Raonaan and the mermaid A tale of old Ireland

Marianne McShane

Book - 2020

An Irish storyteller revisits the little-known legend of the Mermaid Saint in a haunting, beautifully illustrated tale of kindness, music, and longing. Long ago, on the eastern coast of Ireland, a monk from the Abbey of Bangor was collecting driftwood along the wave-tossed shore when he found a boy washed up amid a circle of seals. At first the boy, wrapped in a shawl of woven seagrass, could barely move or speak. But when he regained his strength, he recalled being brought ashore by a lady with... long golden hair who sang him to safety and gave him a silver ring. The monks knew the legend of a mermaid who had wandered the coast for three hundred years. Could it possibly have been her? Inspired by a story told in medieval chronicles of Irish history about a wondrous happening in the year 558, debut author Marianne McShane weaves a captivating tale, while Jordi Solano captures the legend's spare but welcoming abbey on the rocky shore -- a setting that makes you believe that if you listen hard enough, you too can hear the mermaid's song." --Publisher's website.

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Picture books
Somerville, Massachusetts : Candlewick Press 2020.
Physical Description
32 pages : illustrations (colour) ; 28 cm
Main Author
Marianne McShane (author)
Other Authors
Jordi Solano (illustrator)
Review by Booklist Review

This dreamy tale builds upon a medieval chronicle (as detailed in an informative afterword) to relate the story of Rónán ("roe-nawn"), a boy found unconscious on the beach by the monks of Bangor Abbey, Northern Ireland. When found, he is clasping a silver ring that he claims was given to him by a beautiful woman with golden hair who saved him from drowning. The woman foretold that Rónán would help her in return some day, and so it comes to pass. Cared for by the monks, the boy grows to become a master harpist whose music attracts "the princess turned mermaid" Líban years later, allowing him to free her from life adrift at sea. The peaceful ending involves a touch of early Christianity, but otherwise this tale focuses on the gift of generosity and the natural world around Ireland's chilly waters. Solano's pencil, watercolor, and digital-media art features soothing, earth-toned images of landscapes and characters and is a wonderful complement to McShane's poetic text. A great choice for St. Patrick's Day programs and bedtime reading.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission. Review by Kirkus Book Review

A contemporary Irish seanchaí, or storyteller, uses a bit of historical text from 558 C.E.--the Annals of the Four Masters--to fashion a story about a wondrous creature from the sea. In this story, Brother Declan finds an unconscious boy on the rugged shore of Belfast Lough near Bangor Abbey, an early monastic community in Ireland. When the kind monks treat Rónán, he tells them of his rescue from the sea by "the lady with the golden hair." He explains that "she sang to me till we reached the shore," gave him the silver ring he was found clutching, marked with an L, and "told me that one day I would help her." As Rónán recovers, Brother Declan tells him ancient stories about selkies and singing mermaids, including Líban, who "roamed the lonesome seas" for three centuries. When the boy's health is fully restored, he works alongside the monks, but he is enchanted by music. Wise Brother Declan makes him a harp, and Rónán becomes a musician. Fishing one day, he plays his harp, and "a lonesome song came in reply." Líban surfaces and asks to be taken to the abbey, to be blessed by the abbot, who christens the mermaid Muirgen, "born of the sea." The painterly illustrations, with their natural browns, greens, and blues, are somber but fit well with the traditional tone of the story. All characters appear to be white. With this ode to music and mermaids, McShane deftly uses old stories to create a lyrical, satisfying new one. (author's note) Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.