Myths and Legends of the Celtic Race

Page: 141

“Peaceably they abode a long time with each other, and it was said that no man then living was richer in gold and silver, in flocks and herds, than Dermot O'Dyna, nor one that made more preys.” Grania bears to Dermot four sons and a daughter.

But Grania is not satisfied until “the two best men that are in Erin, namely, Cormac son of Art and Finn son of Cumhal,” have been entertained in her house. “And how do we know,” she adds, “but our daughter might then get a fitting husband?” Dermot agrees with some misgiving; the king and Finn accept the invitation, and they and their retinues are feasted for a year at Rath Grania.

[pg 301]

The Vengeance of Finn

Then one night, towards the end of the year of feasting, Dermot is awakened from sleep by the baying of a hound. He starts up, “so that Grania caught him and threw her two arms about him and asked him what he had seen.” “It is the voice of a hound,” says Dermot, “and I marvel to hear it in the night.” “Save and protect thee,” says Grania; “it is the Danaan Folk that are at work on thee. Lay thee down again.” But three times the hound's voice awakens him, and on the morrow he goes forth armed with sword and sling, and followed by his own hound, to see what is afoot.

On the mountain of Ben Bulben in Sligo he comes across Finn with a hunting-party of the Fianna. They are not now hunting, however; they are being hunted; for they have roused up the enchanted boar without ears or tail, the Boar of Ben Bulben, which has slain thirty of them that morning. “And do thou come away,” says Finn, knowing well that Dermot will never retreat from a danger; “for thou art under geise not to hunt pig.” “How is that?” says Dermot, and Finn then tells him the weird story of the death of the steward's son and his revivification in the form of this boar, with its mission of vengeance. “By my word,” quoth Dermot, “it is to slay me that thou hast made this hunt, O Finn; and if it be here that I am fated to die, I have no power now to shun it.”

The beast then appears on the face of the mountain, and Dermot slips the hound at him, but the hound flies in terror. Dermot then slings a stone which strikes the boar fairly in the middle of his forehead but does not even scratch his skin. The beast is close on him now, and Dermot strikes him with his sword, but the weapon flies in two and not a bristle of the boar is cut. [pg 302] In the charge of the boar Dermot falls over him, and is carried for a space clinging to his back; but at last the boar shakes him off to the ground, and making “an eager, exceeding mighty spring” upon him, rips out his bowels, while at the same time, with the hilt of the sword still in his hand, Dermot dashes out the brains of the beast, and it falls dead beside him.

Death of Dermot

The implacable Finn then comes up, and stands over Dermot in his agony. “It likes me well to see thee in that plight, O Dermot,” he says, “and I would that all the women in Ireland saw thee now; for thy excellent beauty is turned to ugliness and thy choice form to deformity.” Dermot reminds Finn of how he once rescued him from deadly peril when attacked during a feast at the house of Derc, and begs him to heal him with a draught of water from his hands, for Finn had the magic gift of restoring any wounded man to health with a draught of well-water drawn in his two hands. “Here is no well,” says Finn. “That is not true,” says Dermot, “for nine paces from you is the best well of pure water in the world.” Finn, at last, on the entreaty of Oscar and the Fianna, and after the recital of many deeds done for his sake by Dermot in old days, goes to the well, but ere he brings the water to Dermot's side he lets it fall through his fingers. A second time he goes, and a second time he lets the water fall, “having thought upon Grania,” and Dermot gave a sigh of anguish on seeing it. Oscar then declares that if Finn does not bring the water promptly either he or Finn shall never leave the hill alive, and Finn goes once more to the well, but it is now too late; Dermot is dead before the healing draught can reach his lips. Then Finn takes the hound of Dermot, the [pg 303] chiefs of the Fianna lay their cloaks over the dead man, and they return to Rath Grania. Grania, seeing the hound led by Finn, conjectures what has happened, and swoons upon the rampart of the Rath. Oisīn, when she has revived, gives her the hound, against Finn's will, and the Fianna troop away, leaving her to her sorrow. When the people of Grania's household go out to fetch in the body of Dermot they find there Angus Ōg and his company of the People of Dana, who, after raising three bitter and terrible cries, bear away the body on a gilded bier, and Angus declares that though he cannot restore the dead to life, “I will send a soul into him so that he may talk with me each day.”

The End of Grania

To a tale like this modern taste demands a romantic and sentimental ending; and such has actually been given to it in the retelling by Dr. P. W. Joyce in his “Old Celtic Romances,” as it has to the tale of Deirdre by almost every modern writer who has handled it. But the Celtic story-teller felt differently. The tale of the end of Deirdre is horribly cruel, that of Grania cynical and mocking; neither is in the least sentimental. Grania is at first enraged with Finn, and sends her sons abroad to learn feats of arms, so that they may take vengeance upon him when the time is ripe. But Finn, wily and far-seeing as he is portrayed in this tale, knows how to forestall this danger. When the tragedy on Ben Bulben has begun to grow a little faint in the shallow soul of Grania, he betakes himself to her, and though met at first with scorn and indignation he woos her so sweetly and with such tenderness that at last he brings [pg 304] her to his will, and he bears her back as a bride to the Hill of Allen. When the Fianna see the pair coming towards them in this loving guise they burst into a shout of laughter and derision, “so that Grania bowed her head in shame.” “We trow, O Finn,” cries Oisīn, “that thou wilt keep Grania well from henceforth.” So Grania made peace between Finn and her sons, and dwelt with Finn as his wife until he died.

Two Streams of Fian Legends