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Fir Bolg: Where Irish Lore and D&D cross

Welcome ladies and gentlemen, it is time yet again for some Gear Grease. So make sure it is the brew you like, sit back and enjoy yourself as we look at Fir Bolg.

I will start with the D&D version of Firbolg. While they go back to the original version of D&D, it was Volo's Guide to Monsters that made them a playable race. These are medium sized creatures that are kin to giants. Firbolg are the most intelligent race of giants. Men of this race generally stand over 10 foot and weight 500lbs. They are often secluded from other sentient races. Firbolgs in general do not have names. They will when needed take on Elvish names to interact with outsiders. As a playable character they get a bonus to their intelligence and are well suited to be a druid. They come with innate magical abilities including a temporary invisibility. Speech of the leaf is written as "You have the ability to communicate in a limited manner with beasts and plants. They can understand the meaning of your words, though you have no special ability to understand them in return. You have advantage on all Charisma checks you make to influence them."

Now for the Irish Myths. The Fir Bolg are a group of Nemed, the third people to settle Ireland, who fled to Greece. Two other groups of Nemed are discussed in Irish Myth as well. One group who fled to the North becoming the Tuath Dé and another who fled to Britain. All three groups fled Ireland due to warfare and/or disaster.One tale even states a demon drove the original Fir Bolg from Ireland. When this group of Nemed fled to Greece they became slaves and were given Fir Bolg as their name meaning "Men of Bags." This was due to the bags of soil and clay they were forced to carry. This enslavement lasted for 230 years until five brother hatched a plot to return to Ireland and each rule a section of the country. Thus they became the fourth people to invade Ireland.

The Fir Bolg would arrive in three waves. The first known as Gaileoin led by Sláine mac Dela. This group of 1000 would rule Lester. Gann and Sengann would lead the next group and rule the province of Munster. The last group to arrive the Fir Domnann was 2000 strong. They were led by Genann, who laid claim to Connacht, and Rudraige, who was given Ulster. The Fir Bolg would rule Ireland for 37 years.

The Tuath De would end the reign of the Fir Bolg. Eochaid mac Eirc, the Fir Bolg king, foresees their arrival in a dream. The arrive in 300 ships which they burn upon arrival. First, Bres of the Tuatha Dé Danann enters into negotiations with Sreng, the champion of the Fir Bolg, and asks that the Fir Bolg engage in combat or yield half of Ireland to them. The Fir Bolg opted for combat. The two clashed at the Balgatan Pass, where a four-day combat ensued. Sreng confronts Nuada, and with a single sword stroke he amputates Nuada's right hand. The Tuatha Dé Danann, however, take control. The Tuatha Dé Danann offer the Fir Bolg three options: leave Ireland, share the land with them, or carry on the conflict. They choose to engage in battle. Nuada is challenged by Sreng to a duel. Sreng refuses Nuada's demand that he tie up one arm in order to level the playing field during the fight. The Tuatha Dé Danann then make the decision to propose giving the Fir Bolg one of Ireland's regions. Sreng decides on Cóiced Ol nEchmacht, and the conflict is resolved.

The Fir Bolg however are not just a mythological race. Their descendants live among us today. Ptolemy of Alexandria noted them in his geography of Ireland in the 2nd century. Although he specifically references the Menappi a tribe of Fir Bolg. Fir Bolg became the hereditary enemies of the Gaeil, and were denied rights and privileges under Brehon Law. The Laighin eventually received and accepted a genealogy claiming their descent from Gaedheal Glas. This entitled them, as Gaeil, to full rights and privileges under Féineachas. Somehow, the Fir Domnann and Gáilióin did not receive or refused to accept a Gaelic genealogy, and so were classified as Fir Bolg.

Now I don't expect anyone to say any of these words aloud in quick succession. I doubt I could read it aloud without butchering some of the words. What I do hope is that you learned something while sitting down and reading this with your cup of Gear Grease.

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