Ancient Irish, or Celtic, epic represents a huge historical and artistic interest. With the exception of literature in the Anglo-Saxon language, which has survived only in insignificant fragments, it is the oldest literature of Western Europe.
Irish sagas have evolved over several centuries. The emergence of the most ancient of them dates back to the first century. n. e. For a long time they were preserved in a stable oral form, in the retelling of professional storytellers – filidov. In writing, the Irish sagas began to form in the seventh century. they reached us only in the records of the 12th century. The most ancient Irish sagas are mythological and heroic.
The theme of the mythological sagas is the pagan beliefs of ancient Ireland, the legendary history of its settlement by magical tribes. The greatest historical and artistic value is represented by heroic sagas with the central Uladia cycle. Most of the Irish sagas are small in volume and simple in composition compositions. One of the few exceptions is “Kidnaling the bull from the Cuilng”, the most kept epic legend, which forms the main body of the Uladzha cycle.
Other legends of the cycle, although they represent independent works, are connected with him by common heroes. The theme of the epic is the struggle between Ulad (northern Ireland) and Connacht (Western Kingdom). In its central hero, Cuhulene embodied the national ideal of valor and nobility. Undefeated warrior, he has a fantastic power and perfectly owns special combat techniques. He has high feelings of honor and moral duty, he is magnanimous to enemies. A great place in the epic takes the description of duels Cuchulainn, when for several months he was forced to defend the country alone.
With psychological drama and majesty, Cuchulainn’s duel with his friend Ferdiyad is depicted, who took the side of the hostile Queen Medb. Intensive development of the action introduced retrospective episodes, telling of the wonderful birth and first exploits of young Cuhulina. To a later time (about the XII century.) Refers to the Fenian cycle, which tells of the fearless Finn McCull, his son, singer Oisin, and their brave army. Many editions know the story of the wonderful travels of Oisin to the magical countries and his return to Ireland after Christianization. In his dialogues with St. Patrick, the first Irish missionary, the life of the pagan and Christian Ireland is compared. Irish sagas are distinguished by simple and expressive language, richness of imagination, vivid narrative.
They are written in prose, with poetic inserts, in which the moments of the highest emotional tension of the characters are revealed. Despite the existence of records, the ancient Irish sagas continued to be retold until the XVII century. gradually taking the form of folk tale and ballad. The Celtic epic played a large role in shaping the national character of the Irish, in strengthening their ideal of valiant hero. The image of Cuchulainus inspired the participants of the Dublin Uprising of 1916. Plots and motifs of the Irish ca are an inexhaustible source of national literature down to our time.