Monday, 5 January 2015

Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths & Legends

by Peter Berresford Ellis, 3 stars

I’ve always loved a bit of mythology but have until now always been drawn to the Greek and the Norse, so it was high time I read a little about the myths that were formed in my own country. Being both mammoth and full of re-tellings of Celtic myths and legends, this one lived up to its title’s promise.

Split into sections covering the different Celtic regions – Ireland, Manx, Scottish, Welsh, Cornish and Brittany – each came with a preface explaining the historical context in which these tales should be placed, something I greatly appreciated. Prompted by the prefaces, it became easier to see how these tales had been shaped and influenced by the landscapes in which these storytellers lived, as well as how they started to change with the influence of Christianity (and the pens of contemporary Christian authorities as they sought to alter or suppress the beliefs native to whatever land they’d ‘converted’).

I enjoyed reintroductions to some of the beings I’ve encountered in modern paranormal stories – such as the Tuatha De Danann and the Fomorrii (thanks to Harry Dresden), early versions of stories I’ve come to know through fairytales (Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty to name two) and, in my own favourite section (the Cornish, being in my part of the world), the Bukkys and piskies that can waylay unwary travellers.

If I had hoped to get a little more on the deities of the Celtic regions, I was to be ever so slightly disappointed, but in all this was a good introduction to a fascinating subject.


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