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Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race

Page: 36

Tuan is then king of all the deer of Ireland, and so remained all the days of Nemed and his race.

He tells how the Nemedians sailed for Ireland in a fleet of thirty-two barks, in each bark thirty persons. They went astray on the seas for a year and a half, and most of them perished of hunger and thirst or of shipwreck. Nine only escaped—Nemed himself, with four men and four women. These landed in Ireland, and increased their numbers in the course of time till they were 8060 men and women. Then all of them mysteriously died.

Again old age and decrepitude fell upon Tuan, but another transformation awaited him. “Once I was standing at the mouth of my cave—I still remember it —and I knew that my body changed into another form. I was a wild boar. And I sang this song about it:

“ To-day I am a boar.... Time was when I sat in the assembly that gave the judgments of Partholan. It was sung, and all praised the melody. How pleasant was the strain of my brilliant judgment! How pleasant to the comely young women! My chariot went along in majesty and beauty. My voice was grave and sweet. My step was swift and firm in battle. My face was full of charm. To-day, lo! I am changed into a black boar.

“That is what I said. Yea, of a surety I was a wild boar. Then I became young again, and I was glad. I [pg 100] was king of the boar-herds in Ireland; and, faithful to any custom, I went the rounds of my abode when I returned into the lands of Ulster, at the times old age and wretchedness came upon me. For it was always there that my transformations took place, and that is why I went back thither to await the renewal of my body.”

Tuan then goes on to tell how Semion son of Stariat settled in Ireland, from whom descended the Firbolgs and two other tribes who persisted into historic times. Again old age comes on, his strength fails him, and he undergoes another transformation; he becomes “a great eagle of the sea,” and once more rejoices in renewed youth and vigour. He then tells how the People of Dana came in, “gods and false gods from whom every one knows the Irish men of learning are sprung.” After these came the Sons of Miled, who conquered the People of Dana. All this time Tuan kept the shape of the sea-eagle, till one day, finding himself about to undergo another transformation, he fasted nine days; “then sleep fell upon me, and I was changed into a salmon.” He rejoices in his new life, escaping for many years the snares of the fishermen, till at last he is captured by one of them and brought to the wife of Carell, chief of the country. “The woman desired me and ate me by herself, whole, so that I passed into her womb.” He is born again, and passes for Tuan son of Carell; but the memory of his pre-existence and all his transformations and all the history of Ireland that he witnessed since the days of Partholan still abides with him, and he teaches all these things to the Christian monks, who carefully preserve them.


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