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Cumhall


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Fenian Cycle

Conn Cétchathach legendary high-king of Ireland

Fianna

James Macpherson (1736—1796) writer

 

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[from the earlier Ir. Umall; initial C- elided from ‘mac’ in the patronymic mac Umaill/mac Cumhaill].

Father of Fionn and leader of the Clan Baíscne in the Fenian Cycle. Cumhall sometimes bears the patronymic mac Trénmóir, although next to nothing survives of anyone with the name Trénmór. Cumhall desires Muirenn, sometimes known as Muirenn of the White Neck, but she does not return his affections. Cumhall then abducts Muirenn, bringing down the vengeance of her father, Tadg, and his protector, Conn Cétchathach [of the Hundred Battles]. This also brings about the enmity between the Clan Baíscne, the descendants of Cumhall, and Clan Morna, the descendants of Tadg and his warrior Goll. In variant texts Cumhall fathers Fionn upon Fuinche or Torba. In the best-known version of Cumhall's death, Fotha Catha Chnucha [The Cause of the Battle of Cnucha or Castletown], he is killed by Goll mac Morna. In other versions he is killed by Conn Cétchathach alone or by the keeper of the crane bag [corrbolg]. In modern folktales, especially Scottish Gaelic versions, Cumhall is killed by the villainous Arca Dubh [‘Black Arky’, etc.]. Muirenn gave birth to Fionn after Cumhall's death by retreating to the house of Bodhmall, sometimes described as her sister. Cumhall's brother Crimnal is described as surviving the Battle of Cnucha and later joining the Fianna. The assertion that Cumhall may be related to Camulos or to King Cole of nursery rhymes has been rejected by contemporary learned commentators. James Macpherson based the character of Comhal in Ossian (1760) on Cumhall. W. B. Yeats appears to have borrowed Cumhall in his poem ‘The Blessed’ (1897).

Subjects: Religion.


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