Thursday, January 9, 2014

Leaba Na Lún


A piece I did for my upcoming exhibition in UCC about place and the Irish language. The illustration is of Leaba na Lúin, which means the bed of Lún, it is one of several names given to the Cairn ontop of Corrin hill in North Cork, just outside Fermoy. The story goes it got its name from a creature named Lún, that was said to be a 4 legged amphibious monster with prominent eyes and  a tail that with a single lash could uproot an oak. This creature would leave his otherworld dwelling in the cairn every night to drink from a famous cow in the area named Druimfhionn, which means fair/white backed, starving the locals. So the locals sent for Fionn, the leader of the Fianna, an ancient band of warriors and he came with his giant hound Bran to get rid of the monster. They crept up to Lún's lair on top of the hill and in the ensuing struggle Bran killed Lún, stopping the thieving monster.

But the cairn retained the name Leaba na Lúin, according to some stories anyway, others its called Cairn Tighernaigh,and others still Cairn Thierna, during my researching there was something  in the region of 5-7 other fairytales from different times about that hill and its cairn, including one about the famous Munster druid Mogh Roith but as they say in Irish sin scéal eile (thats another story). The white backed cow gives its name to several placenames in the area, for instance Glenabo, from 'Gleann na mBó', meaning glen of the cow, another Ballyorgan Bog or originally known as Corrach na Druiminne (Marsh of the white backed cow) was a marsh at the bottom of the hill that has since been drained. So this was no ordinary cow, most likely, like the story of the bulls in Táin Bó Cúailnge, this cow was semi mythical, maybe even a local diety, as what better symbol of a feeding nuturing nature, than a milk giving cow? Perhaps the story is representative of some otherworldly being sapping the land of its milk, and only Fionn and Bran could rid the land of this curse.

10 comments:

  1. Nice work man, I always pictured Bran much smaller myself, I think its because Fionn kills her by crushing her with is legs. But I imagine there are several versions of that tale.
    The monster is cool, I like the body, very powerful looking and ferocious in general.

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  2. Thanks a million Mike! I was a bit worried doing the monster and Bran as I dont usually do animals and creatures, so could have gone either way.

    And ya I probably went a bit overboard with Bran. I was reading in the book "lore of Ireland", that the earliest reference to Bran said that the dog had blue feet. a purplish haunch, white sides, tall with its head was as high as Fionn shoulder and fierce eye in its shapely head. So I exaggerated a little too much according to that description on this one. I do remember reading once in the "introduction to Early Irish literature" that the Fianna showed elements of Lycanthrope, and their dogs were much more than just dogs, so I always think of them more like werewolves than simple hounds

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  3. Well considering how long ago it was and how big the ancient irish dogs were, Bran probably was a monster alright, I think I just pictured her that way because I'm used to small dogs.
    I always presumed there was a bit of the animal about the fianna, they hunted deer on foot for crying out loud

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  4. ya, true, I heard one archaeologist say there is more hunter gatherer-/Mesolithic type feel to the Fianna mythology, as they spend their whole time out in the wild.

    I was reading lately too that Fionn had a hood, when he would put it on he would change form to any animal he wished. Lycanthropy/shapeshifting right there

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  5. Irish mythology is rife with shape shifting though, particularly the really early stuff.
    I read once that most early cultures had lycanthropy stories that were designed to keep people away from rabies, for instance an early way of becoming a werewolf was to drink from the same watering hole as wolves, which would of course give you rabies if it was in there and surviving a bite from a wolf that was infected would do it. And an early people who didnt know anything about disease could be excused from thinking that person was becoming one when they went insane and frothed at the mouth

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  6. ya very true, they never knew if they were chases a boar or was it a síog/sí/sidhe in disguise.

    Having some moral lesson is probably very true. like you find some Scottish fairytales about creatures living in ponds and lochs, that will drown children who get too close to the water. Good stories but with an element of warning too no doubt.

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  7. Of course, most stories were deigned to instruct and that lesson is easier learned if its entertaining too, we still do it, even now, a story anyone makes up is always more impactful if their is a lesson or reason behind it, even if it isn't obvious

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  8. Very true, I suppose with the earlier Fianna stories it was more than just lessons but them trying the best they could to understand the world. But also probably because they didnt live in a world of fact, one where reality was always a little mixed with imagination. Would have been a fun time to live!

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  9. Well that's the last time I go to Fermoy, that story is terrifying. ;) you've done the monster justice, that thing will haunt my dreams.But seriously, nice work JG. :)

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  10. Thanks again Eleanor! I dont get to do monsters often but they are fun to design!

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