Iceland, where the first settlers found traces of previous occupation by Irish hermits. In this way they accumulated considerable knowledge of the surrounding seas and a still more considerable stock of sailors' yarns. Often, too, these voyages were made by the missionaries who swarmed out of Ireland in the seventh and eighth centuries, and who would naturally be disposed to put a miraculous gloss upon the marvels they encountered. "The Voyage of Maelduin" thus embodies a deal of real fact magnified and distorted. For instance, the glassy sea may well be a fantastic reminiscence of the ice-covered Polar seas. The island of the demon horse-racing may give us a picture of the first meeting of the Irish with the Norse dwellers on the Shetland or Faroe islands, and their love for horse-racing. The adventure of the color-changing sheep has also its probable origin in circumstances special to the Faroe islands. Another element in our romance is the Christian legendary one; the story of the great bird renewing its strength is obviously a variant of the Phoenix legend, which, though originally of pre-Christian origin, was developed and interpreted in a Christian sense. The annals of Irish sainthood have also furnished their quota; many of the saints—e.g., Columba—were seafarers, and marvels, such as that told of Brendan's seven years' sojourn on the back of a whale, are common in Irish hagiology.
Another and the most interesting element remains to be noticed. The ancient Irish believed, as did the ancient Greeks, in an Elysium, a god's land to which mortals might be transported by the caprice of its immortal dwellers there to share with them the joys of endless life, love, and feasting. Two of the oldest Irish romances, the story of "Connla" (to be found in Celtic Fairy Tales), and "The Voyage of Bran, " handle the theme of the love of an immortal maiden for a mortal hero, and of his following her to the Pleasant Plain, the Land of Youth, the Land of the Living Heart, to quote a few of its many titles. Two of the episodes of