In the first of a potential series, Tom Whitehead shares a surprising bit of trivia he discovered at a major museum exhibition.
I've been playing quite a lot of Dark Souls 3 recently, and what's often struck me in my time with it is how heavily influential European history is on the game's design. Yes, it's a fantastical setting full of abominable monsters, but there are also Knights, castles and swamplands reminiscent of a nightmarish take on medieval history. From Software demonstrates unbelievable attention to detail.
It seems that Japanese developers often do an extraordinary job of evoking Western culture. I have a feeling that, when digging deeply enough, plenty of intriguing historical references can be found, whether the work of the original development teams or knowledgeable localisation staff.
To get to the point, this weekend I went to see the Celts exhibition at the National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh, which was originally shown in London at the British Museum. I then saw this sandstone creation, discovered at the entrance to a former Roman Cavalry fort.
The woman you see, flanked by two horses, is called Epona. That name broadly represents the term for 'horse' in Celtic language, and she was a Gaulish Goddess; when the Romans invaded and gradually subjugated these lands in Central / Northern Europe, the Goddess became a symbol of protection for horses. So that particular piece above, as mentioned, was found at the entry point into a Roman fort.
Of course, this brings to mind Epona, Link's faithful steed in The Legend of Zelda; you can re-name the horse and Link, of course, but that's the default name. It's surely no coincidence, and is a little reminder of how game creators draw inspiration from a broad canvas - for creators of any kind, life experiences and knowledge are catalysts for their work.
There will be many more references and nods like this to be found in games - this is just one I discovered while learning a little more about Celtic history.
Zelda has a load of Celtic influences. I'd never heard of her before. I know the Celtic language and Irish language are different but I see no correlation between Gaulish Epona and the Irish word for horse, capaill. Sometimes you would expect to see similarities. I suppose it's the Celtic and Irish language that are more similar. This article has a bit more on the Celtic influences in Zelda:
@SLIGEACH_EIRE My culture (Galician) also has strong Celtic roots, and we do use egua (egoa in place names) to designate female horses. I'd be surprised if other languages with Celtic stratum don't have similar forms.
For she's a grand old horse to ride on
For she's a grand old horse who neighs
For if you know Hyrule's history
It's enough to make your heart groooow
We don't care what the Ganondorf says
What the hell do we care
Cause we only know that there's gonna be a show
And Link and Zelda will be there
Very interesting indeed. Game Theorists did a neat little video about this. Only a few minutes long, and worth a watch, I think.
@ThomasBW84 The Boston Celtics are a basketball team.
Looks at second headline ........Kelticks..... wut?
@Ignatius Glasgow Celtic, the football club. You know, this is a UK site so it's proper football they're referring to. The one with the round ball.
@nessisonett lol this dude said proper football
@Marce2240 So that is the root of the word llegua in spanish. Very interesting.
@Marce2240 Here in Brazil we call "éguas" the female horses. But i sincerely don't know if it's related to Celtic culture or not. Very interesting topic, indeed.
Yes I know
On another note, I often read here and there how elements of the Zelda series are influenced by Germanic tradition but, since I'm not that well-informed about it, I haven't really noticed anything particularly obvious. It might be a cool idea for an article if the site's staff is up for it.
@Kmno This is far from my area of expertise (I'm a Spanish-speaking English language and literature graduate), but if I had to guess I'd say that yegua is the evolved form of Latin's equa, not a direct borrowing from Celtic languages.
@Kadu_Hylian Iberic Portuguese uses the same word and, considering Galician and Portuguese conformed one single language until the 14th century, I'd say there's a strong possibility.
@Marce2240 Well it is funny that egua and equa are used for similar purposes as I'd guess both latin and celtic languages had their respective words before that exchange of romans trying to conquer the isles.
Anyway go Zelda!
@Ignatius That will be mighty Celtic FC founded 1888 and my own team.That was the reason for my silly song earlier,it's a famous Celtic song I altered some words to tie in with the article.
My probably very small amount of Scottish heritage (my late paternal grandmother hailed from Gurro, an Italian village reportedly founded by Scots) is very intrigued by this.
@OorWullie Always nice to see a fellow Bhoy on these websites. Hail hail the Celts are here👍
Discovered this earlier this year after noticing this name's usage in another N64 RPG. Nice seeing references like this becoming more well-known.
There's a whole site dedicated to the etymology of Epona.
I was reading just last night that there are very few words from what can be called the Celtic languages of the British Isles that migrated into English. Combe is one and cross is another, though that came via Irish. The intermixing of populations across Western Europe should indicate a sharing of at least a few words. Place names are really the only linguistic area where a Celtic footprint in the linguisitic record can be observed, but even there it's clear that the incomers didn't know the language of the locals. It means we have been left with many tautological place names such as Pendleton in Yorkshire, meaning hill-hill-town or hill-hill-hill depending on the derivation and and a few examples of River Avon, meaning river-river.
It's no secret...
Koizuma: ''Epona is the goddess of horses and fertility in Celtic mythology, so I used that. When you name something, it increases your affection for it, so I worked hard to make her a good horse.''
@nessisonett @OorWullie Thanks for straightening me out. I couldn't believe there would be another team pronouncing Celtic like that. 😉
@Marce2240 There is certainly a connection. It's a fascinating subject to study more deeply. Thanks for the answer.
Uh...Gaijin Goomba discussed this very topic at least a couple years ago.
@Kadu_Hylian No problem, glad to help.
I've known this for a long time. It's interesting trivia, but it's nothing new. Sorry... slow news day?
@nessisonett "Soccer" is an English term, originally used to distinguish the association game from the Rugby game. "Football" just means whatever game is played locally, and even in England doesn't always refer to a game with a round ball. Diminished use of "soccer" in England was basically a hipster response to its increasing use in America.
I've known about this for years, my friend thought it was an uninspired way of saying "pony," and I straightened him out.
@Octane I didn't claim it was a secret, it was just something new to me that I stumbled across at a museum exhibition.
@Ninten-san That's your response to a harmless article with a bit of interesting trivia? Yeah, thanks for that, glad I went to the effort on a Sunday.
@otherssharinglinks Cool to see more details out there, I shall check 'em out
@Ignatius I meant the Scottish football team (Glasgow), or Soccer in NA terms.
Hehe as a kid I had a mythology book with the story of Epona.
Totally bizarre- I was researching names for my next Gargoyle Gecko, and was looking for relevant Scottish names from mythology and Gaelic nature words. I knew about Epona being a goddess of horses, but it was so strange because I just so happened to be reading about her around the same time this article was published, though I've only just checked the site now.
Shame Epona isn't goddess of lizards, or it might have been fate!
@SLIGEACH_EIRE One of the interesting parts of the exhibition was to tackle the misconception that 'Celt' and Celtic history is tied to Ireland, Scotland, Wales etc. That idea derives from inaccurate history that was interpreted in the 19th Century. In reality, Celtic history covers large swathes of the European mainland, too, particularly before the Romans conquered the continent. So the idea of 'Celts' is a lot wider than many think.
@Mega_Yarn_Poochy The prefix was supposed to be 'Fun Fact', but for some reason it didn't work. It wasn't supposed to be marked as 'News' on the front page.
Anyway, thanks for the cynicism, makes it all worthwhile.
Do you mean the basketball team ?
@LUIGITORNADO No, I meant the UK soccer team.
@PanurgeJr Soccer may be an English term, but you won't find a single person in England who refers to the sport as anything but Football, unless they're talking to an American.
It's been that way since day one, hardly a hipster response!
@PanurgeJr Or in Scotland, where the comment maker is from, it's always been football.
I will totally named that horse 'Ed', that's a classic horse name.
Cheers Tom, I no doubt knew this at one point but forgot. Interesting read for sure.
@ThomasBW84 I didn't mean to offend you. In your reply, it sounds like going to the museum was your job. "Harmless"? Of course, why would the article be anything else? "Sunday"? What does that have to do with the museum anyway? Sorry for posting my opinion....
A hard C .... like this
As opposed to a soft C or Super C.
Hmm, interesting read! I wouldn't mind seeing more articles like this.
@PanurgeJr I know we coined the term, but we've never truly referred to football as soccer (hence the fact that you won't find a single English club with "soccer" on their badge/crest) and that's not because of any hipster ideals. Football has been football in England since day one. Soccer is simple a secondary term which has had more acceptance in America as it avoids confusion with American football (a sport which ironically involves very little foot-to-ball contact).
@Damo There's no such thing as day one for a sport with folk origins, but the first written football code was produced at Rugby School in 1845, and the sport was simply called "football." The association game was simply called "football," unless it was necessary to make it clear that one was talking about the the association game and not the Rugby game, and yes, sometimes the nickname "soccer" was used. No, it isn't the official name of the sport, but neither is "quid" the official name of the currency, and I doubt you'll argue that term is never used.
@Damo Also, I've read that "football" ultimately refers to not being played on a horse, but the evidence for that is much less certain.
@PanurgeJr I don't argue that there are multiple ways of referring to football - my issue was with your comment (and the tone of the article you linked to) which suggested that Soccer was the common name for the sport in England until we all decided we wanted to stick two fingers up to our American cousins and call it football instead. That's complete poppycock, hence the fact that you won't find a single team with the word "soccer" on its badge, even if you go way back to the foundation of the English football league.
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