Althea M. wrote an insightful review of Rosemary Sutcliff’s classic children’s historical retelling, The Hound of Ulster, the story of a legendary Irish hero, Cuchulain.
….in Sutcliff’s introduction, she mentions how one can tell a lot about a people and culture from the tales that they tell… and, reading these, I couldn’t help but be reminded (again) of Ursula K. Le Guin’s “Gifts,” and how she showed in that book how small and petty conflicts and rivalries could be magnified to an importance all out of proportion in an isolated, primitive culture. Here, a good deal of Cuchulain’s “heroic” exploits have to do with no more than stealing a neighbor’s cattle! It’s interesting to read these stories in contrast to so much of the extremely ‘elevated’ fantasy inspired by Celtic myth.
The book also shows, however, some of the interesting aspects of the culture – how a Queen could sometimes be more powerful than her husband, how bearing a child out of wedlock did not have shame attached, and acceptance of infidelity in marriage – things that are there in the original stories, but surprising, I thought, for a book published in 1963 and marketed to an audience including young people.