Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Fantastic in the Fine Arts: Diarmuid Ua Duibhne

I'm in Ireland this week, and so as I was figuring out what to post for this week's fine arts column, I thought, "Why not do something Irish?"  So I started with the myth of Finn McCool (Fionn mac Cumhaill, actually), the legendary warrior-hunter who led a group of followers known as the Fianna.
Stephen Reid, 1932
What I didn't realize, however, was that one of the members of the Fianna was a man named Diarmuid Ua Duibhne--that's right, the same name is the younger prince in Guy Gavriel Kay's The Summer Tree.
So, I looked up Diarmuid in my copy of Lady Gregory's Complete Irish Mythology, which has several sections on him; the first section on his birth ends with this:
And when Diarmuid came to his full strength he was given a place among the Fianna of Ireland; and all women loved him, and he did many great deeds, fighting with the enemies of the Fianna and of Ireland; and one time he fought a wild ox through the length of seven days and seven nights on the top of the Mountain of Happiness. (216) 
The next section tells the story of how Diarmuid got his love-spot, which made it so that "no woman that ever saw him after that was able to refuse him her love" (218).

I certainly knew that Kay was drawing from a variety of mythological sources when writing The Fionavar Tapestry, but I hadn't realized that Diarmuid's character was one of them.  Sure, there are differences between his character and the mythical figure, but the popularity each one had with women is a significant similarity.

I didn't find too many works of art representing Diarmuid (there is this sculpture, and if you know of others, I'd love to see them!)  But in the 1999 Irish dance show "Dancing on Dangerous Ground," part of the show tells the story of Diarmuid running off with Finn McCool's to-be-wife, Grania, with Riverdance leads Colin Dunne and Jean Butler portraying Diarmuid and Grania, respectively:

Never has betrayal looked so beautiful.