UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Elements of the folk hero-tale in the fiction of Padraic Colum MacLaine, Kay Diviney


The fiction of Padraic Colum (1881-1972), although it reflects important concerns of the Irish Revival, has been, like Irish fiction in general (Joyce excepted), almost entirely overlooked. To begin to correct this critical oversight, I have focused in this study on Colum's attempt, beginning with his children's book, The King of Ireland's Son (1916), to derive from the Irish folktale new and distinctive forms and themes for Irish fiction. In The King of Ireland's Son, Colum arranges and alters folktales to form a folktale-like synthesis which, however, expresses literary rather than folktale meanings. In Chapter I, I have identified Colum's folktale sources; in Chapter II, shown how he finds narrative patterns to convey literary meaning by transforming the traditional rhythms of the folktale into the literary rhythms of "deferral," "failure," and "gathering"; and in Chapter III, elucidated the themes--of the primacy of tradition in determining identity and of a new Irish heroism, that of the peasantry--which these rhythms are designed to express. Folklore continues to influence structure and content in Colum's romantic novel Castle Conquer (1923), the subject of my next two chapters, although the superficial trappings of the folktale are absent. In this novel, Colum's new image of heroism blends romance, the anti-heroism of comic folktales, and the real-life example of Ireland's rebel-poets (Chapter IV); as well, Castle Conquer's many interpolated stories carry the theme of oral tradition into the structure of the novel (Chapter V). The following two chapters are devoted to The Flying Swans (1957). A great achievement, this novel, with the disillusioned hindsight of the fifties, revises the ideas of heroism (Chapter VI) and of the relevance of folklore to life (Chapter VII). Yet Colum regenerates both ideas, in the process recasting in realistic terms the forms and themes of The King of Ireland's Son, written fifty years before.

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