BOOK REVIEW - Tales of the Celtic Bards
Michael Gleason firstname.lastname@example.org
Tales of the Celtic Bards by Claire Hamilton © 2003 O Books
ISBN 978-1-903816548 320 pages Paperback $24.95 (U.S.)
Over the years there have been many tellings and retellings of the myths
of the Celtic people, and this boom is another retelling. As the author
(an MA in The Bardic Tradition in Ireland from Bristol University) notes
"If this story is new to you then you must hear it. But even if you know
it well, listen again, for there is always new wisdom to be found in
it." She is an accomplished harpist, and has produced a CD to accompany
The initial tales are told by a bard, Bruach, to a young man and his
village. Although the details surrounding the telling are sketchy, the
stories themselves grab and hold your attention. They are told simply,
as would have been appropriate to a rustic setting. Greater depth could
have been achieved, but the simplicity increases the appeal and provides
inspiration for further exploration.
After dealing with the Irish tales she moves on to the Scottish tales
that share some stories with the Irish since, in ancient times, they
were linked. These stories are drawn from the Finnian (or Ossian) Cycle.
There are differences in these tales, especially noted in this telling
of the story of Diarmaid and Grainne.
The tales conclude with stories from the Welsh collection known as the
Mabinogion, ending with the story of Taliesin, drawn from the Hanes
Taliesin (13th century), and the story of the lost city of Ys from Brittany.
The book is completed with some notes on the stories, a short glossary,
an extremely short (14 entries), and a guide to Irish and Welsh
pronunciation. None of these are extensive but they all contain enough
information to be helpful.
My one regret is that I did not receive the CD of music which
accompanied the hardcover edition of this book. The book has just been
released, and they have not yet arranged the packaging of the book and
CD. I am awaiting arrival of that CD and can honestly say that, if Ms.
Hamilton plays a harp as well as she tells a bardic tale I am sure it
will be a joy, and would add greatly to setting the mood for the various
Although this is not the most extensive collection of bardic tales I
have ever read, it is easily the most enjoyable. I was swept away and
carried along by the images and pacing. I most heartily recommend this
book. Since the holiday season is approaching I feel good saying that it
would make a nice Yule gift.