Women in Celtic Literature Essay

843 Words 4 Pages
Most readers of the famed Irish and Welsh tales focus on the male characters and their great feats. Celtic literature, however, features a full complement of female characters that deserve recognition; from warriors and rulers, to helpmates and daughters. These women function as either their own entity, or extensions of their male relations. All play crucial roles in their perspective texts, essentially driving the action of the plot and setting into motion a series of events that affect the male characters.

Flirtation is one means to incite action. Rhiannon from branch one of The Mabigoni employs the tactic in order to escape an unwanted marriage. The otherworldly Rhiannon appears to King Pywll and his retainers
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In order to remain with her lover, she attempts to kill her husband. The stepmother from “Culhwch and Olwen” owns no name, but functions as the reason behind Culhwch’s heroic journey. She curses her stepson to never marry until he attains Olwen daughter of Ysabaddaden Chief-giant, setting into action his quest to unite with his Cousin Arthur, and retrieve his bride.

The characters Ceridwen and Macha create action in their plots via their anger. Ceridwen, from The Mabigoni, actually births a cultural hero out of her anger. She creates a magical potion that will give her ugly son knowledge, but learns someone other than her son received the brew. “In a frenzy” she pursues the thief, Gwion Bach, in multiple forms, eventually assuming the shape of a hen and swallowing him while he exists in the shape of a grain (“Gwion Bach,” 164). Nine months later, Gwion Bach, now the cultural hero Taliesin, is reborn from her womb. Macha, from The Táin, helps create part of the setting for the Great Cattle Raid. In the prelude, the Ulster king forces Macha to participate in a horse race. The race induces childbirth, and in anger, she curses the men of Ulster to experience birth pangs once a year, for nine generations. At the Great Cattle Raid, the hero Cúchulainn fights off the army mainly by himself due to the crippling pangs of the country’s native men.

The intelligence of Emer and Nes from The Táin, and Mac Daa Tho’s wife from Early Irish Myths and