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Thief of Tales: A Celtic Fable

Anyone familiar with old Irish tales will attest that, despite their frequently amazing qualities, they are often weird, disturbing and confounding. At least, I find them so. It was with a sense akin to relief that I eventually came across scholarly opinion that old stories were typically worked over by monastic scribes of the Catholic Church who had brought fully developed written language to Ireland in the latter half of the first millennium and began transcribing old tales from the oral tradition. In particular, scholars believe that female figures in tales often suffered distortions – and darkening – at the hands of misogynist monastics. The old Irish goddess, Sionainn, for whom the Shannon River is named, is a good example. Her tale is one of broken taboos and tragedy in written versions – of an uppity young woman sticking her nose into matters in which it doesn’t belong and paying the ultimate price. Talk about the party line!

Since my daughter bears a variant of the name Sionainn, I thought it would be special to be able to read a myth or legend or two involving the figure to her. Not a prayer. Just the warning tale of punishment and woe. A dark, unedifying, and frankly crappy tale for a little girl. And the thought occurred to me, if some medieval monkish stooge can rewrite tales, why not just write them back?

So I sat down one evening and set about re-crafting the tale of the Shannon River and the goddess Sionainn, so we would have something edifying to read to my daughter. As one page turned into two and so on, other ideas bloomed in my mind…..a tower, evil monks, another girl confronting oppression. Thief of Tales, and its stories within the story, unfolded from there. [I’ll take a moment here to offer a special nod to author Morgan Llywelyn, whose work with the character of Shinann in her most excellent work Bard inspired my daughter’s name and the characterization of Sionainn in Thief.]

It is a story about how stories, from the personal to the mythic, take shape, how they can be distorted, how they can be imposed on people, and how they can be redeemed.

Many other characters and themes landed on the windowsill to peek in on the process, some hopped through and stuck around. It has been a pleasure spending time with them all. I hope you experience the same. Here’s a taste………

Chapter 1 – A Drop of Rain.pdf

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