Balor was the leader of the ‘Fomorians’ who were a monstrous, demonic race that terrorised the people of Ireland. They were portrayed as sea raiders, but later Tory Island was said to be their stronghold. They were described as extremely ugly with one eye, one arm and one leg, Balor, being the ugliest of them all, had a large eye right in the middle of his forehead.
Balor’s power was in his eye. It was said that when Balor was young, he spied on his father’s druids as they were concocting a death potion. The fumes entered Balor’s eye as he watched, giving it the power to kill. Balor kept his evil eye closed while among his own people but over time the eyelid became so heavy that it took ten men to open it. However, Balor’s eye proved to be a powerful tool in battle as it had the power to vaporise all that it beheld. He became the most powerful and feared leader of the Fomorians.
One of the druids also prophesied that Balor would be killed by his own grandson. To prevent this from happening, he imprisoned his beautiful daughter, Eithne, in a tower on Tory Island so that no man could find her. However, it was Balor himself who caused Eithne to meet the father of his grandchild.
Though he had plenty of cattle, Balor wanted the magical cow of abundance called ‘Glas Gaibhnenn’ which was owned by Cian of An Tuatha dé Danann. Balor stole the cow from Cian by disguising himself as a trader. Cian followed Balor to Tory Island to retrieve his cow where he found the beautiful Eithne and they fell in love. Eithne gave birth to triplets, but Balor threw them into the sea. Fortunately, one was saved and raised in secret by members of An Tuatha déDanann. He was called Lugh.
An Tuatha de Danann’s struggle with Balor and the Fomorians came to a head when Bres was ousted from the kingship when Nuada’s arm was restored. Bres was outraged and being half Fomorian – half An Tuatha, engaged his father’s tribe, the Fomorians, to wage war on An Tuatha Dé Danann.
At the same time, Lugh joined An Tuatha dé Danann and prepared them to fight back. At the second battle of Moytura, Lugh knocked Balor’s eye out with his slingshot, fulfilling the druid’s prophecy.
Balor’s eye was sent flying around in his head that it killed most of his own army that were behind him. Then it rolled away and burned a hole in the ground so deep that water gushed forth and a lake was formed. The lake is now known as Lough Na Súil or the ‘lake of the eye’. It can still be found between the towns of Geevagh and Riverstown in County Sligo.