Of Monsters and Men: Hostile encounters with the supernatural in Acallam na Senórach
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This thesis focuses on bestial monsters in the 12th century text Acallam na Senórach and their interaction with the protagonists of the tale, Saint Patrick and the Fenian warrior Caílte mac Rónáin. Examining lake monsters, birds and canids, this thesis aims to give an overview of the large variety of monsters that occur in the Acallam to gain a better understanding of their origin and purpose, and to determine what their presence is intended to convey to the reader. Most of the examined monsters, in one way or another, represent ‘powers of chaos’ that cause natural disasters. Examples are inundations, plagues and the annihilation of cattle and children. While some of these disasters might be triggered by violence and discord among people, the monsters lack a direct motivation for their actions. They are not attributed a personality, but embody a concept (war, the destructive power of water, etc.), rather than an actual character. This makes them extremely difficult to overcome: they must either be avoided, or faced by a saint or strong warrior, preferably with supernatural powers. The supernatural hound Fer Mac forms an exception: she is an intelligent character whose powers can be harmful, but are not always. Rather than embodying a power of chaos, she demonstrates the consequences of humans mingling in supernatural business.