Book Review: The Frenzied Prince

The Frenzied Prince by Padraic Colum

The Frenzied Prince: Heroic Stories of Ancient Ireland
by Padraic Colum
4 out of 5 stars

Prince Suivne has gone mad after the battle of Moy Rah, and he wanders the wilderness running from all men. King Donald sends his best scholars to find Suivne and restore him to sanity through their art of storytelling. The storytellers find Suivne and use the stories and legends of Ireland to remind him of his lineage and obligations in the royal court.

I loved the way that each of these legends were bookended with the continuing story of Prince Suivne, and how each story had an effect on him to remind him of his heritage and to inspire him to courage and kindness. It’s a clever and effective story structure and lends an extra meaning to each of the tales.

Most of the stories tell about some great king of Ireland who dies gloriously in battle. It can get pretty gruesome and violent at times. But a few of the stories ended happily with marriages and children and prosperity.

In almost every tale, the “fair folk” (fairies) are meddling in the lives of men, taking revenge or bestowing blessing. They are more in the character of demi-gods with elemental powers than the little pixies we think of as dainty fairies or leprechauns.

The hero is almost always saved by some magic sword or harp or spear that allows them to overcome all obstacles. But sometimes the hero overcomes through their own innate strength and cleverness.

I enjoyed the writing style, and the beautiful language transported me to these ancient times. I listened to some Irish music while reading, and that really immersed me in the rich culture and history.

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