In writing “Three Wells of the Sea,” I patterned the Five Quarters very loosely on Ireland, a land that knew successive invasion by magical and powerful tribes. I’m certain they are no different than other lands except that we have written sources that refer to these invasions, oral tales transcribed in the Dark Ages by Christian monks who decided that recording the ancient histories was a holy duty. They dressed the stories up in thinly veiled Christianity and turned the old gods into heroes or saints. But the antiquity of these tales is well known, though most scholars consider them myths rather than histories. But like the Trojan War, I feel there are strong elements of fact dressed up in myth.
“The Book of Invasions” or “Lebor Gabála Érenn” which directly translates into “The Taking of Ireland,” describes six successive invasions of Ireland, each resulting in clashes on the battlefield and the wielding of weapons of magical origin.
The first person to land in Ireland according to these tales was the woman, Cessair. Of course, she was the daughter of Noah and sailed west to escape the flood. She landed with forty nine women and three men when all but one ship was lost at sea. It is interesting to note that some of the names of the women on this journey were the names of entire tribes of people. Like Alba, the foremother of Britain, Espa—Spain, etc. It has been noted that the ship contained a microcosm of the world’s cultures, borne to the shores of an unknown land. None of them survived, however, except one man, Fintan, who reincarnated into different animals and men over the course of five thousand years to tell the tale of Cessair’s voyage.
Partholon tries again three hundred years later. He runs into opposition from a shadowy people known as the Fomorians. I liken these people to the Titans of Greek myth, primeval gods who have little empathy for humans of any kind. When the descendants of Partholon die of plague, the invader, Nemed, follows. After a succession of battles with the Fomorians, the Nemedians bow to them and sacrifice two thirds of their children , their corn and their milk to the Fomorians. Until they had enough and revolted. This ended badly for the Nemedians. The survivors fled to Britain or back to Greece.
The Fir Bolg are next. They are the ones who divide Ireland into five kingdoms, often called the five fourths, hence the Five Quarters. They established thriving kingdoms led by five chieftains all answering to the high king who ruled them all. Everything was cool until one day a host of invaders traveled in a dark cloud and landed on a mountain in the west. These were the Tuatha De Danaan, a mystical people who came from the far north. They possessed substantial magic and they subjugated and absorbed the Fir Bolg with ease, giving them only one kingdom while they took the rest. The Tuatha De are much written about in fantasy fiction. There is a timeless fascination with the origin of these people or gods and their exile to the Otherworld. The mythic stories of their interaction with the invaders and their descendants shape much of Irish myth and fairy tale.
But the day came when a warlike tribe arrived from Spain. The Milesians' swords proved too much for the Tuatha De’s magic and a truce was called upon the Plain of Slaughter. The land would be split in two, the Milesians took the land while the Tuatha De ruled the Otherworld, the land beneath the land, on the other side of the well.
So, in “Three Wells of the Sea,” the Tuatha De inspired the Old Blood, the Milesians inspired the Ildana. It isn’t hard to overlay some strong suppositions on these stories, namely, it can be assumed the Milesians had steel and the Tuatha De had nothing but stone and a nature magic akin to the workings of the Green Gods. Which means, their land of exile just might be our own.