was one time out on the green of Almhuin, and he saw what had the appearance
of a grey fawn running across the plain. He called and whistled to his hounds
then, but neither hound nor man heard him or came to him, but only Bran and
Sceolan. He set them after the fawn, and near as they kept to her, he himself
kept nearer to them, till at last they reached Slieve Cuilinn,
in the province of Ulster.
But they were no sooner at the hill than
the fawn vanished from them, and they did not know where she was gone, and
Finn went looking for her eastward, and the two hounds went towards the west.
It was not long till Finn came to a lake,
and there was sitting on the brink of it a young girl, the most beautiful he
had ever seen, having hair of the colour of gold, and a skin as white as lime,
and eyes like the stars in time of frost; but she seemed to be some way
sorrowful and downhearted. Finn asked her did she see his hounds pass that
way. "I did not see them," she said; "and it is little I am
thinking of your hounds or your hunting, but the cause of my own
trouble." "What is it ails you, woman of the white
hands?" said Finn; "and is there any help I can give you?" he
said. "It is what I am fretting after," she said, "a ring of
red gold I lost off my finger in the lake. And I put you under bonds, Finn of
she said, "to bring it back to me out of the lake."
With that Finn stripped off his clothes
and went into the lake at the bidding of the woman, and he went three times
round the whole lake and did not leave any part of it without searching, till
he brought back the ring. He handed it up to her then out of the water, and no
sooner had he done that then she gave a leap into the water and vanished.
And when Finn came up on the bank of the
lake, he could not so much as reach to where his clothes were; for on the
moment he, the head and leader of the Fianna of Ireland, was but a grey old
man, weak and withered.
Bran and Sceolan came up to him then, but
they did not know him, and they went on round the lake, searching after their
In Almhuin, now, when he was missed, Caolite
began asking after him. "Where is Finn," he said, "of the
gentle rule and of the spears?" But no one knew where he had gone, and
there was grief on the Fianna when they could not find him. But it is what Conan
said: "I never heard music pleased me better than to hear the son of Cumhal
is missing. And that may be so through the whole year," he said,
"and I myself will be king over you all." And downhearted as they
were, it is hardly they could keep from laughing when they heard Conan saying
Caoilte and the rest of the chief men of
the Fianna set out then looking for Finn, and they got word of him; and at
last they came to Slieve Cuilinn, and there they saw a withered old man
sitting beside the lake, and they thought him to be a fisherman. "Tell
us, old man," said Caolite, "did you see a fawn go by, and two
hounds after her, and a tall fair-faced man along with them?"
"I did see them," he said, "and it is not long since they left
me." "Tell us where are they now?" said Caoilte. But Finn
made no answer, for he had not the courage to say to them that he himself was
Finn their leader, being as he was an ailing downhearted old man, without
leaping, without running, without walk, grey and sorrowful.
Caoilte took out his sword from the sheath
then, and he said: "It is short till you will have the knowledge of death
unless you will tell us what happened those three."
Then Finn told them the whole story; and
when the seven battalions of the Fianna heard him, and knew it was Finn that
was in it, they gave three loud sorrowful cries. And to the lake they gave the
name of Loch Doghra, the Lake of Sorrow.
But Conan of the sharp tongue began
abusing Finn and all the Fianna by turns. "You never give me right praise
for my deeds, Finn, son of Cumhal," he said, "and you were always
the enemy of the sons of Morna; but we are living in spite of you," he
said, "and I have but the one fault to find with your shape, and that is,
that it was not put on the whole of the Fianna the same as on yourself."
Caoilte made at him then; "Bald, senseless Conan," he said, "I
will break your mouth to the bone." But Conan ran in then among the rest
of the Fianna and asked protection from them, and peace was made again.
And as to Finn, they asked him was there
any cure to be found for him. "There is," he said; "for I know
well the enchantment was put on me by a woman of the Sidhe,
Miluchradh, daughter of Cuilinn, through jealously of her sister Aine. And
bring me to the hill that belongs to Cuilinn of Cuailgne," he said,
"for he is the only one can give me my shape again."
They came around him then, and raised him
up gently on their shields, and brought him on their shoulders to the hill of
the Sidhe in Cuailgne, but no one came to meet them. Then the seven battalions
began digging and rooting up the whole hill, and they went on digging through
the length of three nights and three days. And at the end of that time Cuilinn
of Cuailigne, that some say was Manannan,
son of Lir,
came out of the hill holding in his hand a vessel of red gold, and he gave the
vessel into Finn's hand. And no sooner did Finn drink what was in the vessel
than his own shape and his appearance came back to him. But only his hair,
that used to be so fair and so beautiful, like the hair of a woman, never got
its own colour again, for the lake that Cuilinn's daughter had made for Finn
would have turned all the men of the whole world grey if they had gone into
And when Finn had drunk all that was in
the vessel it slipped from his hand into the earth, that was loosened with the
digging, and he saw it no more. But in the place where it went into the earth,
a tree grew up, and any one that would look at the branches of the tree in the
morning, fasting, would have knowledge of all that was to happen on that day.
That, now, is the way Finn came by his
grey hair, through the jealously of Miluchradh of the Sidhe, because he had
not given his love to her, but to her sister Aine.
- Gods and Fighting Men, 1904.