Gráinne

Gráinne

Long, long ago in ancient Ireland there lived a girl by the name of Gráinne. Gráinne was the daughter of Cormac MacAirt, the High King of Ireland. She was the most beautiful woman in Ireland and all the eligible princes and chieftains travelled to meet Gráinne in the hopes that she would marry them. But Gráinne wouldn’t marry any of them, for, when she was 12, she saw a young black-haired boy playing hurling and fell in love with him. She vowed then that this was who she would marry.

Now, the legendary Fianna leader, Fionn MacCumhaill, who was by now an ageing man, had heard of Gráinne’s great beauty, and set his sights on her to be his second wife. Fionn asked Gráinne to marry him, and, knowing of Fionn’s great fame, she was flattered, and, being unable to find the black-haired boy, agreed to marry Fionn

They was a magnificent feast to celebrate the newly engaged couple. People travelled from all over the country to toast the couple. On the night of feast, before Gráinne entered the great hall, she looked in. She saw the ageing Fionn at the centre of the top table, and to his right was Diarmuid, the black-haired boy from her youth. On seeing Diarmuid, Gráinne knew that she could no longer marry Fionn.

As Gráinne sat to the feast, she passed round a cup of wine, filled with a sleeping potion, to all except Diarmuid. When all fell asleep, Gráinne told Diarmuid about when she fell in love with him and how she could no longer marry Fionn. She told him she wanted to run away with him so they could be together. But Diarmuid was loyal to Fionn and wouldn’t betray Fionn. Gráinne put a spell on Diarmuid so he would fall in love with her, which he did, and they ran away together.

Shortly after running away together, they met Aengus Óg, the Celtic god of love and Diarmuid’s foster father, and he approved of the match so much he decided to help them. He told them they would be unable to sleep in a cave with one opening or a house with one door. They could never eat where they cooked, or sleep where they ate. They would have to keep moving if they were to stay ahead of Fionn and the Fianna.

When Fionn awoke from his drugged sleep, he was furious at having been tricked, and felt betrayed by Diarmuid. For a long time, he chased them across Ireland, never giving up, and Diarmuid and Gráinne did as Aengus Óg had told them, and kept moving to stay ahead of Fionn. For many years they ran.

Gráinne and Diarmuid married and had a family and still they kept moving as Fionn pursued them. Eventually, after a great many years on the run, Aengus Óg negotiated a peace for them with Fionn. They and their five children, four sons and a daughter, settled in Co. Sligo and, for a time, lived in peace.

One day, Fionn and Diarmuid went out hunting wild boar on Benbulben in County Sligo, when a giant boar suddenly attacked them. Diarmuid fought the boar, finally killing him with his sword, but the boar had also gored Diarmuid, causing a fatal injury. Diarmuid asked Fionn for a drink of water from his hands, for anyone who drank water from Fionn’s cupped hands would be restored to health. Fionn went to the nearest river and brought back a handful of water, but, as he saw Diarmuid lying there, he was filled with the anger of his betrayal years earlier, and he let the water trickle from his hands. Again, Fionn returned to the river to get more water, and, for a second time, his anger was so great the water once again trickled from his fingers. On going to the river for a third time, Fionn found his anger gone, and he once more brought a cupped handful of water to Diarmuid, but it was too late, Diarmuid was dead.

Aengus Óg spirited Diarmuid’s body away to Brú na Bóinne, and this brought comfort to Gráinne, but her grief was too great and she died of a broken heart.

“Empty needles are the pen with which I create my story, yarn is my ink” – Ruth