This story is a retelling of the myth of Angus, a popular and attractive figure of the Celtic mythology of Ireland and Scotland. Angus is a giver of dreams, an Eros, a figure of youth. He comes down to us from Irish mythology, but he is encountered, too, in Celtic Scotland. He is a benign figure — handsome and playful — who in modern times has inspired not only the poem of W.B. Yeats, ‘The Song of Wandering Aengus’, but also the lilting Scottish lullaby, ‘Dream Angus’.
In this version of the story of Angus, although I have taken some liberties with the original, I have tried to maintain the central features of Angus’s life as these are revealed to us in the Irish mythological sources. These sources, though, do not provide much detail, and so I have imagined what his mother, Boann, might be like; I have interpreted the character of his father, the Dagda, in a particular way and have deprived him of the definite article that precedes his name; I have assumed that Bodb was rather overbearing. Purists may object to this, but myths live, and are there to be played with. At the same time, it is important to remind readers of the fact that if they want the medieval versions, unsullied by twenty-first-century interpolation, they still exist, and are accessible. We must bear in mind, however, that those earlier texts are themselves reworked versions of things passed from mouth to mouth, embroidered and mixed up in the process. Myth is a cloud based upon a shadow based upon the movement of the breeze.
Celtic mythology is a rich and entrancing world, peopled by both mortals and gods. It embraces the notion of parallel universes, the real world and the otherworld. There are signs of the otherworld in the real world — mounds, hills and loughs — and the location of mythical places is frequently tied to real geographical features. It is no respecter of chronology, though, even if the later Irish heroic tales claim to have happened at a particular time in history. Angus belongs to the early body of stories — stories of a time beyond concrete memory.
In retelling the story of Angus, I have brought him into the modern world in a series of connected stories which for the most part take place in modern Scotland. The part played by Angus, or the Angus figure, in each of these, may be elusive, but such a figure is present in each of them. Unlike some mythical figures, Angus does no particular moral or didactic work: he is really about dreams and about love — two things that have always had their mysteries for people. Angus puts us in touch with our dreams — those entities which Auden described so beautifully in his Freud poem as the creatures of the night that are waiting for us, that need our recognition. But Angus does more than that: he represents youth and the intense, passionate love that we might experience when we are young but which we might still try to remember as age creeps up. Age and experience might make us sombre and cautious, but there is always an Angus within us — Angus the dreamer.
Alexander McCall Smith, 2006
There was water
This happened in Ireland, but the memory of it is in Scotland too. The precise location of things was not so important then, as there was just the land and the sea between them, and people came and went between the lands, and they were brothers and sisters. The land itself was beautiful, with hills that ran down to the sea, and there were cold green waves that broke on the rocks that marked the edge of the land. There were islands, too, with stretches of white sand, and behind the white sand there was the machair, which was made up of meadows on which grew yellow and blue flowers, tiny flowers.
The gods lived everywhere then, and they moved among the people. But there were some gods who had their own place, and they were sometimes very powerful, as Dagda was. He was one of the great gods, and his people lived on islands at the very edge of the world, where there is just the blue of the sea and the west beyond the blue. They came to Ireland on a cloud, and lived there. Dagda was one of them, the good one, and he had great power, with his cauldron in which there was limitless food, and his great club, with which he could slay many men with a single blow. But he was often kind to men, and he could bring them back to life with the other end of the club. He also had fecund fruit trees which never stopped bearing fruit, and two remarkable pigs, one of which was always being cooked while the other was always growing.
There are many stories of Dagda and his doings. This one is about how he came to father a boy called Angus, and how Angus delighted all who came across him. In many ways, this was Dagda’s greatest achievement, that he gave us this fine boy, who brought dreams to people, and who was loved by birds and people equally and who still is. For Dream Angus still comes at night and gives you dreams. You do not see him do this, but you may spot him skipping across the heather, his bag of dreams by his side, and the sight of him, just the sight, may be enough to make you fall in love. For he is also a dispenser of love, an Eros.
How was it that Dagda, a great and powerful god, a leader of warriors, should have had such a son? One might have thought, surely, that a god like that would have a son who was skilled in military matters, rather than a dreamer who fell in love and who was a charmer of birds. For an explanation of the gentleness of Angus, we must turn to his mother. She was a water spirit called Boann. Water spirits are gentle; their sons are handsome and have a sense of fun; they sparkle and dart about, just like water, which is the most playful of the elements.
From the Hardcover edition. --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.
Revue de presse
“May well be the most enjoyable of the [Myths] series to date. . . . McCall Smith brings to the Angus story a sly and deceptive simplicity, combined with a charm that has a line of tight, sharp wire running all the way through it.”
—The Guardian (UK)
“[A] gem-like piece of work, slim and polished.”
—National Post --Ce texte fait référence à une édition épuisée ou non disponible de ce titre.