THE FEAST by Randy Lee Eickhoff


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Historical storyteller Eickhoff turns out tight, compellingly grand novels, most recently the story of Cóchulainn, the greatest hero of Irish literature (The Raid, 1997), and, with coauthor Leonard C. Lewis, a masterful retelling of the life of Big Jim Bowie (Bowie, 1998). Now he returns to the Boy-Warrior Cóchulainn and picks up where The Raid left off. Like The Iliad and The Odyssey, The Raid and The Feast spring from bardic oral traditions dating back to 800 b.c., the Irish sagas having later been transcribed by monks. Eickhoff’s recensions of the Ulster Cycle are taken from an 11th-century transcription containing the main stories of the cycle, including “Cattle Raid of Cooley” and “Bricriu’s Feast” and telling of Iron Age Celtic culture as Cóchulainn’s warriors fight for their rightful land. The best-known tales (many were lost) are about Cóchulainn’s father, Conchobar, while others bear hints of Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; the trickster Bricriu echoes the Norse trickster Loki. Eickhoff’s translation from a nearly dead language offers a window into the past and reveals to Ireland today the values of its progenitors. Coming clearly through Eickhoff’s his rolling periods is a raw sensuality suggesting that Irishmen in the dim past, like those today, could talk up a fearfully heady storm of words streaming with nose-catching rose-oil, all the while allowing for plenty of tugging and tumbling into rumpled sheets. A fine retelling of an ancient Irish saga.

Pub Date: March 15th, 1999
ISBN: 0-312-86647-X
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Forge
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