Please join me today in welcoming author J. S. Dunn to the blog....
Fresh Eire! Bending The Boyne uses the latest concepts about the ancient Gaels (later called Celts by Greeks and Romans) in a tale of greed and gold set at Ireland’s ancient, sacred heart: the Boyne passage mounds. Thank you Michelle, for inviting me to post on the ideas behind Bending The Boyne ! Reading a novel set in such a remote era can be a challenge.
The Boyne mounds in Ireland are older than the Pyramids, and Stonehenge. How did these great mounds fall into disuse? Additional background follows to enhance reading of Bending The Boyne.
Boann, the female protagonist, comes from the earliest Irish myths where she appears briefly in a tangled story that mentions the birth of her son Aengus. “...they made the sun stand still to the end of nine months / strange the tale...” That has to be the original version of our modern “Who’s Your Daddy?” celebrity gossip. Her son Aengus, born at winter solstice, ties in the astronomy practiced at the mounds.
In our era four thousand years later, the winter solstice sunrise still penetrates into the central mound of Newgrange and lights the inner chamber. The Boyne astronomy culture had the action and was a power center for the north Atlantic. The Boyne mounds are now a UN World Heritage site and hold much of Europe’s Neolithic stone artwork. The mounds receive over 200,000 visitors every year.
Myth has endless possibility for interpretation and re-telling. The Isles’ myths were transcribed from native tongues (old Irish, and old Welsh) by devout but cold, hungry, cloistered monks in a later millennium. How much authentic oral history or fact the Christianized monks’ versions contain is hotly debated. Yet, archaeologist William O’Brien used a bit of “myth” about Ross Lake in county Kerry to locate and excavate at the Lake Of Many Hammers, said to be home for an ancient smith, Lein. Lein’s Lake Of Many Hammers turned out to be the site of the Isles’ first known copper mine. O’Brien made a stunning find and started a paradigm shift. The Isles’ should no longer be seen as an outpost or on the fringe of prehistory. (At this time, Mediterannean cultures lived in huts; Troy, the Greek cities, Carthage, and Rome, did not exist.)
What inspired Bending The Boyne specifically was a passage of medieval text that describes the huge and intricately engineered Boyne mounds as “elfmounds”. Wow, that’s some piece of propaganda! How did these impressive mounds come to be dismissed as the home of elves and fairies? Bending The Boyne uses myth plus bang-on archaeology to make the Bronze Age clash of cultures accessible to the modern reader – as Auel’s Clan series did for the Paleolithic.
As the centennial of Ireland’s Rising approaches in 2016, this novel offers a new perspective on the unending Troubles for one notable island that has had successive waves of newcomers – foreigners, which is the meaning of “Gael” and of which the English were only the latest incarnation.
The reader may find the maps in the front matter, and the Glossary of names and author’s note at the back matter, to be useful. The author’s website, www.jsdunnbooks.com, contains reading group questions, and web links to find photos and interesting information about the objects and places depicted in Bending The Boyne.
More on the new concepts about “Celts” and the early origin of the Gaelic language can be found in Celtic From The West (Cunliffe and Koch, editors, 2010, Oxford Press).
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Giveaway--publisher, Seriously Good Books is giving away ONE copy of Bending the Boyne to a U.S. reader. Please fill out the Rafflecopter form below. Ends Friday, November 25th at 11:59pm CST. Good luck!