It should be easy; I am about to retell the tale of how Fionn finds and loses Sadbh, the woman with whom he falls in love. The story already exists in mythology; it has been beautifully retold by Lady Gregory, and Rosemary Sutcliffe, so I have an excellent, ready-made story-plan to follow. I should be flying, right?
But I’m not. And it wouldn’t be the first time. It’s nothing to do with ‘Writer’s Block’, and everything to do with retelling mythology. In ‘Conor Kelly and The Four Treasures of Eirean’, I actually completely skirted around the chapters telling the saga of the Battle of Moytura, and wrote on past them, yet this section of the story has become one of my favourite parts of the book, not just for me, but for some of my readers, too.
What is holding me back? Well, it’s important to get the mythology absolutely correct; if not, there will be many readers out there happy to point out I got my facts wrong. So it’s only mythology; by definition, that means there are no facts, and no-one knows if it ever really happened or not. Surely it shouldn’t matter?
Well, it matters to me. I’ve got to know these characters over the years, and I have to do them justice. I’m not going to demean them by giving them the ‘Hollywood’ treatment, or ‘Disneyfy’ them.(Ok, that’s not a real word, but you know what I mean). I’m trying to bring these characters to life for an audience who may never have encountered Irish mythology before. I want them to love these legends as much as I do. It feels like a big responsibility.
The Sadbh story is not typical of the Fenian Cycle, in that it shows a different side of Fionn; not the hero, the warrior, the leader of the Fianna, the Giant, the Seer, all aspects of him with which we are already so familiar. It shows us Fionn the man himself, capable of love, passion, tenderness, vulnerability, sorrow, gentleness and fidelity. It shows us someone we can all relate to. Perhaps in these qualities, we can find the measure of the true hero.