See that name above this line? It’s Irish. I’ve lived in Dublin for my whole life and pronounce “three” like “tree” and “would you” like “wudjih” because all of those Irish accents in American films are completely made up. I’ll never forgive Wild Mountain Thyme for making Jamie Dornan, an actual Irishman, speak in a dialect that has simply never existed.
Anyway, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla is setting sail to the Emerald Isle for its upcoming expansion. First and foremost, I want Valhalla to get accents right. When I was a freelancer in another life, I wrote about how Red Dead Redemption 2’s Sean MacGuire is the best Irish character to ever grace video games. This is largely thanks to the way he speaks and his overall demeanor – he’s a messer, the lad in the pub who nicks your pint and winks at you in a way that says, “Ah come on, you know I’m only having a laugh.”
Sean speaks in a Dublin accent, although the game explicitly states he’s from Donegal. I actually spoke to Sean’s actor, Mick Mellamphy, a couple of months ago and he said he brought this up, but it was kept in because who’s going to notice anyway? There were quite a few Irish actors in Red Dead Redemption 2 – Mellamphy himself, Penny O’Brien (Molly), and Roger Clark (Arthur) – and their main concern was with the fact that the name “Colm O’Driscoll” was being butchered every time anybody attempted to utter it. For any non-Irish readers in the audience, Colm is not one syllable – it’s pronounced like “column” in Dublin and “cullum” in some other counties. Please never say it the way you think it’s said again. It honestly gives me hives.
Anyway, back to Valhalla. Dublin, where I’m from, was first visited by the Vikings in 841AD. This means the Danes are already in Ireland by the time Eivor and the gang reach Britain, so there’ll be some established settlements dotted all across the map. It’s worth noting that historians generally consider Dublin to be one of the Vikings’ most famous and successful cities across the board, so there’s going to be a whole lot of historical significance embedded in the DLC’s core narrative.
So yeah, I want accurate accents and a proper representation of Dublin and other important Viking ports. Do you know what else I want, though? Cú focain Chulainn (that middle word is Irish for exactly what you think it is – if you’re unsure, “o” often takes a “u” sound as Gaeilge).
It doesn’t really make sense to have Cú Chulainn in Valhalla, but I don’t really care about that. For those unacquainted with this illustrious Irish hero, here’s a quick explainer: Setanta was a little boy who was really good at hurling, an Irish sport where people hit a small, rock-hard ball called a sliotar around a pitch with sticks. Conchobar mac Nessa, king of Ulster, sees Setanta play and invites him to a feast. Conchobar then has a total whoopsie and forgets he did this, which is why he tells the host of said feast not only to lock the doors, but to let his ferocious hound loose in order to patrol the grounds. Setanta arrives, still armed with his hurl, and is attacked by the dog – Chekhov’s dog, as I like to say. Depictions of what happen next often differ, but the story I learned about when I was five was that Setanta smacks the ball so hard that it goes through the dog’s throat and out the back of its skull. The host, Culann, is upset about this. Setanta, a literal child, says, “Don’t worry, I’ll be your guard dog until I can raise a new one.” From then on, this prodigious warrior-to-be was known as Cú Chulainn – “The Hound of Culann.”
Once again, this doesn’t really belong in Valhalla. The mythology Cú Chulainn comes from supposedly transpired in the 1st century AD, meaning it’s close to a millennium prior to the Viking occupation of Ireland. That being said, it’s widely believed that this mythology was created and circulated through oral tradition from the 8th century onwards, meaning that there’s a solid 100 years between its origins and Valhalla.
Do you know those weird bits in Valhalla? The ones that are a bit ghosty and all mythish-like? They don’t necessarily belong in a historical context either, do they? Except they absolutely do, because these specific people at this exact time had faith in them. If Eivor munches on enough shrooms you’d better believe she’s seeing world serpents and six-legged horses having drinking contests for the right to hold Mjolnir.
Assassin’s Creed Valhalla’s more folkloric aspects are just as valid and well-written as the strictly historical ones. That’s why I think it’s so important to address Ireland’s own mythology in the DLC – similarly to the Vikings, Celts maintained fierce beliefs in all manner of fantastical phenomena. Here’s a few fun facts about Cú Chulainn alone: he could defeat entire armies at 17, he had a three-day fight to the death with his best friend, and he was feared and revered for his notorious Riastrad, which literally translates to “warp spasm.” This was a frenzy in which he was essentially unkillable, and the only way to pull him out of it was to bathe him in ice cold water that would instantly evaporate because of the intense heat emitting from his body. After three or four evaporations, the water would finally settle – at this point he slept with every single woman in whatever village he was in, winked at their husbands, and went back to being the most annoying prick in Ireland.
I’m not going to lie – I’m not particularly excited about the prospect of kicking the shit out of Irish people. We’re barely ever included in video games, and any time we are it’s usually just in the form of stage Irishman stereotypes that are outdated, offensive, and deeply stupid. I’d much rather a game where we went over to Ireland, made friends with the Celts, and headed back across the Irish Sea to batter more Brits, but listen. That’s not history, which means Valhalla has to focus on the battle of the redheads instead. If that’s the case, fine, but I at least want my country’s culture to be handled with respect for once. Let us be like actual Irish people. Let us walk like actual Irish people, talk like actual Irish people, and just exist as actual Irish people.
On top of that, give our culture the appreciation it deserves, yeah? This is the 9th century – I want to hear people speaking musical Irish instead of just “conas atá tú” (how are you) as token background noise. Agus as acht Dé (and for God’s sake), let a few of our best mythological warriors enjoy a fascinating new depiction in a mainstream cultural artefact. You’ve already given Eivor, Sigurd, and Basim loads of cool shit outside of their basic selves – you’re missing a focain trick if you ignore how magical Irish myth is.
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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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