Who were the Formorians?
In my novel, Shining Ones: Legacy of the Sidhe, Formorians are the bad guys. They’re used to this role: they’ve been the villains of Irish mythology for thousands of years.
Fierce, seafaring people from the North (most likely Scandinavians), they were pirates and warlords who demanded tribute of food and slaves. In the Irish annals, they’re monstrous and grotesque, with body parts in all the wrong places (lips on breasts, eyes on backs, mouths in stomachs). Scottish legends describe them as giants.
It’s easy to imagine warriors maimed from battle and literally dressed to kill presenting a terrifying appearance, but how to account for the strange abilities they had? Balor, the war leader, was said to have a lethal, burning eye so large it took four men to open his eyelid. Balor’s wife, Cethlinn, exuded deadly venom. Formorians were more than fierce fighters; they had supernatural skills, as well.
When the Tuatha dé Danann first encountered Formorians in Ireland, they turned back to their four cities in Danu’s Land (Denmark) to rethink their plan of colonizing the island. Some Dananns must have remained because a future Danann king, Bres, was the son of a Danann woman and a Formorian leader named Elatha.
Elatha contradicts the image of ugly, misshapen Formorians. Seen landing his boat, he was so appealing to the Danann woman Eriu, she was smitten on the spot. Their brief encounter resulted in pregnancy and a bit of remorse on her part. To console her, Elatha gave her his ring, telling her to send his son to him when the boy grew to manhood. Elatha would acknowledge their child as his heir.
Fate had other plans for half-Formorian Bres, called “the beautiful.” In need of a king after their first battle on the island, the Dananns elected Bres. He was also wed to Brigid, daughter of the Dagda, Danann patriarch. These strategic moves, the Dananns hoped, would keep peace with Formorians.
The alliance didn’t work. Bres turned out to be a stingy king, violating the code of hospitality so important to Bronze Age peoples. He was deposed. Going to Elatha, whom he expected to help him fight his way back to kingship, Bres learned his father valued honor. Elatha told Bres he’d been a bad king and didn’t deserve the job.
Bres turned to other Formorian leaders for support. They agreed to fight the Dananns, and chose the plane near Moytura, Co. Sligo, for battle. The scene was set for the Second Battle of Mag Tuired.