Games Fairies Play

In my dissertation, The Games Fairies Play: Otherworld intruders in Medieval Literary Narratives, I argue that otherworld intruders intrude upon mortals and the mortal world in search of game (using every conceivable meaning of game) where they enter into agreements and bargains with mortals in their pursuit of “game.” These bargains are exceedingly carefully, and legally constructed contracts. I examine the games, bargains and contracts between otherworld intruders and mortals in various medieval Celtic and English texts, but particularly in the medieval Welsh mabinogi of Pwyll Pendeuic Dyfed, the Middle English texts of Sir OrfeoThomas of Erceldoune, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. I examine these texts in order to show how an understanding of how the story pattern of an otherworld intruder who strikes a bargain with a mortal as part of a game works illuminates and removes some of the difficultie critics have had in understanding my central text, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and the role played by Morgan le Fay. The following are posts that relate to my dissertation topic.

  • Calendar,  Celtic Myth,  Games Fairies Play,  Music

    Tam Lin: Love, Sacrifice, and Halloween

    I can’t really think about Halloween, or Samain, if you prefer, without thinking of the ballad of “Tam Lin,” especially this part:   And ance it fell upon a day A cauld day and a snell, When we were frae the hunting come, That frae my horse I fell, The Queen o’ Fairies she caught me, In yon green hill to dwell. And pleasant is the fairy land, But, an eerie tale to tell, Ay at the end of seven years We pay a teind to hell; I am sae fair and fu o flesh, I’m feard it be mysel. But the night is Halloween, lady, The morn is Hallowday;…

  • Calendar,  Celtic Myth,  Games Fairies Play,  Literature

    Halloween, Samhain, and such

    It’s the time of year when I start seeing incredibly daft posts about the antecedents of Halloween, particularly Samain (Samhain, for you moderns). This year, I’ve created an FAQ about Samain, and what it means. For those of you already in the know, here’s a link to a translation by Kuno Meyer of the very odd Echtra Nera, mostly based on Eg. 1782. Echtra Nera is a tale tied closely to Samain, and features a sojourn in a síd, as well as the observation that “the fairy-mounds of Erinn are always opened about Halloween.” In the beginning of the tale, a dead man directs Nera to take him to a…

  • Celtic Myth,  Games Fairies Play

    The Otherworld, White Horses, and Genetics

    She turned about her milk-white steed, And took True Thomas up behind, And aye wheneer her bridle rang, The steed flew swifter than the wind. “Thomas the Rhymer A” Child 37 The horse she rode on was dapple gray, And in her hand she held bells nine; I thought I heard this fair lady say These fair siller bells they should a’ be mine. “Thomas the Rhymer B” Child 37 In the first branch or tale of the medieval Welsh mabinogi Pwyll Pendeuic Dyfed, Pwyll and his retinue, desiring to see a marvel (rywedawt), sit on the mound or gorsedd of Arberth, where he in fact does see a marvel:…

  • Celtic Myth,  Games Fairies Play

    They are fairies; he that speaks to them shall die: Speech and Silence in Medieval Fairy Narratives Kalamazoo 2008

    I’m going to be doing a link-post to others who are blogging Kalamazoo, and maybe add some general impressions of my own, in a bit. I’ve uploaded my paper on medieval fairies, and speech and silence in Sir Orfeo, Thomas of Erceldoune, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight “‘They are fairies; he that speaks to them shall die’: Speech and Silence in Medieval Fairy Narratives” here. Mostly I’m smug that I aimed for a fifteen minute paper, and I nailed it, even though it meant reducing about twelve thousand words to three thousand.

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  • Celtic Myth,  Games Fairies Play,  History

    Bridget Cleary, Sex, Death, Fairies and Other

    This is the third in a series of posts about fairies as other. I promised, in my first post, to concentrate on fairies as other, particularly in the context of sex and death, because, as MacAllister Stone notes “other is all about sex and death.” Last time I looked at the tragic death of Bridget Cleary, burned because her husband Michael thought Bridget was the victim of a fairy abduction. This time I want to look at the story of Bridget Cleary in the context of sex and death. In Bridget Cleary we have a woman who is seen as other, an outsider in her community because of her differences,…

  • Celtic Myth,  Games Fairies Play,  History

    Bridget Cleary: Fairy Intrusion in Nineteenth Century Ireland

    Are you a witch? Are you a fairy? Are you the wife Of Michael Cleary? —Children’s rhyme from Southern Tipperary, Ireland I promised in my first post on fairies as other to look at a fairy intrusion in nineteenth century Ireland, specifically, the fairy burning of Bridget Cleary. In March of 1895 Bridget Boland Cleary (Bríd Ní Chléirig) was a trained seamstress, with a good eye for fashion, who owned her own Singer sewing machine. She lived with her husband Michael Cleary and her father Patrick Boland in a small cottage in Ballyvadlea, Tipperary, Ireland. Michael, like his wife, was atypical in that he could read and write; he worked…

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  • Celtic Myth,  Games Fairies Play

    Medieval Fairies as Other

    MacAllister Stone has been posting a series about the roles of the other in spec fic. I wanted to pick up on two observations MacAllister makes that particularly intrigued me because they deal with the role of fairies as the øther in medieval literature. It’s something I’ve been thinking about quite a lot. First, MacAllister Stone defines Other as a term to describe the phenomenon of the outsider, particularly in fiction, who represents some kind of threat to the community—but often, also serves as the agent for the community’s salvation/redemption. The best example of medieval fairy Other I know of is the c. 1400 Middle English anonymous poem Sir Gawain…

  • Conferences,  Games Fairies Play

    “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: Tolkien’s ‘game with rules’,

    I’ve posted my Kalamazoo paper “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight: Tolkien’s ‘game with rules’,” here, such as it is. There’s a handout, too! Technorati Tags:Gawain, Kalamazoo

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  • Games Fairies Play,  Medieval manuscripts

    Gawain and Gough

    In a 1990 seminar Derek Pearsall made a passing reference to the Gough Map, in a discussion of the journey Gawain makes across the realm of Logres, in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The Gough Map is the oldest surviving road map of Great Britain, dating from around 1360. It’s roughly oblong in shape, made of two pieces of vellem, and is half map and half sketch. Not much is known about its provenance; the map was given to the Bodleian library in 1809 by its owner, Richard Gough. The dating is based on the inks and materials used to make the map, and on the place names. 691.…