Benedict Kiely’s “The Heroes in the Dark House” is both a story of the sudden arrival and disappearance of modern-day heroes and the story of the narrator’s visit with a young admirer who would hear one of his best Irish tales. Its dramatic impact comes from the juxtaposition of the exploits of ancient heroes such as Shawn of Kinsale with those of ordinary American G.I.’s stationed for a time in a Northern Irish village.
The story begins with Arthur Broderick, a collector of stories dealing with heroes, ending his tale about the American soldiers. The third-person narrator of the story indicates that Broderick has enthralled his young listener with an account of how dashing, even gallant Americans forever transformed the life of his village, then were gone to fight in France without any good-byes. Like true heroes, they went into the realm of myth and left behind no physical trace of their visitation. A bulldozer smashed everything they cast off, from bicycles to bayonets.
Most of the tales that Broderick collects from old people with long memories deal with events set in pre-Christian Ireland, but he insists to his scholar-visitor that the story of the American soldiers is a genuine folktale in its own right.
The “dark house” of the title is Broderick’s old dwelling, which is both reminiscent of the smoke-filled castles of ancient Irish warriors and a reminder of the rebellion of 1798, when the house was used as a gathering place for conspirators against the Crown. Broderick makes much of the fact that the handsome oak table in front of the scholar was fashioned from a bellows in a smithy that was...
(The entire section is 675 words.)