Tuesday, April 1, 2008
Dream Angus by Alexander McCall Smith
This book is part of the Canongate Myths Series in which contemporary authors were asked to retell a particular myth in a new way. From the preface, "Myths are universal and timeless stories that reflect and shape our lives -- they explore our desires, our fears, our longings, and provide narratives that remind us what it means to be human." Alexander McCall Smith took the myth of Angus who is a part of the Celtic mythology of Ireland and Scotland and re-imagined him. He tells the story of Angus in a series of short stories going back and forth between the earliest days of Angus to the present day.
Angus is a relatively benevolent god who visits people in their dreams and reveals to them their true love. Everyone who sees Angus loves him. " And as they slept, Angus went round the room, stopping here and there, leaving a dream with this one and that one, generous in his dispensing."
The story entitled, "I Dream of You", tells the story of how Angus finds his own true love. Just as he does for others, his true love comes to him in a dream. This beautiful woman continues to come to him in his dreams, but he can't convince her to stay with him. He refuses to eat or drink and does nothing but sit and think about this woman. Until finally, his father, Dagda, was convinced to send people to seek out this girl before Angus dies from love sickness. They find the girl and take Angus to her village but refuse to let him see her right away. He must first consult her father who initially refuses to allow Angus to take her away. Dagda intervenes once again, and Angus is allowed to have her if she agrees. However, it turns out that she spends a year as a woman and a year as a swan. When Angus approaches, he immediately spots the most beautiful swan on the lake and knows that it's Caer. "Angus stood upon the shore. He stretched out his arms, and they were wings, great swan-wings, white to the pinions; he became a swan. She saw him, turning her neck as swans will do, and he flew to her. Then together they rose above the waters of the lake and circled its shore several times. The sound of their beating wings was the sound of a heartbeat, the sound of blood in the veins, the very sound of life; and they rose, and flew away to the north, to be together, lovers as swans, as man and woman. Angus, giver of dreams and love, now the recipient of both."
I've already ordered another title from the Canongate Myths Series entitled Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood. This is a retelling of the myth of Odysseus from the viewpoint of Penelope and her maids.