How I Got Here
It happened by accident. Sort of. This whole interest in medieval Scandinavian and Welsh Celtic myth and legend. My mother’s parents came here from Norway, and my mother’s pride in being Norwegian sparked my interest in things Norwegian. When I was in 7th grade, I bought my first mythology textbook to have a collection that included the “Norse Myths.” As my last name indicates, I also have an Irish Celtic background, but as my father’s family came here in the 18th century, before the French and Indian War that swirled around the northern parts of New York State in which I grew up, he was less connected to his Irish roots than my mother was her Norwegian.
As an undergraduate and graduate student at the State University of New York at Albany, I was primarily interested in Medieval and Renaissance English literature, both in my BA and MA studies. After I received my MA and was teaching, my late wife, Ann, worked on a Masters Degree in Library Science, and one day, knowing how much I liked fantasy in general and Tolkien in particular, she brought home Lloyd Alexander’s The Book of Three, the first of a five-book series. In his introduction, Alexander explained that his novels were loosely based on the The Mabinogion,
a book of medieval Welsh Celtic myths and legends. I had never heard of it—and I had an MA in early British literature! So, I went to the university library and checked out every different translation they had—there were only three at that time.
Everything else, well, almost everything else academic and scholarly, evolved from there. I went to the University of Oregon to study with Professor Barre Toelken, an internationally-recognized scholar in folklore, wrote a PhD dissertation entitled Welsh Celtic Myth in Modern Fiction (I dared not use the word “fantasy” in those days) that later became my second book, Welsh Celtic Myth in Modern Fantasy, and went on to study and write more about the Welsh Celtic materials and their connection to Irish Celtic and to Scandinavian myth and legend. I took a job at East Carolina University where I developed a “Northern European Mythology” course that I taught for years and spent various sabbaticals and summers studying, writing, and occasionally lecturing in Wales, Ireland, and even Australia. Retired from East Carolina University, I currently live in a 1920s renovated brick in Roanoke, VA, with my lovely wife, oral historian Sheree Scarborough.
I continue to maintain my interest in the Scandinavian and Celtic materials, occasionally teaching a “Scandinavian and Celtic Myth and Legend in Children’s and Young Adult Literature” graduate seminar in Hollins University’s Summer Graduate Program in Children’s Literature, and happily lecturing on various aspects of the topic whenever an occasion arises, including aboard Viking Ocean Cruise Ships.
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