The Silver Arm

I have owned a copy of Jim Fitzpatrick’s The Book of Conquests for many years, but for some reason I never got a copy of the sequel. When I noticed a copy in my local bookstore, I figured it was about time to get one.

Fitzpatrick’s book is, of course, a graphic novel adaptation of the Leabhar Gabhála Éireann, the Book of the Taking of Ireland. The first part is mostly taken up with the arrival of the Tuatha Dé Danann and their war with the Fir Bolg, culminating in the first battle of Maighe Tuireadh. Although the Dé Danann are victorious, their king, Nuada, loses his right arm in the battle. The laws of the Dé Danann state that their king must be physically perfect, so Nuada is forced to abdicate. Book 2, The Silver Arm, takes up the story.

The Dé Danann elect as their new king a chap called Breas the Beautiful who had fought bravely in the battle and is also very handsome. Unfortunately he turns out to be a terrible king, being ungenerous and prone to favouring flatterers. The Dé Danann turf him out, and Nuada, who has been made a silver prothesis to replace his lost arm, resumes the kingship.

Unfortunately, Breas’s father was one of the mysterious Fomorians. Those people take badly to his ousting, and war once again looms. It ends in a second battle at Maighe Tuireadh in which the young hero, Lugh, saves the day by killing the Fomorian wizard, Balor One-Eye.

King Nuada, from The Book of Conquests

That’s a very brief summation of the plot. It is much more complicated than that. And, because this is a story written down by Christian monks based on ancient oral traditions, it is quite confused in places. The most mysterious aspect of the story is the Fomorians themselves, because they are not treated as inhabitants of Ireland, and yet they are always there. Possibly this is because they spend much of their time on their fastness of Tory Island (which is a real place, not a euphemism for England). Or possibly because they are not human at all.

These days we are used to thinking of the Tuatha Dé Danann as fairy folk, but at one point in the story, being short on manpower, Lugh enlists the aid of the Sídhe. Although Nuada is probably best known for his silver arm, at one point in the story it is deemed insufficient for him to qualify for kingship so he gets a replacement flash arm instead. From a literary point of view it is all a bit messy but, as with The Mabinogion, it is all we have.

If I simply wanted a version of the Leabhar Gabhála, I could get a modern translation. But I love Fitzpatrick’s version because of his amazing art. Hopefully the examples I have included here will help you understand why.

Lugh fights Balor, from The Silver Arm

book cover
Title: The Silver Arm
By: Jim Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Paper Tiger
Purchase links:
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Amazon US
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