The Pursuit of Diarmuid and Gráinne – a retelling

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.

AGS 2018

I couldn’t decide on Diarmaid or Diarmuid so you must put up with both.

Before the Monsters came

Image by https://www.facebook.com/marysmythlongford/ and can be purchased here: https://www.creativeardaghcraftshop.com/shop/p/quirkytalescoverart?rq=art

This was written for a children’s story competition. An author decided the shortlist and then children voted for their favourite. It came 3rd. What was more special was on the day a 5yr old came up to me and whispered “I voted for yours, I know it is about Climate Change, it is so important, I like the ending.” ❤ That’s enough for me.❤ It is included in an anthology by other Longford writers that you can buy here: https://www.creativeardaghcraftshop.com/shop/p/quirkytalesbook?rq=quirky%20tales

Once upon a time, before the monsters came, we lived in peace and all were happy. Plants grew, flowers bloomed and filled the air with perfume. Food was growing everywhere and no one went hungry. Animals, big and small, lived side by side and all was good.

The monsters came in flying machines from the sky and landed everywhere, all over the small round planet we live on. No one knew they were monsters because they looked harmless enough with their two wobbly legs and two skinny arms and big smiling faces. Their shiny ships were beautiful and reflected back the sun and we could see ourselves in them too which made us laugh.

The curious little monkeys wandered over first to examine these creatures. They were always brave but stupid. The monkeys followed them into their ship and everyone waited patiently for them to return but they didn’t. If they did, they were so changed, that we, their friends, no longer knew them. They were bigger and they were angry. No one had seen anger before and didn’t know what it was but we all suddenly felt fear and some ran while others hid. Others looked on, not knowing what to do as no one had ran or hid before in fright. All was joy and fun in this world before the monsters came.

The monkeys ran after those that had fled in fear and chased them, shouting and screaming, making big loud noises that no one liked and the elephants raised their trunks and blew hard to cover it up with their own sound. The noises grew and the fear grew and the monsters stood in their flying machines looking out at the chaos they had created and they were very pleased with themselves. Now that everyone was looking at the monkeys they could take the gold and silver from the world and all the precious jewels that sparkled in the waters for themselves, they even sucked the black oil from the ground. No one noticed, no one cared because the monkeys were chasing them all.

A monkey caught a cat and bit her on the back and the cat released her claws she used to climb the trees and scraped the monkey. Their anger grew and others joined the fight and then the first creature in this world blew out like a candle but its spirit stayed to watch the show and I’m here still. A wolf howled at the sky and the sun hid behind the moon. Everything went dark. Nothing would ever be the same again because the monsters came.

The plants closed up their leaves and hid their food and animal began to eat animal and the monsters laughed as they took what they wanted and left this world to do the same on other planets. Some monsters stayed and ruled over all the creatures and the plants that had remained. The plants and creatures changed to fit this darker, scary world where winds blew strong now that there were no sparkles to distract them from their racing flight. The monsters built themselves houses, towns and cities around the planet and continued to take and never give.

Our planet vomited up lava because no longer was the gold and silver in her belly keeping her tummy cool from all the heat of her warm coal. Sometimes she trembled in rage at the memory of the beauty she had been and cracks grew across her skin and swallowed up whoever happened to be passing by. The blissful life her creatures and plants had lived had changed because the monsters came.

But just as the monsters changed our world, our world changed the monsters too. Not all, but many of them noticed how the plants gave generously of their fruit and healed their wounds when they were hurt. More noticed how despite the fear and anger they had brought that creatures still approached and gave them love. Some monsters saw how the beauty of our world could make them smile and love and feel the Joy that once was everywhere before they came. They felt sorrow and regret and cried and asked our planet to forgive them for the pain and she gave them singing birds and butterflies, daffodils and roses, bees and beetles too. She showed the monsters all the good that they can do within this world, how to give instead of take and love instead of hate, how to fix instead of break and the monsters learned and so can you.