Archive for March 17, 2012

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March 17, 2012 Leave a comment

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Indie Saturday – Author J. S. Dunn on “Bending the Boyne: A Novel of Ancient Ireland”

March 17, 2012 Leave a comment

Today, we have author J. S. Dunn featured on the blog’s ‘Indie Saturday‘ for the historical novel “Bending the Boyne: A Novel of Ancient Ireland” (Available on Amazon). Awarded first place in the Next Generation Indie Awards 2011 (USA), J.S. Dunn brings the Bronze Age to life in this tale of the Gaelic invasion of early Ireland that seamlessly brings pre-historical Europe, Irish mythologies,  cult heroes, and archaeo-astronomy together.

Author J. S. Dunn writes about ‘Bending the Boyne: A Novel of Ancient Ireland’:

Fresh Eire!  Thank you for inviting me to post on the ideas behind Bending The Boyne!

Here is a short description:

2200 BCE: Changes rocking the Continent reach Eire with the dawning Bronze Age. Well before any Celts, marauders invade the island seeking copper and gold. The young astronomer Boann and the enigmatic Cian need all their wits and courage to save their people and their great Boyne mounds, when long bronze knives challenge the peaceful native starwatchers. Tensions on Eire between new and old cultures and between Boann, Elcmar, and her son Aengus, ultimately explode. What emerges from the rubble of battle are the legends of Ireland’s beginnings in a totally new light.

Larger than myth, this tale echoes with medieval texts, and cult heroes modern and ancient. By the final temporal twist, factual prehistory is bending into images of leprechauns who guard Eire’s gold for eternity. As ever, the victors will spin the myths.

Polski: Newgrange English: Newgrange

Image via Wikipedia

The Boyne passage mounds in Ireland are older than the Pyramids, and Stonehenge. How did these great mounds fall into disuse?

Reading a novel set in such a remote era can be a challenge. I hope to make the early Bronze Age accessible to modern readers, like Jean Auel did for the stone age in her Clan Of The Cave Bear series. Some of the info below will seem strange, or not suited to the squeamish!

Drastic changes arrive in Eire at 2200 BCE when gold-seeking marauders arrive. Figures from Ireland’s earliest myths, Boann and her son Aengus, the Dagda, Oghma, and others, struggle with these changes. This story also riffs on the riddle of who fathered Aengus, as found in the original lines:

“…They made the sun stand still to the end of nine months / strange the tale…”

That has to be the first version of modern Who’s Your Daddy? celebrity gossip.

English: This is the entrance to the Megalithic Passage Tomb at Newgrange in Boyne Valley, Ireland. The top entrance, or 'roof box' entrance, is for the sun.

Image via Wikipedia

The very notion of being a celebrity or warrior-hero probably arose at this time, the late third millennium BCE, as shown by a big change in burials from cremation and mass deposits of bone and ashes to individual burials in cists, usually males, buried with prestige objects like copper daggers and gold jewelry. The hero-worship era displaced worship of ancestors.

And what did the hero Elcmar do with that white horse? Certain grisly aspects of the hero-making of Elcmar, the Invaders’ champion, have been glossed over by all but a few academics (and some passages of Finnegans Wake) but yes, that ceremony is thought to have involved carnal union with a white horse. The union was to ensure the land’s fertility. In later times, the horse was dismembered and put into a great cauldron that the “king” climbed into to soak in the poor dead beast’s blood. In still later times during the Iron Age, a bad leader was ritually tortured and killed. Bending The Boyne draws stark contrast between native Starwatchers and the Invaders rather than overemphasize the strangest practices of the Bronze Age.

For astronomy buffs, this tale of ancient Ireland offers intrigue. How did these ancients perceive the workings of the solar system? The characters themselves can be thought of as elements of the solar system, the sun and orbs (: Boann is the Milky Way, Aengus the reborn sun at solstice). Did these people really know about equinoctial precession?

As the poet Yeats might say, set your head on fire. The reader looking for references to Irish literature and politics can find dozens. Many loaded words and phrases are embedded in the story: beyond the Pale, the Liberties (of Dublin), the Ascendancy, and Transportation, to name a few. The reader brings a certain perspective to how he or she interprets the past, as does the author. The references to later Irish culture remind that our own history will later be reinterpreted, rewritten.

As the centennial of Ireland’s Rising approaches in 2016, this novel offers a new perspective on the unending Troubles for one notable island — of which the English were only the latest incarnation in a very long series of invaders.

The reader may find the maps in the front matter, and the Glossary of names and author’s note, to be useful. The author’s website,, contains reading group questions, and web links to find photos and interesting information about the objects and places depicted in Bending The Boyne.

The Wall page on Facebook has updates, fan comments – join the 1,650+ fans! – and Irish archaeology news : .

More on the new concepts about early “Celts” and the origin of the Gaelic language can be found in Celtic From The West (Cunliffe and Koch, editors, 2010, Oxford Press).

Best to all on this St. Patrick’s Day,


J. S. Dunn 

Bending the Boyne: A Novel of Ancient Ireland by J. S. Dunn (Seriously Good Books LLC) is available at Amazon in Kindle and Paperback formats.


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Do you want to be a featured ‘Indie Saturday’ author too? Go here for more info!

Read an embedded sample of “Bending the Boyne: A Novel of Ancient Ireland” after the jump!

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