Diarmaid and Gráinne

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  • Teideal (Title): Diarmaid and Gráinne.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 840112.
  • 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 is chieftain of Fianna Éireann, and Diarmaid Mac Duibhne is one of his men – the handsomest of them, it is said. He is also reputed to have a beauty spot1 somewhere on his body that makes him even more attractive to women.

Fionn and the Fianna are invited by king Cormac Mac Airt to come to his castle for a celebration. When they arrive, they are greeted by king Cormac and his daughter Gráinne, a great beauty. Fionn immediately falls in love with her, and tells Cormac that he would like to have her for his wife. Cormac is honoured by the request, and agrees.

Meanwhile, Gráinne is serving wine to the guests; and however it happens, she catches sight of Diarmaid’s beauty spot and falls head-over-heels in love with him. She drugs the wine of all present, except for Diarmaid, and the two of them escape from the castle.

For years afterward, Fionn keeps up the hunt for Diarmaid and Gráinne all over the country. Because of his encounter with the Salmon of Knowledge years before, Fionn is able to track their movements; but they use various ruses to fool him, and so escape being caught.

In the meantime, Fionn devises a plan to trick Diarmaid. Knowing that Diarmaid cannot resist joining in a hunt if one is organized, Fionn announces that he will be hunting in a certain area where he suspects that Diarmaid and Gráinne have been hiding. This also happens to be an area frequented by a certain wild boar – an animal that is actually the son of an enemy of Diarmaid Mac Duibhne’s father, enchanted into the form of a boar, and destined to be the death of Diarmaid.

When Diarmaid tells Gráinne that he will be going hunting that day, she pleads with him not to go; at least, she argues, he should take his sword with him, that never misses its target. But Diarmaid doesn’t think he will need it, and goes to the hunt without it. In the event, he is attacked by the boar, which leaves him nearly dead.

Only one thing can cure Diarmaid’s wounds: a drink of water from the hand of Fionn Mac Cumhaill himself. The Fianna are fond of Diarmaid, despite his having run off with Gráinne, and they entreat Fionn to get him a drink and save his life. Fionn’s grandson Oscar is especially insistent. But each time Fionn brings water cupped in his hands to Diarmaid, the thought of what Diarmaid has done causes him to let the water slip through his fingers. Finally, Fionn makes his way back from the spring a third time, only to find Diarmaid dead when he arrives.


The motif of the raven’s blood in the snow also appears in the story of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Raven.