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Transmission of Kings and Texts in Medieval Irish Tradition

By Jan Erik Rekdal

The Irish king is a vexed issue which, for a long time, was chiefly discussed by historians. The bulk of mediaeval king-tales in the Irish tradition have traditionally been named ‘the Historical cycle’, which reveals the perception of them as historical documents. More recently, however, the king has been approached by other disciplines also, such as literary historians. It is high time now to ask how these tales, as well as the praise poems, were conditioned by those who composed them.

When the king was presented in public, it was not the actual king who was presented but the ideal of a king. This becomes clear from the literary representation of a king. In all genres where he occurs, his ideal is held up before him like a mask (persona) for the audience. This observation raises a series of questions about how and by whom the king was presented.

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