Irish Mythology

Tales of Fionn mac Cumhaill: Diarmuid and Grania

pre-12th century—present. Old Irish | Modern Irish, folklore.

It looked for all the world as though it was Diarmuid himself who landed on the ground. Then Garbh took his own shape again and they recognised their mistake.

The Irish hero Fionn mac Cumhaill has chosen Grania to be his wife, but she has other ideas; and as she stumbles across a ford with the warrior Diarmuid, splashing herself in a delicate place and declaring provocatively that the water is braver than he is, to touch her there, she leads him past the point of no return. After many days on the run, resting out in the open air at night, they come to the wood of Dubhros, now fully entwined in love’s mesh. In this wood stands a rowan tree that has grown from a berry that was dropped by the Tuatha de Danaan when they emerged once from the Otherworld. Its berries have magical properties and anyone in extreme old age who eats one of them will go back to being young again. It is a Druid tree, now guarded by a giant from an Otherworld. But at the instigation of Grania, Diarmuid kills this giant and installs Grania and himself in the giant’s nest at the top of the tree. Fionn quickly finds them and lays siege at its base.

Up goes one of Fionn’s men, Garbh of Slieve Cua, whose father Diarmuid once killed, intent upon taking Diarmuid’s head for Fionn. But Diarmuid kicks him back down and the rest of the Fianna strike off his head where he lands, for it looks for all the world as though it is Diarmuid himself who has landed on the ground. Then Garbh takes his own shape again and they recognise their mistake.

Another of Fionn’s warriors declares that his father was killed by Diarmuid, and he climbs the tree to avenge the death. But a similar thing happens; he falls to the ground where he is mistaken for Diarmuid and beheaded by Fionn’s warriors before they realise their mistake. Nine men in all climb up after Diarmuid; they are all kicked back down, and each one is killed by Fionn and his men – every one of them having the shape and appearance of Diarmuid when he died.

Story fragment recounted from: Gregory, Lady A., 1904. Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha de Danaan and of the Fianna of Ireland, Arranged and put into English by Lady Gregory. John Murray, London. Reprinted, 1998. Irish Myths and Legends. Running Press Book Publishers, Philadelphia, USA. Part Two: The Fianna. Book VII: Diarmuid and Grania. Chapter 4: The Wood of Dubhros, pp 341–52.

See for yourself

Tuatha de Danaan - Wikipedia

Fionn mac Cumhaill - Wikipedia

The Pursuit of Dairmuid and Gráinne – Wikipedia

Gods and Fighting Men – ancient tales of Ireland put into English by Lady Augusta Gregory. 1904. Project Gutenberg.

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