Studia Hibernica

The bristle of Balar’s boar, Diarmaid’s misstep and the gae bolga: background and analogues

Studia Hibernica (2018), 44, (1), 35–78.

Abstract

This article, the third in a series focused on fantastic spears in medieval Irish narrative, aims to shed further light on traditions about, or more or less reminiscent of, Cú Chulainn’s most famous weapon, the gae bolga ‘spear of the bulge’. Its starting point is a tradition, first attested in Scotland in the sixteenth century, that the young hero Diarmaid ó Duibhne died after treading on a monstrous boar’s poisonous dorsal bristle, one compared with a late form of the gae bolga. This bizarre demise is contextualised through examination of a selection of medieval Celtic episodes with comparable elements, principally from the Irish Táin Bó Cúailnge, the Welsh Culhwch ac Olwen and the widespread story of the Cornish warrior Tristan. In the process, previously obscure aspects of these important comparanda are brought into focus.

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Details

Author details

Pettit, Edward