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Main > Irish folktales > Fairy tale "Black, Brown, and Gray"

Black, Brown, and Gray

In a day Fin MacCumhail was near Tara of the Kings, south of Ballyshannon, hunting with seven companies of the Fenians of Erin.

During the day they saw three strange men coming towards them, and Fin said to the Fenians: "Let none of you speak to them, and if they have good manners they'll not speak to you nor to any man till they come to me."

When the three men came up, they said nothing till they stood before Fin himself. Then he asked what their names were and what they wanted. They answered:—

"Our names are Dubh, Dun, and Glasán [Black, Brown, and Gray]. We have come to find Fin MacCumhail, chief of the Fenians of Erin, and take service with him."

Fin was so well pleased with their looks that he brought them home with him that evening and called them his sons. Then he said, "Every man who comes to this castle must watch the first night for me, and since three of you have come together, each will watch one third of the night. You'll cast lots to see who'll watch first and second."

Fin had the trunk of a tree brought, three equal parts made of it, and one given to each of the men.

Then he said, "When each of you begins his watch he will set fire to his own piece of wood, and so long as the wood burns he will watch."

The lot fell to Dubh to go on the first watch. Dubh set fire to his log, then went out around the castle, the dog Bran with him. He wandered on, going further and further from the castle, and Bran after him. At last he saw a bright light and went towards it. When he came to the place where the light was burning, he saw a large house. He entered the house and when inside saw a great company of most strange looking men, drinking out of a single cup.

The chief of the party, who was sitting on a high place, gave the cup to the man nearest him; and when he had drunk his fill out of it, he passed it to his neighbor, and so on to the last.

While the cup was going the round of the company, the chief said, "This is the great cup that was taken from Fin MacCumhail a hundred years ago; and as much as each man wishes to drink he always gets from it, and no matter how many men there may be, or what they wish for, they always have their fill.

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