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The Formoris
in Celtic Folk Tales


"I have always preferred mythology to history, because history is a truth which is altered from mouth to mouth and becomes a lie, while the myth, from mouth to mouth, takes strength and comes to be true."

Jean Cocteau

In the Book of Invasions (Leabhar Gebala), the ancient Goidels tell the arrival in Ireland of a Proto-Celtic people, the "People of the Goddess Dana" (Tuathas Dé Danann). Proud and violents, they clash with local populations and mostly with other Proto-Celts, the "Lightning Men" (Fir Bolg), which they defeat during the first battle of Magh Tuiread (Moytura).

However, during this fight, the king of the Daneans, Nuada, is seriously injured and his right hand is severed. As an infirm, he can no longer rule.

Another people then steps in, the Formoris (Fomors or Formoraich). Coming from the sea, they impose a regent to the Daneans: Bres-the-Handsome, son of a Formori king and of a Danean princess. The Book of Invasions depicts Bres as a greedy king and an oppressor of the Daneans. The Proto-Celts eventually enter into rebellion and restore the king Nuada as their leader. In the meantime he was given a silver hand to replace the one he lost.

Driven out of his throne, Bres asks for the help of the Formoris. The confrontation occurs again in Magh Tuiread and numerous feats of arms are reported. It is during this battle that Lug-the-Long-Handed, a Danean, slains his Formori grand-father, Balor-the Evil-Eye, head of the Formori armies. The Danean magus Diancecht rises the dead Danean warriors with a magic cauldron that the Formoris vainly try to fill in with rocks. Finally, the Danean champion, Ogma takes Orna, the sword of the Formori king Tethra which sings its feats when it is unsheathed.

The Formoris are "definitely defeated and repelled beyond the edge of the world."

Later, the Daneans themselves will be defeated by other Proto-Celts, the Milesians, or "Sons of Milé," who will become the Goidels of Ireland.

The Battle of Magh Tuiread seen by the Irish artist Jim Fitzpatrick. The Formoris are in dark
Jim Fitzpatrick © 2000

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