The events of Celtic mythology have been retold and reinterpreted for millennia, shapeshifting through the ages and spreading across the world. Medieval specialist Mark Williams takes a fresh look at the stories at the heart of this ancient mythology, capturing the beauty of the tales that have shaped our artistic and literary canons and continue to inspire today.
For centuries, since the tales were first written down in the Middle Ages - already by then hundreds of years old - authors and artists have drawn on the ancient lore and legends, giving their vivid characters a rich and powerful afterlife. Cú Chulainn, the hero of Ireland’s great medieval epic, the Táin, became a symbol of the reborn Irish nation; the Irish and Scottish hero Finn captured the imagination of Napoleon, Goethe and Mendelssohn; and the Welsh mythical figure Blodeuwedd, magically created from flowers of the oak, inspired the Irish Romantic poet Yeats.
How is it that these figures are so familiar to us, though they came from a world very different from our own? How did King Arthur, first named in early Welsh chronicles and poetry, become, paradoxically, the archetypal English hero? Williams interrogates the roots of the myths that have had the greatest cultural impact, leaving their mark on everything from the modern fantasy genre to nationalist ideology, and unpacks the multiple meanings they have inspired in the ages since their inception.
With 77 illustrations