Gods and Fighting Men

Hospitality of Cuanna's House

   It happened one day Finn and Oisin and Caoilte and Diarmuid and Lugaidh's Son went up on the top of Cairn Feargall, and their five hounds with them, Bran and Sceolan, Sear Dugh, Luath Luachar and Adhnuall. And they were not long there till they saw a giant coming towards them, very tall and rough and having an iron fork on his back and a squealing pig between the prongs of the fork. And there was a beautiful eager young girl behind the giant, shoving him on before her. "Let some one go speak with those people," said Finn. So Diarmuid went towards them, but they turned away before he came to them. Then Finn and the rest rose up and went after them, but before they came to the giant and the girl, a dark Druid mist rose up that hid the road. And when the mist cleared away, Finn and the rest looked about them, and they saw a good light-roofed house at the edge of a ford near at hand. They went on to the house, and there was a green lawn before it, and in the lawn two wells, and on the edge of one well there was a rough iron vessel, and on the edge of the other a copper vessel. They went into the house then, and they found there a very old white-haired man, standing to the right hand of the door, and the beautiful young girl they saw before, sitting near him, and the great rough giant beside the fire, and he boiling a pig. And on the other side of the fire there was an old countryman, having dark-grey hair and twelve eyes in his head, and his twelve eyes were twelve sons of battle. And there was a ram in the house having a white belly and a very black head, and dark-blue horns and green feet. And there was a hag in the end of the house and a worn grey gown on her, and there was no one in the house but those.
   And the man at the door gave them a welcome, and then the five of them sat down on the floor of the house, and their hounds along with them.
   "Let great respect be shown to Finn, son of Cumhal, and to his people," said the man at the door. "It is the way I am," said the giant, "to be asking always and getting nothing." But for all that he rose up and showed respect to Finn.
   Presently there came a great thirst on Finn, and no one took notice of it but Caoilte, and he began complaining greatly. "Why are you complaining, Caoilte?" said the man at the door; "you have but to go out and get a drink for Finn at whichever of the wells you will choose." Caoilte went out then, and he brought the full of the copper vessel to Finn, and Finn took a drink from it, and there was the taste of honey on it while he was drinking, and the taste of gall on it after, so that fierce windy pains and signs of death came on him, and his appearance changed, that he would hardly be known. And Caoilte made greater complaints than he did before on account of the way he was, till the man at the door bade him to go out and to bring him a drink from the other well. So Caoilte did that, and brought in the full of the iron vessel. And Finn never went through such great hardship in any battle as he did drinking that draught, from the bitterness of it; but no sooner did he drink it than his own colour and appearance came back to him and he was as well as before, and his people were very glad when they saw that.
   Then the man of the house asked was the pig ready that was in the cauldron. "It is ready," said the giant; "and leave the dividing of it to me," he said. "What way will you divide it?" said the man of the house. "I will give one hind quarter to Finn and his dogs," said the giant, "and the other hind quarter to Finn's four comrades; and the fore quarter to myself, and the chine and the rump to the old man there by the fire and the hag in the corner; and the entrails to yourself and to the young girl that is beside you." "I give my word," said the man of the house, "you have shared it well." "I give my word," said the ram, "it is a bad division to me, for you have forgotten my share in it." With that he took hold of the quarter that was before the Fianna, and brought in into a corner and began to eat it. On that the four of them attacked him with their swords, but with all the hard strokes they gave they could not harm him at all, for the swords slipped from his back the same as they would from a rock. "On my word it is a pity for any one that has the like of you for comrades," said the man with the twelve eyes, "and you letting a sheep bring away your food from you." With that he went up to the ram and took him by the feet and threw him out of the door that he fell on his back, and they saw him no more. It was not long after that, the hag rose up and threw her pale grey gown over Finn's four comrades, and they turned to four old men, weak and withered, their heads hanging. When Finn saw that there came great dread on him, and the man at the door saw it, and he bade him to come over to him, and to put his head in his breast and to sleep. Finn did that, and the hag took her covering off the four men, the way that when Finn awoke they were in their shape again, and it is well pleased he was to see that.
   "Is there wonder on you, Finn?" said the man at the door, "at the ways of this house?" "I never wondered more at anything I ever saw," said Finn. "I will tell you the meaning of them, so," said the man. "As to the giant you saw first," he said, "having the squealing pig in the prongs of his fork, Sluggishness is his name; and the girl here beside me that was shoving him along is Liveliness, for liveliness pushes on sluggishness, and liveliness goes farther in the winking of an eye than the foot can travel in a year. The old man there beyond with the twelve bright eyes, betokens the World, and he is stronger than any other, and he showed that when he made nothing of the ram. The ram you saw betokens the Desires of Men. The hag is Old Age, and her gown withered up your four comrades. And the two wells you drank the two draughts out of," he said, "betoken Lying and Truth; for it is sweet to people to be telling a lie, but it is bitter in the end. And as to myself," he said, "Cuanna from Innistuil is my name, and it is not here I am used to be, but I took a very great love for you, Finn, because of your wisdom and your great name, and so I put these things in your way that I might see you. And the hospitality of Cuarina's house to Finn will be the name of this story to the end of the world. And let you and your men come together now," he said, "and sleep till morning."
   So they did that, and when they awoke in the morning, it is where they were, on top of the Cairn Feargall, and their dogs and their arms beside them.


Deidre of the Sorrows, by John Duncan