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Subject: Re: Echtra Nerai II.30
From: D B <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Scholars and students of Old Irish <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Wed, 10 Mar 2004 21:46:02 +0000

text/plain (72 lines)

Dennis King wrote:

>Patricia Ronan discusses the "three wonderful gifts" at some
>length in her article "Aspects of Echtra Nerai",


i just got around to reading this interesting article. off the subject of
the "three treasures", she makes a connection with nera's carrying firewood
and ogma being forced to do the same thing, as an example of the
"illegitimacy" of the sovereigns involved.
this might have already been discussed before, but in thinking of the
firewood, i started thinking about possible thematic parallels between the
different parts of the story:

nera, with the corpse, visits THREE houses, associated with
1) fire,
3) "destruction" (death by disease).

in the sidhe, these are paralleled by
1) carrying firewood (the "source" of fire in the home)
2) a well ( the source of a household's water)
3) a vision of destruction (by the fairy-host -? source of disease/
destruction perhaps?)

there is also the parallel of one figure carrying a second figure on his
back, where the second figure lacks mobility (dead/lame) but "reveals"
information to the first figure who wouldn't normally be able to see these
things (corpse explains the conditions at each house/ lame man must tell the
blind one whether the crown is in the well)

also, when telling nera to go back to warn his people, his wife specifically
mentions the cauldron and the ashes of the fire. (might this be, in reverse
order now, 1) rescue from destruction, 2)cauldron (? water being used?) 3)
fire (? wood being used?) ?)

also paralleling the three houses, nera visits the otherworld three times:
1st-carries firewood after seeing his home burned = fire
2nd- newly born son, and a calf (? birth = water--if you want to get
freudian. though this is a stretch.)
3rd--destruction of the sidhe

i am reminded of jaan puhvel's discussion of fire and water being connected
with sovereignty. there are some parallels to think about:
--iran: the "luminous and fiery hallmark of the duly elect king" in the
mythical lake vourukasa. three attempts were made to seize it, resulting in
a flood.
---ireland: nechtan's well and boand (boand loses an eye, a hand, and a
thigh. might this connect to "three failed attempts" of the iranian story,
as well as the blind man carrying a lame man?)
--greece: oil producing well, called "napas" (fire in water=flammable
liquid. paralleled in nera by cauldron in the fire (as well as crown in
---rome: lacus albanus- where romans consult an oracle that warns them of a
future menace by the veii, unless a flood occurring on neptunalia is

essentially, puhvel proposes a model of "usurper" or illegitimate pretenders
trying to claim the authority of a fiery substance concealed in some sacred
water, which results in their destruction.
in nera, the illegitimate pretender seems not to be the humans who seize the
treasures from the sidhe, but in fact the sidhe-people themselves. it is the
sidhe king who proves himself illegitimate on several occasions, and in fact
it is two people from the sidhe who are crippled and blinded (to parallel


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