witty, learned, beautiful. If you do, you’ll miss nuggets along the way. ... Mr. Marsh carries his learning lightly, so lightly you might not notice how profound his scholarship is. ... Each picture here is worth a book in itself and every sentence of Richard Marsh is worth a picture."
From the Foreword by Frank McCourt.


The Written Sources of the Stories: The Annals and Books
The Story Cycles
The Mythological Cycle
The Ulster Cycle
The Fionn Cycle
The Cycles of the Kings
The Legends in Modern Ireland
Are the Stories True?

Chapter 1 - Myths

The Naming of Baltinglass
The Fate of the Children of Lir
The Dagda and Boann
Grianán Aileach
Ollamh Fodhla
The Second Battle of Moytura

Chapter 2 - Tales of Fionn mac Cumhaill and the Fianna

Aideen and Oscar
Diarmuid and Gráinne
How Fionn Got His Gray Hair
Fionn and the Scottish Giant: The Origin of the Giant's Causeway
Fionn and the Battle of Gabhra A.D. 284

Chapter 3 - The Táin Bó Cuailnge - The Cattle Raid of Cooley and Its Hero, Cúchulainn

Maeve and Aillil's Pillow Talk
The Tragic Death of the Sons of Uisliu: The Deirdre Story
The Curse of Macha
The Birth of Cúchulainn
Sétanta Goes to Emain Macha
How Cúchulainn Got His Name
Cúchulainn's Single Combat with Ferdia
The Death of Cúchulainn

Chapter 4 - Legends of Saints

Brigit, Saint and Goddess
Saint Colmcille
The Cursing of Tara
Saint Fechin and the Seven Wonders of Fore
Saint Kevin and Glendalough
The True Legend of Saint Patrick
Saint Patrick and the Demons

Chapter 5 - Legends of Kings

The Blarney Stone
Killeen Cormac
Guaire and Diarmait
Guaire and Mochua: The Road of the Dishes
Cormac mac Art
Lia Fáil, the Stone of Destiny

Chapter 6 - Family Legends

Granuaile and Howth Castle
The Lynch Wall
Máire Rua

Chapter 7 - Local Legends and Folk Tales

The Fairies
The Irish Harp
Bunratty Ghosts
An Bacach Rua, the Redheaded Beggar
Clonmacnoise: The Unfinished Round Tower
The Curse of Cromwell
The Hill of the Hag
The Pipers Stones
The Blarney Stone

Whatever American tourists have heard about Ireland before they arrive, they know that kissing the Blarney Stone at Blarney Castle near Cork City will confer on them the gift of blarney or gab, although they may not know why, or how the term “blarney” entered the Queen’s English. After they have kissed the Stone, they are usually informed by a mischievous tour guide that the local lads are in the habit of “shedding a tear for Parnell” (the political leader deposed in 1890 because of a sex scandal) over the Stone on their way home from the pub.

Those who have undergone the experience know that it is difficult enough to kiss the Stone because of its position in the parapet of the castle. You have to lie down and kiss the under part. And it would indeed take a great leap of the imagination, let alone a more prodigious effort on the part of the “tear-shedders,” to make the tour guide’s claim believable. Here is the true legend of the Blarney Stone and the origin of the term blarney.

Clíona Ceannfhionn (“Fair-haired”), a woman of the Tuatha Dé Danaan from Tír Tairngire (The Land of Promise), is an Otherworld queen associated with Munster. The O’Keefe family counts her as an ancestress. Cormac Láidir (“Strong”) MacCarthy, who built Blarney Castle in the 15th century, was engaged in a lawsuit. He appealed to Clíona for help, and she told him to kiss the first stone he came upon in the morning on his way to court. He did so – some say it was a stone from a stone circle or a megalithic tomb – and he pleaded his case with such eloquence that he won. That is why kissing the Blarney Stone is said to impart “the ability to deceive without offending.”

Concerned that others might gain the same gift of gab from the stone, MacCarthy concealed it by incorporating it into the parapet of his castle.

Unfortunately, according to an investigator writing in 1893, the true Blarney Stone went missing before 1870, and in any case the “custom” of the general public kissing the stone had only just been invented by tour guides a few years earlier [recte]. But don’t despair if you have gone through the ritual. The 1995 Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable assures us that “a substitute has been provided, which is said to be as effective as the original.”

The first Queen Elizabeth is believed to have been the first person to use the term blarney, when she so described the “fair words and soft speech” of the owner of Blarney Castle in 1602.

At that time, the Irish Catholic lords were under pressure to renounce their religion and convert to the English Church or have their properties confiscated by the Crown. Blarney Castle was one of the strongest fortresses in Munster, and so the religion and consequent political stance of its owner were significant.

Cormac MacDermot MacCarthy, the Catholic owner, pretended to be considering “jumping,” as the politically expedient nominal conversion to Protestantism was called, and he kept putting off announcing his decision to the Queen with silken excuses. She finally lost patience with his procrastination and exclaimed, “Odds bodikins, more Blarney talk,” or, as some have it, “I will hear no more of this Blarney talk. Blarney, Blarney. All is Blarney.”

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