Somewhere in the shadowy borderland between myth and history lies the territory of Finn Mac Cool. Mightiest of the Irish heroes, leader of the invincible army of Fianna, he was a man of many faces: warrior, poet, lover, creator, and destroyer. Finn Mac Cool is a man taken from one of the lowest classes of Irish society, driven by ambition and strength to rise above his birth and bring new respect and status to his people.He had it all and lost it all, but in the end he gained immortality. Finn Mac Cool is a novel of sweeping historical grandeur and awesome adventure. At the publisher's request, this title is being sold without Digital Rights Management software (DRM) applied.
Too many characters with too many names (most given in Gaelic, in their Anglicized form and with descriptive adjectives) involved in too many actions subvert Llywelyn's retelling of an important Irish legend. Finn MacCool is a warrior/poet, a leader of the Fianna , the first Irish army, in third-century Ireland. Separated from his parents after a battle with their ancient enemies, the clan of Morna, Finn is brought up in primitive circumstances. After learning of his heritage, he determines to become the strongest man in Ireland so that he will never have to run away from anything again. His early allegiance to Cormac MacAirt, the high king, alters with the ascension of MacAirt's son, Cairbre, who favors Finn's old enemies, the clan of Morna. In middle age, Finn recruits the legendary Diarmait, who--aided by Finn's son, Oisin--reestablishes their hold on the country. A romantic triangle ensues, involving Finn, Diarmait and Grania, daughter of Cormac MacAirt. This is a morality play of the highest order, with trust and sincerity winning out over more basic instincts. Llywelyn, whose The Lion of Ireland was said to be a favorite of Ronald Reagan, has produced a plodding narrative that does not rise above its mythic/historical details. $100,000 ad/promo; author tour.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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May 16, 2002
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Excerpt from Finn Mac Cool by Morgan Llywelyn
The red stag broke cover unexpectedly. Finn and his hounds were taken by surprise. The two dogs froze, waiting for his command. He had one glimpse into huge liquid eyes, pleading eyes; then the stag bounded away down the mountain, belling a warning.
Light from the westering sun burnished the deer's russet coat. North beyond Galway Bay, thick, pale clouds sagged with the weight of approaching winter. Sleet hissed on the wind.
Hot with life, the stag flickered like flame across a cold grey landscape.
"Red deer, red deer," Finn murmured, immobilized by beauty. A poem rose in him like spring water.
Shouts exploded behind him.
"Stag, a big one!"
"Kill it! Kill it!"
Men boiled past Finn, waving their spears and howling their hunger. His instincts briefly merged with theirs. His fingers tightened on the shaft of his spear, his muscles contracted for heft and hurl.
But the poem stopped him. The poem, growing in him.
"Hold where you are!" he cried. The two young hounds, Bran and Sceolaun, whined, but stood.
The men found it harder to obey. Momentum had already carried them past him. They were hunters and a stag was running. But they were also warriors of the F�anna, and he was the new leader of their particular f�an of nine.
He called himself Finn Mac Cool.
Planting their spears on the slope to brace themselves, the f�nnidi watched with regret as the deer leaped from one limestone outcropping to another. When it disappeared from sight, their eyes turned toward Finn.
"You let a fine fat stag get away," accused Conan Maol, Conan the Hairless. "And us starving."
Dark, slender Cailte added, "I could have run him down and eaten the entire animal myself."
"You could have done," Finn said amiably. "But then he'd be gone, all that grace and beauty destroyed. And you'd just be hungry again tomorrow. A creature that splendid can serve a better purpose surely than swelling your belly."
His men exchanged glances. They were beginning to recognize a certain cadence when it crept into the speech of their newly appointed r�gf�nnid. Fionn son of Cuhal was a dedicated hunter. But when the impulse to poetry seized him, everything else must wait. His band had already learned that much about him.
With a last wistful glance after the lost deer, they formed a circle around their leader, crossed their legs, and sat. The ground was cold. They ignored discomfort.
Finn remained standing. His eyes were turned northward. The jagged peaks of the Twelve Bens were dimly visible across the bay, disappearing into lowering clouds, but Finn was not looking at the mountains anyway.
In his mind, he was watching the red stag run.
His expression grew dreamy and faraway. His hair was as pale as winter sunlight, his eyes as clear as water. But when he was ready to speak, his voice would be deep and sure.
Bran and Sceolaun sniffed out the bed in the bracken where the deer had lain. Some of the animal's warmth lingered in the flattened ferns. Circling three times, the hounds remade the bed to suit themselves and curled up together. Sceolaun rested her muzzle on her crossed forepaws, but her companion's head was propped across her back so Bran could keep watchful eyes on Finn.
The cry of wild geese rang through the sky. Looking up, Finn saw black wings carving lines in silver space.
He nodded. The poem was complete. He recited,
Here's my tale.
Stag cries, winter snarls, summer dies.
High and cold the wind.
Low and dull the sun, and brief its run.
Strong surge the seas.
In red-brown bracken, shapes lie hidden.
Geese sing, fleeing south, ice on wing.
That's my tale.
When Finn stopped speaking, Donn said, "Brrr! That's made me colder than I was already."
The poet smiled, flattered.
"'Winter snarls,'" quoted Fergus. "A particularly nice bit, that." His mouth worked, savouring the words.
"It's a grand poem entirely," Cailte affirmed, "but it won't fill our bellies. Words are no substitute for a haunch of venison or a fine silver salmon with the smell of the sea on him."