Wednesday, May 18, 2016

TFBT: Táin Bó Cúalnge

In “Hesiod’s Cosmos”  Jenny Strauss Clay present the Monsters as an alternative to the Heroes.  “Chrysaor mighty and armed like the Giants, and who also unites with a nymph, the Oceanid Kallirhoe, represents and alternative progenitor to the alternative race of mortals.”  They were the parents of three-bodied Geryon.  I thought Clay’s mention of the Giants interesting.    Most conversation in classical circles about “monsters” center on size and asymetricity.    In the wars of succession, Cronus and Zeus allied with the monstersous Hectaonchires and Cyclopes.  But in the Gigantomachy the Olymians chose to ally with the demi-gods rather than the other hybrid race descended from the gods; the monsters.

Still the gods (and men) had their uses for  monsters.  Three-headed Cerberus was the guard dog of Lord Hades (Hesiod, Theogony 310), two-headed Orthos, who was Geryones' herding dog (Hesiod, Theogony 309) Sphinx was a scourge that held Thebes in suppression, that Hera sent upon them   (Pseudo-Apollodorus, Bibliotheca 3. 52 – 55)   "The Nemeian Lion the goddess Hera, the queenly wife of Zeus, trained up and settled among the hills of Nemeia (Hesiod, Theogony 327)    The Lydian King Amisodaros nourished the furious Chimera to be an evil to his enemies.( Homer, Iliad 16. 328)

I mention all the above because  we are currently reading ancient Irish epic tale “Táin Bó Cúalnge  The main character is Cuchulain son of Sualtaim;  Sualtaim Sidech (of the Fairy Mound.)  I assume that  this means Cuchulain's father is of the fay.    Cuchulain is called "This young, beardless elf-man". I assume the phrase elf-man is in reference to Cuchulain being a “halfling”; half mortal, half fairy.  Such men are consider very powerful in fairy lore (King Arthurs’ father was a, er, let’s say “daemon” .)  In Greek mythology the demi-gods were considered very powerful, for example Heracles and Achilles.   

I’ve come to the conclusion that Cu Chulain; the Hound of Chulain is a monster.  I finally realized this in reading the description of  the Brown Bull of Cualnge.    Both show the same disregard for their youth playmates.  The phrase; “he threw off the thrice fifty boys who were wont to play on his back and he destroyed two-thirds of the boys.”  Could easily apply to their.  The seem to have no sense of strategy, their acts of violence are random; their appetites enormous, their strength in human.   The “Hound” has seven digits on each appendage. 


I’m not half way through maybe the hound will redeem himself.


  1. How do you think, is there any real difference between heroes and monsters, except morphology?

  2. Maya,

    There is a theory that the Nemean Lion actually ruled Nemea. The Sphinx might've been an aspect of Jocasta. Strauss-Clay suspects a sterility issue amongst the monsters, but otherwise they behave a lot like the heroes. Sadly, I think the difference between hero and monster is a matter of ugliness


  3. My characters are ableist and always stress when their political opponent has non-standard morphology. Hearing that Briareus will marry, Prometheus lashes out:
    "Some things should not be allowed. How on Earth will that... hundred-hander marry a normal girl? I never found out why he and two of his brothers look like this. Maybe it is hereditary and will be transmitted to his children. They will be an interesting sight when they start to crawl. Quite like centipedes!"

    His wife objects: "You got carried away and started talking almost like Apollo or Athena. You should admit that if Briareus was not a loyal champion of Zeus' power, you would consider him a good being with tough luck and nothing more!"

  4. Maya,

    I will admit I had to look up "ablism". The other day in Hour 25 we were discussing "spurious diphthongs". Those of us who thought we spoke English well laughed at the term. But when asked by those who had English as a third language why we were laughing; we had a hard time explaining "spurious".

    So two comments about "your" Prometheus.

    1)Does his ablism extended to winged creatures? The deviate from the norm, but seem to universally accepted. 2) What a hypocrite! He is half marine deity and half those people have; fish tails, snake tails or bull body parts, the other half were shape-shifting all the time.


  5. It is science fiction! None of my gods has body wings. Having human size, weight and strength, they need jet-propelled engines to fly, similar to our jet packs. They have small wings for balance and direction.

    Prometheus has flied in his youth as Cronus' messenger (his first job). However, he escapes shortly before the War of the Titans and is succeeded by the maiden Arke, sister of Iris. During the war, the two sisters are flying messengers for the two opposing parties. After the war, there is a fatal air crash:

    "Though many asked Zeus to leave Asteria alone, he ordered his servants to bring her. She, however, had firmly decided not to give herself in and made a recklessly brave escape: she snatched Iris' flight engine and flew to the South over the sea. Zeus said that he would tolerate no disobedience. He requested the other engine, the one formerly used by Arke, and ordered Prometheus, who alone had experience with it, to chase and bring back the fugitive. The Titan refused, despite his gut feeling that it would be better to obey. "Who will go then? Who is loyal to me?" Zeus asked. The only volunteers were Kratos and Bia, but they were too heavy for the task. So Zeus himself put on the engine and took off. The flight ended in a disaster. Had the two collided in the air, or Asteria had panicked and lost control over the engine, only Zeus knew. From the ground, eye-witnesses watched in horror as the maiden speeded downwards, and not simply falling but propelled by the full power of the engine. Had she fallen into the sea, she would still have a good chance to survive. Unfortunately, she happened to hit the cliffs of a small island. A moment later, the fuel stored for an oversea flight exploded. This was the end of Asteria. Nobody, not even an immortal, could survive this."

    Later, Iris continues to use her engine, and a new one is made for Hermes when he is appointed as a messenger.

  6. The way I see him, my Prometheus is not a particularly nice person. Here, he is mean and he knows it. He replies to hes wife, "But he [i.e. Briareus] is a loyal champion of Zeus' power."

    No matter how many times it is repeated that we shouldn't badmouth anyone because of his physical traits, we are still doing it whenever we dislike the words or deeds of the other person. An example from our world: after Caitlyn (formerly Bruce) Jenner expressed pro-Republican views, the same social justice warriors who had praised her to the skies started to tweet things like: "Does anybody really look to this crazy individual for political advice. Let's face it, it cannot even decide its own gender..."

  7. Maya,

    As for the attacks on Caitlyn's politics; all I can say is that the mob is fickle and vicious.


  8. Marine deities of original Greek myth may be as you describe, but not my marine deities! The latter look like their terrestrial counterparts, with small exceptions: "The smooth white skin and thick shiny hair showed that she was a sea-dweller" (the description refers to Thetis). The skin is white and smooth due to the well-developed insulating subcutaneous white fat, and the nice hair is a result of a diet rich at fish and other sea food. Both are non-hereditary variations.

    In a "theogony" chapter, I am describing how gods populated the sea in three waves:

    "Pontus strongly disliked being seduced by his own mother, but it was difficult for him to push her back. So at some moment he took his children and ran away from her. Because long-distance land travels made gods feel sick, Pontus settled in a cave in the sea that was later named after him... [The cave is of course full of atmospheric air.]

    Cronus turned out to be a tyrant no better than his father Uranus. Even the patient Oceanus decided that enough was enough, followed the example of Pontus and settled in the sea depths with his family. Later, the open sea where nobody dared to sail was named after him...

    After defeating Typhon, Zeus sat on the throne and proclaimed himself supreme ruler. He made his brother Poseidon ruler of the seas, to the utmost displeasure of those who had already settled in the salt waters in order to have no ruler over their heads..."

    Two marine deities, Glaucus son of Nereus and Triton son of Poseidon, have fused lower extremities, a severe birth defect. They undergo urgent surgical treatment to be supplied with the orifices normally found between the legs.

  9. Maya,

    This is wild, but what if the Old Men of the Sea were giants? Proteus was born at the same location as the giants. What if they are the blood of Uranus that fell into the sea? That might explain their vague genealogies. Maybe "geron" has a meaning beside "old man". Just something I am looking into.