Longes Mac nUislenn

Parsons, G. (2017) Longes Mac nUislenn. In: Echard, S. and Rouse, R. (eds.) The Encyclopaedia of Medieval Literature in Britain. Wiley Blackwell. ISBN 9781118396988 (doi: 10.1002/9781118396957.wbemlb638)

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The strikingly memorable opening scene of Longes Mac nUislenn (‘The Exile of the Sons of Uisliu’) depicts the Ulaid in characteristic feasting mode. As her unnamed mother serves the king and other notable men, the girl Derdriu cries out from within the womb. This weird moment heralds a lifelong ability to disturb the martial, androcentric community into which she is born. A prophecy is made concerning her extraordinary beauty and the destruction that she will cause, but the king, Conchobar mac Nessa, ignores advice to kill the baby in order that he might have this beauty as his wife in the future. The narrative’s next memorable set-piece is a tableau of a raven feeding on blood on snowy ground that causes the young woman Derdriu to wish for a lover distinguished by such vibrant colouring. Such a man is the warrior Noísiu, and Derdriu compels him to elope with her in defiance of the king. The couple and Noísiu’s two brothers go into exile in Scotland but there too the desire that Derdriu’s beauty sparks in men causes problems. When envoys come from Ulster to invite the group home, they go. They have been lured under false pretences, however, as Conchobar has not forgiven them and Noísiu is killed. Derdriu laments his loss, and appears to fail to live up to Conchobar’s expectations of her as a sexual partner. A third memorable scene closes the work. Conchobar tells Derdriu, as they journey out in a chariot, that she is being handed over to another man, one who had been involved in the killing of Noísiu. At that news, and having been likened to a ewe between two rams by Conchobar, she commits suicide by dashing her head against a rock. This short essay contextualises the tale with reference to the wider corpus of Early Irish literature.

Item Type:Book Sections (Encyclopaedia entry)
Keywords:Longes Mac nUislenn, Derdriu, Deirdre, Ulster cycle, medieval Gaelic literature, medieval Irish literature, Celtic literature.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Parsons, Dr Geraldine
Authors: Parsons, G.
Subjects:P Language and Literature > PB Modern European Languages > PB1201 Irish Language
P Language and Literature > PB Modern European Languages > PB1501 Scottish Gaelic Language
P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
College/School:College of Arts & Humanities > School of Humanities > Celtic and Gaelic
Publisher:Wiley Blackwell

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