The Tuatha De Danaan

The Tuatha De Danaan came to Ireland out of the heavens on a magic cloud from the four cities of Falias, Gorias, Finias and Murias. In these great places they had learned the great sciences and studies great crafts with sages. Each city had a sage as its King, and from these cities the Tuatha De Danaan brought four magical gifts to Ireland. From Falias came the stone called the Lia Fáil (for it was the Stone of Destiny), on which the High-Kings of Ireland stood when they were crowned. The Lia Fáil would roar its approval when a rightful monarch was elected to take his crown. It was prophesied that wherever the stone was, a monarch of Gaelic blood would reign, and so it is to this day. From Gorias came the Cliamh Solais (for it was the Sword of Light). From Finias came a magic spear, and from Murias came the Great Cauldron which could feed an army and still not be empty.

They arrived first in Western Connaught, where the Firbolg discovered them in a fortified camp. Angered by the intrusion, the Firbolg sent a warrior called Sreng to talk to the newcomers. The Tuatha De Danaan sent Bres to meet him. The two men met and examined each other carefully. The Tuatha De Danaan had spears which were light and sharp, while those of the Firbolg were heavy and blunt. Bres proposed that Ireland be divided equally between the two peoples and to form an alliance to defend it against any further intruders. Finally they swapped weapons and returned to their camps.

The Firbolg however were not impressed with the offer of the Tuatha De Danaan, and refused to accept it. On the Plain of Moytura, they first did battle. Nuada led the forces of the Tuatha De Danaan, while the King of the Firbolg, called Eochy MacErc, led his warriors to battle. During the battle, Nuada was struck by the sword of an enemy soldier and his arm was sliced from his body. The Danaan envoy, Bres, was killed. The Tuatha De Danaan won the battle, and Eochy MacErc was slain.

After the battle, the Firbolg were given the province of Connaught, and the Tuatha De Danaan settled in the rest of Ireland. Nuada was to have been King of the Danaans, but his imperfect body prevented him from taking the title, and so another man called Bres was chosen as the new King. His mother was Eri, but his father was unknown. Though Bres was a strong handsome man, he was a weak King, for he allowed the Fomorians to regain power in Ireland. He taxed the people heavily, was a miser, and showed no respect for the harpers and poets - true vices of any Irish King.

One day, a poet named Corpry came to the court of Bres. He was treated to a dark, damp and small chamber, without warmth or comfort. He was served dry cake, and was not given any ale. Poets had magical powers in those days and could curse a man with there words, and Corpry cursed Bres with these words:

"Without food quickly served, Without a cow's milk whereon a calf can grow, Without a dwelling fit for a man under the gloomy night, Without means to entertain a bardic company, - Let such be the condition of Bres."

The quatrain was recited with delight among the people of Ireland, and Bres was forced to lay down his crown. In the meantime, with the magical art of healing of Diancecht, Nuada replaced his old arm with a silver one, and from that day forth, he was known as Nuada of the Silver Arm. He was now allowed to be King in place of the miserable Bres.

Bres took himself in anger and envy to his mother, Eri, whom he begged to let him know his lineage. She revealed that his father was Elatha, a king of the Fomorians, who had come to her by night and on departing had given her a ring. Elatha told Eli not to give the ring to anyone but the man whose finger it would fit. Now, she brought out the ring and placed on the finger of Bres, and they both sailed for the palace of the Fomorian king.

Elatha recognised his ring, and gave Bres an army with which to retake his kingdom in Ireland. He also told him to seek the help of another Fomorian King named Balor. Balor was called Balor of the Evil Eye, for he could slay any man whom he looked upon anger with a single glare. He was an old man now, and his eyelids hung so heavily over his eye that it needed men with ropes and pulleys to lift it to kill foes. Against the tyranny of Balor, the Tuatha De Danaan were still struggling, even under the guidance of Nuada, and longed for a saviour.

Balor heard a Druidic prophecy, in which he learned that he would be slain by his grandson. His only child was his daughter Ethlinn, and so to avoid his fate, he imprisoned her in a huge tower on Tor Mór, which is on Tory Island. Twelve matrons were to guard her and prevent her from ever looking upon the face of man, and in these surroundings, Eithlinn grew to be a beautiful young woman.

Meanwhile, on the mainland of Ireland lived three brothers - Kian, Sawan, and Goban the Smith. Kian owned a magical cow whose milk was so abundant that everyone was jealous of him and desired his cow, and Balor was one of these people. One day, Kian and Sawan arrived at the place of Goban to have some new weapons forged. Kian went into the forge, leaving Sawan to protect the cow. But Balor appeared, taking the form of a little red-haired boy, telling Sawan that he had overheard his brothers inside devising a plan to use the best steel for their own swords leaving the common metal for Sawan. Enraged, Sawan rushed into the forge to put a halt to the scheming, and Balor made off with cow, bringing her to Tory Island.

Kian, disturbed at his loss, made a visit to the great Druidess named Biróg, who wafted him in woman's clothes with her across the sea to Tory Island. Eithlinn's guardians thought that the two were noble ladies who had fled to shore to escape an abductor, and offered them shelter. While Biróg put the matrons to sleep under a magic spell, Kian gained access to the Princess Eithlinn, and she had given him her love. Soon the matrons discovered that she was with child.

Fearing the fury of Balor, the matrons persuaded Eithlinn that the whole matter was a dream, but in due time Eithlinn was mother to three sons, and news reached Balor. In anger, he demanded that the three be drowned in a whirlpool off Tory Island. On his way to carry out this murder, one of Balor's men carried the three infants in a rolled-up sheet, but along the way one of the children fell out and into a little bay. The other two were duly drowned, and the man of Balor declared his job to be complete. The child who had fallen into the bay was guarded by Biróg, who wafted the child back to his father, Kian. Kian gave the child to his brother Goban, who taught the child his trade. The child was named Lugh.

Many years later, a knock came at the door of the royal palace at Tara. The doorkeeper asked him of what service he could be to the King Nuada. "I am a carpenter", said Lugh. "We have no need of a carpenter in Luchta son of Luchad", replied the doorkeeper. "I am a smith too", said Lugh. "We already have a smith", was the reply. "Then I am a warrior", said Lugh at last. "We do not need one", said the doorkeeper, "we already have the finest warrior - Ogma. Lugh then told the doorkeeper that he was a poet, a harper, a man of science, a physician, and a spencer, but each time the doorkeeper replied that one was already in residence in the palace. "Then", said Lugh, "ask the King if he needs service from a man who is accomplished at all of these things, and if not, I shall leave now." At this, the doorkeeper opened the door and welcomed Lugh, and he was called Lugh Ildánach, for he was the all-talented craftsman.

Lugh brought with him many magical gifts. He brought the boat of Mananan that could read a man's thoughts and go wherever he willed. He brought the Horse of Mananan, which could travel over land and sea. He also brought a sword called An Fragarach, The Answerer, that could cut through any armor.

With these things, Lugh arrived at a conference where the Danaan chiefs were to pay homage to their Fomorian oppressors, and the Danaans felts as though the spring sun had broken through the winter gloom, and instead of paying homage, they attacked the Fomorians, and all of the Fomorians sere killed except for nine, who returned to tell Balor of the Danaans' defiance. Balor prepared for battles, and instructed his warriors subdue the Danaans, and tie Ireland to ships and to tow it to the cold north, so that it would trouble him no longer.

Lugh also prepared for battle, but he needed some extra magical items to secure victory. Kian was sent to Ulster to summon the Ultonian warriors. On his way, as he crossed the plains of Murthemney, he met three brothers, Brian, Iuchar, and Iucharba. They were all sons of Turenn who hated Kian, for their houses were at war. Kian changed himself into a pig, and joined a pig-herd which was rooting in the plain. However the brothers discovered him, and Brian wounded him with a spear. Kian, knowing his end was near, begged the brothers to allow him to transform himself back to a human to die like a man. Brian, the eldest brother agreed. Standing before the brothers as a man, Kian told the brothers, "I have outwitted ye! For if ye had slain a pig, ye would have paid the blood-fine of a pig, but ye have killed a man, and shall pay the blood-fine of a man. The weapons ye kill me with shall tell this tale to the one who shall avenge me." "Then we shall not kill you with weapons", said Brian, and they stoned him to death and buried him.

But shortly afterwards as Lugh is passing by, the stones cried out and told him the story of the death of his father at the murderous hands of the sons of Turenn. Lugh uncovered the body of his father, and brought it to Tara where he brought his case to Nuada, who permits the sons of Turenn to be executed, or Lugh to have his choice of blood-fine. Lugh named his blood-fine as follows: three apples, the skin of a pig, a spear, a chariot with two horses, seven swine, a hound, a cooking spit, and finally to give three shouts on a hill. But, as the sons of Turenn were beginning to sigh a breath of relief, Lugh declares that the three apples are those that grow in the Garden of the Sun; the pig-skin is a magical skin that heals every wound and sickness if it can be laid upon the sufferer, and is currently owned by the King of Greece; the spear is a magical spear owned by the King of Persia; the seven swine belong to King Asal of the Golden Pillars, and may be killed and eaten every night to be found whole next day; the spit belongs to the sea-nymphs of the sunken Island of Finchory; and the tree shouts are to be given on the hill of a fierce warrior, Mochaen, who with his sons, are under vows to prevent any man from raising his voice on their hill. To clear themselves of the death penalty, the sons of Turenn must compete these tasks.

They completed the tasks, except for retrieving the cooking spit and giving the three shouts, when Lugh put a spell on them to make them forget the remaining tasks and return to Ireland with their prizes. After receiving the gifts, Lugh reminded the three brothers of the remaining tasks. Dejected, they go on their way to complete the tasks. Brian, in a magical water-dress went under the sea to the sunken Island of Finchory, and seized the golden spit from the nymphs. Finally they must perform the ordeal of the three shouts. After a great battle with the protectors of the silence on the Hill of Mochaen, the three brothers, lying fatally wounded, lift three faint cries and their blood-fine is paid. They manage to make the journey back to Ireland, where their father Turenn urges Lugh to give them the magic pig-skin to heal them, but Lugh refuses and the three brothers die.

Now, Lugh is ready to do battle with the Fomorians. The battle-scene returned to Moytura where once the Tuatha De Danaan defeated the Firbolg. Goban the Smith, Credné the Artificer, and Luchta the Carpenter kept repairing the weapons of the Danaans with magical speed. It took but three blow from the hammer of Goban to make a spear of a sword, while Luchta would fling a handle at it which would stick fast immediately, and Luchta jerked the rivets at it with tongs so fast as he makes them, that they fly into their places. All the wounded men were healed instantly by the magic pig-skin.

"Fearful indeed was the thunder which rolled over the battlefield; the shouts of the warriors, the breaking of the shields, the flashing and clashing of the swords, of the straight, ivory-hilted swords, the music and harmony of the belly-darts and the sighing and winging of the spears and lances."

The Fomorians brought forward their champion Balor, and before his Evil Eye, Nuada and many other Danaans fell. But the eyelid was wont to droop with weariness, and seizing his opportunity, Lugh approached Balor, and as the eyelid began to lift, he hurled a great stone into the eye of Balor which sank into his brain, killing him. the prophecy had been fulfilled, and Balor had been killed by his grandson. The Fomorians were routed, losing their power in Ireland forever and Lugh was declared King after the death of Nuada.

The fleeing Fomorians captured the harp of Dagda. Dagda, Ogma, and Lugh gave chase and followed the Fomorians to a great banqueting hall. Dagda called to it singing:

"Come, apple-sweet murmurer! Come four-angled frame of harmony, come, Summer, come Winter, from the mouths of harps and bags and pipes."

Immediately the harp flew into his hands, killing nine Fomorians who were in its path. then the Dagda played three noble strains on the harp, which all great harpers should be able to play - The Strain of Lament, which caused the hearers to mourn; The Strain of Laughter, which caused hearers to laugh and be merry; and the Strain of Slumber, which put all the hearers to sleep. Under the cover of sleep, the three Danaans escaped from the Fomorians