The Wild Hunt Are Irish, Actually

Eredin Bréacc Glas, King of the Wild Hunt – now there’s an intimidating name! Do you want to know what it actually means? Eredin Green Trout. If you’ve ever seen a fish in real life, you’ll know that trout are not, in fact, green. A decent trout is about two quid at the butchers, so if you’re a discolored green one, you’ve probably been swimming in toxic waste and aren’t worth 50 cents. Kind of takes away from his big skull-face plate helmet, eh?

It’s no coincidence that Eredin’s name can be translated to Irish. Most of the terminology used to describe the Wild Hunt is derived from Celtic mythology or linguistics, with Eredin’s own Red Riders – known officially as the Dearg Ruadhri – coming directly from Irish, too. “Dearg” means red in Irish, whereas “Ruadhri” is a Gaelic name that means red-haired king in Irish and Scottish Gaelic. So Eredin’s squad are basically called the Red Red-Haired Kings – yes, they call themselves red twice.

I’m only poking fun. I’m Irish and while I’m not fluent – the vast majority of Irish people aren’t – I’ve got a proficiency for the language that’s well beyond basic conversational. So when I saw that the Wild Hunt were spotted filming season two of The Witcher on the beaches of Devon over the weekend, I was immediately reminded of how funny their names are. Well, to tell you the truth, my immediate response was “Why are the Wild Hunt already in The Witcher and what on Earth are they wearing,” but it only took a few minutes for me to lapse back into “haha green trout.”

If you reckon I’m just clutching at straws here, I regret to inform you that you’re totally wrong. The Wild Hunt’s relationship with Celtic mythology goes way beyond a few character names. You know the way the Wild Hunt are a race of spectral elves called the Aen Elle who live in a parallel universe that partially exists alongside our own one? Well, the ordinary elves are called the Aen Seidhe, and also used to live in a parallel universe that exists alongside our own one. Interestingly, the fairies – or elves – in Irish mythology are called the aos sí, derived from the more archaic aes sídhe, and guess what? They come from a parallel universe that partially exists alongside our own one. But that’s just a coincidence, right? The fact that normal elves share their name with fairies and the Wild Hunt are supposed to be an elder race who predates them?

There’s a land in Irish folklore called Tír na nÓg, which is most commonly associated with a hero known as Oisín. After falling in love with a woman named Niamh, Oisín followed her to Tír na nÓg, where her father was king. After a while, he started to feel homesick, and said he was off back to the mainland to meet up with his mates. “That’s grand,” Niamh (probably) said. “Just don’t fall off your horse, alright?”When Oisín got back, hundreds of years had passed. Everyone he knew was dead. Tír na nÓg is a timeless place, where he’d barely aged a day despite the fact everyone he knew and loved had long since passed. He eventually used his superhuman strength to help a couple of lads move a boulder, but fell off his horse and, upon touching normal soil, aged hundreds of years in an instant and died. Sad.

Anyway, the Wild Hunt comes from this spot called Tír na Lia. Yeah, just another coincidence. Not based on Oisín’s story at all. Nothing to do with how Tír na nÓg means the The Land of Youth, while Tír na Lia – the Wild Hunt’s previously timeless but now dying world – means The Land of the Grey. All just one great big happy accident.

Like many aspects of The Witcher, the Wild Hunt takes inspiration from multiple sources. For example, their six-legged horses are often compared to Odin’s Sleipnir from Norse mythology, while Auberon Muirchertach – the king of Tír na Lia before Eredin – is named after both Oberon from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and a famous High King of Ireland. Ultimately, though, most of the prescriptive information on the Wild Hunt is cleanly derivable from Irish. In fact, most of the elf stuff in general is – one of the lads in Iorveth’s Scoia’tael unit is literally called Ciaran. I’d love to know if Andrzej Sapkowski just opened up a big book of Irish names back in the ‘90s and was like, “Yep, bingo – Eredin Green Trout.” I mean, he might have thought it meant Master of Darkness or something, but nope. It just makes him a puny little fish that’s a bit past its expiration date. Brilliant.

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Cian Maher is the Lead Features Editor at TheGamer. He’s also had work published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Verge, Vice, Wired, and more. You can find him on Twitter @cianmaher0.

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