May 29, 2007
Wisdom of the Outlaw
Wisdom of the Outlaw: the Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition by Joseph Falak Nagy
This is a fascinating analysis of stories about the childhood of the great Irish (and Scottish) hero Fionn MacCumhail. Nagy relates the themes in the Boyhood Deeds to other Fenian tales, revealing their structure and symbolism. Finn is a complex figure- an outsider who lives on the edge of society, in the wilderness, as well as a poet and seer- positions that were highly regarded, even fairly central to ancient and medieval Irish culture. Nagy examines the role the fennidi- bands of outsider warriors play by serving as gatekeepers to the otherworld- they protect civilized society from human and supernatural invaders, as well as gaining knowledge from the Otherworld. Finn’s family and foster-parents have an interesting influence on the path he takes- Finn’s father was a fennid as well, and his mother was the daughter of a druid- these opposing identities coalesce to create Finn. His foster-parents raised him in the wilderness, and taught him how to fight and hunt.
I found Wisdom of the Outlaw to be quite readable & accessible to the layperson for a scholarly work. I learned a lot about Fenian cycle of Irish mythology and how it relates to the culture, mythos and ideology as a whole.