Characters / Celtic Mythology
Celtic Mythology has Loads and Loads of Characters
. These are the most famous ones. For the sake of everyone's sanity, pronunciation guides will be provided for Irish names.
Lugh (LOO) the Long-HandedThe Ace
of the gods, associated with the sun (according to Victorian archaeologists, anyways
), fertility, and liberating Ireland from the monster Balor. Not much is known past that, but he did
have a fling with his hot midwife when she helped his wife give birth safely—the midwife in turn had Cuchulainn, Ireland's greatest hero, and the rest is (alleged) history. He is sometimes considered to be the Morrigan's husband, due to both deities being powerful warriors associated with, well, fertility
- The Ace: Of course. He got into the Tuatha de Danaan solely because while they had masters of all fields, none were a master in all fields like him.
- Combo Platter Powers: Comes with the territory of being an ace.
- Handsome Lech
- Light Is Good: God of the light in general, and fertility. Getting any "evil" vibes from that? Even if he is not the Sun god as previously thought, a role that might actually belong to his foe, Balor of the Evil Eye, he still represents the light of the thunder flashes.
- Pretty Boy: A common trend in Celtic mythology.
- Really Gets Around: And nobody minds.
- Shock and Awe: A popular interpretation is that he is actually some sort of thunder god, with his name more or less meaning "lightning flash".
- Smart People Play Chess: Lugh didn't just play chess—he invented it (or it's Celtic precursor, fidchell, rather)
- Warrior Poet: Literally a warrior and a poet. The Irish love the trope's version as well.
- What Does He See in Her?: He's (possibly) married to the Morrígan, of all people. Then again, they have a couple of things in common...note
The most infamous Celtic goddess, her name means "great/phantom queen." Due to the fragmented nature of Celtic mythology, she is associated with several related figures—the Washer At the Ford (a harbinger of death who washed the clothes of the soon-to-be-dead in the river), Macha (either a goddess or one of The Fair Folk
, forced to run a race while pregnant and ended up giving birth after winning), and Badb, another warrior-goddess. There have even been attempts to link her to Morgan le Fay of Arthurian legend, even though that's the Welsh tradition and completely different. Nobody's really sure of anything with her, aside from the facts that 1) she is a war-goddess, and 2) nobody's sure of anything
with her. Tellingly, she is one of the few deities who wasn't Brought Down to Normal
and didn't get her Serial Numbers Filed Off
- Blood Knight: Unusual in that she's a bloodthirsty female deity, and uses her wits to cause bloodbaths instead of solve them. She draws a marked parallel with Kali in that respect; the pattern is also similar to Enyo, goddess of destruction in Greek Mythology, who did the same thing.
- The Chessmaster: If you want to completely ruin someone (even if they don't deserve it), you've got to be smart.
- Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Modern artists portray her dressed in black with black hair, when in the actual myths her hair and clothes were frequently red—red was the ancient Celtic color of death. The former isn't wrong, though, since it's more of a Palette Swap than an actual mistake.
- Cryptic Conversation: Many unfortunates piss her off because they can't understand what the hell she's saying.
- Dark Action Girl: Doesn't get much darker and action-y than her. Though morally she's usually more of a very dark antihero than a villain.
- Dark Is Not Evil: For all that she makes people wet themselves, she is still Chaotic Good, and she will generously reward people who pass her tests.
- Flanderization: For some reason, Goths view her as a misunderstood and regal persona rather than the badass, ill-tempered, insanely vengeful figure she is in myth.
- This has also come from the opposite direction of her being imagined as a sort of evil proto-Satan/Demon and/or sadistic pychopath. While it's hard to argue that she's not bloodthirsty she also does reward people who pass her tests, does not only represent death but also fertility (with some theories that she represents the cycle of life itself), most of her kills were other warriers who already fighting on the battlefield, and you usually have to do something directly against her to actually piss her off (though she could be somewhat arbitary at times).
- Kick the Dog: Some of her punishments are this, especially if the victim doesn't really have it coming.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: On one hand, she's an amazon who has no problem trading sex for little things like lifelong glory and prosperity. On the other hand, if you piss her off she will fuck your shit up. She won't just kill you—first she'll ruin everything you stand for as you watch helplessly (but not quite enough to send you over the Despair Event Horizon), and then she'll make absolutely sure your death is long, agonizing, and pointless.
- The High Queen: On a good day.
- Names to Run Away from Really Fast: When someone's name literally means "phantom queen," you'd best tread carefully around her.
- Pet the Dog: When she rewards someone. She also offered Cu Chulainn immortality but he turned it down.
- Really Gets Around: Her fertility aspect is overshadowed in modern times by her violent tendencies, but very obvious in the myths.
- Sadly Mythtaken: Some people compare her to Athena, when she's the exact opposite—Athena was a war goddess who dealt more with strategy, while the Morrigan positively loves carnage.
- Spell My Name with an "S": Even worse than usual in Celtic myth. She's either the Morrígan/Mórrígan/Morríghan/Morrigu, or Mor-Ríoghain. All of them are technically correct, since they mean "phantom/great queen".
- Spell My Name with a "The": The Morrígan. Understandably, most people drop the "the" since it gets awkward after a while.
- Things That Go "Bump" in the Night: She announced her presence by screaming war-cries to wake everyone up. Whoever had the balls to check would be rewarded if they helped her out, or punished if they pissed her off.
- Three Faces of Eve: Often depicted as a triple goddess, the individuals comprising her being Badb, Macha, and Nemain. Respectively, their domains are war, war, and frenzied warnote .
- Trauma Conga Line: One of her specialties, and the main reason she's so pants-wettingly feared.
- Unusual Euphemism: Characters often make reference to "the Morrígan's harvest" after a battle—that being the eyes, souls, or heads of the dead. After a battle, everyone still alive would clear the hell out to ensure that the Morrígan's "harvest" went peacefully.
- Also, there is the phrase "Garden of Morrigan," or some variation, in reference to how battlefields tend to become overgrown with plant-life due to all that fertilizer left behind. Which is also believed to be the source of her association with fertility.
The Celtic solar goddess, best known for her worship site in Bath, Somerset.
The father-figure of the Tuatha de Danaan. Another deity with a title for a name, "the Dagda" means "the good god" when literally translated. He was one of the first High Kings of Ireland, the god of music and poetry, and known for a magic cauldron that could feed any number of people without a problem.
The Irish god of love, mainly romantic, but he shows a strong paternal streak in several myths. He likes to help people out of tight spots, but can also be a warrior of vengeance when he's sufficiently outraged, normally by a wrong done to someone close to him. His most well-known story is probably Aisling Oenguso, The Dream of Aengus.
- Adult Fear: A very deep and jarring instance in 'The House of the Two Pails.' Aengus is unable to help his depressed foster-daughter Enya in spite of his immense efforts to do so, and when she discovers her conversion to Christianity means that she can no longer live with the pagan gods, he watches her die of grief.
- Angst Coma: In 'The Dream of Aengus'. A beautiful woman comes to see him every night in his dreams and plays the harp to him, but he cannot touch her. He goes into a wasting sickness until his parents find the girl in real life.
- Declaration of Protection: He does this a few times. For his foster-son Diarmuid in 'Diarmuid and Gráinne', for his foster-daughter in 'The House of the Two Pails', and for his foster-father's wife Étaín in the 'The Wooing of Étaín'.
- Exact Words: He tricked the Dagda out of ownership of the Brugh na Boinne by claiming that he wanted to stay in the Brugh for "a day and a night." But Gaelic has no articles, so it translates simply to "day and night," which also means "day and night" in the permanent sense.
- Good Parents: He has many foster-children (some of which are the other gods), and loves all of them very deeply.
- Pretty Boy / Hot God: Even among the other gods, his prettiness is notable.
- Ugly Guy's Hot Son: He's the Dagda's son.
The first king of the Tuatha de Danann. He was highly respected and close friends with the Dagda and Lugh.
- Badass Transplant: Possibly the Ur-Example.
- The Lancer
- Meaningful Name: Airgetlám literally means 'silver hand', which is fitting since Nuada literally has a silver hand.
- Nice Guy: Pretty much as nice as they come in Irish mythology. Even after regaining his throne from an unpopular king (Bres) after he lost the arm and got a new one, he gracefully steps aside to allow Lugh/the Dagda (depending on who you ask) to take over later on after meeting the guy and deciding he was pretty swell and good enough to lead his people in battle.
- Only Sane Man: Once you take a look at everyone else's track record. He'd often make fairly reasonable requests, such as halving the territory with the Fomorians and, after only just having his own arm chopped off, insisting Sreng fight him with one of his arms tied behind his back. On both of those counts his negotiations were turned down.
An immensely popular figure even today, she is one of the patron saints of Ireland and second only to St. Patrick (yes, that one). She presides over healing, poetry, and smithwork
—some believe that she was originally a goddess
who had her Serial Numbers Filed Off
, as that fits the "triple goddess" concept. (And Christianity's general tendencies.) Another "coincidence" is that her festival day is February 1, the day of Imbolc (and Goddess!Brigid's sacred day) in the pagan communities. St. Brigid's Well is a well-known
landmark for those who suffer chronic illness or injury. She is also associated with fire, and before Christianity set in there was a temple where her "sacred flame" was constantly tended to by priestesses/nuns.
- The Chick
- Combo Platter Powers
- Continuity Snarl: We know that Brigid is in charge of healing, poetry, and smiths. We don't know much else about her—or we don't know who knows much else about her, because everyone's arguing over who gets her in the first place.
- The Heart: She was so beloved that the Christians adopted their own version of her instead of demonizing her like the rest of the Celtic pantheon.
- Light 'em Up/The Power of the Sun: May have been once a solar goddess. Irish and celtic brittish mythology are definitely full of them - Étaín, Áine, Sulis, Grian -, which probably were other names she went by.
- Overshadowed by Awesome: Compared to other gods and especially the Morrigan, she gets rather little mention in myth. Similar to Hestia of Greek mythology, it's probably because she's the sane/boring goddess of the home.
The Ulster Cycle
Son of Cathbad the druid and the princess Ness, Conchobar was Ulster's young and well-beloved king for much of the Ulster Cycle. He replaced Fergus mac Roich on throne at a very young age thanks to the clever political machinations of his mother
and ruled for much of the Ulster Cycle until his death at the hands of the Connacht warrior, Cet mac Mágach
- Heroic Bastard: Ness was between husbands (her first husband, Fachtna Fáthach, having been slain by Eochu Feidlech some time before) when she conceived Cathbad, not that anyone was terribly concerned with this.
- 100% Adoration Rating
- A Child Shall Lead Them: Became king of Ulster at age seven, although his mother Ness served as the power behind the throne for the early years of his reign.
- The Chosen One: Conchobor was born as the product of Cathbad's prophesy delivered to Ness, foretelling that a boy conceived at that very hour would become a king. Cathbad wound up as the father simply because he was the closest guy on hand.
- Droit du Seigneur: Conchobar was so beloved by his people that the men of Ulster obliged him to sleep with their wives on the night of their marriage so as to have him as the first in their family. The only exception was Cu Chulainn, who made it very, very clear that he was not to touch Emer, so Conchobor decided to interpret his obligation as literally as possible.
- The Good King: Most of the time, as he wasn't immune to the occasional massive screw-up or two (such as his handling of Deirdre).
- Mother Makes You King: When the previous king, Fergus mac Roich, married Conchobor's mother, Ness, she gave him one condition: allow her seven-year-old son to serve as a Puppet King for a year so that his future children could boast a royal lineage. Fergus agreed to her terms, and Ness immediately set about getting Conchobor a 100% Adoration Rating (as much by bribery as by good rulership) so that, when the time came for Fergus to reclaim his kingship, the people of Ulster told him to stuff it.
- Offered the Crown: As Fergus's brideprice for his marriage to Ness.
- Really Gets Around: Had sex with just about every woman in Ulster.
- Royals Who Actually Do Something
- Spell My Name with an "S": Variant spellings of his name include Conchobor, Conchubar, Conchobhar, Conchubhar, Conchúr, Conchúir, Connor, Conor, and Connacher.
- Warrior King: One of Ulster's greater warriors, though his people were reluctant to allow him into battle lest he be killed.
- What the Hell, Hero?: While otherwise well-regarded, his execution of the sons of Uisliu in retaliation forf Naoise's elopment with Deirdre angers Fergus, Dubthach, and Conchobar's own son, Cormac, so greatly that the three of them immediately defect Connacht and begin waging war on Ulster.
- His biggest out character moment (and most evil one) is when it's revealed he raped Queen Madb. Although this only happens in some versions of the story.
The chief druid of Ulster's court. Cathbad was not only the father and chief adviser of King Conchobar, but also the grandfather to more than a few prominent figures of the Ulster Cycle, including the legendary Cu Chulainn. He was responsible for a number of prophecies, from Conchobor's birth to the tragedy brought on by Deirdre's beauty.
- Court Mage: Served as Conchobar's primary adviser
- Druid: Perhaps the most famous one.
- Seer: The deliverer of a number of prophecies, from Conchobor's birth to the tragedy brought on by Deirdre.
- Outliving One's Offspring: By all accounts, Cathbad appears to have not only outlived his son, Conchobar, but all five of his grandsons (Cu Chulainn, Conall Cernach, and the three sons of Uisliu)
Former king of Ulster, who was tricked out of his title by his wife, Ness. Despite this, Fergus remained on good terms with Conchobar up until the king's grudge against Naoise led to the death of Fergus's son, Fiachu, after-which he defected to Connacht.
- Abdicate the Throne: Didn't seem to care very much about losing kingship to Conchobar, and even serves under him without complaint until the death of his son
- The Exile: Fled Ulster after the death of his son and the three sons of Uisliu.
- Friendly Enemy: To his foster-son, Cu Chulainn, during the Táin Bó Cúailnge, which causes Medb a lot of headaches.
- Large and in Charge: Described as a rather large man
- Never My Fault: Is very quick to attribute everything that went wrong in the Táin Bó Cúailnge to Mebd, despite his own tendency to constantly undermine her.
- The Mistress: Or the male equivalent thereof to Medb. This eventually led to his death, when Ailill finally let his jealousy get the better of him and tricked the blind Lugaid Dalléces into killing him.
- Treacherous Advisor: Fergus was anything but a reliable guide to Medb during the Táin Bó Cúailnge.
- Turncoat: Defected to Connacht out of outrage against Conchobar.
- Wave Motion Sword: Calabog, a BFS said to be capable of slicing off the tops of mountains and slaying entire armies with a single stroke.
"Cuchulainn was an unstoppable warrior hero in Irish legend who was renowned throughout the British Isles for his unmatched prowess in combat, his superhuman deeds, his Justin Timberlake-like good looks and his infamous "Warp Spasm" - a violent bloodthirsty berserker rage which caused his face to contort into hideous positions, made his hair to stand up on end, and prompted one of his eyes to bulge out of his head.
" (From his Badass of the Week
More or less The Hero
of the Ulster Cycle and possibly the most famous hero in all of Irish mythology. Son of Lugh the Long Handed and Conchobor's half-sister, Deichtine, Cu Chulainn was Ulster's greatest champion. He was said to be unparalleled in all aspects, be it in wisdom, strength, agility, or the tendency to transform into a hideous, Lovecraftian monstrosity and go on killing sprees.
- Absurdly Youthful Father: Cu Chulainn references the slaying of his son in the Táin Bó Cúailnge. Connla was seven at the time of his death, which means Cu Chulainn was at most ten years old when he sired him.
- The Ace: Boy, if there ever was one...
- Affectionate Nickname: Along with "Little Hound" mentioned below, Cu Chulainn has been bestowed the pet name "Cucuc" by his charioteer and close friend, Laeg.
- Angst Coma: "The Wasting Sickness of Cu Chulainn" is an entire story about his year-long illness.
- Berserk Button: Do not threaten the province of Ulster if you want to live. You'll get a Gae Bolg to the torso.
- The Berserker: After warp-spasming. In this state, his already respectable body count usually skyrocketed, including the unlucky allies that were caught in the melee.
- Bi the Way: His relationship with Ferdia.
"I loved the noble way you blushed,
And loved your fine, perfect form..."
- Blood Knight: The type that lives for dueling, not bloodbaths. In a twist, he always challenges people to duels because that's the surest way to prevent bloodbaths (Cu Chulainn being The Chosen One and all.)
- Bullying a Dragon: Conchobar's 150 boy warriors learned it the hard way.
- Burning with Anger: Cu Chulainn was hot-tempered in a very literal sense.
And the snow melted for thirty feet all around him, because of the intensity of the warrior's heat and the warmth of Cu Chulainn's body. And the gilla remained a good distance from him for he could not endure to remain near him because of the might of his rage and the warrior's fury and the heat of his body.
- The Chosen One (Because Destiny Says So)
- Cool Car: His Sickle Chariot was decked out with scythes on the rails and wheel hubs, spikes on the wheel rims and the horses' armor, and "heroic spikes" at the front. It cut bloody swathes through an army, kicked up a spray of flagstone-sized boulders, and left furrows "big enough to provide a fort and fortress" in its tracks.
- Creepy Good: His Warp Spams were, to say the least, unsettling to behold, but he's still counted as a hero.
- Died Standing Up: The reason he tied himself to a rock after being mortally wounded was so he could stall for time and make his enemies still think he was alive. It worked until a raven landed on his shoulder after he actually died.
- Divine Parentage: He's the son of Lugh the Long-Handed, which is responsible for a lot of his badassery. The rest is being The Chosen One.
- Does Not Know His Own Strength: One of his earlier trysts went a bit awry when he accidentally broke a woman's fingers while having sex with her. This did not end well. He also had a bit of trouble taking up arms due to the fact that he shattered just about every spear, sword, or shield Conchobar gave him, as well as seventeen chariots.
- Don't Wake the Sleeper: Once as a child, when someone was once sent to wake him, Cu Chulainn struck the man in the face so hard that he shattered his skull and killed him. Understandably, nobody dared to wake him up ever again.
- Engagement Challenge: For Emer, whom he ends up Happily Married to.
- Expecting Someone Taller: Being a slight, smooth-faced prettyboy teenager, Cu Chulainn is a constant target of this in the Táin Bó Cúailnge. To quote Medb in one retelling of the tale:
That? That is the whelp? You mean to tell me this girlish boy is the devastator of my army? I don't believe you. I refuse to believe you. I have better warriors than that in slave collars!
- Full Potential Upgrade: Not just his weapon, but his chariot too.
- Genius Bruiser: Cu Chulainn may be incredibly strong and powerful and an amazingly skilled warrior, but he's also extremely intelligent and cunning, and in fact, judging by his love life, it would seem that he actually values intelligence and good wits far more than he does good looks or skill at combat.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Several, his most severe being after Emir confronts him and Fand leaves him. Conchobar eventually had to order the druids to wipe the incident from his mind to get him back to his senses.
- High-Pressure Blood: Entering a warp spasm caused him to spray clouds of it from his body.
- Horrifying Hero: While in a warp spasm.
- Hulking Out: His ríastrad or warp spasm. Nightmarish disfigurations aside, the Táin says that Cú Chulainn's body "swelled like a bladder full of breath" until he was "as vast as a Fomorian giant" and strong enough to casually kill, at the very least, 100-500 men with a single blow. Another story, Fled Bricriu (Bricriu's Feast), says that the warp spasm "stretched him until a warrior's foot could fit between his ribs" and made him strong enough to lift an entire castle easily.
- Humanoid Abomination: Even when in human form, he is described in the Táin as having Multicolored Hair, four multicolored dimples in each cheek, seven pupils in each eye, and seven clawed fingers and toes on each hand/foot. He also has blood ties to the Fomorians. Then there's his Warp spasm...
- In a Single Bound: His "Salmon Leap" allowed him to clear fortresses, waterfalls, and miles-long bridges in a single bound.
- Jumped at the Call
- Just a Kid: It wasn't uncommon for Cu Chulainn to be underestimated because of his age.
- Kid Hero: Cu Chulainn's exploits start from as early as age five, and his most famous one (the Tain) occurred when he was only seventeen.
- Ladykiller in Love: Cú Chulainn sleeps with dozens of women and yet was Happily Married to Emer. This is one of the very few mythologies that distinguish his active libido from his genuine love for Emer.
- This is also Played With—Emer is perfectly fine with it because she doesn't feel threatened at all by the other women and knows that it's purely sex, unlike Ms. Hollywood Nerd.
- Long-Haired Pretty Boy
- Lovecraftian Superpower: The warp spasm. Alongside the horrifyingly lavish descriptions of his transformation, it made him strong enough to casually kill thousands of armed men with a single blow from his sling.
- Mangst: He accidentally killed his only son.
- Muggle Foster Parents: The ancient Irish practiced fosterage as a means of strengthening political ties, and, thanks the the prestige that came with raising the son of a god, nearly half of Ulster jumped at the opportunity to foster him, and Cu Chulainn effectively raised by committee. Foster parents include (but are not limited to) Fergus, Conchobor, Sualtam, Finchoem, Sencha, Blai, Amergin, and Scathach.
- Multicolored Hair: Described as having hair that starts blond at the tips, red in the middle, and brown at the roots, and spikes up when his Superpowered Evil Side comes out.
- Cu Chulainn is said to have inspired the trait of putting lime in one's hair to stiffen it for battle; something started when the men of Ulster tried to imitate the Hound's hair during the warp spasm. Lime in the hair will eventually lighten it, leaving your roots dark with regrowth, the middle hair not yet completely damaged, and the tips being absolutely ruined.
- One-Man Army: The Táin Bó Cúailnge is less Connacht vs. Ulster and more Connacht vs. one incredibly badass teenager. His ríastrad/warp-spasm takes this to absurd levels.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Although the real name is Setanta while Cu Chulainn means "The hound of Chulainn" (a title he got after killing Chulainn's hound and taking its place)
- Perma-Shave: Cu Chulainn was frequently described as beardless, and even implied to be outright incapable of growing facial hair, which frequently left many opponents to dismiss him as a mere child.
- Pint-Sized Powerhouse: Was decapitating hardened warriors by the age of seven, and had a small stature even in adulthood.
- Power Limiter: Cú Chulainn wore twenty-seven armored tunics bound as tightly as possible with ropes and belts "so that his sense might not become deranged" when he entered his warp-spasm. Considering that his previous spasms lead him to attacking Conchobar's troops, and hat his charioteer Laeg and Ulster's men are unharmed during his subsequent assault, it seems to have worked.
- Pretty Boy: At least when he's not in Warp Spasm mode.
- Really Gets Around
- Rule of Seven: Seven fingers on each hand, seven toes on each foot, and seven jeweled pupils in each eye. According to the Mertowney Mountain Interviews, some versions of the story even describe his signature spear, the Gáe Bolg, as having seven stacked heads with seven barbs each, taking this Up to Eleven.
- Secret Test of Character: He gives one to Emer by testing her wits with riddles, and she passes with flying colors by testing him with her own riddles. This is primarily what he saw in her.
- Smart People Play Chess: Often shown playing fidchell—a chess-like board game invented by Lugh—with Laeg in his spare time.
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: Cu Chulainn is listed in "The Courting of Emer" as having exactly three faults: "that he was too young and smooth-faced, so that young men who did not know him would be laughing at him, that he was too daring, and that he was too beautiful." Of course, this was less of a problem for him than it was for every other man in Ulster, who unanimously decided to get him hitched before he ended up bedding half the populace. It didn't work.
- Strong Family Resemblance: One of the more consistent details of ríastrad/warp-spasm is that it causes one eye to swell horribly and fall out of its socket; Cú Chulainn's paternal great-grandfather, Balor of the Evil Eye, was a Fomorian king whose epynonymous eye was described in a similar manner.
- Suffer the Slings: One of Cú Chulainn's signature weapons and listed as one of the twenty-seven feats taught to him by Scáthach, he was so skilled that he could half a flock of birds with one stone and leave the remaining birds alive but unconscious. His warp-spasm takes this Up to Eleven, where he is described as casually killing hundreds, if not thousands of men with a single shot of his sling (called the "thunder feat").
- Superpowered Evil Side: The ríastrad/Warp Spasm. It turned him into a massively-muscled, horrifically disfigured, Fomorian-esque giant that could destroy a battlefield with a single sweep of its arm, but could not distinguish friend from foe and kill anyone in its reach.
- Too Cool to Live: Invoked - Cu Chulainn was prophesied to be incredibly accomplished, but also very short-lived.
- Training from Hell: With Scathach, on Emer's request.
- Troubling Unchildlike Behavior: Killed his first man at the age of five.
- Unstoppable Rage: When he's in a warp spasm, he will attack friend and foe alikenote
- Unusually Uninteresting Sight: In one of the versions, as mentioned above, Cu Chulainn was monstrous even in human form, but it was rarely addressed at all - people instead focused on his otherwise bishie traits.
- Vague Age: As several of his tropes state the weirdness of his chronological age, it's pretty trippy that Cuchullain is around six to ten when his main stories happen. (Maybe being a demigod made him mature faster?) Most people bump his age up to the mid/late teens—he'd still die extremely young in his twenties, but not to a fantastical degree.
- Warrior Poet
- Warrior Prince: Was King Conchobar's nephew.
- Wise Beyond Their Years
- Younger Than They Look: According to the Tain, the Wooing of Emer (in which Cu Chullain is clearly a young man) apparently happened when he was six.
Laeg mac Riangabar (LOYG mack REE-yan-GAHV-rah)
The "king of charioteers" as well as Cu Chulainn's personal one. Laeg is Cu Chulainn's lifelong friend, accompanying the hero on nearly every single one of his quests or battles, down to the very last one.
- Badass Driver: The Best Damn Hero of Ireland will naturally only settle for the Best Damn Charioteer in Ireland.
- No Hero to His Valet: Laeg seems to think of "Cucuc" as much a preening drama queen as he is a hero.
- Servile Snarker: Not afraid to give Cu Chulainn stick, deadly berserker or no.
- Sidekick: To Cu Chulainn
- Spiked Wheels: Drove the Sickle Chariot, which had a large scythe blade attached to each wheel.
Conall Cernach (cone-al CAR-naw)
greatest hero of Ulster, Conall Cernach was said to have never slept a night without the severed head of a Connachtman as a pillow. Conall was Cu Chulainn's cousin and foster brother, and is best known for avenging his death, as well as slaying over half of Connacht's male population.
- Always Second Best: To Cu Chulainn, though he only expressed much bitterness about it during Bricriu's Feast
- Arch-Enemy: Lifelong rival and enemy of his uncle, Cet mac Mágach of Connacht.
- Big Eater: Conall could literally eat an entire calf (and a boar, ''and a goat) in one sitting.
- Distinguishing Mark: Conall had a crooked neck due to an attempt on his life by Cet as an infant.
- Geis: Conall was forbidden from entering a ford with tainted water. This led to his death, as he had to cross a ford of a river miners used to clean ore when he fled for his life. Upon the violation of his geis, he was frozen in place until could catch up with and kill him.
- Heroic B.S.O.D.: Conchobor and Cu Chulainn's deaths shook him so greatly that he quickly lost the strength to even walk, and was forced to turn to Medb and Ailill to care for him.
- The Kingslayer: Queen Medb hired him to kill her husband, Ailill, which he was happy to do in order to avenge Fergus's death. He himself was chased down and killed shortly thereafter for the act.
- Offered the Crown: Was elected for kingship of Ulster after the death of Conchobar and his heir apparent, Cormac, were killed. However, Conall was too emotionally shattered to take up such duties, and instead suggested that Cúscraid should assume kingship.
- The Red Baron: Known as Conall the Triumphant.
- Warrior Prince: Like Cu Chulainn, Conall was King Conchobar's nephew.
Deirdre (DEER-druh) of the Sorrows
The World's Most Beautiful Woman
. So beautiful, in fact, that her beauty was prophesied to bring strife wherever she went. Deirdre was raised from birth to become King Conchobor's wife
, only to fall in love with the young Naoise at first sight and geis
him into taking her from Ulster.
- Bureaucratically Arranged Marriage: When Conchobor heard the prophesy, he figured the best solution (as opposed to infanticide, which is what the rest of Ulster was clamoring for) would be to have her raised away from men until maturity, after which she would be wed to the one man no one would have the audacity to challenge - himself.
- Driven to Suicide: After Naoise is killed, Deirdre ceases eating and sleeping for an entire year before finally leaping out of a chariot and dashing her head against a rock.
- Everyone Loves Blondes: Her gold, curled hair is mentioned to be one of the many traits that makes her so desired
- Gilded Cage: Raised in isolation upon King Conchobor's so that men would not fight over her. The only contact she had with the outside world was through her foster parents an old woman satirist.
- Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Innocent, honest, and faithful to Naoise until the bitter end.
- The Ingenue: The result of being raised in such isolation
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse
Naoise mac Uisliu (NEE-sha mack ISH-loo)
One of the three sons of Uisliu, as well as Deirdre unfortunate lover. Naoise was pressed into running off with Deirdre when she decided she would rather not marry some old king she was unwillingly betrothed to.
- Raven Hair, Ivory Skin: Deidre wished for a man with hair as black as a raven, skin as white as snow, and lips as red as blood. Naoise not only matched the description, but happened to live close nearby.
- Badass Family: He and his two brothers were said to be able to fend off the entirety of Ulster should they stand back to back.
- Magic Music: His music had a calming effect on cows which led them to produce 50% more milk.
- Warrior Poet
- Warrior Prince: Yet another nephew of Conchobar.
The beautiful and intelligent daughter of King Forgal, and Cuchulainn's wife. She may not be an Action Girl
, but she is definitely a character in her own right.
- Alas, Poor Yorick: When Conall Cernach came to her with Cu Chulainn's severed head (which he had recovered from Lugaid) and word of his death, Emer washed the head clean, wrapped it in silk, and then broke down crying as she clutched it to her chest.
- Betty and Veronica: Cuchulainn has to choose between Emer (Betty), his wife of many years, and Fand (Veronica), a fairy woman he's known for about a week. Due to a combination of Late Character Syndrome and Emer being shown as a spirited and interesting person in her own right, Fand comes off as a Relationship Sue.
- Deadpan Snarker: When Cu Chulainn bragged that he was strong enough to defend against a hundred men, she called him a little boy play-fighting with his friends.
- Embarrassing Nickname: Emer calls Ireland's Most Badass Warrior "little hound." They are always conveniently alone or out of everyone's earshot when she does it.
- Engaging Conversation: Combined with a Secret Test of Character, since Cuchulainn deliberately invoked it.
- Happily Married
- Hollywood Nerd: Frequently referred to as the most beautiful and smartest woman in Ireland.
- Male Gaze: There's a paragraph of Cu Chulainn complimenting her looks. By saying she's got really nice tracts of land. Seriously:
Cuchulainn: Fair is this plain, the plain of the noble yoke.
Cuchulainn, to Laeg: When I said, "Fair is this plain, the plain of the noble yoke," it was not the plain of Bray that I praised then, but the shape of the maiden.
- My Girl Is Not a Slut: Played Straight to hilarious degrees. She was expected to stay loyal to Cu Chulainn while he got to sleep with practically every women in Ulster while they were still married, though she doesn't seem to mind.
- Proper Lady: She is said to possess the six gifts of womanhood: beauty, a sweet voice, needlework, eloquence, chastity, and wisdom.
- Rebellious Princess: One of the oldest examples, and proving that you don't need to be an Action Girl to be awesome.
- Sage Love Interest: A wise female that tended to speak in riddles nobody could understand. In Cuchulainn, she finally met her match.
Queen Medb (MAVE)
This lady is the Warrior Queen of Connacht, and you do not want to get on her bad side. She's known for her ego, sexual endeavours, and, though she's more bloodthirsty than the more famous heroes, she's a renowned guardian of the land. It's theorised by some that she might have been a mythical goddess.
- Alas, Poor Villain: Consider the deeds of the Dark Action Girl in her lifetime. Then consider that she was taken down by a piece of cheese while she was taking a bath.
- Anti-Villain: She's decent to her own subjects and does have a perfectly good reason to hate Conchobar mac Nessa. However she is still egotistical, hypocritical, and willing to get thousands killed for revenge, and is not unwilling to use family members like chess pieces.
- Arch-Enemy: Conchobar mac Nessa, king of Ulster. Through a marriage arranged by her father, he was her first husband and she left him later on after having one son by him. After a political assembly at Tara, he raped her. (It's probably no coincidence that she required all her following husbands to be without meanness.) She hated him so much that when a druid told her that her son Maine would kill Conchobar, she renamed all of her seven sons so she wouldn't have all her eggs in one basket. Turns out the druid was talking about a different Conchobar.
- Also Ulster, as in the land itself. She made a path through the landscape that would 'forever show her contempt' for the place. We did warn you not to get on her bad side. The legend is she is also buried upright, keeping an eye on her enemies there.
- Black Comedy: See Alas, Poor Villain above. I mean, come on, she was killed by a piece of cheese! With a slingshot! While bathing in a lake!
- Dark Action Girl: Defeated all her siblings in combat to prove herself badass, or so she boasts to her husband as they duel with their egos across the pillows. Not an Unusual Euphemism, as it turns out. She also murdered a pregnant woman and later waged one of the most epic wars in Irish legend to steal a bull (still not an Unusual Euphemism) so she'd be more wealthy than her husband.
- Genius Bruiser: Probably, since not only did everyone worth noting inside and outside her kingdom come to her for advice since her judgement was greatly valued, but she also deserved her title of warrior queen.
- God Save Us from the Queen!: Her enemies certainly felt this way about her, but to her own subjects she was wise and fair.
- Hypocrite: She has her final husband, King Ailill, killed after he cheated on her.
- Lady of War
- Manipulative Bastard: Her favourite tokens of bribery were riches and sex slaves, and even the off time she fails you can't help but admire how conniving her ploys were.
- My Girl Is a Slut: She made it very clear that if a man wanted to marry her he had to meet the following criteria: he had to be without meanness, fear and jealousy. The last one was because she really got around. She also wasn't above trading sex for bargains with her enemies.
- Pride: It's likely one of the reasons she fell for Ailill was because he was able to match her Awesome Ego. Expect plenty of Badass Boasts to follow.
- Really Gets Around: Any time Maeve is mentioned she's then followed by a list of many husbands and/or lovers.
- Well, Excuse Me, Princess!: She and Ailill have a few moments.
A deadly warrior, whose rivalnote
Scathach gave Cu Chulainn his Training from Hell
. One of Cu Chulainn's flings, and the only one he got pregnant; after she almost defeats him in combat, he decides the two of them must have a son. Cú Chulainn left Aoife a ring and told her to give it to their son, who was to be named Connla, and to send him to Ireland when the ring fit his finger. Along with a bunch of awkward conditions.
Connla went to find his father, and in one of the weirder episodes of the Ulster Cycle
it did not go well.
The Fenian Cycle
An Irish hero with one of the greatest names ever - it is usually anglicised as Finn McCool
- Fionn was the leader of the Fianna, a band of legendary warriors
. He's most famous for (accidentally) gaining the wisdom of the Salmon of Knowledge when he burnt his thumb while he was cooking the thing for his master, meaning whenever he wanted to access that wisdom all he to do was suck his thumb.
Fionn mac Cumhaill's son, said to be the greatest poet of Ireland in his time. Oisin was born to Fionn's first wife, Sadhbh, who had been transformed into a deer
while she was pregnant with him. Though Fionn was never able to find Sadhbh again, he came across a young boy in the woods seven years later, who he quickly recognized as his and Sadhbh's son.
- The Bard
- Meaningful Name: Oisin means deer, which he was born of.
- Missing Mom: Had his mother torn away from him by the druid Fear Doirche
- No Immortal Inertia: Upon returning from Tír na nÓg to Ireland, though he somehow managed to not immediately die, and even recounted his journeys to Saint Patrick on his deathbed.
- Raised By Deer: For the first seven years of his life, though he was quick to learn language once Fionn found him.
- Survivor Guilt: Oisin outlived every single one of his comrades, which he lamented to his dying breath.
- Warrior Poet: The greatest in Ireland, no less.
- Year Outside, Hour Inside: After the death of his son, Oscar, Oisin goes to live in Tír na nÓg with Niamh. After three years, Oisin gets homesick, and requests to briefly visit his homeland. Niamh reluctantly provides him a magic steed to return home, but makes him promise not to set foot on the land. Then Oisin sets forth, only to discover three hundred years have passed since his departure. The shock knocks him off the horse to the ground, and the years rapidly catch up with him.
- The Storyteller: The Fenian cycle was said to be relayed to Saint Patrick by Oisin himself.
Son of Oisin and Eibhir, Oscar joined the ranks of Fionn's fiann
after killing a large troop of invaders with a wooden stick
- The Ace: Oscar was the greatest warrior of the Fianna, surpasing even his father and grandfather.
- Heroic Lineage
- Mutual Kill: Is mortally wounded while slaying High King Cairbre Lifechair in the Battle of Gabhra.
- Famous Last Words: "Farewell now to battles and to a great name, and farewell to taking tributes; for every good thing I ever had is gone from me now."
One of the slayers of Fionn's father, and the previous chief of the Fianna. While they began as enemies, Goll willingly relinquished his leadership to Fionn upon defeat, and subsequently one of closer allies
The most well known of Fionn's Fianna short of Fionn himself. While a very skilled warrior in his own right, Diarmuid's biggest claim to fame is kinda sorta accidentally stealing Fionn's fiance just before the wedding. It's not exactly his fault, however, as he had been "gifted" by the incarnation of youth with a magical mark on his face which enchanted any woman who looked at it to fall in love with him, and sometimes those women can magically strongarm you into elopement.
- Big Damn Heroes: Usually the one to save the ass of Fionn's personal fiann when they'd get into a bind.
- Blessed with Suck: Thanks to his love spot, Diarmuid was forced to become a fugitive for sixteen years.
- Chick Magnet: A literal superpower, one which does not go as well as one might like.
- Deadpan Snarker: Dives into it at times, usually thanks to Grainne.
- Dual Wielding: Typically wields one sword and one spear.
- Expy: Diarmuid mirrors Naoise in many ways, particularly in his fate.
- Geis: Along with the geis Grainne put on him to force him to run off with her, he was also fated to be killed at the hands of his foster-brother-turned-wild-boar.
- Heroes Love Dogs: Very attached to his Irish wolfhound, to the point that he carried its corpse with him for an entire quest simply because he couldn't bear to part with it.
- Hot Consort: To princess Grainne
- Interspecies Adoption: Fostered by Aenghus Óg of the Tuatha Dé Danann
- Nice Guy: The kindest of Fionn's fiann.
- One-Man Army: Can give Cu Chulainn a run for his money - he even once slays three thousand, four hundred men in the span of seven hours.
Oisin: The head of Diarmuid O’Duibhne is the head that Fionn asks of you, and were you as many in number as twenty hundred men of full strength, Diarmuid O’Duibhne would not let that head go with you.
- The Red Baron: One of his more impressive titles was the Hawk of Ess Ruadh, likely for his acrobatic expertise.
- So Beautiful, It's a Curse: His Beauty Mark made all women who gaze upon him fall madly in love with him. This later ends up killing him because of injuries he suffered from a boar and Fionn wasn't able to heal him with the magic spring water, as Fionn's jealousy abour Diarmuid stealing Grainn from him caused him to he spill the water from the magic healing spring twice, and while he didn't splill it the third time, Diarmuid succumbed to his wounds by the time Fionn returned to him.
- Stockholm Syndrome: Diarmuid's romance with Grainne is... complicated, and seems to consider her his kidnapper as much as he does her lover.
'"O Grainne, white as snow, it would have been a better choice for you to have given hatred to me.
- World's Most Beautiful Man: Snatched the title out from under Fionn. Although it helped that Fionn was getting on in years by the time Diarmuid joined the Fianna.
Conn (CONE) of the Hundred Battles
An Irish High King around the 3rd century A.D., friend of Fionn mac Cumhaill.
- A Father to His Men: So much as he'd even go to war on behalf of them.
- Authority Equals Asskicking: Naturally.
- Elite Army: Controlled the Fianna at the point in time when Fionn mac Cumhaill was their leader. This is a given.
- Because Destiny Says So: The Stone of Destiny at Tara roars when he steps on it, which means he's going to be King, then the god Lugh tells him how long he will reign and the names of the kings to follow him.
- Declaration of Protection: He refused to banish his second wife, even though her presence was allegedly causing famine.
- Did Not Get the Girl: She was banished anyway after Conn's son challenged her to a game of fidchell and she lost.
- The Gloves Come Off: When Mug Nuadat came back after Conn forced him and his forces to flee for Spain, not only did he defeat Conn and divide their land in two in a treaty of his own devising, but then he broke his own treaty and tried to take the rest of the land. Conn was thoroughly not amused at this point and retreated, regrouped and first defeated Nuadat's allies in the north, then marched south and killed Nuadat in a surprise night attack. If he knew what was good for him, he would've stayed in Spain.
- Happily Married: Both his marriages were good, though both ended in tragedy.
- Heartbroken Badass: Probably had a bout of this after his second wife was banished, and maybe after his first wife died.
- Heroic Spirit: Given the perseverance required for those 'Hundred Battles'.
- Hit-and-Run Tactics: Used these well in defeating Nuadat.
- Papa Wolf: to just about everyone, providing they weren't his enemies.
- Romancing the Widow: After hearing his wife had died, a fairy woman sprung up out of the blue and agreed to marry him.
- The Strategist: He had to be, given that he spent most of his 20-50 years (accounts vary) fighting rival tribes off his land, waging full-fledged war against invaders and enemies and helping those who came to him for protection.
Daughter of High King
Cormac mac Airt and the World's Most Beautiful Woman
. Grainne agreed to marry Fionn mac Cumhaill (unaware of the fact that Fionn was quite past his prime by then
), only to run off with Fionn's most handsome underling whether he liked it or not.
A major Welsh cultural figure, he was born a mortal boy named Gwion Bach. The goddess Cerridwen chose him to stir a potion containing all the knowledge in the world, and when the potion started bubbling, a few drops of the potion landed on his finger and he instinctively stuck it in his mouth, accidentally gaining the potion's knowledge and pissing off Cerridwen when she found out. He tried to flee from her by turning into various animals, then into grain of wheat amidst more wheat
. Cerridwen then turned herself into a hen and ate him. Eventually she realized she was pregnant, planned to kill the baby when he was born, but in the end couldn't bring herself to because he was so beautiful. So she put him in a basket and sent him down the river,
where a poor couple found him and named him "Taliesin." He became the greatest bard in the world.
Math ap Mathonwy
The title character (though not the protagonist) of the Fourth Branch of the Mabinogi
and king of Gwynedd. For no logically explained reason
he had to rest his feet on a virgin's
lap 24/7 or else he'd die. The only exception is during warfare. Most remembered for his eccentricity and many unusual acts.
The fairy wife of King Pwyll in Welsh Mythology. He offered to marry her when she said she didn't like her other suitor, so she accepted. When her first son was born, he vanished and the maids panicked, not only because their king's heir was gone but because they might be blamed for it. So they killed a few puppies from a recent litter, smeared the blood on the unconscious Rhiannon, and said she'd eaten her own son in a fit of madness
. ...Yeah. This wasn't good for Rhiannon, and everyone started howling for the evil fairy to be killed
. Pwyll really wanted to believe Rhiannon but he was also responsible for, you know, ruling, so to compromise he said that she'd have to carry visitors from the courtyard to his hall on her back for seven years. Luckily her son was alive, had been named Pryderi by his adopted parents, and reunited with them when he was of age. Past that the different versions of the story get a little contradictory, but everything sorted out in the end. Except for Pwll getting killed in a battle, but Rhiannon eventually married Manawydan, another of the Fair Folk.
- Brought Down to Normal: Both in-story (a sidhe woman who married a human) and meta, if you believe that she was once a horse-goddess with her Serial Numbers Filed Off.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Carrying visitors from the courtyard to Pwll's hall for seven years.
- Cool Horse: Rhiannon's mount when Pwyll met her. Rhiannon's punishment essentially forced her to become a Horse of a Different Color, and the vanished foal grew up with Pryderi and became his trusted mount. Some believe Rhiannon to be a goddess due to the recurring motif, even though there's no actual evidence in the Mabinogion.
- Deadpan Snarker: Yep.
- Fantastic Racism: Definitely. Strangely enough, Pryderi doesn't get much trouble despite being her son.
- Good Is Dumb: Pwyll is an honorable, caring man, a just king, and a seasoned warrior... Who is rather lacking in sense.
- Kick the Dog: She was the figurative dog who was kicked, and there were literal puppies that were killed to frame her.
- Sincerest Form of Flattery: Some Renaissance Faires have banned the name "Rhiannon" because so many people have it already.