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The Red Branch Tales [Paperback]

Randy Lee Eickhoff
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

March 4 2004 Ulster Cycle (Book 5)
Randy Lee Eickhoff continues his translation of the Ulster Cycle, often referred to as the Red Branch Cycle, the large corpus of work that is primarily responsible for establishing the cultural identity of today's Ireland.

In this collection of Ireland's famous myths, Eickhoff once again proves his mastery of translation and his ability to give these classic tales new life. Here he presents more than twenty stories that reveal ancient Irish culture as it's seldom been seen before.
All of the characters of Irish myth receive new life and are presented in vibrant and unique ways. In addition, by providing introductions to the tales, Eickhoff gives insight into the legends that formed the identity of a people.

In the pre-Christian era, when warriors fought from chariots, Druids provided the mystical answers to the universe, and men and women believed strongly in magic, these stories begin. Prepare to enter Randy Lee Eickhoff's Ireland.

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From Booklist

Eickhoff has been writing novelistic translations of the great medieval Irish texts called the Ulster Cycle, sources of the stories of the greatest legendary Irish heroes. In this addition to the series, which includes The Raid (1997) and The Feast (1999), Eickhoff goes for the mythological gold--to wit, the tale of the great raid on northern Ulster by Queen Maeve of the western province of Connaught for the sake of a magical brown bull. This tale, the so-called Iliad of Ireland, is the centerpiece of an interconnected sequence of stories about its main characters: studly Fergus Mac Roich, unbeatable Cuchulainn, sorrowful Macha, evil but magical Cathbad, raped Nessa, sharp-tongued Aithirne, as well as queenly Maeve and the wild goddess who shadows her, the black-winged Morrigan. Eickhoff has kept true to the texts while employing a sleek modern tone that makes these great ancient tales accessible and vital. Patricia Monaghan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"Terrific verse that may remind some of Seamus Heaney's brookwater Anglo-Saxon in his recent Beowulf."-Kirkus reviews on The Destruction of the Inn

Inside This Book (Learn More)
First Sentence
This tale is found in The Book of Leinster (c. 1160) and is only one of the stories that explain how the Red Branch was established. Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Customer Reviews

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Most helpful customer reviews
Format:Hardcover
THE RED BRANCH TALES are stories of the Ulster Irishmen. The Medieval Christianized tales have their basis in the oral traditions of the Pagan Irish Celts. Basically, they cover the building of Emain Macha, the main city and the rise of Conchobar Mac Nessa until just after his death. Conchobar is kind of like an Irish King Arthur (Arthur was a Romanized British Celt Warlord if he was anything but a legend. Forgive my doubt.) but without the genteel chivarly put on the Arthurian legends by later generations. Conchobar was the king that Deirdre of the Sorrows was meant to marry before she set her sights on Naisi, but her story is not in here as the Eickhoff has set it apart in another book THE SORROWS. However, he does give us another version of the pivotal The Cattle Raid of Cooley, which he covers in THE RAID from a different source. Among the other characters you will encounter are Queen Maeve (Mabh), Cuchulain, & Fergus Mac Roich. Although these read like fairy tales and have supernatural elements in them, they are earthy and violent. Think Conan the Barbarian, not Disney's Snow White. This along with their lists of names make it unsuitable for anyone under a mature 12. The Fragments were intiguing, hinting at things that we have lost. I especially enjoyed the small tidbit called On Werewolves. Eickhoff also has a large section of notes that explain details and ideas to the reader. If you are interested in entering the mind of the ancient Irish, these are the stories for you. I have read various versions of these tales and never quite got the stories, never quite understood the mindset of these people, my ancestors. Here the translator has done an excellent job of giving the ancient Irish warrior back his swords and balls in a context that makes sense.
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4.0 out of 5 stars beautiful lyrical translation March 1 2003
Format:Hardcover
The thirty stories that make up THE RED BRANCH TALES come from twelfth century Ireland translated into modern English with the beautiful lyrical prose that Dr. Randy Lee Eickhoff has brought to all his previous translations. The tales provide common themes of life among the various clans with the title providing an obvious clue as to what to expect. The stories vary in content with many dealing with heroism, war, and romance.
The anthology is entertaining though like much of medieval literature, formal language is sprinkled with baroque eloquence and comically lewd capers. Also included are "Fragments" of incomplete tales and proverbs. As usual Dr. Eickhoff provides a marvelous collection, that will be of interest to English majors and those readers who recently savored The Canterbury Tales or Beowulf.
Harriet Klausner
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Amazon.com: 4.2 out of 5 stars  4 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars beautiful lyrical translation March 1 2003
By Harriet Klausner - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
The thirty stories that make up THE RED BRANCH TALES come from twelfth century Ireland translated into modern English with the beautiful lyrical prose that Dr. Randy Lee Eickhoff has brought to all his previous translations. The tales provide common themes of life among the various clans with the title providing an obvious clue as to what to expect. The stories vary in content with many dealing with heroism, war, and romance.
The anthology is entertaining though like much of medieval literature, formal language is sprinkled with baroque eloquence and comically lewd capers. Also included are "Fragments" of incomplete tales and proverbs. As usual Dr. Eickhoff provides a marvelous collection, that will be of interest to English majors and those readers who recently savored The Canterbury Tales or Beowulf.
Harriet Klausner
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars marvelous retelling of Ulster myths Jan. 7 2006
By Siobhan Olaoghaire Sannes - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
More of a retelling rather than a strict translation, this book is nevertheless researched thoroughly by the author. Covering many of the stories of the Ulster Cycle of myths, there are stories here that I actually hadn't heard before, as I am sure will be the case for many other readers. Overall, a great book, and not to be missed by someone interested in Irish and Celtic mythology.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fabulous introduction to Celtic Irish culture and mythology Jan. 24 2013
By cineadbrewco - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
What were the Irish like before Oliver Cromwell? Why do the Irish insist on drinking and fighting at every turn? Why do the Irish believe in faeries? What is an "honor price"?

This book is a collection of stories that were told by bards and probably by parents to their Gaelic-speaking children for centuries. These are the stories that defined the Celtic culture of the Irish before the English succeeded in stamping out most of the Gaelic influence in Ireland. That cultural identity is now making a come-back and Gaelic is taking hold again on the Emerald Isle. These stories, translated in beautiful lyrical prose, share the honorable burning spirit that carried the Celts from continental Europe across the waters to Ireland, where they encountered the magical Sidhe (the faeries), the raiding Vikings, and the scarcity of land characteristic of island life.

These are the Irish tales of chivalry and Brithonic law rivaling the era of Camelot and King Arthur in England (themselves probably based on Celtic myths). I particularly enjoyed the mytho-historical stories of intrigue, betrothal, murder, and cattle-rustling. The boy hero, Cúchulainn, is a staple of heroic mythology, rendered with magical detail and epic proportion in these tales (slaying giants is standard fare). I found the Brythonic concepts of "honor price" and the boasting matches which resulted in the "hero's portion" at the king's table quite fascinating. And then there's the seamless (if dubious) integration of the Other world (the Sidhe) into the real world.

For me these stories represent an aspect of Irish Celtic culture worth being proud of, in contrast to the modern idea of Ireland as perhaps uneducated drinkers and fighters. These stories shows that the Irish have always been drinkers and fighters but these activities were fundamentally attached to a sense of dignity and social honor. After all, who is an honorable Celt who can't hold his or her mead at a banquet? Who is an honorable Celt who does not defend his family and property by the might of his arm and the strength of his wit and charm?

I like to think of this book as composed of stories that were told around the campfires and in the inns by bards before the reduction of the Gaelic tongues by the English. I hope they will continue to be told. They hold a mystery and value beyond simple mythology. They are the key to the ancestors of the Irish.

Randy has rendered the Gaelic beautifully into English and provided valuable footnotes discussing unfamiliar concepts. Still, you may find it helpful to research some concepts of Brithonic law as you read- especially honor price and the notion of a single-year contract marriage.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars AT LAST!!!! Nov. 29 2004
By H. Espy - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Finally, translations of the corpus of medieval Irish literature are available!!!I have hunted for years to find little bits and pieces of the texts that Eichoff has so brilliantly brought together. I can't wait to get the rest of the series. Good job!
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