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Oscar


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1 Osgar, Oscur, Osca [Ir., deer-lover (?); cf. os, fawn]. A leading warrior of Fenian narrative, ‘the Galahad of the Cycle’, the son of Oisín and the grandson of Fionn mac Cumhaill. As he does not appear in Fenian literature until the 11th century, some commentators have suggested that Oscar was originally an alternative form for Oisín. As a youth, Oscar is thought so maladroit that the other Fianna refuse to take him along on their adventures. Eventually, however, he becomes a focus for the idealization of storytellers; he is consistently the bravest, the most stalwart, the most frequently victorious. If a warrior is called for a single combat with a fearsome challenger, Oscar most readily serves. Oral-tradition texts have Oscar wrestling Goll mac Morna to establish himself as the strongest of all the Fianna. He engages in overseas adventures accompanied by Labraid Lámderg [red hand]. In Tóraighecht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne [The Pursuit of Diarmait and Gráinne], Oscar sympathizes with the fugitive lovers against his grandfather. Étaín (3) is Oscar's usual consort, although he is a pale lover compared to Diarmait. Oscar's climactic moment in the Cycle comes in Cath Gabhra [The Battle of Gabhair/Gowra], when he mortally wounds the hated Cairbre Lifechair, whose dying act is to thrust a spear through Oscar's heart. Oscar dies with a jest on his lips, provoking Fionn to weep as he does at no other point in the Cycle. The slain hero is then buried under a great cairn at Benn Étair [Howth]. But Oscar's persona survives his death. In the Christianized story of the Fianna's escape from hell, Oscar is the critical rearguard, wielding an unbreakable thong so that his comrades can break free. Oisín tells St Patrick in Acallam na Senórach [The Colloquy of the Elders] that only God can defeat Oscar.

2 Name of a second son born to Oisín during his liaison with Niam in Tír na nÓg.

3 Character in James Macpherson's Poems of Ossian (1760–3), based on Oscar (1). Son of Ossian, grandson of Fingal, he is killed in Book I of Temora when provoked at a dinner by Cairbar's druid Olla. Malvina is his grieving widow. The popularity of Macpherson's Ossian made the name Oscar widely known in Europe. After Marshal Bernadotte of France became King Charles XIV of Sweden, he and his wife, Désirée Cleary, daughter of a Dublin merchant, named their son Oscar, who became Oscar I of Sweden and Norway (1844–59).

Subjects: Religion.


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