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In Irish mythology, the Fomorians, Fomors, or Fomori (Irish Fomóiri, Fomóraig) were a semi-divine race who inhabited Ireland in ancient times. They may have once been believed to be the beings who preceded the gods, similar to the Greek Titans.

Formorians by Jhon Duncan © Dundee Art Galleries


It has been suggested that they represent the gods of chaos and wild nature, as opposed to the Tuatha Dé Danann who represent the gods of human civilization. Alternatively, they may represent the gods of a proposed pre-Goidelic population of Ireland


According to the ancient accounts in the Lebor Gabala Erenn the tribes of the Nemedians, Fir-Bolg, and Tuatha Dé all spoke the same tongue and were supposed to be descended from the same family. The Fomorians were a completely separate race with separate language and customs. Although they do intermarry with the Tuatha De Danann in many stories. Neit, a war god, is an ancestor of both.


The word fomóire is believed to derive from Old Irish fo muire (Modern Irish faoi muire), "under the sea". This, combined with their association with glass towers in the western ocean, suggests a connection with icebergs. However the mór element may derive from a word meaning "terror", whose Anglo-Saxon cognate "maere" survives in English "nightmare", but not in "morbid" which instead comes from the latin, all from the Proto-Indo European word *mor : "to rub, pound, wear away". However, Mac Bain holds that there are phonetic inconsistencies with both these theories that would prevent derivation of the long ó in the morpheme "-mór" from "muire, mora" ("sea") or from "mor, mar" (terror, death). His educated opinion leaves the conclusions of Zimmer fomóiri > fo-mór "sub-magnus" (giants, small? giants, nearly? giants, huge people?). In later times any settled pirates or sea-borne raiders were labeled Fomorians and the original meaning of the word became overlooked.


They are sometimes said to to have one eye, one arm and one leg , according to an 11th century text in Lebor na hUidre (the Book of the Dun Cow), or have had the body of a man and the head of a goat, but some, for example Elatha, the father of Bres, was described as having 'golden-hair and being the handsomest man in sight'. Bres himself, for example, carries the epithet "the Beautiful." In ancient times a curse was always pronounced on someone using this one-eyed, one armed, one legged stance as it was deemed to have great magical power, Lugh uses this method to cast a curse at his enemies in the Second Battle of Magh Tuiredh.


The followers of Partholon were said to be the first to invade Ireland after the flood, but the Fomorians were already there: Seathrún Céitinn reports a tradition that the Fomorians, led by Cíocal, had arrived two hundred years earlier and lived on fish and fowl until Partholon came, bringing the plough and oxen. It is possible that this is a memory of Mesolithic hunter-gatherers giving way to Neolithic farmers[1]. Partholon defeated Cíocal in the Battle of Magh Ithe, but all his people later died of plague.

Then came Nemed and his followers. Ireland is said to have been empty for thirty years following the death of Partholon's people, but Nemed and his followers encountered the Fomorians when they arrived. At this point Céitinn reports another tradition that the Fomorians were seafarers from Africa, descended from Noah's son Ham. Nemed defeated them in several battles, killing their leaders Gann (1) and Sengann (1) (note that there were two Fir Bolg kings of the same name), but two new Fomorian leaders arose: Conand son of Faebar, who lived in Conand's Tower on Tory Island, County Donegal, and Morc son of Dela (note that the first generation of the Fir Bolg were also said to be sons of Dela).

After Nemed's death Conand and Morc enslaved his people and demanded a heavy tribute: two thirds of their children, grain and cattle. Nemed's son Fergus Lethderg gathered an army of sixty thousand, rose up against them and destroyed Conand's Tower, but Morc attacked them with a huge fleet, and there was great slaughter on both sides. The sea rose over them and drowned most of the survivors: only thirty of Nemed's people escaped in a single ship, scattering to the other parts of the world.

The next invasion was by the Fir Bolg, who did not encounter the Fomorians.

Next, the Tuatha Dé Danann, who are usually supposed to have been the gods of the Goidelic Irish, defeated the Fir Bolg in the first Battle of Magh Tuiredh and took possession of Ireland. As their king, Nuada, had lost an arm in the battle and was no longer physically whole, their first king in Ireland was the half-Fomorian Bres. He was the result of a union between Ériu of the Tuatha Dé Danann and the Fomorian prince Elatha, who had come to her one night by sea on a silver boat. Both Elatha and Bres are described as very beautiful. However Bres turned out to be a bad king who forced the Tuatha Dé to work as slaves and pay tribute to the Fomorians. He lost authority when he was satirized for neglecting his kingly duties of hospitality. Nuada was restored to the kingship after his arm was replaced with a working one of silver, but the Tuatha Dé's oppression by the Fomorians continued.

Bres fled to his father, Elatha, and asked for his help to restore him to the kingship. Elatha refused, on the grounds that he should not seek to gain by foul means what he couldn't keep by fair. Bres instead turned to Balor, a more warlike Fomorian chief living on Tory Island, and raised an army.

The Tuatha Dé also prepared for war, under another half-Fomorian leader, Lug. His father was Cian of the Tuatha Dé, and his mother was Balor's daughter Ethniu. This is presented as a dynastic marriage in early texts, but folklore preserves a more elaborate story, reminiscent the story of Zeus and Cronus from Greek mythology. Balor, who had been given a prophecy that he would be killed by his own grandson, locked Ethniu in a glass tower to keep her away from men. But when he stole Cian's magical cow, Cian got his revenge by gaining entry to the tower, with the help of a druidess called Biróg, and seducing her. She gave birth to triplets, which Balor ordered drowned. Two of the babies either died or turned into the first seals, but Biróg saved one, Lug, and gave him to Manannan and Tailtiu to foster. As an adult Lug gained entry to Nuada's court through his mastery of every art, and was given command over the army.

The Second Battle of Mag Tuireadh was fought between the Fomorians under Balor and the Tuatha Dé under Lug. Balor killed Nuada with his terrible, poisonous eye that killed all it looked upon. Lug faced his grandfather, but as he was opening his eye Lug shot a sling-stone that drove his eye out the back of his head, wreaking havoc on the Fomorian army behind. After Balor's death the Fomorians were defeated and driven into the sea.

Popular culture

Role playing games and Trading Card Games

  • In the turn-based-strategy role playing game Celtic Tales: Balor of the Evil Eye by Koei, Balor is an end-game boss.
  • In the fantasy role playing game Dungeons & Dragons, the Fomorians are one of the Giant Kin Races.
  • In the fantasy/cyberpunk role playing game Shadowrun, Formorians are a breed of Troll (known for being large and hairy rather than covered with bone deposits), and Wild Formorians are a type of vampiric creature.
  • In the fantasy role playing game Rifts, the Fomorians are an extra-dimensional race that has overrun Scotland in the England worldbook.
  • In White Wolf Game Studio's Changeling: The Dreaming (a part of the World of Darkness), Fomorians are described as "great cthonic entities whose evil was beyond human ken." They may be related to the Fomor (World of Darkness), which are humans transformed into creatures of the Wyrm in the World of Darkness game Werewolf: The Apocalypse. A magical power available to Werewolves in this setting takes the name "Balor's Gaze".
  • In the MMORPG Final Fantasy XI, Fomors are undead or "shadow" versions of the five playable races. They appear as black skinned versions of the player models with glowing eyes.
  • In the MMORPG Dark Age of Camelot, the Fomorians were added to the game with the release of the expansion Shrouded Isles, where they inhabit the Island of HyBrasil, led by their king Balor, who is an end-game boss.
  • In the Celtos wargame, by Brigade Models, Fomorians are orc-like beings and distinct from the other four races of the game (Vanir, Sidhe, Gaels, and Fir Bolg).
  • In the Albion, Land of Faerie wargame published by SPI in the now-defunct Ares magazine (number 11), the Fomorians fought the Sidhe in the Third Fomorian War of 2680. Fomorians are described as larger than men and the source of the legends of Trolls.
  • The design of the Fimir of First Edition Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay are heavily influenced by some descriptions of the Fomorians.
  • In the role playing game Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, Fomor appears as a demon, coming in the form of a giant, humanoid, goat-headed being with shaggy fur all over its body.
  • Fomorians also appear in the game Nethergate, set during Roman Britain.
  • Fomori Nomad is a creature in Future Sight expansion of Magic: the Gathering
  • In the Alternative Armies table top war game Erin The Fomorians are one of the available warbands.

See also

Fomorians not previously mentioned:


Part of this article consists of modified text from Wikipedia, and the article is therefore licensed under GFDL.