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Echtrae Conli


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Irish title of one of the most ancient (8th cent.?) of all Irish narratives, known in English as The Adventures of Connla, which survives in the Book of the Dun Cow [Lebor na hUidre] and the Yellow Book of Lecan; it is usually included in the Cycle of Kings. The protagonist is Connla (2), sometimes called ‘the red’ or ‘the fair’, a son of Conn Cétchathach [of the Hundred Battles].

One day, as Connla walks with his father on the hill of Uisnech, he sees a woman in rich garments who describes to him the wonder of Tír na mBeó [the Land of the Living], and promises him eternal love and beauty without decay if he will remain with her there. Conn, who can hear the woman's voice but cannot see her, bids the druids block Connla's temptation by drowning out her voice. The woman then departs, but not before leaving Connla a magical apple; Connla touches no other food for a month, but his bites cannot diminish the apple. At the end of the month the mysterious lady coos even sweeter words about the land where Boadach rules but all the other denizens are women. Connla is torn between his love for his homeland and friends and the vision of what the woman promises. Eventually he relents and sails away with the woman in a coracle of glass, never to return.

The Land of the Living implied in the story bears a strong resemblance to Mag Mell [the Pleasant Plain], folk motif F111; also, Tír na mBan [the Land of Women], motif F112; and Tír na nÓg [the Land of Youth], motif D1339.7. Several commentators have noted the parallels between Echtrae Conli and the lay of Lanval by Marie de France (12th cent.). Translated text, T. P. Cross and C. H. Slover (eds.), Ancient Irish Tales (New York, 1936), 488–90. See also Julius Pokorny, ‘Conle's abenteuerliche Fahrt’, Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie, 17 (1927), 193–205. James Cousins used the story as the basis of his play The Sleep of the King (Dublin, 1902; Chicago, 1973).

Subjects: Religion.


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