No. 130 – Sláine

Sláine [Irish for “integrity”] futuregraph by Simon Bisley v Cú Chulainn by J.C. Leyendecker (1874–1951) [not necessarily this particular image]

Born Sétanta and acquiring the nickname Cú Chulainn (“Culann’s Hound”) in his early youth, this mythological hero is largely unknown outside Ireland; the preference being for more folksy heroes such as Finn mac Cumhaill of the Fenian and Oisínian Cycles, particularly among Irish-Americans, rather than the tales of the more brutal and earthy Ulster Cycle, the events of which took place about 300 years earlier, around the time of the birth of Christ.

Writer Pat Mills’ (along with co-creator Angela Kincaid) exquisitely adapted Sláine draws deeply from a rich resource of Celtic mythology with which most Irish school children will be all too familiar, whether thrilled or bored.

Recommend further reading: Myths & Legends of the Celtic Race by T. W. Rolleston (1855–1920) as it summarises everything from the earliest mythological invasions of Ireland, including the stories preceding and following the events of Táin Bó Cúailnge [“The Cattle Raid of Cooley” or more commonly The Táin; the Ulster Cycle’s epic saga relating the deeds of Cú Chulainn; variously described as “Ireland’s own Iliad,” and “basically one long obituary of all the people he killed”], up to and including the Arthurian legends, and which contains wonderfully Victorian footnotes along the lines of, “the ancient Celts do seem to have quite a keen sense of honour and duty for a bunch of backward savages.”

Should one feel up to the task of tackling The Táin itself, Thomas Kinsella’s translation is to be preferred to Ciaran Carson’s more recent translation as it provides more context to the events of The Táin, and more of the glorious “… and he didn’t think it too many” idioms that Mills adopted in Sláine – it was indeed to Kinsella’s translation that Mills referred.2000AD Megaverse on Facebook

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