Philip Freeman’s Celtic Mythology: Tales of Gods, Goddesses, and Heroes


The Library here at Kinrowan Hall has hundreds of books, pamphlets and more ephemeral material concerning Celtic mythology such as Audrey L. Becker and Kristin Noone’s Welsh Mythology and Folklore in Popular Culture, Marie-Louise Sjoestedt’s Gods and Heroes of the Celts and William Butler Yeats’ Mythologies to name but a select few.

Some are exhaustive works running over a thousand pages covering this subject in excruciatingly detail, which is not what we’ve got with Philip Freeman’s Celtic Mythology, which is rather concise at under three hundred pages. So does it work at that length as an introduction to this subject? Mostly yes.

The author has an extensive background in Celtic studies and has been a college professor for twenty years, teaching classical and Celtic mythology. And being printed by Oxford University Press certainly tells me that it’s a legitimate publication.

I’m going to take exception to their claim that this work ‘brings together numerous enthralling stories from Celtic mythology into one volume for the first time.’ Errr no as there’s been hundreds of books covering these stories over the past one hundred and fifty years. What we have here is a superb primer for this subject. Given that, it’s no surprise it has short, easily understood chapters with a pronunciation guide and a really brief history of the Celts, as finished off with a glossary for further context and a bibliography of other works that relate to this broad subject.

OK, if you know anything about this subject, this is not the book for you. Some subjects, such as the discovery of The Táin, rate barely a page and small change while others such as The Mabinogion are covered in decent detail. I’d say that this’ll make a perfect intro for a Uni course on Celtic mythology as long as it’s supplemented by other materials with more depth. I’d use it with my Several Annies in that manner.

(Oxford University Press, 2017)

About Iain Nicholas Mackenzie

I’m the Librarian for the Kinrowan Estate. I do love fresh brewed teas, curling, English mysteries and will often be playing Scandinavian or Celtic  music here in the Library.

I’m a violinist too, so you’ll me playing in various contradance band such as Chasing Fireflies and Mouse in the Cupboard as well as backing my wife Catherine up on yearly Christmas season tours in the Nordic countries.