Thus, while the magic in Deirdre and Yvain are of different forms, the fact that it is present in both stories supports the theory of Celtic influence. Switching from religious to social issues, there are once again numerous parallels between the two tales, in spite of the changes two hundred years can make in a society.
In Deirdre, love simply happens and is accepted, whereas in Yvain the perfection of love forms the basis of the story and is the reason for Yvain's inner struggle and quest. In both tales, however, the main characters fall instantly in love based on physical beauty.
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This seems to indicate a trend in marriages of convenience, and the need for people to imagine love in a world where it takes second place to monetary or social advancement. This instantaneous love also seems to go hand in hand with the fact that, in Deirdre, Deirdre is so beautiful that she "fires the imagination with a look or a gesture," and in Yvain, Laudine is of "such immeasurable beauty, for in making her Nature has surpassed every limit.
Research on Ancient Celts
Though Yvain is set in a courtly medieval society rather than Deirdre's less civilized atmosphere, it maintains the Celtic ideal of instant and beautiful love. Finally, the theme of honor as the greatest virtue is one that remains perfectly intact from Celtic to Medieval literature, as the Uisnach brothers and Yvain all acknowledge that it is better to die than to be shamed. While the Uisnach brothers fight together for the good of the family and Yvain fights for personal glory, they are all portrayed as the perfect warriors, just as the women are portrayed as perfect beauties.
For example, just as the three brothers defeat an entire army of one hundred men on their own, so does Yvain take down three attackers by himself to save Lunette from being burned at the stake. These amazing feats of prowess and bravery are obviously a theme that has been handed down throughout the ages, because they are too congruent to be unique incidents.
Therefore, it can be said from reading these two legends that elements of a particular Celtic tale can be found in the Arthurian romances of Chretien de Troyes. Though this analysis is not applicable to Celtic mythology and Arthurian legends in general, the many similarities between The Legend of Deirdre and Yvain provide a solid basis for beginning more comprehensive research into the subject. While such research would most likely prove some of these conjectures wrong, at least a few should be able to stand the test of scrutiny.
If nothing else, the character of Merlin in other Arthur stories should add credence to the theory that the magic of the Arthurian romances is based on Celtic Druidism. The king and his knights are celebrating the Celtic festival of Sanhain when a piercing cry disrupts the revelry. The Druid Cathbad announces to the silent crowd that the cry came from the child still in the womb of Elva, the bard Malcolm's wife.
He prophesizes that the child Deirdre will be of great beauty, that kings will desire her, and that warfare will divide the kingdom because of her.
Myths and Legends of the Celts by James MacKillop
King Connacher is intrigued by Cathbad's description of her unequaled beauty and orders that she be raised in order to be his wife. She grows up to be both beautiful and kind. However, Deirdre does not want to marry Connacher, but rather the man she sees in a dream and who she is reminded of when a black raven drinks blood on the snow.
One day she sees him walking by and runs out to kiss him and give him her love. The man, Naois of Uisnach, is at first afraid because of the prophecy, but he falls in love anyway. His brothers take him and Deirdre to exile in Scotland where they live happily until King Connacher sends a message for them to return and be forgiven.
Deirdre is afraid because she has had a vision of ravens pronouncing that death awaits the three brothers in Ireland, but Naois is determined to return. When Connacher hears upon their arrival how beautiful Deirdre remains, he orders the brothers killed, but they defeat all one hundred men he sends against them.
Then he orders Cathbad to kill them, and the druid proceeds to turn the plain on which the brothers stand into a dense forest, freezing ocean, and jagged rock torture chamber, respectively. The brothers fall one by one until Deirdre is left to weep over their ragged bodies, and then Connacher takes her to be locked in his palace. She refuses to eat, and soon dies.
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She is buried beside the grave of Naois, and a stake of Yew wood is set to mark each grave. Two years later, two beautiful Yew trees have grown together, their branches intertwined, so that the two trees are one. This summary is taken from an adaptation of the Gaelic story by John Stuart Dick.
I also have another shorter version of the legend in which some of the events are altered and Deirdre kills herself by bashing her head on a rock, but I preferred the longer one J. Note: all quotes from Deirdre refer to this CD text. William W. Kibler, London: Penguin, Ford, trans. Simply link your Qantas Frequent Flyer membership number to your Booktopia account and earn points on eligible orders.
A Bird's-Eye View on Celts
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Click on the cover image above to read some pages of this book! Developed from an early oral storytelling tradition dating back to the dawn of European culture, this is one of the oldest and most vibrant of Europe's mythologies. From all six Celtic cultures - Irish, Scots, Welsh, Cornish, Manx and Breton - Peter Berresford Ellishas included popular myths and legends, as well as bringing to light exciting new tales which have been lying in manuscript form, untranslated and unknown to the modern general reader.
The author brings not only his extensive knowledge of source material but also his acclaimed skills of storytelling to produce an original, enthralling and definitive collection of Celtic myths and legends - tales of gods and goddesses, heroes and heroines, magical weapons, fabulous beasts, and entities from the ancient Celtic world.
Under the pseudonym Peter Tremayne he is the author of the bestselling Sister Fidelma murder mysteries set in Ireland in the 7th Century. Help Centre. Track My Order. My Wishlist Sign In Join.
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