composing the link between higher reality/spiritual truth and the physical. It essentially directs thatstories should be approached from an allegorical perspective, that one must look beyond the surfacewhile using the Bible as the model or reference point of truth. This was the standard approach to thestudy of texts and myths such as the
which incorporate a crucial element of the pastoral;such tales were shaped to appeal to a wide audience so that the flock may see with their physicaleyes what they cannot see spiritually. Religious truths are thus taught through the depiction of realevents, the intent being to elevate the mind through mythical allegory. This is perhaps
crucialfactor in accounting for the popularity of such myths in the Middle Ages, and one which is particularly significant in a text as allegorically rich as the
Though the product of a latin monastic environment, ‘…the tale is not written from the pointof view of Brendan’s community, or even, in any exclusive sense, from the point of view of theIrish church: its tone is more cosmopolitan than that of any other Irish hagiographical document.’
This is related to its incorporation of popular contemporary literary forms; here God’scommunication through the
in order to reveal the deeper
meaning to the spiritually blind is not limited to the physical, but seems to include narratively familiar references and figures.This furthermore better allows the text to be read at a more superficial level, enhancing the popular appeal of the myth to the wider adventure story audience:
Into the Legend of St. Brendan in its several forms went many other ingredients besides Irishmyths of the ‘happy otherworld’ in the (§412) western ocean and Christian ‘visions’ of heavenand hell: much folklore that is common to all western Europe; the geographical knowledge andideas of the time, including northern - perhaps Norse and Icelandic - and very considerableoriental matter; and many literary reminisces, drawn from the Bible and from the classics, or atleast the
of Isidore of Seville
The central theme of questing, for instance, is one which speaks to all eras and ages. Within thisthere is a clear, although perhaps indirect
, classical influence in the myth, those springing mostreadily to mind being Homer’s
; Kenney has described it as ‘…the epic
James F. Kenney.
The Sources for the Early History of Ireland: Ecclesiastical
. New York: Octagon, 1979, p.411.
James F. Kenney.‘The Legend of St Brendan’,
Transactions of the Royal Society of Canada
, 3rd series, 14 (1920), 51-67.
Cf. William F. Thrall, ‘Virgil’s
and the Irish
: Zimmer’s Theory’,
, 1917, 15, 449-74.