Erin & Alba
the Hibernian Sea, skirting the shoals of the
Ancient Mysteries of the Druids on the one hand and the
Lore of the Shamrock on the other, we've found these sites to
be useful in searching out what is known and what is not about the
earliest folk who spoke the Gaelic tongues, from Eire to Man to the highlands of
The corpus of early Irish tales is preserved in
various medieval compilations.
The tales fall into four cycles: the Mythological
Cycle, or stories of the Tuatha Dé Danaan, the Tribes (or
Children, or People) of the Goddess Danu; the Ulster (or Ultonian) Cycle,
concerning King Conchobar and the warriors of the Red Branch, including
the hero Cú Chullain; the Fenian Cycle, stories of Fin
Mac Cumhaill and the warriors of the fiana; and the Historcal Cycle,
tales of ancient kings.
The manuscripts in which these tales are found are
The Book of the Dun Cow (generally ascribed to the 11th century),
The Book of Leinster (12th century),
The Book of Ballymote (14th century),
The Yellow Book of Lecan (also 14th century),
and The Book of the Dean of Lismore (15th century).
There are also many Scottish manuscripts which supplement these Irish
collections, and are particularly rich in tales of
Ossian and the Fenians.
Irish Mythology, an excellent introduction
to the Mythological, Ulster, and Fenian cycles from Bob Reeder.
The Irish Literature
and Verse "Ancient Tales" pages include
"The Conquest of the Sons of
Mil" from The Book of Invasions; "The Second Battle of Mag
Tured (Moytura)" from the Mythological Cycle; "Bricriu's Feast" from
the Ulster Cycle;
"The Boyhood Deeds of Cú Chulainn"; "How the Bulls were Begotten,"
from the Táin; and "The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Grainne"
from the Fenian Cycle.
The Táin, or
in full Táin Bó Cuailnge or The Cattle
Raid of Cooley, has been called "the oldest vernacular epic in
European literature". This HTML edition pairs an adaptation of
the English translation of Joseph Dunn (1914) with the Irish
transcription of Ernst Windisch (1905).
Voyage of Bran, Son of Febal, in the English translation
from the Old Irish by Kuno Meyer of 1890. New URL.
The Ulster Cycle
features an introduction, pronunciation, and 52 classic tales,
compiled by Patrick Brown.
Stories and Songs
Cuchulain, the Champion of Ireland
from Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race by Maud Isabel Ebbutt (1910).
Deirdre of the Sorrows
and The Children of Lêr by
Megan Powell, at Fables. New !
Oisin and Niamh by
Greg Niedt, also at Fables. New !
Other Useful Sites
The Irish Literature,
Mythology, Folklore, and Drama site is a comprehensive guide to
other Irish resources on the net.
On Reading Ancient Literature:
The Text and the Context by Michael Sundermeier. "The reader of an ancient Irish epic,
such as The Cattle Raid of Cooley (Táin Bó Cuailnge), will find it useful
to understand the characteristics which epics tend to have in common--and
Tír Na nÓg,
the Virtual Irish Cyber Café.
Notes on the Illustrations ·
29 April 2007