Irish Inspiration of the Finnian
Kurt D. Springs
I would like to extend my thanks to David at The All Night Library for having me as his guest blogger. I also thank him for agreeing to review Price of Vengeance and Promise of Mercy. As anyone who’s read my bio knows, I spent some time in Ireland. I lived there for two and a half years while pursuing my Master of Literature degree in archaeology through the National University of Ireland in Galway and have returned several time for archaeological pursuits. Why do I love Ireland? Is it a paradise? Well, not really. Like anywhere else in the world, it has its problems. I love it in spite of the problems.
Perhaps it would be best to start with what drew me to Ireland. First, I fell in love with traditional Irish music. Later I became enthralled with Irish Mythology. When I was studying at the Harvard Extension School, I took two years of Old Irish. For those who don’t know, it’s the Irish language spoken around AD 700 to 900, or 1300 to 1100 years ago. Part of the course involved readings of Old Irish stories, such as the tales of Cú Chulainn from the Táin Bó Cúailnge. Then chance brought the opportunity for a summer dig in the area of County Clare called the Burren—a rocky, karst landscape on the western coast of Ireland. I was hooked.
When I began my studies at NUI Galway, I became friendly with people in the Celtic Studies department. I audited a session on Old Irish tales and tried to learn Modern Irish, which some call Gaelic. While I never turned myself into a native speaker like I wanted to, I did enjoy my time in the Emerald Isle. For my field work, I traveled extensively through the Northwest of the country in the Counties of Donegal, Leitrim, Sligo, and Mayo. I also visited the western tip of Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. All the people were very friendly and helpful.
When the time came to create a heritage for Liam in the Price of Vengeance, Irish folklore gave me the initial idea. Of the Irish myths and legends told around the fire, the tales of Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool in English) are some the best-loved. Finn McCool became leader of the Fianna who were the bodyguards of the High King of Ireland. I’ve also seen it written as Finnian, and that was the spelling I latched on to.
The Finnian in my story are not Irish. They are descendants of the subjects of a eugenics program to produce super soldiers. There is no specific, genetic connection between them and Irish people of Old Earth. However, one of the founders was from Ireland, and one of the few people who could still tell the old stories orally. When they were children, these future warriors used to sit and listen enthralled by the ancient tales. Among these early “Finnian” was Aisling O’Connor. She led the rebel faction that overthrew their founders. When she turned the founders over to Earth for trial, she had the opportunity to visit Ireland. Having no ancestry of their own, she took elements she liked and constructed a heritage that her people could identify with. Among other things, they adopted the Irish language and gravitated to the old art of story telling.
While the Irish is the strongest element they borrowed, it wasn’t the only element. They adopted various martial arts from around Earth. Some Native American tales also made it into their oral traditions. They also evolved a society based around strong family ties.
The Ireland of today is becoming more like the rest of the Western World. Many of the old ways are passing. Some hold on stubbornly, but the needs of the modern world, such as mobility, have strained the old ties of family. Television and other media are replacing the old oral traditions. But the friendly nature of the Irish still lingers.
One note on linguistics: people will often see how I use the word “ye” when the Finnian are speaking in “Galactic Standard.” I often get comments that I use it inconsistently. To set the record straight, “ye” is an Old English word that a number of Irish have adopted into their speech. They use it just as the speakers of Old English used to. It is the plural form of you.
Kurt D. Springs is presently an adjunct professor of anthropology and archaeology in New Hampshire. He holds a PhD. in anthropology from the State University of New York at Buffalo, as well as a Master of Literature in archaeology from the National University of Ireland, Galway, and a Master of Liberal Arts in anthropology and archaeology from the Harvard University Extension School. His main area of interest is megalithic landscapes in prehistoric Ireland.
Kurt also writes reviews on Kurt’s Frontier for Invincible Love of Reading.
Professor Springs currently lives in Manchester, New Hampshire.