Help, I'm Stuck Between a Goddess and a Leprechaun...
May 25, 2012 1:01 PM   Subscribe

Obscure Celtic folklore filter: I'm doing a small undergraduate folklore project (around 7 pages) with themes of the Otherworld and fairy lore, centering on the ballads of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer and the tale of Oisín and Niamh so far. Looking for ideas for one or two other primary source, reliable (and translated) selections within Celtic folklore, which ideally are focused on the fairy myths and not just characters from Tuatha Dé Danann.

I have background readings in The Voyage of Bran, and will read through selections of Lebor Gabála Érenn (The Book of Invasions) and Tales of the Elders of Ireland (Acallam na Senórach), but these don't quite fit and seem more background material. I'd love to use a tale from the Mabinogi, but they don't relate in any obvious way to Tam Lin, and it needs to be a close match to synthesize in 5-7 pages.

Probably the biggest 'gap' is between stuff about the Tuatha Dé Danann I could read, and plenty of newish (16th century or older) stuff of uncertain origins about the so-called fairies, but primary sources of lore for the fairy folk which would be on the level with Tam Lin... seem kind of scarce, maybe unsurprisingly. I'm wary of modern collections of Celtic tales that seem super-modernized or have no obvious provenance in primary sources. And, to make my own life more difficult, I prefer reading somewhat central or important sources (whether or not they're obscure), to the end that I want to feel I'm building a foundational knowledge of Celtic (well, English-language) folk literature. That's why I wish I could just read the Fenian Cycle or finish reading the Táin for my purposes.

I'm open to changing my focus to maybe transformation in Celtic folklore (so I could include Ceridwen and Taliesin but not Oisín), as long as I don't drop Tam Lin. Any suggestions on readings would be considered at this point.
posted by reenka to Writing & Language (5 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
Would the Child Ballads be of any use? I seem to remember they include multiple tellings of Tam Lin at least (because that was a favorite story of mine when I was little so I looked it up.)
posted by small_ruminant at 1:51 PM on May 25, 2012

Ok, I guess you would have found those already, since they come up right away when I google.
posted by small_ruminant at 1:52 PM on May 25, 2012

Which versions of Tam Lin and Thomas the Rhymer are you primarily working with? How old does your primary source need to be? And what's your focus? Both of course has a lot of overlap with the kidnaps into the mounds, which should have abundant sourcing. The problem with both is you have to shake off the Christianization around it in order to figure out how to relate it-some pieces are obvious later additions. I'm assuming by those two choices you're focusing on fairy-mortal kidnap entanglements, specifically romantic?

I know this may sound silly to non-myth geeks, but this seems really broad! What are you specifically looking to link or accomplish?
posted by corb at 2:05 PM on May 25, 2012

Response by poster: This sort of goes against the grain for me, but I didn't want to geek out on Tam Lin versions 'cause that'd be a paper in and of itself, but for what it's worth I'm working with Robert Burns' version for Tam Lin that he contributed to the James Johnson's Scots Historical Museum (No. 411), and my Penguin Book of Folk Ballads' Thomas Rymer uses Jamieson , II, 7 compared with A.F. Tyler's Brown manuscript. Err, for what it's worth. I just wanted a standard version (though I immediately discovered that in one version of Thomas Rymer, he's offered a kiss and it's kind of 'whoah' that this is missing in my version, but I decided to ignore that.

Anyway, yeah it's really broad... I'm trying not to worry 'cause this is my 'process', so to speak. But I like the 'fairy-mortal kidnap entanglements, romantic' as a label. It's a great label. My source doesn't 'need' to be super-old, I am just wary of newer stuff and want 'the real deal' I don't have to spend lots of time researching to be comfortable with 'cause it's a small project and I don't have much time.

What would you say is the most prominent fiction (non-ballad? for variety) source for mound kidnaps? I'm using Oisín almost certainly so I'm not limited to mounds, but I could use him for contrast, too.
posted by reenka at 2:29 PM on May 25, 2012

I'm in a hurry, about to leave civilization for the weekend, but surely you've run into Katharine Briggs? She was my best source when I was an undergrad writing about fairy lore :]
posted by fiercecupcake at 3:06 PM on May 25, 2012

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