I’ve been incorporating some old Celtic stories and legends into the novel I’ve been working on, so I though I would do a little feature on them each Monday. Mythical Mondays has a nice ring, doesn’t it?
This story I’m featuring today is a summary of Becuma of the White Skin. It was written by James Stephens in a book called Irish Fairy Tales, published in 1920.
Art was the son of Irish High King named Conn of the Hundred Battles. He was a warrior like his father.
Conn was in mourning over the loss of his wife, and found himself walking along the shore. There, he met Becuma of the White Skin, who had just arrived in a small boat. Little did he know that she’d been ejected from the faery realm, nor did he realize what trouble she would bring.
Becuma bewitched him, compelling him to want to marry her. She was quite a trickster. She told him the fame of his son Art had made her fall in love with him and before long, she had Conn begging her to marry him instead.
Becuma insisted that Art leave Ireland for a year so she could come to love Conn instead of Art. The year that he was gone was a bad one for Ireland. There was a great famine. The High King was pressured to allow a human sacrifice, (at least until someone pointed out that Becuma was the cause of the famine).
Once Art returned to Ireland, she challenged him to a game of chess. Art won the first game, and her due was to eat no food in Ireland until she found the wand of Curoi, son of Dare. An impossible challenge, or so he thought.
It wasn’t long before she was back with the wand. Of course, she did have some help from her faery friends.
On her return, she challenged Art to another game of chess. This time, she won. His due was to eat no food in Ireland until he found Delvcaem of the Fair Shape, the daughter of Morgan. She was sure he would never return.
Delvcaem was a woman of Faerie who was being held captive by her parents on an island in the Many-Coloured Lands. It was said that her mother would die when Delvcaem was wooed, so she kept her daughter shut away in a tower, and every suitor that dared to come near their fortress was murdered by her and her husband, Morgan.
Art was faced with incredible challenges on his way to find Delvcaem. From turbulent oceans, sea monsters and evil hags that wanted to bury him in molten lead.
When he arrived at Delvcaem’s home, he noticed there were spikes all around the fortress, each one with the head of one of her potential suitors. There was one spike remaining with no head.
Delvcaem’s mother had the lovely name Dog Head. (I can only imagine why!) She came out dressed in full armour and challenged him to a duel. Art won, of course, and put her head on the one remaining spike. Then he defeated her husband Morgan.
Art rescued Delvcaem from her tiny room at the top of a 100 foot high pillar. The two returned to Ireland and since Delvcaem’s magical power was greater than Becuma’s, she forced her to leave Ireland. Becuma left without protest. Word was she left for Sasana and became queen in that country.
I loved the characters in this story, especially Becuma. There is so much more to her that I didn’t get into here. Maybe a future post? I did a little digging and found out that Sasana is Old Irish for England. And if you’re an Outlander fan, you’d be interested to know that it’s derived from Sasenach.
This story of Art and Delvcaem became the background for three of the characters in my novel, The Dragon Prophecy. Here’s a working synopsis of what the novel is about:
The Dragon Prophecy is a fast paced alternate history YA that infuses modern day characters with Celtic myths and legends from the time before the birth of King Arthur.
Two brothers are caught dead centre in a power struggle between two queens, both hell bent on stopping the Age of Pendragon and changing history as we know it.
The lines of reality become blurred. Thrown into an era of faeries, dragons and a sketchy druid, who can they trust? Will they ever be able to make it home?
What do you think so far? Does this genre interest you?