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.

A squirrel’s tale

Once upon a time in the great oak woods, an Dhóire Mór,, some strangers appeared that were bigger and stronger than those who had lived there in harmony for generations.

The new arrivals with their wild grey fur and fierce appetites were welcomed by the native bushy tailed tribe of red squirrels, na Ioraí Rua, with curiosity and interest.

The enthusiasm of the grey squirrels was catching and the two groups mingled happily at first. Na Ioraí Rua showed their new neighbours where all the good nuts grew, where safe dreys could be made to live a happy and contented life as they had lived for many a year.

Soon it was noticed that the appetite of the grey was much greater than that of na Ioraí Rua. They wanted more and more. They never wanted to share, or maybe they just didn’t know how as they regularly fought amongst themselves for the tiniest acorn while they sat on a pile. 
They took all the best dreys.

Na Ioraí Rua had to move up higher and higher in the trees, nearer the sky, their homes swaying precariously in the wind.

The greys followed na Ioraí Rua around, watching as they gathered their acorns together for winter and as they planted some acorns in order to grow great big oaks for future generations. Na Ioraí Rua were always willing to teach them their ways and happy to share their skills.

Na Ioraí Rua seemed always to be content with their lot, loving what they did together, for each other, and were always aware of the world around them, being careful to tread lightly for there were many weaker more delicate creatures to care for. Their happiness irritated the ever hungry greys.

By this time the grey squirrels were well settled and had plenty of acorns at home that could sustain their appetite but they wanted more. They wanted everything, they wanted the happiness of na Ioraí Rua and they were prepared to take it all and so they did.

In their greed they abandoned their own acorns, leaving them to rot in their dreys, moving from one drey to another, all the while digging up the winter supplies of their smaller red neighbours. They even ate the bark from the saplings that had been planted by na Ioraí Rua who had worked with all living things in their world together since time began.

The greys were never satisfied. They kept wanting more and they increased their territory further and further afield while na Ioraí Rua started to drift away into smaller and smaller clusters finding tiny pockets of sanctuary where they could create little paradises for their own and still they were happy.

Some of the greys left their own and joined the tribe of na Ioraí Rua, knowing that sharing gave more happiness than hoarding for themselves, for those that hoarded all the acorns were always looking over their shoulders in case someone might take even the tiniest little one.

The two- legged giants that roamed the same land doing their best to destroy all that was unique and beautiful about it, had introduced these grey intruders for that’s what they were though na Ioraí Rua in their naivety had first thought they were friends.

 These giants helped the grey squirrels establish themselves more by clearing their way. The same hunters that would have kept their numbers manageable also liked chickens and small farm animals so the giants destroyed all before them to mind their own food.

The grey squirrels thrived with all this help as they never would have without it and na Ioraí Rua retreated higher in the trees and further from the giants.

One day some of the two-legged giants noticed how few hunters there were, their numbers were dangerously low, in their language they were “endangered species”,  “close to extinction”.

They also noticed they were quite pretty really and like everything in an ecosystem they had their place so they announced that the Pine Marten, Tree Cat, An Cat Crainn, was a “protected species”.

Once this decision was made an Cat Crainn came out of hiding. Their numbers started to grow and spread through the country as once they had before and in doing so they killed off as many of the grey squirrels as they could.

Some of na Ioraí Rua were lost too but they knew how to hide in the tops of trees, away from giants and from an Cat Crainn. They were light on their feet and in body because they were light in their souls and their numbers grew and so the numbers of acorns that grew into saplings grew and then great oaks grew.

This happened because there is a place for everyone and everyone has a place. The place and space for the grey squirrel shrunk because having all the space in the world and all the acorns never made them happy and never was enough. Still na Ioraí Rua happily guided and helped the grey as only a good squirrel can. ❤🐿