Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race
Page: 44“We are in no need of a carpenter,” said the doorkeeper; “we have an excellent one in Luchta son of Luchad.” “I am a smith too,” said Lugh. “We have a master-smith,” said the doorkeeper, “already.” “Then I am a warrior,” said Lugh. “We do not need one,” said the doorkeeper, “while we have Ogma.” Lugh goes on to name all the occupations and arts he can think of—he is a poet, a harper, a man of science, a physician, a spencer, and so forth, always receiving the answer that a man of supreme accomplishment in that art is already installed at the court of Nuada. “Then ask the King,” said Lugh, “if he has in his service any one man who is accomplished in every one of these arts, and if he have, I shall stay here no [pg 113] longer, nor seek to enter his palace.” Upon this Lugh is received, and the surname Ildánach is conferred upon him, meaning “The All-Craftsman,” Prince of all the Sciences; while another name that he commonly bore was Lugh Lamfada, or Lugh of the Long Arm. We are reminded here, as de Jubainville points out, of the Gaulish god whom Caesar identifies with Mercury, “inventor of all the arts,” and to whom the Gauls put up many statues. The Irish myth supplements this information and tells us the Celtic name of this deity.
When Lugh came from the Land of the Living he brought with him many magical gifts. There was the Boat of Mananan, son of Lir the Sea God, which knew a man's thoughts and would travel whithersoever he would, and the Horse of Mananan, that could go alike over land and sea, and a terrible sword named Fragarach (“The Answerer”), that could cut through any mail. So equipped, he appeared one day before an assembly of the Danaan chiefs who were met to pay their tribute to the envoys of the Fomorian oppressors; and when the Danaans saw him, they felt, it is said, as if they beheld the rising of the sun on a dry summer's day. Instead of paying the tribute, they, under Lugh's leadership, attacked the Fomorians, all of whom were slain but nine men, and these were sent back to tell Balor that the Danaans defied him and would pay no tribute henceforward. Balor then made him ready for battle, and bade his captains, when they had subdued the Danaans, make fast the island by cables to their ships and tow it far northward to the Fomorian regions of ice and gloom, where it would trouble them no longer.
The Quest of the Sons of Turenn
Lugh, on his side, also prepared for the final combat; but to ensure victory certain magical instruments were [pg 114] still needed for him, and these had now to be obtained. The story of the quest of these objects, which incidentally tells us also of the end of Lugh's father, Kian, is one of the most valuable and curious in Irish legend, and formed one of a triad of mythical tales which were reckoned as the flower of Irish romance.85
Kian, the story goes, was sent northward by Lugh to summon the fighting men of the Danaans in Ulster to the hosting against the Fomorians. On his way, as he crosses the Plain of Murthemney, near Dundalk, he meets with three brothers, Brian, Iuchar, and Iucharba, sons of Turenn, between whose house and that of Kian there was a blood-feud. He seeks to avoid them by changing into the form of a pig and joining a herd which is rooting in the plain, but the brothers detect him and Brian wounds him with a cast from a spear. Kian, knowing that his end is come, begs to be allowed to change back into human form before he is slain. “I had liefer kill a man than a pig,” says Brian, who takes throughout the leading part in all the brothers' adventures. Kian then stands before them as a man, with the blood from Brian's spear trickling from his breast. “I have outwitted ye,” he cries, “for if ye had slain a pig ye would have paid but the eric [blood-fine] of a pig, but now ye shall pay the eric of a man; never was greater eric than that which ye shall pay; and the weapons ye slay me with shall tell the tale to the avenger of blood.”
“Then you shall be slain with no weapons at all,” [pg 115] says Brian, and he and the brothers stone him to death and bury him in the ground as deep as the height of a man.
But when Lugh shortly afterwards passes that way the stones on the plain cry out and tell him of his father's murder at the hands of the sons of Turenn. He uncovers the body, and, vowing vengeance, returns to Tara. Here he accuses the sons of Turenn before the High King, and is permitted to have them executed, or to name the eric he will accept in remission of that sentence. Lugh chooses to have the eric, and he names it as follows, concealing things of vast price, and involving unheard-of toils, under the names of common objects: 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. The brothers bind themselves to pay the fine, and Lugh then declares the meaning of it. The three apples are those which grow in the Garden of the Sun; the pig-skin is a magical skin which heals every wound and sickness if it can be laid on the sufferer, and it is a possession of the King of Greece; the spear is a magical weapon owned by the King of Persia (these names, of course, are mere fanciful appellations for places in the mysterious world of Faëry); the seven swine belong to King Asal of the Golden Pillars, and may be killed and eaten every night and yet be found whole next day; the spit belongs to the sea-nymphs of the sunken Island of Finchory; and the three 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 that hill. To fulfil any one of these enterprises would be an all but impossible task, and the brothers must accomplish them all before they can clear themselves of the guilt and penalty of Kian's death.