Flann Mainistrech's Götterdämmerung as a Junction within Lebor Gabála Érenn

Eystein Thanisch

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


The poem, ‘Éistid a eolchu cen ón’, attributed to Flann Mainistrech (ob. 1056), appears exclusively in the medieval Gaelic pseudo-historical compilation, Lebor Gabála Érenn. It recounts the deaths of the Túatha Dé Danann, who are sometimes referred to as the 'gods' of pre-Christian Ireland.

In most versions of Lebor Gabála, the poem appears as part of a discussion of whether the Túatha Dé Danann were humans or demons. However, after analysing the latest research on the complex history of the development of the compilation, this paper demonstrates that the poem was used in earlier versions of the compilation simply to supplement the genealogies of the Túatha Dé Danann. The role of the poem in the development of the controversy in the prose of Lebor Gabála over the identity of the Túatha Dé Danann is also explored.

A study of ‘Éistid a eolchu cen ón’ in its various manuscript contexts offers important insights into the nature of medieval Gaelic literary argumentation and, in particular, the relationship between prose and verse in prosimetric texts. It has often been asserted that poetry functions as a source of authority for prose in medieval Gaelic literature: this case study presents an interesting example of how this authority could be manipulated and how the poem, as static and immutable ‘evidence’, forms a single junction for a range of interpretations and rhetorical usages.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationQuaestio Insularis
Subtitle of host publicationSelected Proceedings of the Cambridge Colloquium in Anglo-Saxon Norse and Celtic
Publication statusPublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


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