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The Wizard Children of Finn by Mary Tannen

The Wizard Children of Finn (1981)

by Mary Tannen

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Great adventure and introduction to early Irish history, legends, and living conditions. Of particular interest to kids fitting the older-sister-younger-brother pattern. Fiona & Bran get pulled into the spell transporting their new friend back to Ireland of about 2000 years ago. Their friend turns out to be the mythical hero Finn. They get stronger and braver as they walk for days thru forests, hunt/fish/gather their food (not much detail on that).
We are left with enough unsolved riddles to look forward to the sequel. What this book lacks is a guide to pronouncing the Celtic names. While readers will obviously make up their own pronunciations, since they will be exposed to more gaelic as adults they might as well learn proper decoding of the printed words. ( )
  juniperSun | May 10, 2015 |
Fiona and Bran McCool, two young American children, are caught up in a powerful Druid spell and transported back in time to the Ireland of two thousand years ago. There they accompany their new friend Deimne on his journey of self-discovery. For he is none other than Finn, son of Cumhall and Muirne the fair, destined to become leader of the Fianna, and one of Ireland’s greatest heroes.

Inspired by Lady Gregory's Gods and Fighting Men, Mary Tannen recreates the boyhood exploits of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, as seen through the eyes of two modern children. Here is the encounter with Conn and his gang of boys at Magh Life; the visit to the King of Carraighe, and how Finn defeated him at the game of ficheall; Finn’s defeat of a giant churl, and recapture of the Bag of Aoife that once belonged to his father; the conflict with the Sons of Morna; and Finn's consumption of the Salmon of Knowledge.

An exciting adventure-fantasy that should please young readers, whether or not they have any knowledge of Irish mythology, The Wizard Children of Finn was on the syllabus of the class I taught on children's fantasy literature at my college. Part of a unit entitled Fantasy as Folk Epic, we read it together with a selection from Dáithí Ó hÓgáin's Fionn mac Cumhaill: Images of the Gaelic Hero. ( )
  AbigailAdams26 | Jun 24, 2013 |
A fun adventure which illuminates some Irish legends along the way. I would have loved it when I was 9, but found it a little heavy-handed and stilted now. The "modern" passages are inescapably dated, but the exploits of the children are delightful. ( )
1 vote satyridae | Apr 5, 2013 |
When Fiona and Bran McCool befriend a strange boy named Deimne in the woods behind their family mansion, little do they expect that they will soon be transported back in time with Deimne to ancient Ireland (Deimne hails from that time/place, so for him, he is returning home, for Fiona and Bran though, ancient Ireland is a strange, magical, uncanny place). Once in Ireland, the two children become Deimne's companions on his journey to Temhair, to manhood, to claim his birthright. Because Deimne is Finn, son of Cumhall and fair, shining Muirne, and he is destined to become not only the leader of the Fianna, but also one of the greatest warriors and heroes of ancient Ireland.

Mary Tannen's tale of Finn's adventures on his journey to manhood is exciting, readable, albeit a bit gory at times (but after all, battle and fighting scenes often are thus). Finn's boyhood adventures are not only experienced by two modern American children (Fiona and Bran), Deimne's (Finn's) companions from far away in time and space, they are also "orally recorded" by the two. Fiona, a talented poet, creates epic verses of Finn's exploits, from his encounter with Conn and his gang of boys, his victory over a giant churl, his consumption of a legendary salmon of knowledge, the decapitation of Aillen, to Finn finally claiming the leadership of the Fianna. And while Fiona creates the poems, it is Brad with his amazing memory, who remembers her verses and recites them. Thus Finn might be the hero, but Fionna acts as the hero's poet and Bran as his bard, his teller of tales.

I should probably mention that there are some what I would call mildly vexing leaps of logic in The Wizard Children of Finn. How did Lia, Bovmall and Deimne know to go to Uncle Rupert's house (the McCool mansion), and how and why did they specifically know to seek out the McCools? I believe that the name McCool is somehow important in Irish history and mythology, but the book is kind of annoying at times as it it leaves a lot of unanswered questions (however, since there is a sequel, The Lost Legend of Finn, that might, in fact, be deliberate). These leaps of logic however, are quite minor as they don't really affect the general flow and readability of the novel; they certainly did not significantly lessen my reading pleasure (in fact, after having read a library copy of The Wizard Children of Finn, I purchased a copy for myself, because this is a book I definitely want to reread on occasion). Highly recommended for anyone who enjoys children's fantasy stories, but especially those individuals who are interested in Irish folklore and mythology. ( )
  gundulabaehre | Mar 31, 2013 |
This book is most effective where it presents Irish folklore in a modern narrative style. It is less effective where it attempts to show realistic characters in the modern world. The hero and heroine aren't completely vapid and lacking in personality, but they were clearly the sort of audience surrogates designed to let young readers project themselves into the story. Though not a bad technique in itself, the author seems to be writing about children from the 1950s, not the 1980s (when the book was written).

There's nothing awfully bad about this book, nor anything awfully good either. As an adult reader it failed to capture me, but I would be happy to give it to my kids if they expressed an interest in Ireland. ( )
  shabacus | May 21, 2012 |
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Mary Tannenprimary authorall editionscalculated
Burgoyne, Johnsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Ten-year-old Fiona and her younger brother are transported back in time to ancient Ireland where they share extraordinary adventures with the boy who claims leadership of the Fianna.

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