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Main > Irish folktales > Fairy tale "Birth of Fin MacCumhail and Origin of the Fenians of Erin"

Birth of Fin MacCumhail and Origin of the Fenians of Erin

Again the giant called out, "Where are you?" and the ring answered, "On Fin's finger."

Straightway the giant sprang towards the voice, sank to his shoulders in the bog, and stayed there.

Fin with Bran now went on his way, and travelled till he reached a deep and thick wood, where a thousand horses were drawing timber, and men felling and preparing it.

"What is this?" asked Fin of the overseer of the workmen.

"Oh, we are building a dun (a castle) for the king; we build one every day, and every night it is burned to the ground. Our king has an only daughter; he will give her to any man who will save the dun, and he'll leave him the kingdom at his death. If any man undertakes to save the dun and fails, his life must pay for it; the king will cut his head off. The best champions in Erin have tried and failed; they are now in the king's dungeons, a whole army of them, waiting the king's pleasure. He's going to cut the heads off them all in one day."

"Why don't you chew your thumb?" asked Bran.

Fin chewed his thumb to the marrow, and then knew that on the eastern side of the world there lived an old hag with her three sons, and every evening at nightfall she sent the youngest of these to burn the king's dun.

"I will save the king's dun," said Fin.

"Well," said the overseer, "better men than you have tried and lost their lives." "Oh," said Fin, "I'm not afraid; I'll try for the sake of the king's daughter."

Now Fin, followed by Bran, went with the overseer to the king. "I hear you will give your daughter to the man who saves your dun," said Fin.

"I will," said the king; "but if he fails I must have his head."

"Well," said Fin, "I'll risk my head for the sake of your daughter. If I fail I'm satisfied." The king gave Fin food and drink; he supped, and after supper went to the dun.

"Why don't you chew your thumb?" said Bran; "then you'll know what to do." He did. Then Bran took her place on the roof, waiting for the old woman's son. Now the old woman in the east told her youngest son to hurry on with his torches, burn the dun, and come back without delay; for the stirabout was boiling and he must not be too late for supper.

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