Irish Fantasy Fiction

Pangur Ban

By Anne Perry

Posted on March 16, 2015 in Fun Stuff with tags Mythology

A quick survey of online resources for Irish fantasy fiction… and a poem about a cat.

It’s St Patrick’s Day tomorrow, which means today is a good day to talk about fantastical Irish fiction.

Ireland has a rich mythological heritage. This website, though aesthetically basic, is a brilliant resource for discovering stories and traditions.

Another brilliant, extremely comprehensive website resource is here: it points to lots of SFF set in Ireland, both modern and vintage.

And of course there’s plenty of discussion about Irish-set fantasy over at Goodreads.

If it’s film and tv you’re in the mood for, a number of fantasy films and shows have been filmed in the Wicklow mountains outside of Dublin, including Vikings and Reign of Fire.

But for my money you can’t beat the impossibly beautiful animated feature The Secret of Kells, which combines incredibly elegant, deceptively simple animation with Ireland’s rich mythological and religious history. One of the characters is the beautiful white cat immortalized in this lovely, anonymous 9th century poem:

tumblr_mpgelfzsv31r4l3m6o4_1280The scholar and his cat, Pangur Bán

(from the Irish by Robin Flower)

I and Pangur Ban my cat,
‘Tis a like task we are at:
Hunting mice is his delight,
Hunting words I sit all night.

Better far than praise of men
‘Tis to sit with book and pen;
Pangur bears me no ill-will,
He too plies his simple skill.

‘Tis a merry task to see
At our tasks how glad are we,
When at home we sit and find
Entertainment to our mind.

Oftentimes a mouse will stray
In the hero Pangur’s way;
Oftentimes my keen thought set
Takes a meaning in its net.

‘Gainst the wall he sets his eye
Full and fierce and sharp and sly;
‘Gainst the wall of knowledge I
All my little wisdom try.

When a mouse darts from its den,
O how glad is Pangur then!
O what gladness do I prove
When I solve the doubts I love!

So in peace our task we ply,
Pangur Ban, my cat, and I;
In our arts we find our bliss,
I have mine and he has his.

Practice every day has made
Pangur perfect in his trade;
I get wisdom day and night
Turning darkness into light.

There’s loads of fascinating scholarship out there about this lovely little poem, as well as any number of equally lovely translations… happy hunting!



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