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Tom Chaney - R771: Ireland and the Storyteller

Of Writers and Their Books Ireland and the Storyteller First appeared 29 May 2005 in the Hart County Herald News.
The next earlier Tom Chaney column : Tom Chaney: An Island at the Center of the World

By Tom Chaney

Ireland and the Storyteller

" Wonderfully, it was the boy who saw him first. He looked out of his bedroom window, then looked again and harder -- and dared to hope. No, it was not a trick of the light; a tall figure in a ragged black coat and a ruined old hat was walking down the darkening hillside; and he was heading toward the house.

" He looked like a scarecrow deserting his post. High grasses soaked his cracked boots and drenched his coat hems. A mist like a silver veil floated above the ground, broke at his knees, and reassembled itself in his wake. In this twilight fog, mysterious shapes appeared and dematerialized, so that the pale walker was never sure he had seen merely the branches of trees or the arms of mythic dancers come to greet him.

" And in the house ahead, the boy, nine years old and blond as hay, raced downstairs, calling wildly to his father. "

And that evening the boy's most passionate dream came true. His father had told him of the storytellers and their stories that hurtled down the "long, shiny pipeline of the centuries, and the characters, all love and hate and fire, 'tumbled out on our own stone floor'."

Thus begins Ireland, a wonderful novel by Frank Delaney, published just this year -- Delaney's first in the United States.

The Storyteller leaves abruptly two days later, and the nine-year-old boy, Ronan, devotes the rest of his life searching for the Storyteller and is led into a journey of self-discovery as well as into a journey into the conflicting stories of a nation's past.According to the boy's father, John O'Mara, storytellers brought to life quite vividly the long-gone past unlike the historians who had to "dry out history to put it down on paper."

It was 1951 when young Ronan O'Mara first meets the Storyteller. He left because the boy's mother, fearful for John's reputation, forced him out of the house. Ronan is then launched into a life of seeking the Storyteller; of hearing his tales of Ireland second hand; of becoming himself an historian.

Ronan meets a woman who had the Storyteller in her house for two nights. He told, she said, of "how the monks wrote the Book of Kells and my husband said afterwards that wasn't the truth of it how could they write the Book of Kells like that and we all said to my husband what does it matter if the story is as good as that."

Ireland is structured with Ronan's search interwoven with fine stories from the storyteller covering the history of Ireland from the Ice Age down to the struggle for independence in the Easter Rising of 1926.

Ronan's search is matched by the intent of the Storyteller who has chosen the nine-year-old boy as his successor and heir. The Storyteller manipulates the search until it becomes a kind of dance luring Ronan into maturity. They are united in 1965 after Ronan has taken his degree in history, buried his father, and devoted six months to a final search for the Storyteller.

The novel is far richer than this short piece can tell. The tale of the Storyteller's loves -- for Ireland, for Sylvia with whom he fathered an illegitimate child, and for Ronan -- son of that child, John O'Mara.

But most of all the novel's beauty lies in the complex tapestry of history, the weaving of which involves Ireland and its inhabitants ancient and modern, wise and foolish. And in the close fabric of that tapestry live Delaney's characters.

Let us celebrate with Delaney the tellers of tales among us who would weave the fabric of life in close and vivid detail.

Box 73/111 Water Street
Horse Cave, Kentucky 42749
Email: Tom Chaney

This story was posted on 2012-07-22 06:21:45
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