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…)
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.
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.)
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.
WHO WRITES THIS STUFF?
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.