Homage-o-meter or The Literary Sources in The Tatooine Cycle

This is a discussion of the medieval source texts used in the Tatooine Cycle. The numbers can be matched to the original post. I was going to just append this to the bottom of it, but it was getting a bit out of hand. So you’ve got another blog post to compare and contrast. I hope you find this useful and that it takes you to all the awesome corners of medieval Irish literature.

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(1) This is a typical opening line to many medieval Irish tales. The two titles, the tragic death (aided) and destruction of a hostel (togail bruidne), are titles that appear in medieval Irish tale lists. The name Da Theféider is also a reference to hostellers commonly having Da at the beginning of their names. See Da Derga, Da Choca, Da Thó.

(2) The hero who knows all languages is a common companion in the Seven Companions tales model. In this instance I was thinking of Gwrhyr Gwalstawd Ieithoedd from Culwch ac Olwen. Middle Welsh, instead of Irish, but I hope you’ll forgive that.

(3) “Oh twisted sprite!” (a sirite síabairthi) is a common insult used against Cú Chulainn. It possibly draws attention to his warp-spasm or riastrad.

(4) Finn, as the name for Luke, is just a calque. Luke comes from Greek leukos meaning ‘white’, Finn also means ‘white, bright’ in Irish. It also helps that Finn is the name of the hero of the Fenian Cycle, Finn mac Cumaill.

(5) The character of Cenn Obi here is closely modeled on Suibne from Buile Suibhne. This wild man of the woods was driven mad at the cursing of a saint and recites poetry in the wilderness. Hence all the poems.

(6) This is an attempt at the intertextual nature of medieval Irish literature. Most of the tales were aware of the wider tradition and would reference them. The Caladbolg was Fergus’s sword that he used on the Táin before it was stolen by jealous Aillil.

(7) The epithet Aenfer is taken from Art mac Conn. He was called Aenfer (literally one man) because in Echtra Chondla his brother, Connla, was taken away to the Otherworld. So he was left alone, or aenfer, or “solo”.

(8) The mistaken messenger motif is common in medieval Irish literature. Some of the images here are taken from Táin Bó Cúailgne, p. 153.

(9) The great, many doored hostel is common in the togala texts, mentioned above. This particular description comes from Scéla Mucce Meic Da Thó.

(10) The lifting up of the hostel wall is taken from Fled Bricrenn. In this text Cú Chulainn lifts up the side of the wall so that his wife will be first back in. It’s always fun to reverse the gender roles.

(11) Da Thféider’s immense height is similar to the way that the Fenian giants are described in Acallam na Senórach.

(12) Much of the description of his arms and armour is taken from Cú Chulainn’s arming in the Scythed Chariot epidose, TBC p. 200.

(13) The flight to Alba (whether that means Scotland, the Otherworld, or the Alps) is a common feature. Here I was drawing on Cath Maige Mucrama.

(14) Heroes often have special feats. Cú Chulainn and his son could stun birds with their “thunder feat”. In one combat during the Táin Cú Chulainn threw his darts in the air and then leaped nimbly on them so that he could catch birds.

(15) The presentation of armies is usually accompanied by the mistaken messenger motif, mentioned above. They are heavy in physical description, both of the men and their equipment.

(16) The evil eye of Da Thféider, not only represents the power of a fully operational Death Star (*evil cackle*), but is based on Balor from Cath Maige Tuired. This beastly Fomorian had his one evil eye put out by Lug.

(17) This image of slaughter is taken from the Middle Irish preface to Cáin Adomnáin. This was a clerical law protecting non-combatants but at some point in the twelfth century it picked up a narrative introduction. It is good to bear in mind the cleric origin of all the tales cited here.

(18) In the togala texts the hostel usually ends up burning down. Here I am thinking of Togail Bruidne Da Derga and the triple death by fire, drowning, and wounds suffered by Conaire.

(19) The colophon is based on the famous bilingual colophon to Táin Bó Cúailgne found in the Book of Leinster. In the Irish colophon the tale, and whoever recites it, are praised. However the Latin one casts doubt on the veracity of the tale and suggests that it is only entertainment for fools. You can decide for yourself.

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The Tatooine Cycle.

This retelling of Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope as a medieval Irish epic began as a series of tweets, made on a whim in the middle of November. They can be found with the hashtag #TatooineCycle. I hope that now I have gathered them all together the story still makes sense.

The numbers refer to my discussion of the sources used for this parody, which can be found here.


 

What was the reason for the Tragic Death of Cenn Obi and the Destruction of Da Thféider’s Hostel? (1) Not difficult that.

tatooine cycle

There was once a great queen of Alt Da Rann and Leia was her name. War had sprung up between her people and those of Da Thféider. She sent messengers to ask for aid from the wildman, Cenn Obi. He lived in the wilderness far to the west. These were the messengers she sent: Síd Tríphe Óg, who knew all the languages of man and beast,(2) and the dwarf, Artú.

The messengers became lost on their journey and before long they did not know what land or territory or province they were in “What is this desolate place?” said Tríphe Óg. “We have been cursed to suffer now”. Artú goes to a steep & rocky area. “This is not right” he said. “Before the day is over you will surely perish, oh twisted sprite! (3) No more adventures!”

It was not long before they saw bandits before them in the road. The messengers were captured as slaves. The bandits sold the messengers to a farmer, Eogan his name. He gave them to his nephew, Finn Aiércoisige, (4) to look after. Artú told Finn why they had come to the region: to seek Cenn Obi, the wild man. Their lands and people were being destroyed. Finn knew the holy man who lived in the woods. The geilt would fly from treetop to mountain peak and lived on brook lime & fresh water.(5) The next day Finn and Artú set out into the wilderness to find the wild man. They see him on a hill and he recites this poem:

Come not near to me Finn
Though I knew your father
The wilderness is sweet to me
Who has not heard your name in a long time

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Finn replied, “We have a message for you. Come out of the wilderness!” Cenn Obi, then, took them to his dwelling. Cenn Obi fought alongside Finn’s father in Cath na Cóipe. Cenn Obi’s mind was driven from him there and he became a wildman. Finn’s father left Cenn Obi with a sword, the Caladbolg, to pass on to his son. This is same sword Fergus used in the Táin. (6)

“This is a powerful weapon from a better age. Do not point it at your face” said Cenn Obi. With his senses returned Cenn Obi agreed to help the princess and journey east with the messengers. Finn will not leave. Da Thféider’s warriors came to Eogan’s farm. They burned it down and killed Eogan, his wife and his livestock. This is an ill omen for the hospitaller. With right on his side Finn decides to journey with Cenn Obi to Mag Eisleigh.

When they came to the plain of Mag Eisleigh, Cenn Obi recited this poem:

Bees swarm in the evil hive
Scum & villainy, no untrue speech,
In the plain of Eisleigh
Are these the messengers you seek?

In Mag Eisleigh there lived a famous warrior, Eogan Aenfer.(7) He knew the secret paths and possessed a great hound, Cú Bhacca. At that time Aenfer’s people were harassed by bandits and raiders. Finn and his people came to him during his single combats. Aenfer was in the ford against Grí Dó, champion An Botha Mór. “A lucky day for me, Aenfer,” he said, “Meeting you in the ford. You are like a frightened boy, who flees at the first sight of trouble. We will take your lands, horses, and nerf herds!” Before Grí Dó could draw his weapon, Aenfer cast his spear so that it went clean through the other’s chest. With their champion dead the bandit forces melted away. Aenfer hosted Finn, Cenn Obi and the messengers in his hall.

Cenn Obi told him the strife between Leia and Da Thféider. “You know the hidden paths. Can you guide us eastwards quickly?” “I can guide you through the Kestrel’s Run in less than half a day. I am quick enough for a wildman and a beardless boy.” Early on the next day they set out to Alt Da Rann. When they came to the place in which the princess’s army should have been they saw nothing. They wondered what became of them. In the sky they saw a flock of birds, rising over clouds of mist and the shining moon in the middle of the sky.(8)

“Tell me, Eogan”, said Finn, “what are those birds and clouds and moon? For the sun is shining and it is not yet dark.” Cenn Obi replied, “They are not birds but the clods of earth thrown up by the horses of Da Thféider’s army. They are not clouds but the fierce and manly breathing and exhaling of Da Thféider’s men”, he said “That’s no moon. It’s the shining eye of Da Thféider himself that can destroy an army with a single glare.” Before they could flee they were beset by men from Da Thféider’s army and brought as prisoners into the camp.

The captives were brought to the hostel of Da Theféider. The hostel was a great round building famed throughout Erin. The hostel had seven doors, facing all the sides.(9) At night they would be shut tight to protect everyone inside. There was one window that could not be shut, but it was small, not much larger than a child’s ball. The window was opposite the great central fire. Over the fire was a vat from which Da Thféider’s men took their food. These men were known as Láeich Sín. They stood a head taller than other men and were covered in shining armour.

hostels

Cenn Obi, Finn, Eogan and his wolfhound were put in one of the rooms of Da Thféider’s hostel. As night fell the seven doors were closed. When his warriors came to address the captives Eogan and Finn threw them on their backs and took their armour from them. Cenn Obi leaves to find a key to one of the doors. Though Finn would go with him but Cenn Obi recites this poem:

Oh boys, you must stay
My path is a different one
Who is more foolish, the fool or the one following?
God’s grace be with you.

After Cenn Obi left, Artú pressed his ear to the wall of the room. He could hear noises in the hostel and the voice of Leia. Finn decided to rescue Leia. He and Aenfer put on the captured armour and took the dog, Cú Bhacca, on a lead into the hall. When they were stopped by other Láeich Sín, they said “This dog has escaped from the kennels. We are returning him.” As Finn and Aenfer passed through the many doors of the hostel, they found a room guarded by many warriors. Aenfer then loosed his hound, one of the three wondrous hounds of Ireland. It could tear a grown man’s arm from its socket.

After Cú Bhacca killed the guards, Finn entered the room. The princess was inside. “A small Láeich Sín this”, she said. “This is not my armour,” said Finn. “I am Finn Aiércoisige. I am here to rescue you. I came with the geilt, Cenn Obi.” Hearing the destruction of their warriors, other Láeich Sín had come. Finn, Leia and Aenfer were trapped in the corridor. None could prevail against the steel-sided warriors. But Leia seized the corner of the wall & heaved it up.(10) Her companions could pass under the wall. “Pass through, flighty youth”, she said to Aenfer who would not go.

On the other side of the wall was a pit. In the pit were all the remains of the feasts along with the excrement of warriors. They stood up to their haunches in water and bones. The pit was infested with snakes and venomous worms and a great stench. “You have ruined us, princess”, said Aenfer. “I was in control of every action until now, lead astray by a woman!” Then a snake seized Finn’s leg and pulled him into the waste. He was under water up to the point of drowning. Of a sudden he was released from its grasp. The ground began to shake all them. The walls of the pit began to fall and close in on them. As Da Thféider searched for Finn in his hostel, his great steps shook the very earth. With every resounding shake the walls of the pit collapsed and began to fall in on the champions stuck in it. They could not escape up the sides or out in anyway. In their panic they cried out to Artú and Triphe Óg. The two messengers rushed to their aid and were able to free the heroes from the stinking pit. They all ran out to one of the doors but the seven doors of the hostel were still shut firmly against them.

Thereupon Cenn Obi appeared. He lifted the bar over the door & unlocked it with a key. Before they could all flee, they heard a voice: “We meet again, old man”, said Da Thféider. He was so tall a full-grown man would only come to his knee and his voice was like the thunder of waves.(11) This was the armour he wore: twenty-seven waxed tunics next to his skin. Over that an apron of black leather made of the choicest hides. He was bound with a battle belt of cow-hide. Over all he placed his silk cloak, black with a dark border. On his head he placed his warlike battle-helmet. From within it his voice sounded like a roaring lion’s. In his hand he held his battle weapon. The red-flashing, ivory-hilted sword with which he destroyed battalions and armies.(12)

“We meet again, Cenn Obi. The circle is complete. You fostered me and taught me skill in battle. Now I am the master.” Turning from the others Cenn Obi approached and drew his blue-grey sword. Then he recited this poem:

Cold is the snow tonight
My former strength has left me.
Though I be a weak old man
It is only a master of evil thou art.

You will have no victory
Truth of battle against you.
Strike me down now – red the sword-
I shall have power beyond imagining.

Then they began to work their feats on one another. Hacking and slashing, sword blow for sword blow, fiercely contending. At the height of the conflict Cenn Obi put his sword aside. Da Thféider raised his own sharp-striking sword and struck him down. Instead of a corpse, only the wild man’s rags were found on the ground. Lamenting sorely the others fled into the night.

Royal 13 B VIII f.28

They fled out of Erin and took refuge in Alba.(13) It was here the rest of Leia’s people had gone after the massacre at Alt Da Rann. They spent a while lamenting the death of Cenn Obi. It is from this that the poets say:

The tomb of Cenn Obi!
Though none believes he has gone.
After the fight in the hostel,
There is great grief in Alba.

Leia told the others about the hostel and its layout. They began gathering a host to avenge their injuries on Da Thféider. The hostel was well protected on all sides with thick wood and iron bars. The spears and swords would not prevail against it. But if a spear could be thrown through the small window and strike the cauldron, it would spill into the fire and burn the house down. “That is an impossible cast!” cried the warriors. “We will surely die, following a woman over the border!” “It’s not difficult” said Finn. “I used to shoot sparrows in flight with my darts when I was a boy. It can’t be much bigger.”(14)
As the host gathered in the ships to cross the sea, Eogan Aenfer left with his wolfhound. He had to pay tribute to An Botha Mór. This was the disposition of the host as they marched on the hostel of Da Thféider. A company came over the hill of the smooth yew. Three thousand their number with blue cloaks and scallop-edged shields. Another company, no smaller than the last. Green-hooded tunics covered them to their knees. Fierce swords in their hands. A third company on the hill of Eó Mhín. Gold were their cloaks fastened with silver brooches. Broad were their spear heads. The final company approached with Finn at their head. Their swords were ivory hilted and red cloaks covered their shoulders.(15)

As he saw the companies of his enemy arrayed on the hills around him, Da Thféider turned to his steward and said: “This will be a day long remembered. It has seen the end of Cenn Obi. It will soon see the end of all our foes.” Thereafter the Láeich Sín sallied forth from the hostel and met the companies on the field of battle. The warriors began each of them to strike & smite, to hew & cut, to slay & slaughter the others for a long space of time. Abundant was the stream of blood over the white skin of warriors mangled by eager hands. Then Da Thféider came to the field. He had an evil eye. If an army looked at that eye, though they were many thousands in number they would be overcome.(16) Three times Finn’s company surged to the hostel and three times they were driven back by the poisonous power of his eye. Thick were the corpses on that battlefield, so that the feet of the warriors rested on the bloody necks of others.(17)

The red company of Finn prepared a final attack on the hostel. Da Thféider took his place in the van to drive them off. As he opened his baleful eye, Aenfer returned over the hill wooping his war-cry. He took up a sling and cast a stone at Da Thféider. His eye was closed and forced away from the attack. Before he fled the field Da Thféider made a cast at Finn. Artú placed himself before Finn and the spear struck his chest. The company came up to the hostel and Finn prepared to make his cast.Finn readied his own spear. As he threw it, he heard the voice of Cenn Obi “Use your force, Finn”.

hall on fire

The cast flew true towards the hostel. The spear went through the small window and overturned the cauldron over the fire. From this the fire was kindled in the hostel. No water could be found to quench it.(18) So that it spread throughout the walls and doors and burned the hostel to the ground. Of the people of Da Thféider only five out of every hundred survived. He himself fled from the country.

All the people of medicine employed their skill and herbs to seal up the wounds of Artú. A great cheering and rejoicing arose from Leia’s people, celebrating the heroic deeds of the warriors. Aenfer, Cú Bhacca and Finn were honoured in front of the assembled hosts. So far this is the Destruction of Da Thféider’s Hostel and the Tragic Death of Cenn Obi.
Finit. Amen.

A blessing on everyone who will rehearse this tale exactly as it is here and will not add any other form on it.

Sed ego qui scripsi hanc historiam aut uerius fabulam quibusdam fidem in hac historia aut fabula non accommodo. Quaedam enim ibi sunt praestrigia prequelarum, quaedam autem figmenta Lucas, quaedam ad delectationem stultorum. (19)