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Most of our knowledge of early Celtic culture comes from Latin historians and from an extensive body of early Irish texts composed between 700 and 1000 AD These include native law texts as well as heroic prose narratives and intricately crafted rhymed verse in hundreds of different meters There are a few early texts from Celtic Wales as well but paradoxically most of the surviving Welsh stories about the legendary Celtic king Arthur are translations from earlier French or English stories based on lost Celtic originals Marie de France founder of the Romance tradition in England based her poetic narratives on folklore from Brittany a Celtic region of France but none of her Celtic originals survive The earliest stories about Arthur were probably much like the Irish stories about the kingdoms of Ulster and Connacht which feature kings Conchobor and Ailill and Queen Medb whose name is Anglicized to Maeve or Mab The boy superhero CuChulainn plays a prominent role in these stories and many other characters seem to have godlike powers leading some researchers to speculate that they were survivors from pre-Christian Celtic mythology whose humanized representations were inoffensive to the Church Modern readers used to male-gendered heroes may be surprised to discover that Maeve was as redoubtable a warrior as her husband and that CuChulainns martial arts instructor was a British woman named Scathach the Shadow A woman warrior well documented in the historical record is the British Celt Boudicca who led a devastating attack on Roman colonial troops In addition to marvelous heroic tales early Irish literature boasts poems of remarkable sophistication by well-educated intellectuals There are a number of secular love poems some dealing with romantic involvements between ordinary mortals and men or women from fairyland a remote parallel world inhabited by undying humanoids about as tall as human beings or perhaps a bit taller not the tiny winged creatures of Shakespeare Many early Irish lyrics are
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