Gods and Fighting Men
And the number of the Fianna of Ireland at that time was seven score and ten
chief men, every one of them having three times nine fighting men under him. And
every man of them was bound to three things, to take no cattle by oppression,
not to refuse any man, as to cattle or riches; no one of them to fall back
before nine fighting men. And there was no man taken into the Fianna until his
tribe and his kindred would give securities for him, that even if they
themselves were all killed he would not look for satisfaction for their death.
But if he himself would harm others, that harm was not to be avenged on his
people. And there was no man taken into the Fianna till he knew the twelve books
of poetry. And before any man was taken, he would be put into a deep hole in the
ground up to his middle, and he having his shield and a hazel rod in his hand.
And nine men would go the length of ten furrows from him and would cast their
spears at him at the one time. And if he got a wound from one of them, he was
not thought fit to join with the Fianna. And after that again, his hair would be
fastened up, and he put to run through the woods of Ireland, and the Fianna
following after him to try could they wound him, and only the length of a branch
between themselves and himself when they started. And if they came up with him
and wounded him, he was not let join them; or if his spears had trembled in his
hand, or if a branch of a tree had undone the plaiting of his hair, or if he had
cracked a dry stick under his foot, and he running. And they would not take him
among them till he had made a leap over a stick the height of himself, and till
he had stooped under one the height of his knee, and till he had taken a thorn
out from his foot with his nail, and he running his fastest. But if he had done
all these things, he was of Finn's people.
It was good wages Finn and the Fianna got at that time; in every district a
townland, in every house the fostering of a pup or a whelp from Samhain to
Beltaine, and a great many things along with that. But good as the pay was, the
hardships and the dangers they went through for it were greater. For they had to
hinder the strangers and robbers from beyond the seas, and every bad thing, from
coming into Ireland. And they had hard work enough in doing that.
And besides the fighting men, Finn had with him his five Druids, the best
that ever came into the west, Cainnelsciath, of the Shining Shield, one of them
was, that used to bring down knowledge from the clouds in the sky before Finn,
and that could foretell battles. And he had his five wonderful physicians, four
of them belonging to Ireland, and one that came over the sea from the east. And
he had his five high poets and his twelve musicians, that had among them Daighre,
son of Morna, and Suanach, son of Senshenn, that was Finn's teller of old
stories, the sweetest that ever took a harp in his hand in Ireland or in Alban.
And he had his three cup-bearers and his six door-keepers and his horn-players
and the stewards of his house and his huntsman, Comhrag of the five hundred
hounds, and his serving-men that were under Garbhcronan, of the Rough Buzzing;
and a great troop of others along with them.
And there were fifty of the best sewing-women in Ireland brought together in
a rath on Magh Feman, under the charge of a daughter of the King of Britain, and
they used to be making clothing for the Fianna through the whole of the year.
And three of them, that were a king's daughters, used to be making music for the
rest on a little silver harp; and there was a very great candlestick of stone in
the middle of the rath, for they were not willing to kindle a fire more than
three times in the year for fear the smoke and the ashes might harm the
And of all his musicians the one Finn thought most of was Cnu Deireoil, the
Little Nut, that came to him from the Sidhe.
It was at Slieve-nam-ban, for hunting, Finn was the time he came to him.
Sitting down he was on the turf-built grave that is there; and when he looked
around him he saw a small little man about four feet in height standing on the
grass. Light yellow hair he had, hanging down to his waist, and he playing music
on his harp. And the music he was making had no fault in it all, and it is much
that the whole of the Fianna did not fall asleep with the sweetness of its
sound. He came up then, and put his hand in Finn's hand. "Where do you come
from, little one, yourself and your sweet music?" said Finn. "I am come," he
said, "out of the place of the Sidhe in Slieve-nam-ban, where ale is drunk and
made; and it is to be in your company for a while I am come here." "You will get
good rewards from me, and riches and red gold," said Finn, 'and my full
friendship, for I like you well." "That is the best luck ever came to you,
Finn," said all the rest of the Fianna, for they were well pleased to have him
in their company. And they gave him the name of the Little Nut; and he was good
in speaking, and he had so good a memory he never forgot anything he heard east
or west; and there was no one but must listen to his music, and all the Fianna
liked him well. And there were some said he was a son of Lugh Lamh-Fada, of the
And the five musicians of the Fianna were brought to him, to learn the music
of the Sidhe he had brought from that other place; for there was never any music
heard on earth but his was better. These were the three best things Finn ever
got, Bran and Sceolan that were without fault, and the Little Nut from the House
of the Sidhe in Slieve-nam-ban.