(urth) Fwd: Peace: St. Brandon

stoneox17 at aol.com stoneox17 at aol.com
Wed Sep 12 15:41:40 PDT 2007

I have been trying to construct the wiki pages for *Peace*, and upon
rereading it while preparing for this task, I discovered some twists
on the interpretation of the tale of St. Brandon that haven't been
discussed on this mailing list. I thought people might be interested 
in seeing them.  So without further ado, here is the "Interpretation" 
section for the tale of St. Brandon that I wrote for the wiki.  In the
wiki, I also wrote a summary of the story which, if you haven't read
*Peace* recently, may be useful for understanding my interpretation
(and if you haven't read *Peace* at all, please go read it before 
reading any further).   

Stone Ox (Peter S.)

Warning: spoilers for *Peace* ahead.


In the story, there is some discussion as to whether St. Brandon's ship
is made of wood or stone. The final word is had by Brandon, who says
that it is stone, in places. Which parts are stone may be answered by a
passage a few pages later in *Peace*, where Den describes a cloud tower:
"To me it was Brandon's mast and at the same time the princess's tower
rising from the sea, so that the Irish holy man captained a wicker
vessel with sails the size of continents bent to that enchanted edifice
of stone." So the boat is wood with a mast of stone. This is visually 
reminiscent of a grave, with the wooden hull being the coffin and the 
mast the tombstone (rising through the earth's surface).

With this key, the symbolism of the story is easy to figure out.

    * The High King at Tara is God,
    * Finn M'Cool is an angel - or somebody,
    * Brandon is Den (there is even a phonetic correspondence),
    * the ship's sinking is the burial of the coffin,
    * they are headed not for the Earthly Paradise, but Heaven,
    * the twenty thousand years between two and five am are spent in
    * the rat is Den's wickedness,
    * the cat may be Den's heathenism. 

This interpretation is supported by another mention of St. Brandon in
*Peace*.  In the banshee story, Kate says that Jack and the banshee 
fought "like Kilkenny cats, I was about to say, but it was really 
more like St. Brandon and the Devil." So maybe in the archetypical 
version, St. Brandon and the king of the rats (alike as two peas in 
a pod, remember?) fight. This is reminiscent of the purported 
objective of Purgatory: to purge the wickedness from one's soul. In 
Doherty's version, wickedness and the fairy cat fight, but nobody 
wins; they tear each other into pieces and the pieces run off into 
the woods. Whatever is going on here, it's not the original program.

   Unresolved questions

What is the significance of the pieces running off into the woods?
This is vaguely similar to the sidhe story in *Peace,* where the 
three children of the sidhe are turned into a flock of geese. It is 
also vaguely reminiscent of the story of the Kilkenny cats.


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