Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Nevertheless, she persisted. The Prankquean-pages 21-23

There was a simultaneous "aha!" of recognition at last Wednesday's meeting from those of us who have taken this ride once before when the Prankquean made what I believe is her first appearance in the Wake. The term had become familiar to us over the course of the book, but most of us had passed over its first occurence on that run though. What was reassuring, though, was that we remembered the tale it is found in, if not this name or label attached to this feminine archetypal figure.

So what's the tale? Well, before I begin any explanations, I think I'll refer you to this wonderful rendition by Adam Harvey of the very passage we read:

A somewhat easier to understand account of the meeting between the pirate queen Grace O'Malley and the Earl of Howth can be found on the legends page of the Howth Castle website. Basically, if you don't feel like clicking through, the story is of Grace O'Malley, who goes by many other names because her real name in Irish is Gráinne Ní Mháille, and so was anglicized in a variety of ways. Joyce dubs her 'grace o'malice' here.Pirate queen is a bit deceptive, because in fact she was the actual lord of Connaught, a realm which included both land and sea, and which she inherited from her father. I find her story fascinating on many levels,, but perhaps particularly because she is both a figure of historical record, and also a part of Irish folklore. To put it another way, it's as though Robin Hood had lived in the time of Queen Elizabeth. 

Joyce uses an event that has some historical basis to suit his own ends. Although the original account has Grace making off with the earl's heir (though according to our legends page, this couldn't have happened in exactly that way), Joyce turns it into a fairytale, with the same event happening three times, with three different children. Some say that this is a Viconian cycle, since Vico only spoke of three ages, while Joyce adds the ricorso as a fourth. I'm starting to see the ricorso as more of a reset than a cycle, as when playing a video game. 

After consulting our texts, we spoke towards the end of the meeting of the interesting idea of the Jarl van Hoother (aka, the Earl of Howth) being a masculine figure in a slow and drowsy torpor. One reason he doesn't want to let Grace O'Malley in is because of the late hour and his sleepiness. According to our text, and I don't remember if it was Campbell or just which one, Grace represents the animating feminine principal. She is the invigorating one. And when I look at what is happening in our country, I see a similar principle at work. What Grace is demanding of the Earl is nothing outrageous. According to our legends page, Grace is only asking him to fulfill the traditions of ancient Irish hospitality. In other words, she is only asking what is due her.

What the slumbering earl doesn't at first understand is that, one way or another, she is determined to get it. 

Statue of Grace O'Malley at Westport House-photo by Suzaane Mischyshyn

1 comment:

  1. This is great, Seana! And I loved the reading by Adam Harvey--makes it so much more understandable (or at least a little understandable).