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Main > Welsh folktales > Fairy tale "Fin MacCumhail, the Seven Brothers, and the King of France"

Fin MacCumhail, the Seven Brothers, and the King of France

She spoke up to him and asked: "Would you play a game of cards with me?"

"I would," said Fin, "if I had the means of playing."

The old hag pulled out a pack of cards and said: "Here you have the means of playing as many games as you like."

They sat down and played; Fin got the first game on the old woman. Then she said, "Put the sentence on me now."

"I will not," said Fin; "I'll do nothing till we play another game."

They played again and she won the second game. Then she said to Fin, "You will have to go and bring here for me the head of Curucha na Gras and the sword that guards his castle; and I won't give you leave to take away any of your men with you but one, and he is the worst of them all,—'Iron back without action,' and the time for your journey is a year and a day. Now what is your sentence on me?" said the old hag.

"You'll put one foot," said Fin, "on the top of my castle in Tara of the Kings, and the other on a hill in Mayo, and you'll stand with your back to the wind and your face to the storm, a sheaf of wheat on the ground before the gate will be all you'll have to eat, and any grain that will be blown out of it, if you catch that you'll have it, and you'll be that way till I come back."

So Fin went away with himself and "Iron back without action." And when they had gone as far as a large wood that was by the roadside, a thick fog came on them, and rain, and they sat down at the edge of the wood and waited. Soon they saw a red-haired boy with a bow and arrows shooting birds, and whenever he hit a bird he used to put the arrow through its two eyes and not put a drop of blood on its feathers.

And when the red boy came near Fin, he drew his bow, sent an arrow through "Iron back without action," and put the life out of him.

When he did that Fin said, "You have left me without any man, though this was the worst of all I have."

"You'd better hire me," said the red boy; "you've lost nothing, for you were without a man when you had that fellow the same as you are now.

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