Fionn Mac Cumhaill (7)

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  • Teideal (Title): Fionn Mac Cumhaill (7).
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840111.
  • Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
  • Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
  • Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
  • Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
  • Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
  • Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
  • Catagóir (Category): story.
  • Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
  • Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): unavailable.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 15/11/1983.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): evening class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Fianna in the Household of Death

Fionn and some of his men were travelling through the mountains and stopped at a house to ask for lodgings for the night. When they came in, they were greeted by a very old man and a gorgeous young woman. The old man asked the young woman to get up and prepare some food, which she did.

The men who were along with Fionn included Goll Mac Morna, a very strong man; Fionn’s son Oisín and his son Oscar; Conán Maol – Mallachtán – who was always causing trouble and insulting people1. And while they were eating, they noticed a lamb tied at the wall. The lamb got loose, and Fionn asked each of his men to go and tie the lamb up again – but not one of them was able to do so. Fionn himself tried and failed. At length, the old man who was their host got up from the table and tied the lamb.

When the meal was over, Fionn went and spoke to the beautiful young woman; she told him, ‘you had me once, but you’ll never have me again’. She told the same thing to each of the other visitors.

In the morning when they were leaving, Fionn asked their host why he was able to tie up the lamb, but that neither he himself nor any of his men could do so. He also asked why the woman – whom he’d never seen before – said ‘you had me once, but you’ll never have me again’. The old man explained that the lamb was Life, who cannot be controlled; the young woman was Youth — something that Fionn had had but would never have again; and that he himself was Death, who had the power over both Life and Youth.


1. At this point in his story, Joe interpolates an anecdote about Conán Maol, that explains why he is so difficult to deal with. One time the Fianna had been put under a spell, and were lying down stuck to the floor, unable to rise. They found out that the only way they could be released was to get a pint of blood from Fionn’s head, and put the blood around the area so that they could get up. When they got to Conán Maol, there was no blood left, and they had to pull him off the floor – leaving a good deal of skin behind. They killed a sheep, and put the sheepskin on Conán’s back, and every year they sheared a lot of wool off of Conán’s back – enough to make a jacket and trouser for him!