Minggu, 24 Juni 2012

The Coming of The Tuatha Dé Danaan

The Tuatha Dé Danaan arrived in Ireland on a cloud from the four great cities of fairyland. While in their homelands, they had learned the arts of poetry and science. They brought these gifts, plus great treasures from the fairy cities, to their new home.

The treasures included a stone that confirmed the rightful king by roaring when he stood upon it, a sword that could never be broken, a magic spear, and a pot that could feed an army without ever going empty.

After three days, the cloud on which the Danaans arrived vanished. When the air cleared, the Firbolgs, a misshapen and stupid race who lived in Ireland, realized they were no longer alone. They sent a warrior named Sreng to question the newcomers. Likewise, the Danaans sent a representative from their side.

When the two ambassadors met, each was in awe of the other’s weapons. The Danaans’ spears were light and sharply pointed, while those of the Firbolgs were heavy and blunt.

The pair decided to exchange weapons so that each tribe could learn more about the other. Just as the pair was leaving, the Danaan ambassador suggested the Firbolgs and Danaans should split the country into two equal halves and join to defend it against any future invaders.

Sreng returned to the Firbolg camp and told Eochaid, the king, of the Danaan ambassador’s offer. Eochaid worried that if they gave the Danaans half of Ireland, they would soon want the whole.

Plus, the Firbolgs were greedy and did not want to share the land with anyone. Rather than agreeing to the Danaans’ offer, Eochaid refused, deciding that it would be better to declare war instead.

The two tribes met at Moytura, or the Tower of Plains, to wage their battle. The fighting was vicious. Nuada, the king of the Danaans, lost his hand while fighting with a Firbolg.

The Firbolg ruler, Eochaid, was even more unfortunate—he was killed while leading a party in search of water. Once Eochaid was dead, the Danaans proved much more powerful than their opponents. The Firbolgs realized they would be defeated altogether if they continued fighting.

Rather than risk a complete loss, they decided to make an agreement with the Danaans. The Danaans offered the Firbolgs one-fifth of the country. From that day, the Firbolgs made their home in the area of Ireland known as Connaught and seldom bothered the Danaans.

After the battle, Nuada should have remained ruler. There was an ancient law, though, that declared no maimed person could sit on the throne of Ireland. Nuada had a beautiful silver hand made in the hope that he would be allowed to remain king. However, the people still considered it a fake and forced him to step down.

Given the troubles with the Firbolgs, the Danaans thought it might be a wise diplomatic decision to ally with the Fomori, a race of giants that lived under the sea. They chose to ask Bres, son of the Fomori king and a Danaan mother, if he would be their ruler.

He agreed. As it turned out, though, Bres was a terrible king. He was oppressive and mean and taxed the Danaans heavily. Bres also lacked generosity and hospitality—two of the worst offenses an Irish ruler could commit.

While Bres tormented the Danaans, Nuada, who was now nicknamed “Of the Silver Hand,” wondered if there was anything he could do. When he had lost his hand, it was Dian Cécht, the god of medicine, who had crafted the silver hand. It turned out that Dian Cécht’s son, Miach, was an even greater healer.

Nuada decided to visit Miach to see if he could help him with his hand. The son was able to do what the father was not—he made a real hand grow for Nuada. When the people of Ireland heard that Nuada was no longer maimed, they rejoiced. They asked him to reclaim his rightful position as king, which he did.

Bres, of course, was not happy about losing the throne. He returned to his home under the sea, where he complained to his father, Elatha. Elatha granted his son a great army which he could use to reclaim his place on the throne. He also advised his son to seek the help of Balor—the greatest and most evil of Fomori kings.

Balor was nicknamed “of the Evil Eye” because only one glance from his great eye could strike down all who looked upon it. In his old age, Balor’s eye became droopy and the lid had to be hoisted up by his servants with ropes and pulleys. Even so, Balor’s evil eye was a great weapon.

Nuada and the Danaans grew nervous when they heard news of Bres and Balor’s alliance. They knew they would be no match for the powerful Balor. In fact, Balor’s only weakness was an ancient prophecy that he would be killed by his own grandson. But Balor had taken care to kill all his only daughter’s offspring, so even this path seemed hopeless.

The Danaans assembled at the royal palace of Tara to determine what they could do. While there, a stranger arrived at the palace. He was greeted by the gatekeeper, who asked the stranger his profession. No one was admitted without being the master of some craft.

“I am a carpenter,” said the stranger.

The gatekeeper replied that the king already had a skilled carpenter and had no need of another.

“Then tell the king I am a master smith.”

“We already have a smith,” answered the gatekeeper.

“Then I am a warrior, too,” said the stranger.

“We do not need one,” replied the gatekeeper. “The great Ogma is our champion.”

The stranger went on to name all the professions and arts he could think of—poet, harpist, scientist, physician, sorcerer, sculptor. Each time he was told that the king already had such a man at court.

“Then ask the king,” said the stranger, “if he has with him a man of all these crafts at once, for if he has, there is no need for me at Tara.”

When the king heard this news, he was intrigued. He decided to test the stranger. Nuada sent his best chess champion to play the man. The stranger won quickly, inventing a new move in the process.

With the victory, Nuada offered him an invitation to the palace. As he walked in, the stranger saw Ogma, the King’s champion, pushing a stone so large it would take eighty oxen to pull it. The stranger helped Ogma by effortlessly lifting the great rock and putting it in its place.

All the people at the palace were amazed by the stranger’s show of strength and intelligence. They wondered if he was also a great musician, and asked him to play upon his harp for them.

First, the stranger played a lullaby that made the crowd fall asleep for two days. Next, he played a song so sad they all began to weep. Finally, he played a joyous song, to which they all cheered and danced.

Nuada and his people were all awed. They wondered if the beautiful man might be of help in fighting the Fomori. As it turned out, the stranger would be more than just some help.

He revealed that he was Lugh, Master of All Arts. His father was the Danaan Cian, his mother was the Fomor Ethlinn, but most importantly, his grandfather was none other than Balor! Although Balor believed he had protected himself from the prophecy by killing his grandchildren, he was unaware that one child, Lugh, had been rescued from death and raised in secret.

Lugh agreed to help the Danaans in their defense against the Fomori. Before he led them into battle, though, Lugh believed they needed certain magical instruments and tools to ensure victory. He dispatched messengers, soldiers, and servants across the land on various quests. In total, it took seven years to gather everything they needed.

But in the end, the Danaans had collected several magic items to help them in battle. A magical pig’s skin, for example, healed every wound or sickness it touched. Seven swine provided unlimited food for the Danaans. With these items and more in hand, the Danaans were ready to take on the Fomori.

The giants and the gods met at the Tower of Plains—the same site of the Danaans’ battle against the Firbolgs. They fought hand-to-hand for days on end.

The fighting itself was equal, but the results were not. While the Danaans lost as many men and weapons as the Fomori, their numbers never seemed to dwindle. This was because of the gods’ magic and the items they had brought with them.

Each time a Danaan spear broke, Goibhniu, the smith god, hammered out a new spearhead with only three blows of his mallet. Luchtar, God of Carpentry, would instantly make a new handle. Likewise, wounds were healed by the pig skin or by the powers of Dian Cécht, the god of medicine.

The lack of results only infuriated the Fomori further. They charged the Danaans with a great shout. Swords clashed, shields shattered, and darts whistled by. In desperation, the Fomori brought out Balor, hoping to finish off their enemies once and for all. Balor struck down many Danaans, including Nuada of the Silver Hand.

At last, he met up with Lugh. He ordered his servants to pull up his great eyelid. But while the lid was only partially open, Lugh took a slingshot and hurled a great stone. It struck Balor’s mighty eye and lodged deep in his brain. Balor fell dead, fulfilling the prophecy that he would die at his grandson’s hand.

With Balor dead, the Danaans quickly defeated the Fomori. Lugh, who had led them to their victory, was made king at the battle’s end.

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