This page is a repository for several interrelated Celtic myths. It is still Under Construction. For the moment, it contains my own brief retellings of what I recall of the various myths. Some day, Real Soon Now, I will find a good source and fill these out.

At present it contains the stories of:

  • Bran, the Blessed
  • The Rich Fisher
  • The Lamed King
  • The Fisher King
  • Bran, the Blessed

    Bran, the Blessed, was one of the children of Don (the children of light as opposed to Llyr's children of the dark). He was something of a giant and the king of all Britain. He had many treasures, among them the Cauldron of Knowledge, a divination tool into which one could gaze, seeking knowledge and foreknowledge. His other treasures, as I recall, included a spear, and his own severed head was used as an oracle for some 75-80 years after his death. It was buried on a hill in London, or perhaps in Glastonbury.

    Bran, deific king of the Island of Britain, is often identified with King Arthur, and many of the tales of Bran became associated with Arthur as he was transformed from Emperor and Dux Bellorum to King of Britain. Bran's cauldron came to be associated with the Holy Grail.

    The Rich Fisher

    The rich fisher was an apprentice fisherman. He and his master sought to catch the wonderful Salmon of Knowledge. He who eats the Salmon, it was told, would gain all the world's knowledge, or the knowledge of how to understand the speech of bird and beast. As it happened, it was the apprentice that actually caught the Salmon, but his master, as the master, claimed the right to eat it and receive the Gift of Knowledge. But as preparing the fish was a menial task, he commanded the apprentice to prepare it but not to taste it.

    The apprentice, being a good law-abiding sort, did as he was told and fried the fish. As he was cooking it the grease popped and splattered. A dollop of the grease hit the apprentice on the hand, burning him. Without thinking he stuck his finger in his mouth, sucking at the burn. In doing so, he became the first to taste the Salmon and received the Gift of all Knowledge. He served the Salmon to the master, but when the master didn't receive the Gift he knew that it had already gone to the apprentice.

    There are some similarities between this tale and the story of Siegfried (or Sigurd, the D actually being edh or eth, an 'edh' or 'eth' -- the Germanic TH character). In some versions Siegfried bathes in or drinks the blood of a dragon and gains from that the ability to understand the language of the birds and other beasts. (In other versions he gets invulnerability from bathing in the blood except for one spot where leaf stuck on his back kept the blood from touching.) Other tales tell of his wresting a treasure (the Rheingold) from Fafnir and his one or two brothers. In some tales Fafnir is a dragon, In others he is a dwarf, a dwarf with a magic salmon skin, and Sigurd catches him in Salmon form. He demands from the salmon the treasure, information that leads to the treasure, or just knowledge in a purer form.

    The Lamed King

    There are many versions of the story of the Lamed King. In all of them the King and his kingdom both suffer. The King is lamed and sickly and the kingdom suffers. The crops won't grow and everything is dark and gloomy. In a mythic sense, the King is the kingdom and that fact bespeaks his divine right to rule. In order to save the kingdom, the King must be healed.

    In one important version of this story, there is a sacred treasure, and when the treasure is lost or stolen, the King becomes ill and the kingdom blighted. To save King and kingdom, the treasure must be retrieved.

    The Fisher King

    The story of the Fisher King is a later version of the story of the Lamed King, drawing on aspects of the story of the Rich Fisher and King Bran. In this version, the Grail takes on the role of the Lamed King's treasure, Bran's cauldron of knowledge and the Rich Fisher's skillet. It is the source of the King's wisdom and the sign of his sacred kingship. It must be recovered to save both King and kingdom.

    I know of two different versions of the Fisher King story, both involving Sir Perceval, one of the knights of the Round Table. In one version, the pure and simple Perceval (portrayed much as Sir Galahad would be later) is visiting the ailing Fisher King. The knight asks the king about the Grail, and the mere question (and by implication the search for knowledge and salvation) heals the king, his kingdom and the whole world.

    In the other version, Perceval who has been scolded for asking too many questions fails to ask the question and thus the king isn't healed. Later he begins to ask learn about the Grail and begins to quest for it.

    An updated version of the tale was the basis of a very successful movie starring Robin Williams.

    August 10, 1995