The Hounds of the Morrigan


The Hounds of the Morrigan

infobox Book |
name = The Hounds of the Morrigan


image_caption = Cover of the original 1985 edition, as well as the 1999 reprint by HarperTrophy
author = Pat O'Shea
illustrator =
cover_artist =
country = United Kingdom
language = English
series =
genre = Fantasy novel, Celtic Mythology
publisher = Oxford University Press
release_date = 1985
media_type = Print (Hardback & Paperback)
pages = 688 pp
isbn = ISBN 0-06-447205-1
preceded_by =
followed_by =

"The Hounds of the Morrigan" is a novel by Irish writer Pat O'Shea. It was published in 1985, having taken O'Shea ten years to complete. The novel centers on the adventures of 10-year-old Pidge and his younger sister, Brigit. Many characters in the book are culled straight from Celtic mythology. The book is intended for younger readers.

Plot summary

On a hot summer day, Pidge browses in the secondhand bookshop. He comes across a strange little book entitled "A Book of Patrick's Writing" and is compelled to buy it.

Meanwhile, Macha and Bodb, two counterparts of the Morrigan, have rented a glasshouse in Pidge's neighborhood. They move in with a pack of hound dogs and proceed to magically steal furnishings for their new home. They also kidnap a frog named Puddeneen and chain him up outside their house to serve as a guard dog. Pidge and Brigit rescue the frog, obtaining his gratitude.

Pidge discovers that the book he bought is actually a prison for the evil serpent Olc-Glas. The Morrigan wants the book so that she can absorb the evil of Olc-Glas and take over the world. Because Pidge released Olc-Glas from his prison by opening the book, it is now his responsibility to destroy the serpent, which can only be done with a drop of the Morrigan's blood. Pidge has a vision of the Dagda in the embers of the fireplace and is told to imprison the book in iron. The next day, he receives a little iron case as a gift from the local blacksmith, who also gives Brigit a little brooch shaped like a bow and arrow. While they chat with the blacksmith, Brigit plays with a spider.

Pidge and Brigit go boating on a lake and row out to a little island. While there, they meet two odd people dressed as tinkers who say their names are "Patsy" and "Boodie". The old couple is friendly and pleasant, and they all share lunch. Pidge is asked to go and fetch some water, so he walks around the island and discovers a waterfall that he has never seen before. A giant eel emerges from the water. At first, Pidge is afraid, but he instantly relaxes when the eel informs him that the Dagda is its father. Pidge gives the eel the book that contains Olc-Glas and fetches the water. When he returns to where he left Brigit, Patsy, and Boodie, Patsy and Boodie are gone. However, they have left gifts for both children behind: a scrying glass for Pidge, which resembles a snowglobe, and a package of "secret sweets" for Brigit, which she is not to open until "Swapping Day."

When the children return home, they find that their father has recently returned from Dublin with a new mare. The mare is a beautiful animal, but something about its cold eyes disturbs Pidge. Their father, on the other hand, seems transfixed by the horse, so much so that he barely seems to notice or care that his beloved dog has run away. Late that night, Pidge awakes to find grey fog pouring into his bedroom. A voice (presumably the Dagda again) tells him to follow the fog in his scrying glass. Pidge looks into the glass and finds that the fog is pouring out of the mouth of the new mare. As Pidge watches, the fog suddenly reverses direction and starts flowing into the horse's mouth. The mare appears confused and starts to run in the direction of the glasshouse. Before Pidge realises what is happening, a beautiful blonde woman is standing beside the mare. It is the Morrigan. She reunites with Macha and Bodb and the three attempt to steal Olc-Glas from the Great Eel by using the Brandling Breac, a gigantic glow worm, as bait. Puddeneen and all his fellow frogs foil their plan by creating a distraction. Pidge sees it all in the form of a dream. The next day, the children are approached by an old angler who convinces them to undertake a quest to find the last remaining drop of the Morrigan's blood, which is on a stone the hero Cúchulainn threw at her. They are joined by Serena Begley, an ass and a diviner, who leads them on an invisible path through a stone circle. Behind them, they can hear the baying of the Morrigan's hounds, but they are assured that the hounds will not attack or chase them if they do not run.

The children follow the path and emerge at what looks to be the railway station in Galway. They wander the streets of the city following a tall, thin man, who they suspect to be one of the hounds. The man leads them to a pier and the three of them get onto a rowboat. The man removes his hood and the children realise that he is a Druid; in fact, he is not just any Druid, but the Druid Cathbad. The boat moves ahead at Cathbad's command, and finally scrapes up against land. Cathbad tells the children to disembark, and then disappears. The children find themselves in a valley. At their feet are seven mounds in the earth. The children hear voices, which turn out to be coming from the seven mounds. The mounds are actually the heads of the Seven Maines, the seven sons of Queen Medb. The Maines tell Pidge and Brigit to follow the flight of a flock of swans, which soon appears over the valley. The Morrigan and her counterparts try to stop the children through various means, including the magical creation of a pear tree that bears poisonous fruit. The Morrigan creates the tree using a charm from the magical bracelet around her wrist, which she places on a tabletop miniature of the landscape the children are travelling in. The children continue their travels through a hidden valley, where they meet a kind old man named Daire. Daire gives them special herbs that allow them to travel without feeling hungry or fatigued. Pidge and Brigit travel quite a distance and realise that the hounds are following closely behind them. They enlist the help of a mad earwig who believes he is Napoleon and his troop of soldiers, who pinch the dogs mercilessly and allow the children to gain more ground. They soon encounter a constantly bickering couple: tiny Cornelius and his massive wife Hannah. The pair are engaged in a violent fight when the children meet them. Hannah eventually helps them to journey on, by picking them up in her arms and charging over the countryside. While they run from the hounds, the children meet a talking fox named Cú Rua, who joins them on their journey.

Meanwhile, the hound Fowler begins showing rebellious tendencies. The Morrigan is furious at the children's progress so far, and again using a charm from her bracelet, she magically conjures a sinister castle on the landscape in front of them. The inhabitants of the castle attempt to take the children prisoner, but the children are helped once more by one of the earwigs, who picks the lock of their prison and allows them to escape. Unfortunately, Pidge loses his scrying glass during the escape. The Morrigan hinders the pair again by burning the bridge they need to take across a gorge to continue onwards. A spider appears and turns out to be the same spider Brigit played with days before. The spider, whose name is Mawleogs, takes Pidge and Brigit to his underground home and introduces them to his wife, Anastasia, and his massive family. The next day, the spiders take the children to the Very Lonely One, a statue of an Irish elk. The statue comes to life and transports the children on his back across the gorge. They receive their next set of directions from a talking weathervane named Needlenose. The Morrigan helps her hounds over the abyss by magical means. She experiences a sudden shock of pain and shakes her wrist; the scrying glass falls out of the castle charm on her bracelet and hovers over the landscape on the table. The scrying glass begins to snow on the table, making it difficult for the hounds to track the children. The children are also struggling the snow, however, and the Very Lonely One appears to them again and takes them to a half-way house. The proprietor, Sonny Earley, takes them in, feeds them, and hides their location from the hounds, who stumble across the same half-way house during the night. Sonny reveals to the children that they are in Tír na nÓg, or Faeryland.

The children travel into a second valley the next day, and find themselves in Baile-Na-gCeard, the town of the artificers. It happens to be Swapping Day in the town. They meet a miserable woman who is being rained upon by a cloud that seems to only rain on her. She is followed by a group of ducks and geese who love the constant rain. Pidge and Brigit share some food with the woman, who is very grateful. They also reunite briefly with Patsy and Boodie, who reveal to them that they are actually Angus Og, the god of love, and Brigid, goddess of the hearth. They warn the children that if the Morrigan mixes Olc-Glas's poison with her own blood, that she will rise again and take over the world. Brigit swaps her sweets with a variety of people, whose instructions lead the travellers to the third valley.

The children travel through a pass, which is so tight and confining it is known as the Eye of the Needle. They find a cave, in which they meet the Glomach, a hideous man-eating giant. The Glomach has many skills: he is incredibly fast, a master blacksmith, and he cannot be slain in battle. The Glomach challenges Brigit to a game of knuckle-stones. Brigit notices that the Glomach's favorite stone has the bloody print of an eye on it; it is the stone for which they have been searching. Brigit says that if she wins, she wants the stone. The Glomach agrees, and says that if he wins he wants Brigit's brooch. When Brigit wins, the Glomach goes back on their deal, claiming that she cheated, and threatens to put the pair of them into a stew. Brigit refuses to admit defeat, and the Glomach bursts into tears. While the Glomach is howling on the cave floor, the Morrigan appears, together with Macha and Bodb. The Morrigan demands that the Glomach give her the pebble, threatening to kill him if he does not. He refuses, maintaining that he cannot be killed. The Morrigan summons twenty-six female warriors to her side.

The giant's fire flares up suddenly and out of it come the Seven Maines, their heads now attached to their bodies. They are soon joined by the Rain Lady and one of her geese, who both transform into Queen Maeve and her husband, Ailill. A battle begins. During the battle, Maine Ando apparently kills the Glomach, shattering the giant's shadow in millions of pieces on the flor. The fire flares again, and Daire, the man from the hidden valley, appears with all of his people. They are the hosting of the Sidhe, and they join in the fighting with gusto. Macha and Bodb reach up and pull ten hairs from their heads, which quickly transform into twenty more warriors. The battle rages on, growing more intense. Now the old angler the children met early on appears, except he is much younger and is obviously Cúchulainn. He and the Morrigan begin to fight. Every time one of the goddesses' warriors falls, the women pull more hair from their heads and create more warriors. Meanwhile, on the floor of the cave, the Glomach's shadow is pulling itself back together. Brigit screams when she notices the reanimated Glomach, and fires the arrow from her little brooch at him. The Glomach falls again, and his shadow shatters once more. All but one piece fall to the floor, with the final piece falling into the Glomach's boiling cauldron. The giant is now truly dead, which allows the Pidge and Bridget to take the stained pebble.

As the battle rages on, the children become more and more afraid, until Cathbad the druid appears in the fire and casts a shroud of protection around them. He travels with them back to the Eye of the Needle, where they meet Cú Rua again. The trio races back through Tír na nÓg. Pidge and Brigit leave Cú Rua behind to distract the pursuing hounds and travel back into the real world. They return to the lake where they first met Patsy and Boodie. They set out in a boat across the lake, trying to get to Olc-Glas before the Morrigan does. The Morrigan appears on the shore with her hounds and takes the pebble from the children by stretching her arms out to where they are. At this point, Fowler, tired of his poor treatment at the hands of the Morrigan, bites the goddess on the leg, causing her to drop the precious pebble into the waters of the lake. Furious, the Morrigan turns Fowler into a pillar of stone. She then tries to get to Olc-Glas anyway, determined to have his poison despite the fact that the pebble has been lost. The elements of the earth turn against her, creating a wall of fire and water that keeps her away from the lake. Puddeneen emerges from the bottom of the lake with the pebble in his jaws. Pidge and Brigit take the pebble, flee and find Cú Rua again. He has managed to escape from the hounds. The three of them are lifted up in a magic mist created by the Dagda, only to be dropped in a strange, high-walled prison from which they cannot escape. The Morrigan and her people are not far behind them.

The Great Eel appears and returns the book containing Olc-Glas to Pidge. Frustrated and frightened, Pidge begins to cry, and his tears drop onto the pebble, moistening the blood stain. Blood drips from the stone onto the book. Olc-Glas screams and writhes, and the page dissolves in Pidge's hand. The scream of the snake attracts the Morrigan, who realises finally that she has lost and retreats back to Faeryland.

The children find themselves back in the field with the circle of stones, with no memory of what has transpired, although they are first given a ride on a rainbow as thanks for their actions, and they often see Cooroo and rainbows but are unable to remember why.

Characters from Celtic myth who appear in the novel

*Queen Maeve, her husband, Ailill, and their seven sons, the Maines
*Cathbad
*The goddess Brigid
*Angus Og
*The Morrigan, a triple goddess, and her two counterparts:
**Bodb, the Scald Crow
**Macha, the Queen of Phantoms
*Saint Patrick
*The Dagda
*Cúchulainn

equel

There is a sequel, which never was finished.

References

*O'Shea, Pat; "The Hounds of the Morrigan"; Holiday House, Inc, First American Edition 1986


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