On reading 'Finn Mac Cool' for the first time since 15 years old
I've been rereading Rosemary Sutcliff's 'High Deeds of Finn Mac Cool' for the first time in seventeen years. It has dated.
First of all, the opening story of how Finn takes the leadership of the Fianna from Goll Mac Morna is all about rigid notions of honor which are absolutist. The reliance of honor to protect people from falling into error is an indication of how fragile the social contract was in ancient Ireland. But the side effect of rigid honor was that often heroes make really dumb decisions.
I don't mind the whole weirdo patriarchal macho war thing - that's the place and time - but there is one particular thing I do mind in Sutcliff's rendition. Every time a story nears the ending, Finn does this "year and a day thing" which drives me nuts. Say he's slayed the dragon - well then he stays with the maiden for a year and a day. It's a figure of speech which seems to be the equivalent of the funky little dances people do in Worlds of Warfare - it's like a poncy way of saying, " and then there was great whoopee made!"
Anyway, it's a kid's book, yeah? So I have to tolerate it's condescending tone and childish repetitions of hurrahs. But I believe I might perhaps have outgrown Irish mythology already.