Surely the most popular narratives in the Scottish Highlands in the early modern period were the heroic tales and ballads relating to the warrior Fionn mac Cumhail and his band of superheroes, the Fian (variously called An Fhian, An Fhéinn, na Fiantaichean, etc., in Gaelic). There was a huge selection of material, and on any particular occasion, a performer might recite or sing only a small portion of the adventures that related to the “Ossianic cycle” (or “Fenian cycle,” as it is sometimes called).
It is always the case that once a body of narrative becomes intimately known by an audience, it serves as a vehicle for multiple rhetorical purposes. In other words, it can serve not just as an imaginative story about far-away people and places, but as a means of social commentary about the here and now. Think of “Romeo and Juliet,” for example, and how it has been retold and repackaged to comment on youth gangs in California (as in the 1996 film with Leonardo DiCaprio) or 1960s New York (West Side Story). The many, many retellings of the Arthurian legends provide another example of how the well-kent characters and plot structure have enabled skilled storytellers to comment on power and corruption.
The same was true for Gaelic storytellers in Scotland and Ireland.
I am currently a future-adult-scholar, in training to be an expert in the field. The man who wrote the above, however, is an adult-scholar, and he’s very good at it.
I suggest reading his blog for scholarly takes on things related to Gaelic literature. His posts are always interesting, and they certainly make you think.
I like the one above because I’ve been taking a class on Fionn, and because I like seeing how circumstances affect the way the stories were told and what sorts of stories were told. I haven’t read that Fionn tale before, either, which is also a plus.
I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
Your Bonnie Celtophile,