Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Waves of Manannán mac Lir, the Irish God of the Sea

Author:  Charles W. MacQuarrie
1907945296 / 9781907945298

Why did I read it?  I was searching out a reasonably priced copy of "The Biography of the Irish God of the Sea from the Voyage of Bran (700 A.D.) to Finnegans Wake (1939): The Waves of Manannán" by Charles W. MacQuarrie when I stumbled upon this children's book by the Isle of Man based publishers, Lily Publications Limited.   Given there are few books out there for children on the Irish myths - most are out of print and hard to come by - I thought I should like to read it.

What's it about? This collection of stories about Manannán mac Lir has been translated and freely adapted by the author with the intention of being suitable for children. In these stories Manannán serves as a tester, and a teacher to the mortals he encounters. Sometimes he appears as a nobleman, and sometimes as a churl; sometimes he imparts his wisdom gently, and sometimes gingerly; sometimes he teaches philosophy, and sometimes good manners, but he always seems to have the best interests of civilization at heart.

What did I like?  Although this collection is aimed at children, I found it difficult to discern which age group.   The book is a very quick read, containing four tales, along with intermittent illustrations in the form of watercolours.  It took me less than an hour to read all 54 pages, even with distractions. The stories are heavily condensed, and easily digestible on the whole.  

What didn't I like?  There is a mix of English dialects within the text: American, English, and Irish, and I found this somewhat jarring, along with some obvious editorial mistakes, and strange, seemingly out-of-place sentences, which might be the result of translation issues(?).   I also struggled with one or two words in the text, though I fortunately had an online dictionary nearby.   Two, consecutive tales where Manannán meets Finn may have parents answering some awkward questions about how Finn can end up dead in the first story, but walking in the forest on the next page, in the next tale as though nothing has happened.

Would I recommend it? Yes.  It's a rarity.  However, I do so with the caveat of not knowing for which age group the material is suitable.

Rating: 4.5/5

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