Sadhbh

Sadhbh

Long, long ago, in ancient Ireland, there was a beautiful, young woman with long, blond hair, and brown, doe-like eyes. Her name was Sadhbh, and she was one of the Fairy People from Tír na nÓg. Sadhbh had been turned into a deer by a dark druid because she refused to marry him, and had been banished to the lands of Ireland to roam.

One day, Fionn and his two great hounds, Bran and Sceolan, were out hunting in the forest with the Fianna, his loyal band of warriors. They came across a deer and gave chase. Much to their surprise, the deer was fast, and easily out ran the Fianna, until only Fionn and his hounds were left chasing. As Fionn ran into a clearing, he found the deer gracefully resting upon a patch of grass in the sunlight. The deer looked up at him with eyes filled with such sorrow that it stopped Fionn in his tracks. Fionn saw his two hounds lying beside the deer, resting their heads on her side, protecting her. Fionn, quite surprised by it all, for surely there must be something special about this creature for his hounds to protect it, decided not to kill the deer. As he turned to leave with his hounds, the deer rose and followed him back to his home. On his return, Fionn gave orders for the deer to be minded and protected inside the palace walls.

That night, Fionn was awakened suddenly by a soft noise. There, walking towards him was a beautiful woman in white robes with long, flowing blond hair and eyes as brown as a doe’s.

She said; “Do not be afraid, Fionn, I am Sadhbh, the deer you rescued today. You are seeing me in my true human form. I was under the spell of a dark druid because I refused to marry him. I am grateful for you for bringing me here, for inside your walls I am safe and his magic cannot reach me.”

Sadhbh was as kind as she was beautiful, but Sadhbh refused to go outside the palace walls, for she feared the magic of the dark druid. It wasn’t long before Fionn and Sadhbh fell deeply in love and were married. But still Sadhbh refused to go outside the palace walls, and so in love was Fionn with Sadhbh that he refused to leave her side. They were happy and were soon expecting a child.

Word followed soon afterwards of invaders on Ireland’s shores. Fionn had to leave with the Fianna and defend Ireland, but Fionn was sad to be leaving Sadhbh. With promises of being gone only a short while, Sadhbh said she would watch daily for his return from the palace walls, and so she did. She walked to the palace walls each morning and spent every day that Fionn was gone watching out for his return, only leaving the wall at nightfall.

Soon the battle was over, the invaders sent back to where they came from, and Fionn could think of nothing only returning to be with Sadhbh. So thrilled with the thought of returning to Sadhbh that he hastened his step and soon he drew close to the palace walls, he could see no sign of Sadhbh. He searched along the length of the wall, hoping to catch a glimpse of Sadhbh, but the palace was quiet and still, and Fionn, for the first time, grew frightened.

“Where is my wife?” he called out. “Where is Sadhbh?”

At last, one of the servants told him how, each morning, Sadhbh would go to the palace walls and watch out for his return, never leaving until nightfall. On the fourth day after he left, Sadhbh saw Fionn with Bran and Sceolan at his feet, standing outside the palace walls. Her love for Fionn was so great and her joy at seeing his safe return, that she lost all fear of leaving the palace walls and ran to greet him. But, the servant said, as she grew near, the man in the form of Fionn took a hazel wand from beneath his robes and touched her. The servant told Fionn how she had cried out, and she was immediately turned back into the form of a deer. With that, the man showed his true form, that of the dark druid and he turned to leave, calling his dogs to him and she began to follow the man. The dark druid had not only turned Sadhbh back into a deer but had cast a spell forever tying her to him, so everywhere he went, she was bound to go. Sadhbh tried desperately to turn back, to try and reach the palace walls again but the hounds cruelly nipped at her feet.

Fionn’s heart broke, and he raged and cried at how the dark druid had found Sadhbh and taken her.

Immediately, he set out, with Bran and Sceolan, to find her and bring her home. For seven long years Fionn searched every forest in Ireland. Hoping against hope that he would find her but he found no trace and with each passing year, his heart grew heavier.

Then one day, as he had been out searching, he came across a golden haired boy about the age of seven, sitting on a patch of grass in a clearing. Bran and Sceolan whined and licked the boy. The dogs protected the boy, and Fionn, remembering how they had once protected Sadhbh, knew this must be the child Sadhbh had been expecting all those years ago.

He took the boy back to his home, and, after many months of caring for, and teaching the boy, he began to speak. Fionn learned how he had lived in a cave with a deer. He spoke of her gentleness and kindness. He also spoke of a dark druid, who would visit often, and how, one day, he touched the deer with his hazel wand and how she followed him, he then touched him with the wand, and suddenly the boy found himself in the clearing where Fionn had found him.

Fionn never again found Sadhbh, but he named the boy Oisín, which means ‘little deer’.

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