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Irish Myths and Legends

Eithne - Imprisoned by her Father, Balor of the Evil Eye


note: Eithne is pronounced 'ett-neh'. Balor is pronounced 'bal-ore'. Cian is pronounced 'keen'. 'Lugh' is pronounced 'loo'.

Eithne was the daughter of Balor of the Evil Eye, the King of the supernatural Fomorians. She was a fabulous beauty, sure to enchant any man who ever saw her. Yet her father was a formidable being, possessed of an evil eye that could fell entire armies when opened. Thus it was covered by seven cloaks, only to be revealed when Balor wished to cause mayhem.

Balor had imprisoned Eithne in a high tower on Tory Island so that she would never have a son, as it had been earlier prophesied that Balor himself would be slain by his very own grandson. She was locked away in the tower near to Balor's own castle so he could ensure that she never escaped. She was tended to by twelve other women who were instructed that no mention of a man was ever to be made to her and that she should in fact never even see a man!

Despite this instruction Eithne had long and powerful dreams where she envisioned the noble man that she might spend her life with, if only she could be free of her father. Eventually, events were to take a turn that would dramatically impact the life of Eithne.

Balor's greed in stealing a valuable cow called Glas Ghoibhneann caused Cian, a man of the Tuatha de Danann, to pursue the thief in search of the magical animal, an event that would have long-lasting consequences for Balor.

Cian was transported to Tory Island by the Druidess Birog, where he first laid his eyes on the beautiful Eithne, who in turn immediately recognized Cian from her many dreams. They became lovers, and escaped back to Ireland where their son Lugh was conceived.

Balor was outraged and became very fearful for his own safety. Such was his paranoia that he ordered that his grandson be killed. The evil Balor had the infant Lugh, one of a set of triplets, cast into the waves where the three souls were feared to be lost forever.

But fate intervened. The Druidess Birog, who had originally woven magic spells to bring Cian and Eithne together, cast another spell. Her magic brought Lugh out from the sea into the arms of his father Cian, saved.

Lugh was then fostered by Gavida, the Smith of the Tuatha de Danann and was taught all of the worldly and supernatural arts. His skill with a sword was so great and his reach so long and accurate that he acquired the name 'Lugh of the Long Arm'.

By the time Lugh became a grown man there was warfare afoot again in Ireland. Before the second battle of Moytura, Lugh had identified the special skill of all the leaders of the troops before going into battle, and was fearless.

It was at this moment that the ancient Prophesy that had haunted his family was fulfilled when Lugh killed his grandfather Balor. Balor had lifted his eye with the intention of poisoning all before him but was slain by Lugh with a slingshot that he had expertly fired into the Evil Eye, forcing the eye through the back of Balor's head, focusing its tremendous wrath for one final time on the advancing Fomorians to the rear, slaying countless numbers of them, ending the battle.

And so it was that the father of Eithne, Balor of the Evil Eye, was vanquished forever, unable to prevent the destiny of his daughter from prevailing, even by locking her away in a tower!

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