When the powers that be here asked me to write a post about my feelings on “Celtic Fantasy,” my “yes” was a hesitant thing, dubious and hedged around with caveats. I can talk—a little—about intensely local Irish fantasy: Ian McDonald’s King of Morning, Queen of Day, or Ruth Frances Long’s A Crack in Everything. Or Jo Walton’s Táin-influenced The Prize in the Game, for that matter. (Or Kevin Barry’s City of Bohane, which is really fantasy set in the future, if you ask me.) Pat O’Shea’s The Hounds of the Morrigan and Michael Scott’s unfinished De Danann series were foundational texts for me before I turned ten: episodes from the Rúraíocht, especially the Táin Bó Cuailgne, and from the Fiannaíocht, cropped up in my primary school readers.
Some of the very first history I was formally taught involved the Christianisation of Ireland and the exploits of St. Patrick as taken from his Confession and a couple of 7th-century hagiographies. My secondary school English and History classes were practically swathed about in the “Celtic Twilight” and the late 19th/early 20th century Anglo-Irish literary renaissance:
“The host is riding from Knocknarea
And over the grave of Clooth-na-bare;
Caolte tossing his burning hair
And Niamh calling Away, come away—”
(W.B. Yeats, “The Hosting of the Sidhe”)
But Celtic fantasy? What does that even mean, in this context?