• The Narrative Structure of the Comperta and Other Irish Birth Tales

    Anna June Pagé (see profile)
    Literature, Medieval, Irish literature
    Item Type:
    Medieval Irish Literature
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    The Irish Tale-Lists provide the names of five compert texts, which are present in the List B recension, but are absent from List A. Of these five, only Compert Conchobuir and Compert Con Culainn are preserved, while the substance of two others, Compert Conall Cernach and Compert Cormac hui Cuind are found in other sources. The fifth text, Compert Celtchar mac Uithechair is lost, while a sixth, Compert Mongáin, is well known but omitted from the list. In spite of the difficult position that the comperta occupy in the tale-lists, they are recognized as an ancient and important story type. In his discussion of the compert texts in The Learned Tales of Medieval Ireland (1980), MacCana wrote that “The birth-tale is an important element of the hero’s life-cycle in mythologies throughout the world and is particularly common in Celtic tradition. The antiquity of the genre is therefore beyond question.” The birth episode as part of the Heroic Biography pattern is reasonably well known, but has not been studied with sufficient attention to the specific and numerous ways in which the pattern can be expressed in narrative. Further, many birth-tales omit apparently crucial aspects of the pattern, or offer permutations, subversions, or even reversals of the expected elements. This paper approaches the compert texts with an emphasis on their structural aspects and on comparative considerations.
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    8 months ago
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