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Wikipedia claims that Brian Stowell's Dunveryssyn yn Tooder-Folley (The Vampire Murders), published in 2006, was "the first full-length Manx novel". This claim is sourced to a 2006 new article from the Isle of Man Today, which is archived on the Wayback Machine and claims that Dunveryssyn yn Tooder-Folley "is believed to be the first full-length novel written in Manx". These weasel words aren't enough to satisfy me. Given that Manx literature has a centuries-long history, it might be surprising that the first Manx novel would be published in 2006, but then again it probably depends on what's meant by "novel".

Is it true that Dunveryssyn yn Tooder-Folley was the first novel that was originally written in Manx Gaelic?

I realise that the answer may depend on how we define "novel", but let's be clear at least that translations from other languages, including other Gaelic languages, don't count. Are there any other contenders from Manx literature that might be considered to be "novels", from earlier than 2006?

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  • Edward Faragher and Lewis Crellin both published stories in the early 20th century, which you might combine into a longer narrative, but they were non-fiction (seemingly). Poetry was more central to the culture, along with religious tracts and later drama. It's possible an unpublished novel lurks in a drawer (a lot of Faragher's work wasn't published in his lifetime), but you have to suppose that if a novel existed prior to 2006 it would be publicised. As a comparison, the first novel in Scottish Gaelic was either Dùn Aluinn or An t-Ogha Mòr, both published around 1910.
    – Stuart F
    Jun 20, 2022 at 10:36

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As @stuart-f points out, short of rifling through the drawers of ever house of every Manx speaker and their descendent, it is impossible to prove whether or not one were written.

There is certainly no readily found trace of one being published. Which is unsurprising when considering that as recently as 2009 The Unesco World Atlas of Languages listed it as effectively dead, now amended to 'definitely endangered. They currently list is as having 9,999 speakers, which isn't much to sustain a literary scene and publishing industry on, even if it is just supposed to mean, as I suspect, 'less than 10,000'.

Those 9,999 speakers are either incoming learners or 'new native speakers', the last person who would traditionally have been called a 'native speaker' having died in the 1970s.

This article in the Guardian in 2015 outlines how Manx was not just effectively dead a few decades ago, but it was also not much mourned by people in the Isle of Man. It was viewed as a language of poverty and the past.

Stowell believes one of the biggest obstacles has been the old Manx speakers themselves. “Manx to a large extent dumped their own language. There was a strong fear of the language and many people thought it to be backward and associated it with poverty,” said Stowell. A common saying among the old Manx speakers was Cha jean oo cosney ping lesh y Ghailck, meaning: “You will not earn a penny with Manx.”

So, I'm not sure if you will count this as a meaningful answer for you, as I decline to declare definitively if there was an earlier published novel, but the condition of the language over the past century and more certainly makes it unsurprising if there were not.

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