Today marks the start of our Myths and Legends Week. So many stories are rooted in myths, legends, folklore and oral storytelling passed on for generations. We want to celebrate recent publications that have links to myths and legends. Today we host Sinéad O’Hart and her story, The Silver Road.
Irish Mythology by Sinéad O’Hart
Like a lot of people, I’ve always been fascinated by mythological tales. Perhaps it’s the heroic deeds, or the superhero-like stamina, or the fantastical beasts, or the imagination-stretching quests, or perhaps it’s all of these things together, but there’s definitely something compelling about mythology and folklore. I’ve always loved to read stories with a mythological flavour, too. When I was about eight, my parents invested in a set of encyclopedias for my brother and me – these were books which contained, to my mind, all the knowledge in the world. I treasured them, and particularly the volume about world mythology and folklore, which contained so many stories that built me from the foundations up.
I loved the tales of ancient Greece and Rome, but it was the mythology of more Northern regions that really stuck in my imagination. I adored the story of how the world was made in Norse mythology, the landscape of yawning Ginnungagap feeling so real to me that I could sense, as I read, the mist caused by the ice on one side of the primordial void coming into contact with the fire on the other side. I was obsessed with stories of Thor and Loki, of Odin and Asgard, long before they became part of the cultural lexicon through their Marvel film adaptations. And it was the mythology of my own country, Ireland, which excited me the most.
When I was a small girl, there was a programme on TV in which some of the most thrilling stories from our national mythology were retold. The voice of the tale-teller thrilled my blood and bones. By far the most gripping tale, and the one which still lives in my memory, was the story of Balor of the Evil Eye. Balor was a giant with (some say) one incredible eye (others say he had two ordinary eyes, and one extra in the middle), and this eye had immense destructive power. Heknew he was destined to be slain by his own grandson, and sohe locked his daughter in a tower to prevent her from having any children. Of course, Balor was thwarted, and a grandson was indeed born – a grandson who became Lugh of the Long Arm, a powerful god with a powerfully accurate aim. His grandad Balor didn’t stand a chance against him when they eventually met on the battlefield. This tale fascinated me as a child, and I’m not in the least surprised that Balor, who loomed so large in my young imagination, has appeared once more in my grown-up creative life – he’s a central figure in my new book, The Silver Road.
My love for Irish mythology grew as I did, fed through reading. I learned about the devious, clever, unpredictable goddess, the Morrígan, the Great Queen, who could influence the direction of battles and predict who would live and who would die. I read of the Dagda, a genial god with a cauldron that never ran dry (yet one who also had power over life, death, and time), and of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the deities who once lived in Ireland and who – in one story I read – rose into the sky and vanished when their time was done, though some other stories say they diminished and became the AesSídhe, the fairies of Irish folklore. I expect my love of mythology will last a lifetime – and, with any luck (as Balor, and the Dagda, and so many others, have helped to form The Silver Road) it might weave itself into a few more of my own stories. For that’s the best thing about myths; they love to be retold!
The Silver Road is written by Sinead O’Hart and published by Bonnier Books.
Views expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the Federation.