Michael Scott, |
The Last of the Fianna
(Methuen, 1987; O'Brien, 1998)
Irish hero tales have always been, in my opinion, high among the world's best. Michael Scott's The Last of the Fianna, a short tale for young readers, adds a new element to an old story when Colum, a young Irish boy, finds himself swept away on the back of a magical white horse to Tir na nOg, the mystical Land of Eternal Youth.
There, Colum meets Oisin, the long lost son of the mighty warrior Finn MacCumhail. Oisin had disappeared long ago with a beautiful woman of fairy. But, while the story is one of ancient legend for Colum, Oisin believes only a short time has passed in his absence. And the arrival of a boy from his homeland reawakens his desire to return -- if only briefly.
But the Eriu of Oisin's memory is long gone, his friends and family long dead. And the magic that has extended his life for so long cannot sustain him once his feet touch Irish soil. He vows to remain on horseback for the duration of his visit, but Oisin, hero that he is, is unable to resist a trapped man's pleas for help.
Oisin's story is a sad one, but Scott's take on the hero's final chapter is softened by wrapping it in Colum's wonder. Written in easy language for young readers to understand and neatly illustrated by Gary Ward, the book remains a tiny treasure of Irish lore.