Saturday, June 24, 2017

A Trip to the Giant's Causeway

Due to their ability to transcend time, stories are invaluable tools of communication. The characters and places used within a story are bearers of cultural values and history, solidifying their place in the greater entity that is the society itself.

The Giant's Causeway
One such location is the Giant's Causeway in Northern Ireland, as its creation and lack of completion are key points in the story A Legend of Knockmany. While the scientific origins of the Giant’s Causeway involves volcanic lava, the legend places Fin M’Coul as the creator of the Causeway and tells that his work was interrupted due to the impending threat of the giant Cucullin.

A Legend of Knockmany manages to touch on both the history of the land and the mentality of its people. Though the story begins with Fin essentially leaving the job unfinished for fear of being killed by Cucullin, his triumph in the end leaves the impression that finishing the Causeway would be no trouble should he feel compelled to do so.

Fin’s triumph can be attributed to his own strength, but most of the praise goes to the quick wit of his wife Oonagh. In doing this the story establishes the strength of the Irish, their value on women in society, and a culturally significant landmark as facets of Irish culture that are worth remembering.

The importance of this story becomes even more apparent with the knowledge that Irish was originally only an oral language. There is a certain degree of showmanship present in repeatedly telling a story that is not solidified in a written format. While it is true that this repeated telling of the same story by multiple story tellers leaves room for variations in the story, it would seem that this variation is as important as the story itself.

The freedom that is present in oral storytelling is something that serves more to strengthen cultural identity rather than harm it. Each prospective storyteller is given the opportunity to alter the story in a way that they fell is more telling of the Irish culture and values, likely providing a more personalized and meaningful message for the listeners.

As a closing thought, I am curious to hear if anyone experienced a strong example of oral storytelling during our time in either Dublin or Derry? Personally I feel that our time with Gerry in the Guildhall would be a perfect example. Not only did he have the history memorized, but he presented it in a way that made the events feel alive and relevant even to this day.

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