The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends

BOOK: The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends
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is a foremost authority on the Celts and the author
of many books in the field including
The Celtic Empire
Celt and Saxon
Celt and Greek
Celt and Roman
(1998) and
The Ancient World of the
(1998).Under the pseudonym Peter Tremayne he is the author of the bestselling Sister Fidelma murder mysteries set in Ireland in the seventh Century.

Praise for
Celtic Myths and Legends

‘For those interested in our Celtic past this selection will be a tremendous source of enjoyment and instruction.’

Contemporary Review

‘The introduction is the most comprehensive and lucid explanation of Celtic lore.’ Alan Lambert,
The New Humanity

‘Peter Berresford Ellis brings to bear not only his extensive knowledge of the source material but also his acclaimed skills of storytelling to produce an original and
enthralling collection.’

Ipswich Evening News

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Constable & Robinson Ltd
3 The Lanchesters
162 Fulham Palace Road
London W6 9ER

First hardback edition published in the UK
The Chronicles of the Celts
by Robinson, 1999

This paperback edition published by Robinson,
an imprint of Constable & Robinson Ltd, 2002

Copyright © Peter Berresford Ellis 1999, 2002

The right of Peter Berresford Ellis to be identified as the author of this work has been asserted by him in accordance with the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act, 1988

All rights reserved. This book is sold subject to the condition that it shall not, by way of trade or otherwise, be lent, re-sold, hired out or otherwise circulated in any
form of binding or cover other than that in which it is published and without a similar condition including this condition being imposed on the subsequent purchaser.

A copy of the British Library Cataloguing in
Publication Data is available from the British Library

ISBN 13: 978-1-84119-248-2
ISBN 10: 1-84119-248-1
eISBN: 978-1-78033-363-2

Printed and bound in the EU

10 9 8 7 6 5



1 The Ever-Living Ones

Ireland: Preface

2 The Sons of Tuirenn

3 The Children of Lir

4 The Love of Fand

5 Lochlann’s Son

6 The Poet’s Curse

7 Cellachain of Cashel

Isle of Man: Preface

8 Island of the Ocean God

9 Y Chadee

10 The Ben-Varrey

11 Poagey Liaur jeh Caillagh

12 The Lossyr-ny-Keylley

13 Gilaspick Qualtrough

Scotland: Preface

14 The Shadowy One

15 Princess of the Fomorii

16 Maighdean-mhara

17 Conall Cròg Buidhe

18 The Kelpie

19 Geal, Donn and Critheanach

Wales: Preface

20 Bran and Branwen

21 Math fab Mathonwy

22 Llyn-y-Fan-Fach

23 Bedd Gellert

24 The Quest for Olwen

25 The Dream of Rhonabwy

Cornwall: Preface

26 Tewdrig, Tyrant of Treheyl

27 The Lord of Pengersick

28 The Bukkys

29 Jowan Chy-an-Horth

30 Nos Calan Gwaf

31 An Lys-an-Gwrys

Brittany: Preface

32 The Destruction of Ker-Ys

33 N’oun Doaré

34 The Anaon

35 Koadalan

36 The King of Bro Arc’hant

37 Prinsez-a-Sterenn

Recommended Further Reading


This volume is respectfully dedicated to the memory of my good friend, mentor and guide in matters Celtic – Pádraig O Conchúir

I was a listener in the woods,

I was a gazer at the stars,

I was not blind where secrets were concerned,

I was silent in a wilderness,

I was talkative among many,

I was mild in the mead-hall,

I was stern in battle,

I was gentle towards allies,

I was a physician of the sick,

I was weak towards the feeble,

I was strong towards the powerful,

I was not parsimonious lest I should be burdensome,

I was not arrogant though I was wise,

I was not given to vain promises though I was strong,

I was not unsafe though I was swift,

I did not deride the old though I was young,

I was not boastful though I was a good fighter,

I would not speak about any one in their absence,

I would not reproach, but I would praise,

I would not ask, but I would give.

Cormac Mac Cuileannáin

King and Poet of Cashel,


he mythology, legends and folklore of the Celtic peoples are among the oldest and most vibrant of Europe. The Celts were, in fact, the first
European people north of the Alps to emerge into recorded history. They were delineated from their fellow Europeans by virtue of the languages which they spoke and which we now identify by the term

This linguistic group is a branch of the greater Indo-European family. The Indo-European family of languages encompasses most of the languages spoken in Europe, with a few notable exceptions
such as Basque, Finnish, Estonian and Hungarian. The Indo-European group also covers Iran and northern India.

Since the old classical language of India, Sanskrit, was identified in the eighteenth century, the concept of linguistic evolution and language relationships has become a science. What this
means is that we can see from the linguistic relationship of the Indo-European languages that, at some point in remote antiquity, there was a single parent language, which we call Indo-European,
for want of a better designation. This parent language diversified into dialects, as its speakers began to migrate from the geographic location where it was originally spoken. These dialects then
became the ancestors of the present major European and Northern Indian language groups – Italic or Latin (now called Romance), Germanic, Slavonic, Baltic, Celtic, Iranian, Indo-Aryan and so

Even today, there remain relative forms of construction and vocabulary among the Indo-European languages which are not found in other languages: features which help us
identify them as such. Features common to Indo-European include clear formal distinction of noun and verb, a basically inflective structure and decimal numeration. An experiment which demonstrates
the relationship is to note the cardinal numbers – one to ten – in each Indo-European language and one will find the same sound values indicating the common parent.

Where was the Indo-European parent originally spoken and when did it begin to break up? It is probable, and only probable, that the speakers of the parent tongue originated somewhere between the
Baltic and the Black Sea. It also seems probable that the parent tongue was already breaking into dialects before waves of migrants carried them westward into Europe and eastward into Asia.

The first Indo-European literature that we have records of is Hittite, a language spoken in what is now eastern Turkey. The Hittites formed an empire which eventually incorporated Babylonia and
even briefly exerted authority over Egypt. Hittite writing emerged from 1900
and vanished around 1400
. Hittite literature survives on tablets
written in cuneiform syllabics which were not deciphered until 1916.

Scholars argue that the Celtic dialect of Indo-European, which became the parent of all Celtic languages, emerged at about 2000
. The Celtic peoples began to appear as
a distinctive culture in the area of the headwaters of the Danube, the Rhine and the Rhône. In other words, in what is now Switzerland and South-West Germany.

A study of early place names of this region show that rivers, mountains, woodland and even some of the towns, still retain the Celtic original. The three great rivers we have mentioned retain
their Celtic names. The Danube, first recorded as the Danuvius, was named after the Celtic goddess Danu, whose name means “divine waters”. The Rhône, first recorded as Rhodanus,
also incorporates the name of the goddess prefixed by the Celtic
, or “great”. The Rhine, originally recorded as Rhenus, is a Celtic word for “sea way”.

This is the area, then, where the Celts developed their distinctive culture. Archaeologists now date that identifiable culture through the medium of artifacts, called the
Hallstatt Culture, from 1200
to 475
. This was so called because the first identifiable artifacts were found on the west bank of Lake Hallstatt
in Upper Austria. Previously, archaeologists only dated the culture from 750
, but new finds have made them revise their dating. A later distinctive Celtic culture,
developing out of Hallstatt, was called La Tène, from the finds found at La Tène on the northern edge of Lake Neuchatel.

BOOK: The Mammoth Book of Celtic Myths and Legends
5.64Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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