How To Torture A Beloved Story To Death (And Ruin Children)

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There is an ancient myth in Irish lore called “The Pursuit of Diarmaid and Gráinne” (or Tóraigheacht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne, if you’re being scholarly about it). The vast majority of Irish children become familiar with the myth when they are very young. Some even study the 16th century Irish language text as teenagers for their final school exams. But it comes from the even older oral tradition, when stories were told around the fireside. Either way, it’s a great story: with love, deceit, betrayal, a big chase, and magic galore. It was a particular favourite of mine.

The story I  know goes that Gráinne, the beautiful and spirited daughter of the powerful Irish High King, was to be married off in a political alliance to Fionn MacCumhaill, who although a great and famous warrior, was a ridiculously old widower by the time he felt like nuptialising Gráinne (the dirty old man). Anyway, Gráinne didn’t want to marry the wrinkled old soldier. She wanted to marry Diarmaid, one of Fionn’s retinue, and a gorgeous looking fella if ever there was one, who apparently had a love spot on his forehead that was so fecking gorgeous that young wans were throwing themselves at him just for catching sight of his beauteous visage.

Anyhoo, Gráinne managed to trick Diarmaid into running away with her (the scarlet hoor). There was a big chase, and loads of magical things happened in some gorgeous scenery. They continued to evade their pursuers, peace was made and it was happy ever after… until years later, when Diarmaid got himself gored by a boar on a hunt, and Fionn let him die even though he had the power to save him.

What a great story! You think. Until you see what this modern Irish textbook does to it.

This is from a reading primer for children aged – I think – about 8. When I saw it I nearly fell over. Whoever wrote this should be dragged to a public square and made apologise for their crimes against storytelling (not to mention the misogyny. I mean, just read this and tell me what you think of a textbook which tells 8-year-old boys and girls that women are deceitful and disobedient, but all right for making tea. For the love of…)

How To Torture A Beloved Story To Death (And Ruin Children)

Right. So here, Finn/Fionn is handsome, right? So handsome, that he can get someone’s hand in marriage just by asking them as they pass by.

Although I have to say, Finn worries me a bit. He says he’s looked everywhere for a wife. But really, did he? I mean, at this point, I imagine him scouring under bushes, at the tops of tall trees, and in gambling dens, but how hard could he have been looking, really, when he manages to find her just two seconds later? (He really should have been looking in kitchens, by the sounds of it.)

I am delighted to see, however, that in this version of the story for children, Gráinne is allowed to speak for herself. What a win for female autonomy! Good job she is able to make an informed decision based on the handsomeness of the giant OAP seeking her hand.

How To Torture A Beloved Story To Death (And Ruin Children)

Now, is it just me, or is Grainne turning into a skanky harlot? At her engagement dinner, she asks another man to marry her (although we must be mindful that she used her own voice to do this, making her own informed decision based upon the handsomeness of her prey) – and remember, folks – she is WEARING HER LOVELY DRESS.

Poor Diarmuid/Diarmaid didn’t stand a chance. Between Gráinne’s lovely dress and her tea-making skills, he was a goner. (At this point, I am a little startled to see that the word “potion” is highlighted in red, indicating that this is the only word on the page which is considered to be new to the reader. All children should be taught this word at the age of 3. No wonder the country’s in tatters.)

How To Torture A Beloved Story To Death (And Ruin Children)

Really? Potion was introduced as a new word before Somewhere? Sweet Jesus

Things get dark here, folks. Buckle up and keep the tissues handy.

Gráinne catches her lovely dress. It’s a miracle they could go on. But on they went, our intrepid lovers: in order to live out a happy ever after in a dark and smelly cave, with no food, money, or friends. But fear not! They must have a kettle, because Gráinne can make some fecking tea.


And can I have them shot? Seriously – are these textbooks written by someone who hates children? Or stories? Was this written by someone who really wanted to be a lumberjack? How did this get passed, let alone printed?

Pity the poor children of Ireland. They are our future, and just look at what we’ve handed them.

  114 comments for “How To Torture A Beloved Story To Death (And Ruin Children)

  1. January 18, 2015 at 11:33 am

    Yes, they need to be shot, drawn and quartered. That’s bloody terrible and it ends with Grainne making tea – easy know it was Ireland. Given the number of great kids books out there, words fail me that they did this to the story. Is it current – ie being used in school at the mo?

    Liked by 2 people

    • January 18, 2015 at 1:07 pm

      It is current, Lorna – I got these pics from a friend of mine in Clare, whose poor unfortunate son was doing homework on this sorry piece of trash!! Homework!!


  2. Ali Isaac
    January 18, 2015 at 11:54 am

    O.M.G. No wonder Irish people aren’t interested in their mythology if that’s how it’s introduced to them! You did warn me, Tara, but I had no idea how bad it could be. I am alternating in incredulity between laughing insanely and crying into my potion… er, I mean tea…

    What a travesty! What a sorry shame! We should start a campaign.

    Curious how you came across that piece of shite…

    Liked by 6 people

    • Ali Isaac
      January 18, 2015 at 11:57 am

      I just re-blogged you, by the way! Also, I have just written my own version of this story last week, which you will be able to read very soon, and I sincerely hope it shows the story in its true light.

      Liked by 2 people

      • January 18, 2015 at 1:24 pm

        Really really really looking forward to that, Ali! Although if tea appears anywhere in your story, I will get suspicious.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Ali Isaac
          January 18, 2015 at 1:54 pm

          No tea I promise! 😊

          Liked by 1 person

    • January 18, 2015 at 1:19 pm

      They’ll talk of it for years, Ali – how a child’s textbook in Clare spurred a bloody revolution that resulted in the public ridicule of the most untalented writer in Ireland… I can’t wait for the butcher of that work to find out we’re on their trail. I hope they are so afraid they regurgitate their tea leaves.

      Liked by 3 people

      • Ali Isaac
        January 18, 2015 at 1:23 pm

        Woodlandbard has been inspired by your post to open a cafe in the caves of Ceis Coran (sorry bad spelling)… did you see his comment? 😂

        Liked by 1 person

        • January 18, 2015 at 2:37 pm

          Just did there, Ali. I’m getting the microfinance kickstarted as we speak 😉

          Liked by 1 person

          • January 18, 2015 at 5:31 pm

            I can’t wait to read your version either, Ali! I think some honor needs to be restored. Find them, Tara! 🙂

            Liked by 1 person

  3. January 18, 2015 at 11:54 am

    I think I’m going to put on a pot of tea so I can think this one through. Yes me, a man, doing a woman’s job.*

    *Before anyone jumps on me, this is typed with heavy sarcasm.

    Liked by 2 people

    • January 18, 2015 at 1:21 pm

      Which just goes to prove the point that the world needs a sarcasm font, Dylan. 😀

      Liked by 2 people

  4. Ali Isaac
    January 18, 2015 at 11:55 am

    Reblogged this on aliisaacstoryteller and commented:
    Now I understand…

    Liked by 1 person

  5. January 18, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    We ‘studied’ (hahaha) the Irish language version in school. I couldn’t tell you whether it was a good version of the tale or not, because our Irish teacher was so morto about all the supposed lust and sex in it that she refused to translate half of it, so my grasp of the story has always been tenuous. That said, I don’t remember Grainne spending her time making tea and worrying about her feckin’ lovely dress!! What is that all about??? I suppose we should consider ourselves grateful that she didn’t break a nail or her hair went frizzy because of the nasty fresh mountain air! There’s more female emancipation in Father Ted’s lovely girl contest than in this tripe. Please tell me this book is not being used in the current curriculum. Or maybe please don’t tell me – I am likely to sob violently even at the thought that it might be.

    Liked by 5 people

    • January 18, 2015 at 1:45 pm

      Afraid I can’t, Katie, it’s real and it’s current… But I will find the perpetrator. Oh yes.

      Liked by 2 people

      • January 18, 2015 at 1:51 pm

        Sounds of loud and uncontrollable sobbing ensue…. some time later… Yes, Tara (sob, sniffle), I think a few strongly worded letters would be in order and I have one or two letters in mind… 😀


        • January 18, 2015 at 4:10 pm

          A few letters? One or two? I can think of several four lettered oaths required in this instance 😉

          Liked by 2 people

          • January 18, 2015 at 6:01 pm

            I mean – ‘Grainne’s Little Trick’????? I’m practising my four-lettered oath-slinging as I type! Let me at ’em!!

            Liked by 1 person

  6. January 18, 2015 at 1:07 pm

    Is this what it’s come to? Promoting scheming, tea-making women as role models. Give me Mrs. Doyle and her tray of a thousand ‘hang samwidges’ any day. Ah, go on, go on, go on. (Father Ted, for our fellow bloggers outside of UK and Ireland).
    Reblogging if that’s okay.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 18, 2015 at 1:47 pm

      Please feel free to re-blog, Jean! Yes indeed. The role models of today are, like, sooooo shallow. Tea-making harlots…

      Liked by 1 person

  7. January 18, 2015 at 1:51 pm

    Reblogged this on Jean Reinhardt and commented:
    Great post on how an Irish myth gets totally thrashed, thank you Tara Sparling.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. January 18, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Reblogged this on Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog….. An Author Promotions Enterprise! and commented:
    The Victorians ‘sanitized’ European Fairy tales to be ‘Nicer and Gentler’ to ‘protect’ their children and the Educational System is continuing the practice!
    Political correctness taken several steps too far?
    Comments Please 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. January 18, 2015 at 2:59 pm

    I’d set Balor and his Evil Eye on that revisionist writer. Slay him! (Or her)

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 18, 2015 at 4:14 pm

      I have a vision in my head of the writer as a tobacco-stained, balding old master… the type who used to use the metre stick as a punishment implement and who goes through each day with egg yolk oozing down his brown paisley tie. But that’s just me.

      Liked by 1 person

    • January 18, 2015 at 5:24 pm

      For sure!

      Liked by 1 person

  10. January 18, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    There is a fairy tale not unlike this that I read as a child ‘cross the pond, only it was about the giant Finn and his little wife (I forget her name, but who really cares anyhow? she did have a lovely dress.). Anyhow, the king (remember that this is an Americanized fairy tale, so kings are always villains) saw the lovely dress and exceptional tea-making skills of the wife (who’s name I do not remember) and wanted her for his own. So he tells Finn, “Yo, giant, I’m gonna have to take your little wife. Sorry, bro”.
    Well, Finn remembers his little wife’s fantastic tea making prowess, and invites the King to come have dinner with Finn and his little wife before s goes off with the King to be a stupid but lovely queen. Or mistress, or concubine, whatever his plans are for her.
    The very stupid King thinks that would be a lovely idea. I mean, you most definitely want to know your bitch can cook before you before you commit, right?
    So, handsome Finn and his little wife, who’s name I don’t remember, plot and conspire to trick the King and run away, so they can be happy together. Cause Finn the Giant is MOST easily concealed. After we overlooked that plot hole, the completely unguarded King comes over to Finn’s house, and the wife, whose name I do not remember and is now portrayed as a sneaky be-yatch, puts a strong sleeping draught in the unbelievably tasty tea that she is known far and wide for being able to make all by herself, and the King, after praising her tea making prowess extensively, falls asleep with his head in the soup. Finn the Giant and his little wife, the sneaky bitch who wears a lovely dress, run away together to grow old somewhere far away from the evil King, who has, hopefully, learned to travel with a bodyguard.
    I also remember something about Finn having to prove his manliness in order to keep his wife by eating “rock cakes” and his sneaky little wife stuck rocks in the cakes of the competitor, but made Finn’s cakes rock-free. Might have been a different story, same people, though.
    Welcome to America.

    Liked by 2 people

    • January 18, 2015 at 4:18 pm

      Well, Naptime, if the myths did indeed cross over, it might explain the overwhelming tea motif, because I don’t remember tea ever being bloody mentioned in the original D&G tale. That’s still no excuse, though. I am interested in your King’s lack of security. I think that would not go down well in the America of today, no? 😛

      Liked by 2 people

      • January 18, 2015 at 6:15 pm

        No, it would not, not since… around 1963. However, any King portrayed in a book written for the good old US of A must be portrayed as stupid, because we still hold a grudge regarding that little skirmish with the tea and redcoats back in the late 18th century.
        The picture of Finn is pretty much the same, except picture Finn with a pointier head, and the picture from the book that I remember best is a picture from the second book, with the rock cakes. I don’t know when these books were published– maybe I can find something about them online.

        Liked by 1 person

        • January 18, 2015 at 6:21 pm

          Pointy head? Literally? What’s the why of that? Lol.

          Liked by 1 person

          • January 19, 2015 at 12:03 am

            I don’t know, maybe to suggest that Giants have smaller brains than humans?

            Liked by 1 person

            • January 19, 2015 at 2:50 am

              Well that’s as good a guess as any. 🙂

              I do recall studying hominids and that larger organism = bigger skull. I can’t recall anything about the brain size though. A giant could always have a thick skull and a small brain. 🙂 However it wouldn’t necessarily follow that a small brain would equal less intelligence. After all, humans only use 20% of their large brains, and maybe giants use 100% to maximize the limited space they have to work in. Also a small brain wouldn’t explain pointy bone structure, nor would most head injuries such as accidentally being dropped on one’s head. Quite a puzzle it is. 🙂

              Liked by 1 person

            • January 19, 2015 at 2:54 am

              My personal opinion for what it’s worth is that Fion is quite human, though I suppose being around 6 feet 3 inches tall is pretty unusual for the second century and it makes sense that over time his size just got exagerated until he became a nonhuman giant in a lot of the stories told about him.

              Liked by 1 person

              • January 19, 2015 at 1:56 pm

                Now you’re just talking nonsense. It makes much more sense for there to have lived a race of giants many many years ago, one of whom had a tiny woman for a wife (Lets not think too hard on that one) and was the subject of stories about rock cakes and small kings who take no body guards when going to swipe the giant’s tiny wife, which is a relationship that, again, we will not think too hard about. Although, maybe thats why the Giant had a misshapen head; to suggest that other parts of his anatomy are misshapenly small as well.
                Because really, the tea can only be so good before the clothes come off.
                And now that the cats out of the bag, what would the tiny king want with the little wife after she’d been married to a giant? It’d be, as my friend John says, “like throwing a hot dog down a hallway”.


                • January 19, 2015 at 2:15 pm

                  Naptime. You must write a song, immediately, with a chorus starting with “the tea can only be so good before the clothes come off”. You’ll make millions. BESQUILLIONS.


                  • January 19, 2015 at 2:30 pm

                    That’s brilliant, Tara! Naptime, I’d totally be one of the first people to go listen to such a song. 🙂

                    Liked by 1 person

                  • January 19, 2015 at 4:52 pm

                    Yes, but I’ll only get 30%.

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • January 19, 2015 at 4:56 pm

                      That is, if my discount is still in effect.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • January 19, 2015 at 5:03 pm

                      Of course. You will still get this amazing discount on 5% of 120% of royalties, as long as you have the song written, recorded and released by 13:01 EST on January 19th. Don’t say I never do anything for you.


                    • January 19, 2015 at 5:08 pm

                      Wow, you are so good to me. I’ll get started right away.

                      Liked by 1 person

                • January 19, 2015 at 2:26 pm

                  Oh, ouch! 🙂 Yikes! Fion meets the cook who fed the Rockbiter from Never Ending Story meets a king who has obviously mistaken his crown for his head… My most humble appologies for the nonsense, as quite suddenly I see the error of my logical explanation… LOL! I was only pointing out the truth against the world of terrible children’s storytelling… and as it stands I cannot take this comment seriously, but I think the king in the story would find it quite persuasive on the whole. 🙂

                  But you know, what would the king want with the little wife, … why, for her to make tea for him of course! Such a novel goings-on for the time: one might even say anachronistic but that word sounds too large for the king’s vocabulary since he didn’t seem to have enough intelligence to understand the concept of a body guard. Oh I see I’m kind of making fun of the king, I hope you can forgive me for that. It’s not nice of me. 🙂

                  That is quite a strange phrase your friend has there. It is particularly descriptive and I sincerely appreciate it. I got to wake up and immediately have something to smile about, thanks!

                  Liked by 2 people

                  • January 19, 2015 at 5:00 pm

                    It’s okay, you were born in California, you’re supposed to make fun of monarchies. It’s expected. Ask the writers and publishers of all children’s books printed during the seventies.


    • January 18, 2015 at 5:23 pm

      Oh no, that’s a new one! LOL! Absurd, yeah? I’m from California, glad I missed that little bit of American story retelling as a child. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 18, 2015 at 6:19 pm

        My mother was a second grade teacher, so I had every children’s book in publication… Possibly ever. Plus, a lot of them were so old that they were totally racist, sexist, and graphically violent. The graphically violent parts were completely enthralling for a 5 year old.

        Liked by 1 person

        • January 18, 2015 at 6:47 pm

          Well, just see what happens. You take away the gratuitous violence from children’s fairytales, and what you end up with is… the greatest global financial crisis since 1929. That’ll learn us.

          Liked by 1 person

  11. January 18, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    That story was actually physically painful to read. Yikes. It seems a lot of stuff is being ‘cleaned up’ these days. People seem to go nuts when the darker version gets a little attention. For example, there was a letter in my local paper about the movie ‘Into the Woods’, which uses the Grimm tales in their original darkness. At least more of it than the Disney versions, which this person was complaining about. The writer actually said Disney should be ashamed for putting out a dark movie that twists such heart-warming tales. Why does everything have to be candy-coated these days?

    Liked by 2 people

    • B R Maycock
      January 18, 2015 at 3:31 pm

      Did anyone tell them that Disney generally kill off one character per cartoon?!

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 18, 2015 at 6:52 pm

        I don’t think they realize it if it’s a parent or villain. Also, I’m betting it was the Cinderella step-sister foot ‘remodeling’ that had them freaking out. 9 times out of 10, it’s Cinderella.

        Liked by 1 person

    • January 18, 2015 at 4:21 pm

      I think Disney have a hell of a lot to answer for, Charles! I remember reading both the Grimms and Hans Christian Anderson as a child, and begob they were indeed grim. Birds killing themselves for selfish princesses who never noticed them, toys making great sacrifices before being rejected and burned… and then Disney comes along and decides there’s no money in sorrow (or reality). Anyone who thinks that Disney’s tales are the originals should be made give up all forms of media and communication for, oh, I dunno, a lifetime.

      Liked by 3 people

      • January 18, 2015 at 6:56 pm

        I tend to shrug Disney off because I think their versions still have their darkness. It isn’t as violent and sexually innuendo-y as the originals, but there were still the concepts of murder and deceit in there. At least the ones I’m remembering. I tend to get annoyed at the adults who complain instead of doing the smidgeon of research that would tell them that they are two different creatures. I wonder if Disney ever dreamed that people would think he did the originals or act this stupid.

        Maybe I’ve seen too many people mix up remakes and originals over the last few years, so I put the blame more on the people than the artists . . . using that second loosely for a few of the issues.

        Liked by 1 person

    • January 20, 2015 at 3:45 pm

      I think parents today get too much freak out about fairy tales… as if their children didn’t see far worse on the internet.

      When I was a kid, I listened to all kinds of versions of fairy stories and granted, some of them were so dark I got scared (I could never listen to the entire story of BlueBeard, so scared I was – I had a recording of it), but none of them damaged me. I actually think one of the points of fairy stories is giving the possibility to kids to enter in contact with bad things in a safe way, so to learn about them without making the actual experience.

      And anyway, I remember not being scared of things parents today think are terrible, for the simple fact that my child’s mind handled them in a child, safe-for-me way.

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 20, 2015 at 4:18 pm

        There does seem to be more over-protectiveness today. I’ve caught my wife doing it with our son every once and while. It’s almost like my generation has forgotten what we dealt with in our childhood and most of us came out fine.

        Liked by 2 people

  12. January 18, 2015 at 3:26 pm

    I’m from NW Ohio and my grandfather was a born Irishman (Dublin) and would regale me with tales of Ireland. I don’t remember any hero(ine) involved with tea to this extent. Perhaps, in fairness to the desecration, the tea was important as the means of distributing the potion, altho the idea of just running off seems fine to me – no reason to knock out everyone. IF Grainne can say “Yes, I will marry you” then surely she can also say, “No, old man, I don’t want to marry you” just as easily. Yes, PC has become offensive and traditions are being lost.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 18, 2015 at 4:23 pm

      You’re right, Bob. I think this particular version has managed to excel both in its dismissal of women and its veneration of tea. Also, most Irish people don’t bother thinking about tea to this extent. We’re too busy drinking it to be thinking about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 18, 2015 at 6:08 pm

        There’s another thing, what is the story with the tea?!!!!

        Liked by 1 person

        • January 18, 2015 at 6:18 pm

          Good question, I mean they probably did have tea in the second century, but I doubt it was a daily occurrence or so easy to come by… especially while on the run. 🙂 Diarmaid doesn’t strike me as someone who would be that interested in tea, either. Now if Gráinne were to present him with a wild boar, … I know that’s also how he died, but you can’t blame the boar for being itself! It’s still the best. 🙂

          Liked by 1 person

  13. January 18, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    You must make sure the ‘illustrator’ suffers the same fate as the ‘writer.’ Both are execrable ‘artists.’

    Liked by 3 people

  14. B R Maycock
    January 18, 2015 at 3:29 pm

    I was at the library with my son the other day and we came across Little Red Riding Hood. Except it wasn’t, not really. She had a mobile phone and gave out to her Mum saying ‘Moooommmm’ a lot and was basically a cranky, greedy little brat. I really, really wanted the big bad wolf to eat her. I paraphrased a lot for my son, telling it as I’d learned it and ignoring him when he said how her phone looked like mine(an iPhone, spoiled little madam;)), then bringing it to the librarian, who didn’t really know what to say to me as I gave my little speech/rant asking why?For the love of God, why would somebody ruin something so beloved. She had no answer.

    Liked by 3 people

    • January 18, 2015 at 4:32 pm

      And what is wrong with the publishers putting out this stuff? I will never understand the belief that fairy tales need modernising by taking out the magic and replacing it with total effluent. I hope you find better versions of all our best-loved tales soon for your son. Maybe we should all be writing strongly-worded letters!!

      Liked by 3 people

  15. January 18, 2015 at 3:42 pm

    Wow. Somebody’s going to be looking the death’s head of redundancy square in the face. I wonder what they’ve done to Queen Medb?

    Speaking of whom, if I sent that publisher my limericks (, do you think I could get a job writing textbooks for them?


    • January 18, 2015 at 4:35 pm

      I wish we could safely assume that the perpetrators of this foul deed are no longer in gainful employment, Christine, but in this country, that’s about as far-fetched as a sleeping potion served up by a tea-obsessed strumpet.

      I think the best way you could get that job would be to show a clear disdain for children, myths, education, language, and humanity. Any takers?


  16. carolannwrites
    January 18, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    Leo came ‘out’ today and said he was gay… there will come a time when teachers will have to come ‘out’ and say they are teachers! I promise I NEVER sent a story like that home for homework! :O :O


    • January 18, 2015 at 4:36 pm

      It still wouldn’t be your fault if it was on the curriculum, Carolann! I’m going to find out who published this utter dross so I can name and shame them in public. And fair play to Leo Varadkar – I hope it’s treated this week as the good news story it is.


  17. January 18, 2015 at 4:19 pm

    All part of the general dumbing down that’s going on in our media and politics. Everything requires to be like Big Brother or Strictly or all those other inane programmes that fill the TV schedules and our newspapers and magazines.

    Ireland has some wonderful traditional stories, including that of Deirdre of the Sorrows. A number of years ago, we used that story as the basis of some events that were part of a festival we ran. Deirdre spent time in Glenmasan in Cowal on the west coast of Scotland, where we were staying at the time. We went into the National Library of Scotland and were able to look through the original, vellum manuscript, kippered from being kept for safe keeping during times of rebellion up a lum (chimney). To handle the manuscript was wonderful — like touching history. It gives a real respect for such manuscripts and the monks who wrote down the stories to preserve them for others.

    So do chase down the perpetrators and give them a well-deserved blast from your pen (computer keyboard).


    • January 18, 2015 at 4:42 pm

      I don’t know if this is dumbing-down, Dorothy, or just plain dumb. Now, the original written-down text of this is chock-full of sexual references, and I have no problem with that being taken out for young children, but they took all the magic and humanity out of this too. There’s no excuse for it. I am going to hunt them down, and make them pay. I might leave them in a room with just water and a copy of Fifty Shades of Grey for 14 weeks.

      I would love to see that manuscript – I didn’t even know it existed. I loved the old Irish text of this one when I was in school – just seeing the ancient lettering and hearing our teacher read it out in a soft Donegal accent was a real treat.

      Liked by 3 people

  18. January 18, 2015 at 5:12 pm

    What a shame! Children should really learn stories like this on a field trip to one of the places mentioned and listen to your version of it under the stars. 🙂 It saddens me that such a story is being used to promote the stereotypical and detrimental views about men and women that ought to have been transcended long ago.

    One more thought, however. It occurs to me that if Fion was looking everywhere in wild places for a wife, he was probably still looking for Sadbh. I don’t think anyone was good enough for him after Sadbh disappeared. I don’t think he could tell the difference between Sadbh’s kidnapping and Grainne’s elopement, they would have both felt like abandonment to him. He had some real issues, you know? But yeah, he should have just let Grainne be: he was way too old for her as you beautifully pointed out! And I think anyone who would persuade a member of the fianna to leave his cohort for her is a strong woman indeed, despicably told stories for children notwithstanding. Thanks for such a fantastic post.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 18, 2015 at 6:53 pm

      Thank you, Éilis Niamh! I think one of the most notable things about this myth, for scholars, is that it’s one of the very very few tales in the Fianna tradition that portrays Fionn in a negative light. He’s usually the hero. He’s very much peripheral in this, with the illicit lovers front and centre. They seemed to have glossed over much of Fionn’s own story to use him as the villain for the purposes of this tale.

      I’m very gratified to hear that you think children should listen to my version of it under the stars. I think I might get in trouble for some of my language, though. So I’ll leave it to the expert and eagerly await Ali Isaac’s retelling of the tale!


  19. January 18, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    Oh for heaven’s sake. Why do they even bother? Why can’t they just say, “there’s a really great story called “The Pursuit of Diarmaid and Gráinne” but you can’t read it until you’re older because it might…. That will ensure that all the kids go right out and sneak a copy and read the real thing.

    Liked by 2 people

    • January 18, 2015 at 10:23 pm

      Now that is a BRILLIANT idea. While we’re at it, we should ban all children from reading books in general. The stampede of literate youngsters will flatten mountains.

      Liked by 2 people

      • January 18, 2015 at 10:47 pm

        So true! I’ll try that at the bookstore. “You can’t buy …” Should improve sales by thousands!

        Liked by 1 person

      • January 20, 2015 at 3:27 pm

        That’s a fantastic plan, girls! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  20. January 19, 2015 at 9:02 am

    Thanks for posting that load of bollix Tara. Not unsurprising given that Ireland is about as priest-ridden as it was a hundred years ago, and the relationship of the church with women is, well let’s just say unenlightened. This is very timely as my good mate Ali Isaac and I are writing a collection of retellings of some of the old love stories including Diarmuid and Grainne. The collection’s to be released for Valentine’s day. The language is lovely, though I say it myself, Fionn is a wrinkly old man, and Diarmuid is as up for it as Grainne. If you’d like to help out with the launch (we want to give a lot of copies away) I’ll send you the details. I’ll certainly send you a copy even if you’d rather not get involved.

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 19, 2015 at 10:06 am

      I wouldn’t say that Ireland is as priest-ridden as before, Jane, but in some ways, the education system still is. Having said that, I don’t know that this textbook was influenced by anything at all other than laziness and contempt for the writer’s job. I wouldn’t be surprised if it had been written by someone with a raging hangover, who had just been dumped.

      Kudos to you and Ali – I’m very excited by the idea of your collection, it’s right up my street! I’m a sucker for history and myth and it sounds like a fabulous book I can’t wait to read. I’d love to help out in any way I can, so although I don’t review books on this blog, hopefully there is some way I can get involved.

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 19, 2015 at 2:37 pm

        Thanks Tara 🙂 The feeling I have is that to a great extent the Irish people have moved beyond the reach of the priests and have developed a bitter cynicism when it comes to their politicians and power brokers. It’ll filter up in the end, but like everywhere, those in power are the last to even notice things might be changing, and they have every interest in maintaining the status quo. Ali and I will do our bit to bring a bit of feminine balance to the history books.


  21. January 19, 2015 at 9:12 am

    Reblogged this on Jane Dougherty Writes and commented:
    A very timely reminder as we come up to Valentine’s Day and the great romance binge, of exactly how to crush the romance out of the loveliest story.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. January 19, 2015 at 12:09 pm

    Well said, Tara!

    Liked by 1 person

  23. January 19, 2015 at 9:51 pm

    I’m truly miserable reading this. I can’t really see any upside to it. God knows what they will be doing to King Arthur and co. I foolishly assumed that the standard had risen since the time when I used to swap the girls and boys around when reading to my two girls, because the boys had all the fun.


    • January 19, 2015 at 10:29 pm

      Please don’t be too miserable! This book is an unbearable piece of crud, but to be fair, it’s only one of a wide range available to schools and wouldn’t be used at all by a great number of children, not even in this country… still, it’s good to poke a stick at this stuff. The publishers should still be ashamed of themselves.


  24. January 20, 2015 at 3:53 pm

    I’ve always been so fascinated by Irish myths… maybe because I’ve never seen anything like this book. My goodness. I’m a writer and an illustrator and it gives me shivers…

    But the good news it that there are a lot of other good retellings out there, so let’s not be too desperate about it 😉

    Tara, really, you retold this story? I love retellings! Where can I find it? 🙂


    • January 20, 2015 at 9:16 pm

      No, not me, Jazzfeathers (other than the short and cynical version above!), rather Ali Isaac who commented below has a version coming out around February I believe… I’m looking forward to that myself. Keep an eye on her blog for that.

      And don’t worry, I’ve never seen an Irish myth told this badly before, it is an anomaly. I blame the government.


  25. January 21, 2015 at 2:55 pm

    Sorry Tara, I don’t know what your problem is. That’s pretty much how we do things over here in Greece. Indeed, first time I saw Electra, she offered me some tea, I asked her to marry me and that was that (what’s with the tea fetish in this story, by the way?) 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 21, 2015 at 9:08 pm

      I hate to tell you this, Nicholas, but it sounds like you’ve been potionithised. You thought it was tea Electra offered. That’s what it’s all about, actually. So called “tea” is how they kept the Irish so docile during the IMF takeover, remember.

      Now that you say it, there may be many more hidden depths to this school textbook story than we thought.

      Liked by 2 people

      • January 22, 2015 at 8:52 am

        See? I knew you’d warm up to it, if only you gave it half a chance!

        Now, care for a cuppa, dear?


        • January 22, 2015 at 9:30 am

          Yeah, okay, I suppose. Milk, no sugar. Thanks.

          Although why do I feel so dead inside…? 😉

          Liked by 1 person

          • January 22, 2015 at 9:47 am

            Not to worry, my dear. Why don’t you slump on the couch while I fetch the rings and the priest?

            Liked by 1 person

            • January 22, 2015 at 10:00 am

              Sounds reasonable. Great tea, by the way 😋

              Liked by 1 person

              • January 22, 2015 at 11:16 am

                It’s the hypericum. Fresh from the garden – nothing but the best for you, my dear.

                Yes, Father, right this way. Now, dear, repeat after me…

                Liked by 2 people

  26. January 21, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    I love Irish mythology and folklore: This is a complete butchering. lol I think the problem is uninspired writing. Couldn’t they have found someone with a degree in folklore to write it? So sad.


    • January 21, 2015 at 10:23 pm

      I’m thinking the problem might be more that whoever is looking after the curriculum for reading cares less about folklore (and children) than words and word count.
      (Possibly also the publisher’s son/nephew was unemployed for a long time, and starting to spout worrying conspiracy theories and staying in bed all day, so they gave him a job butchering stories for reading primers because his mother was beginning to lose all hope and threatening to throw him out unless he got a job. Just sayin’)

      Liked by 1 person

      • January 21, 2015 at 10:58 pm

        That is an excellent and hilarious theory. They just epic failed.

        Liked by 1 person

      • January 22, 2015 at 9:25 am

        That would be ok, though, wouldn’t it? But I bet it was written by an editor who always wanted to write, and yet somehow never made it under their own steam. And then polished (!) by a committee for compliance with core spelling, phonics and an agreed literacy framework.

        Liked by 1 person

  27. January 22, 2015 at 9:21 am

    I laughed and laughed. And then I made a cup of tea. I remember as a kid reading many stories where the heroine strayed into a forest and found a caravan/hut/deserted castle and immediately started cleaning, before making herself a nice meal and going to bed. And yet, when Prince Charming breaks through the thicket and kisses Sleeping Beauty does he say, ‘ And I’ve brought you a nice cup of tea and a bacon sandwich, dear.’
    No. He does not.
    And if you think about it, loads of heroines in Brothers Grimm are endlessly fucking cleaning. Cinderella, Snow White, Beauty, the Little Red Hen. It never says anything about the Three Little Pigs getting down with Mr Muscle. Although that’s probably a whole different story…
    And now I must go and make a cup of tea.
    Is the Finn in that story the same as Fin MacCool?

    Liked by 1 person

    • January 22, 2015 at 9:45 am

      He is one and the same, Elaine, spelled variously Finn/Fionn mac Cumhaill//mac Cumail/MacCool, or whatever you’re having yourself. This is what he gets for having been around before spelling was invented.

      Have you seen the current detergent commercial on TV where they have a princess in despair over not being able to get the castle clean, before she discovers a new cleaning product and rides away on her horse? It really makes me want to vomit. It’s like the Ad Men are saying “All right then, ladies. Nowadays, we will alllow you to be liberated from a fantasy life of servitude and drudgery, but only if you use our miracle product to clean the goddamn castle first”

      On a side note, can you please write us the story of the Three Little Pigs and Mr Muscle? Pleeeeeeease???


      • January 22, 2015 at 9:56 am

        And I will tell you that story when you are sitting comfortably in the firelight. And the kitchen has all been tidied away, and Mr Muscle is in own little place.
        That sounds entirely dodgy. But on the other hand….
        Do you remember the Brillo pad adverts? He promised me a kingdom, and all I have are these pots to wash. Don’t worry Madam! New soap-filled Brillo pad is here!
        I did a story called The Three Little Pigs and Mrs Olf. Can’t remember if you saw it.


        • January 22, 2015 at 10:03 am

          I remember it well, and I loved it. Shared it everywhere, in fact. You need to do more of those.

          Yup, in terms of cleaning product commercials, the evolution of man is still at a very hirsute stage. Spanners, the lot of them.


          • January 22, 2015 at 10:40 am

            I’ve written it. Mr Muscle, and the Dirty Knight’s cup of tea. I’ll publish it tomorrow. Hope I don’t get done for infringement of copyright, or whatever. You’re so inspiring. and I really should be doing something else


            • January 22, 2015 at 10:44 am

              But… but Elaine, why would you do something else when you could be keeping me entertained?!

              That was lightening fast! Can’t wait to read it. Don’t worry about infringing anything. As far as I know, you can’t copyright sexism.

              Liked by 1 person

  28. January 26, 2015 at 8:32 am

    I just read this, and had to share:

    “No wise girl would accept a man who proposed by moonlight or just after a meal. The dear things aren’t themselves then. Food, properly served, will attract a proposal at almost any time, especially if it is known that the pleasing viands were of the girl’s own making.”

    —Myrtle Rood’s The Spinster Book, 1901

    Looks like tea has pretty much the same effect…


    • January 26, 2015 at 11:41 am

      This is an absolute gem! Imagine the devious of minds of young maids, making pleasing viands in order to get a husband! What slappers!

      Do you have the whole book? There must be a wealth of marvellous advice in there.

      Liked by 1 person

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