Everybody knows what a great warrior king Fionn MacCumhaill was and if they don’t they should find out but not from me today they won’t!
I’m going to tell you how like many a man he got a bit cantankerous and stubborn as he aged and being a King, for perhaps too long, his pride caused heartache and mayhem to all and to two young lovers in particular. No one should remain in power too long, if you remember nothing from this story, remember that.
The story goes that old Fionn lost his wife Maigneis and the grief he had was so great that his aging band of Fianna thought they better do something about it and rather than listening to him or telling him to cry and let it all out these old men came up with the bright idea of replacing the love of his life with a young girl called Gráinne.
Of course that wasn’t going to end well he being ancient and she being young but that was their solution.
Gráinne was the daughter of High King Cormac mac Airt and a worthy match in all the men’s eyes but not in Gráinne’s.
At their betrothal feast which went on for days and nights as was the custom Gráinne noticed the handsome warrior Diarmuid whose “lovespot” in the middle of his forehead made him irresistible to all.
Gráinne was trained in the art of magic and potions so when she got the chance she slipped a sleeping potion in the drinks of all but Diarmuid and tried to get him to run away with her.
Now Diarmaid was a loyal warrior of the Fianna and loved Fionn so he refused at first but she was oh so beautiful and a little bit scary, she threatened him with a geis (a curse) which all at that time were wary of and so he went and they hid in a forest across the River Shannon.
When the men all woke up with a pain in their heads and a grumpiness no one could endure Fionn noticed the pair were missing and he immediately made everyone get up and out and pursue the runaways all over Ireland.
We know they went all over because there are many a Dolmen on this fair land named Leaba Diarmaid agus Gráinne (the bed of Diarmaid and Gráinne).
Indeed there is one over the road in Aughnacliffe, Co. Longford, near Leebeen Lough, a mighty fine one you should visit it. Some say it’s a portal to the Otherworld
There is a rock now called “Granny’s Rock” out the Tromra Road 500 metres from Knights and Conquest Heritage Centre, Granard town, that is another Leaba Diarmaid agus Gráinne.
So, Diarmaid and Gráinne moved around Ireland with Fionn following. They were helped by many because all knew Fionn would not be kind if he found them and everyone loved Diarmaid, must be the spot in the middle of the forehead.
Even some of the Fianna helped and also Aengus Óg, who we met in an earlier tale (Midir and Etain). Aengus Óg wasn’t too Óg at this stage but a name sticks. He had been Diarmuid’s foster father, and loved the lad and being the God of Love, loved Gráinne too.
Aengus hid Gráinne in his cloak of invisibility while Diarmuid lept over the pursuers’ heads so they say.
At first Diarmuid refused to be with Gráinne out of respect for Fionn and kept telling her he would be taking her back to marry Fionn and she teased him for that but he eventually fell in love with her and they were together a long long time hiding on Fionn, they even crossed over to Scotland a while.
After a time Gráinne found out she was having a child and had a craving for rowan berries from the magic Rowan tree guarded by the one eyed giant Searbhán; Searbhán was friendly at first but he got angry and refused to give up the berries so Diarmuid fought him. Searbhán’s magic protected him from Diarmuid’s weapons, but Diarmuid eventually won by turning the giant’s own iron club against him.
After many other adventures, Diarmuid’s foster father Aengus negotiated peace with Fionn and the lovers settled in Keshcorran, County Sligo where they had five children. Fionn married Gráinne’s sister and all was forgiven. I’m not sure how the sister felt as no one tells her story and what happened next makes you wonder did Fionn really ever forgive.
One day Fionn organised a boar hunt near Benbulbin and Diarmuid joined in even though when he was a little boy a geis was put on him that he would be killed by a boar. He may have been lovely but he was certainly foolish.
The boar wounded him fatally and the only one who could heal him was Fionn. Fionn had the power to heal by letting the dying man drink water from his hands, but he let the water slip through his fingers twice. Oscar, Fionn’s grandson threatened Fionn so he went to the well again but when he returned it was too late, poor Diarmuid was dead.
There are different stories about Gráinne after Diarmaid has died, we like to think Aengus took Diarmuid’s body to his home at Brú na Bóinne and while some say Gráinne grieved until she died, others say that she made her children swear revenge on Fionn and a more peaceful end says she married Fionn eventually and there was peace between the clans.
I couldn’t decide on Diarmaid or Diarmuid so you must put up with both.
3 thoughts on “The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne – a retelling”
Very good Ann. I really enjoyed it. Well done! You should write a collection of short folklore stories. A modern interpretation would keep us and our youth in touch with our legends. Fair play,Mx
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Hi Majella, Thanks so much. Annette and I have been working on a book entitled “Longford’s Ancient Ways” and I’m including this and a few more rewriting of legends relating to Longford along with local folklore and traditions. Annette is concentrating on local plants and her imagery in the book is beautiful. We hope to get it published shortly. Fingers crossed.
I thought I replied Majella but I don’t see my reply here. Thank you. Annette and I have been working on one called Longford’s Ancient Ways. 🤞🏻 out soon I hope. xx