Challenges You Face
by J.S. Dunn
What are the challenges you face as a writer in your genre?
So much of what has been written as historical fiction of the early Isles is rehashed fantasy that uses outmoded or trite images of “Celts.” But who were those Celts, what does that term mean?
Does it mean the Iron Age and warriors with chariots and iron swords, who suddenly appear in the Alps and sweep west across Europe in waves? Unfortunately, that is the picture painted in the late 19th century by fledgling archaeologists. Recent evidence shows this invasion didn’t happen, but the term Celt persists like a nasty computer virus. “Celtic” is used to explain vastly different tribes, in different areas, and cultures separated by millennia. They can’t all be Celts, for that term to mean anything.
The bang-on, new model to study the origin of Gaelic culture and languages came about in the past decade. According to the eminent Barry Cunliffe (emeritus, Oxford) and William O’Brien ( UCC-Cork) and linguist John Koch, among others, the Iron Age model and the old label “Celt” don’t fit with the evidence. These scholars focus now on the third and second millennium BCE, not the Iron Age, and on Atlantic sea trade. That is a major paradigm shift.
At 2500—2000 BCE, Troy was a few huts, Greek cities and Rome didn’t exist. The Egyptians were figuring out how to make beer and build bigger Nile boats. But in the north Atlantic, oceangoing boats already crossed the mighty waves: breadboards, loaded with brave lads. Seafarers moved from ancient Spain up the arcing coast of what is now France/Brittany, and on to Cornwall, Wales, Ireland, the Isle of Man, and Orkney. One of these brave lads was your ancestor if you’re of Galician/Basque or Breton or Irish/Cornish/Welsh/Manx/Scot descent. That is genetic fact.
Copper smelting developed in ancient Spain and traveled to the Isles with traders. Marauders, if you will, because those new lads introduced new weapons: copper daggers and long bronze knives. The intruders vanquished the natives who built the great Boyne passage mounds, abandoned by around 2000 BCE. No doubt the first Irish tales began of hidden gold and wee folk who lived inside the mounds, as Eire’s natives tried to protect their valuable gold and copper. The Tuatha de Danaanmyths might refer to the copper smelting invaders.
Bending The Boyne encourages the reader to do a little thinking, shift the old paradigm. “...Bang-on with the latest archaeological debates,” according to Peter Clark of the Canterbury Trust, Kent, UK. The past decade has seen erosion of the misused term “Celtic”. “Celtic” is no longer appropriate as a unitary label stuck on everything.
Start a fire in the head, as the poet Yeats would say, with Bending The Boyne.
Winner historical fiction, 2011 Next Generation award; listed for a Foreword Review Award 2011. ISBN 978-0983155416 ; 350 pages. Amazon, B&N, and via Kindle/apps/Nook.
The excellent narrator, Irish native Tim Gerard Reynolds, and Brick Shop Audiobooks, are producing the audiobook scheduled for release September, 2012. Audiobook version: Audible.com and others.
See also: Celtic From The West, Cunliffe and Koch, ed., Oxford Press, 2010.
Links to Bronze Age sites and objects: www.jsdunnbooks.com
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Genre - Historical Fiction
Rating - PG13
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