Gods and Fighting Men
The Daughter of King Under-Wave
One snowy night of winter the Fianna were come into the house after their
hunting. And about midnight they heard a knocking at the door, and there came in
a woman very wild and ugly, and her hair hanging to her heels. She went to the
place Finn was lying, and she asked him to let her in under the border of his
covering. But when he saw her so strange and so ugly and so wild-looking he
would not let her in. She gave a great cry then, and she went to where Oisin
was, and asked him to let her shelter under the border of his covering. But
Oisin refused her the same way. Then she gave another great scream, and she went
over where Diarmuid was. "Let me in," she said, "under the border of your
covering." Diarmuid looked at her, and he said: "You are strange-looking and
wild and ugly, and your hair is down to your heels. But come in for all that,"
So she came in under the border of his covering.
"O Diarmuid," she said then, "I have been travelling over sea and ocean
through the length of seven years, and in all that time I never got shelter any
night till this night. And let me to the warmth of the fire now," she said. So
Diarmuid brought her over to the fire, and all the Fianna that were sitting
there went away from it seeing her so ugly and so dreadful to look at. And she
was not long at the fire when she said: "Let me go under the warmth of the
covering with you now." "It is asking too much you are," said Diannuid; "first
it was to come under the border you asked, and then to come to the fire, and now
it is under the bed-covering with me you want to be. But for all that you may
come," he said.
So she came in under the covering, and he turned a fold of it between them.
But it was not long till he looked at her, and what he saw was a beautiful young
woman beside him, and she asleep. He called to the others then to come over, and
he said: "Is not this the most beautiful woman that ever was seen?" "She is
that," they said, and they covered her up and did not awaken her.
But after a while she stirred, and she said: "Are you awake, Diarmuid?" "I am
awake," he said. "Where would you like to see the best house built that ever was
built?" she said. "Up there on the hillside, if I had my choice," said he, and
with that he fell asleep. And in the morning two men of the Fianna came in, and
they said they were after seeing a great house up on the bill, where there was
not a house before. "Rise up, Diarmuid," said the strange woman then; "do not be
lying there any longer, but go up to your house, and look out now and see it,"
she said. So he looked out and he saw the great house that was ready, and he
said: "I will go to it, if you will come along with me." "I will do that," she
said, "if you will make me a promise not to say to me three times what way I was
when I came to you." "I will never say it to you for ever," said Diarmuid.
They went up then to the house, and it was ready for them, with food and
servants; and everything they could wish for they had it. They stopped there for
three days, and when the three days were ended, she said: "You are getting to be
sorrowful because you are away from your comrades of the Fianna." "I am not
sorrowful indeed," said Diarmuid. "It will be best for you to go to them; and
your food and your drink will be no worse when you come back than they are now,"
said she. "Who will take care of my greyhound bitch and her three pups if I go?"
said Diarmuid. "There is no fear for them," said she.
So when he heard that, he took leave of her and went back to the Fianna, and
there was a great welcome before him. But for all that they were not well
pleased but were someway envious, Diarmuid to have got that grand house and her
love from the woman they themselves had turned away.
Now as to the woman, she was outside the house for a while after Diarmuid
going away, and she saw Finn, son of Cumhal, coming towards her, and she bade
him welcome. "You are vexed with me, Queen?" he said. "I am not indeed," she
said; "and come in now and take a drink of wine from me." "I will go in if I get
my request," said Finn. "What request is there that you would not get?" said
she. "It is what I am asking, one of the pups of Diarmuid's greyhound bitch."
"That is no great thing to ask," she said; and whichever one you choose of them
you may bring it away."
So he got the pup, and he brought it away with him.
At the fall of night Diarmuid came back to the house, and the greyhound met
him at the door and gave a yell when she saw him, and he looked for the pups,
and one of them was gone. There was anger on him then, and he said to the woman:
"If you had brought to mind the way you were when I let you in, and your hair
hanging, you would not have let the pup be brought away from me." "You ought not
to say that, Diarmuid," said she. "I ask your pardon for saying it," said
Diarmuid. And they forgave one another, and he spent the night in the house.
On the morrow Diarmuid went back again to his comrades, and the woman stopped
at the house, and after a while she saw Oisin coming towards her. She gave him a
welcome, and asked him into the house, and he said he would come if he would get
his request.And what he asked was another of the pups of the greyhound.
So she gave him that, and he went away bringing the pup with him. And when
Diarmuid came back that night the greyhound met him, and she cried out twice.
And he knew that another of the pups was gone, and he said to the greyhound, and
the woman standing there: "If she had remembered the way she was when she came
to me, she would not have let the pup be brought away."
The next day he went back again to the Fianna, and when he was gone, the
woman saw Caoilte coming towards her, and he would not come in to take a drink
from her till he had got the promise of one of the pups the same as the others.
And when Diarmuid came back that night the greyhound met him and gave three
yells, the most terrible that ever were heard. There was great anger on him
then, when he saw all the pups gone, and he said the third time: "If this woman
remembered the way she was when I found her, and her hair down to her heels, she
would not have let the pup go." "O Diarmuid, what is it you are after saying?"
she said. He asked forgiveness of her then, and he thought to go into the house,
but it was gone and the woman was gone on the moment, and it was on the bare
ground he awoke on the morrow. There was great sorrow on him then, and he said
he would search in every place till he would find her again.
So he set out through the lonely valleys, and the first thing he saw was the
greyhound lying dead, and he put her on his shoulder and would not leave her
because of the love he had for her. And after a while he met with a cowherd, and
he asked him did he see a woman going the way. "I saw a woman early in the
morning of yesterday, and she walking hard," said the cowherd. "What way was she
going?" said Diarmuid. "Down that path below to the strand, and I saw her no
more after that," he said.
So he followed the path she took down to the strand till he could go no
farther, and then he saw a ship, and he leaned on the handle of his spear and
made a light leap on to the ship, and it went on till it came to land, and then
he got out and lay down on the side of a hill and fell asleep, and when he awoke
there was no ship to be seen. "It is a pity for me to be here," he said, "for I
see no way of getting from it again."
But after a while he saw a boat coming, and a man in the boat rowing it,
and he went down and got into the boat, and brought the greyhound with him.
And the boat went out over the sea, and then down below it; and Diarmuid, when
he went down, found himself on a plain. And he went walking along it, and it was
not long before he met with a drop of blood. He took it up and put it in a
napkin. "It is the greyhound lost this," he said. And after a while he met with
another drop of blood, and then with a third, and he put them in the napkin. And
after that again he saw a woman, and she gathering rushes as if she had lost her
He went towards her and asked her what news had she. "I cannot tell it till I
gather the rushes," she said. "Be telling it while you are gathering them," said
Diarmuid. "There is great haste on me," she said. "What is this place where we
are?" said Diarmuid. "It is Land-under-Wave," said she. "And what use have you
for the rushes when they are gathered?" "The daughter, of King Under-Wave is
come home," she said, "and she was for seven years under enchantment, and there
is sickness on her now, and all the physicians are gathered together and none of
them can do her any good, and a bed of rushes is what she finds the
wholesomest." "Will you show me where the king's daughter is?" said Diarmuid. "I
will do that," said the woman; "I will put you in the sheaf of rushes, and I
will put the rushes under you and over you, and I will carry you to her on my
back." "That is a thing you cannot do," said Diarmuid. But she put the rushes
about him, and lifted him on her back, and when she got to the room she let down
the bundle. "O come here to me," said the daughter of King Under-Wave, and
Diarmuid went over to her, and they took one another's hands, and were very
joyful at that meeting. "Three parts of my sickness is gone from me now," she
said then; "but I am not well yet, and I never will be, for every time I thought
of you, Diarmuid, on my journey, I lost a drop of blood of my heart." "I have
got those three drops here in this napkin," said Diarmuid, "and take them now in
a drink and you will be healed of your sickness." "They would do nothing for
me," she said, "since I have not the one thing in the world that I want, and
that is the thing I will never get," she said. "What thing is that?" said
Diarmuid. "It is the thing you will never get, nor any man in the world," she
said, "for it is a long time they have failed to get it." "If it is in any place
on the whole ridge of the world I will get it," said Diarmuid. "It is three
draughts from the cup of the King of Magh an Ionganaidh, the Plain of Wonder,"
she said, "and no man ever got it or ever will get it." "Tell me where that cup
is to be found," said Diarmuid, "for there are not as many men as will keep it
from me on the whole ridge of the world." "That country is not far from the
boundary of my father's country," she said; "but there is a little river
between, and you would be sailing on that river in a ship, having the wind
behind it, for a year and a day before you would reach to the Plain of Wonder."
Diarmuid set out then, and be came to the little river, and he was a good
while walking beside it, and he saw no way across it. But at last he saw a
low-sized, reddish man that was standing in the middle of the river. "You are in
straits, Diarmuid, grandson of Duibhne," he said; "and come here and put your
foot in the palm of my hand and I will bring you through." Diarmuid did as he
bade him, and put his foot in the red man's palm, and he brought him across the
river. "It is going to the King of the Plain of Wonder you are," he said, "to
bring away his cup from him; and I myself will go with you."
They went on then till they came to the king's dun, and Diarmaid called out
that the cup should be sent out to him, or else champions to fight with him
should be sent out. It was not the cup that was sent out, but twice eight
hundred fighting men; and in three hours there was not one of them left to stand
against him. Then twice nine hundred better fighters again were sent out against
him, and within four hours there was not one of them left to stand against him.
Then the king himself came out, and he stood in the great door, and he said:
"Where did the man come from that has brought destruction on the whole of my
kingdom?" "I will tell you that," said he; "I am Diarmuid, a man of the Fianna
of Ireland." "It is a pity you have not sent a messenger telling me that," said
the king, "and I would not have spent my men upon you; for seven years before
you were born it was put in the prophecy that you would come to destroy them.
And what is it you are asking now?" he said. "It is the cup of healing from your
own hand I am asking," said Diarmuid. "No man ever got that cup from me but
yourself," said the king, "but it is easy for me to give it to you, whether or
not there is healing in it."
Then the King of the Plain of Wonder gave Diarmuid the cup, and they parted
from one another; and Diarmuid went on till he came to the river, and it was
then he thought of the red man, that he had given no thought to while he was at
the king's house. But he was there before him, and took his foot in the palm of
his band and brought him over the river. "I know where it is you are going,
Diarmuid," he said then; "it is to heal the daughter of King Under-Wave that you
have given your love to. And it is to a well I give you the signs of you should
go," he said, "and bring a share of the water of that well with you. And when
you come where the woman is, it is what you have to do, to put that water in the
cup, and one of the drops of blood in it, and she will drink it, and the same
with the second drop and the third, and her sickness will be gone from her that
time. But there is another thing will be gone along with it," he said, "and that
is the love you have for her."
"That will not go from me," said Diarmuid. "It will go from you," said the
man; "and it will be best for you to make no secret of it, for she will know,
and the king will know, that you think no more of her then than of any other
woman. And King Under-Wave will come to you," he said, "and will offer you great
riches for healing his daughter. But take nothing from him," he said, "but ask
only a ship to bring you home again to Ireland. And do you know who am I
myself?" he said. "I do not know," said Diarmuid. "I am the messenger from
beyond the world," he said; "and I came to your help because your own heart is
hot to come to the help of another."
So Diarmuid did as he bade him, and he brought the water and the cup and the
drops of blood to the woman, and she drank them, and at the third draught she
was healed. And no sooner was she healed than the love he had for her was gone,
and he turned away from her. "O Diarmuid," she said, "your love is gone from
me." "O, it is gone indeed," said he.
Then there was music made in the whole place, and the lamenting was stopped,
because of the healing of the king's daughter. And as to Diarmuid, he would take
no reward and he would not stop there, but he asked for a ship to bring him home
to lreland, to Finn and the Fianna. And when he came where they were, there was
a joyful welcome before him.