Gods and Fighting Men

The Pigs of Angus

   Angus Og, son of the Dagda, made a feast one time at Brugh na Boinne for Finn and the Fianna of the Gael. Ten hundred of them were in it, and they wearing green clothing and crimson cloaks; and as to the people of Angus' house, it is clothing of red silk they had.
   And Finn was sitting besides Angus in the beautiful house, and it is long since the like of those two were seen in Ireland. And any stranger would wonder to see the way the golden cups were going from hand to hand.
   And Angus said out in a loud voice that every one could hear:
   "It is a better life this is than to be hunting." There was anger on Finn then, and he said: "It is a worse life than hunting to be here, without hounds, without horses, without battalions, without the shouting of armies." "Why are you talking like that, Finn?" said Angus, "for as to the hounds you have," he said, "they would not kill so much as one pig." "You have not yourself," said Finn, "and the whole host of the Tuatha de Danaan have not a pig that ever went on dry land that Bran and Sceolan would not kill." "I will send you a pig," said Angus, "that will go from you and your hounds, and that will kill them in the end."
   The steward of the house called out then in a loud voice: "Let every one go now to his bed, before the lightness of drunkenness comes on you." But Finn said to his people: "Let us make ready and leave this; for we are but a few," he said, "among the Men of Dea." So they set out and went westward till they came to Slieve Fuad where the Fianna were at that time.
   And through the whole length of a year after that, the Tuatha de Danaan were boasting how they would get the better of the Fianna, and the Fianna were thinking how they could do best in the hunt. And at the end of that time Angus sent messengers to Finn, asking him with great respect if he was ready to keep his word. And Finn said he was, and the hounds were brought out, and he himself was holding Bran and Sceolan, one in each hand, and Caoilte had Adhnuall, and Oisin had Ablach, and merry Bran Beag had Lonn, and Diarmuid was holding Eachtach, and Osgar was holding Mac an Truim, and Garraidh was held by Faolan, and Rith Fada, of the Long Run, by hungry Conan.
   And they were not long there with their hounds till they saw on the plain to the east a terrible herd of great pigs, every one of them the height of a deer. And there was one pig out in front of the rest was blacker than a smith's coal, and the bristles on its head were like a thicket of thorn-trees.
   Then Caoilte let out Adhnuall, and she was the first to kill a pig of the herd. And then Bran made away from the leash that Finn was holding, and the pigs ran their best, but she came up with them, and took hold of a pig of them. And at that Angus said: "O Bran, fosterling of fair-haired Fergus, it is not a right thing you are doing, to kill my own son." But when Bran heard that, her ways changed and it was like an enemy she took hold of the pig, and did not let it go, and held her breath back and kept it for the Fianna.
   And it was over Slieve Cua the hunt went, and Slieve Crot, and from Magh Cobha to Cruachan, and to Fionnabraic and to Finnias. And at evening when the hunt was over, there was not one pig of the whole herd without a hurt, and there were but a hundred and ten pigs left living. But if the hunt brought destruction on Angus, it brought losses on the Fianna as well, for there were ten hundred of their men missing besides serving-lads and dogs.
   "Let us go to Brugh na Boinne and get satisfaction for our people," said Oisin then. "That is the advice of a man without sense," said Finn; "for if we leave these pigs the way they are, they will come to life again. And let us burn them," he said, "and throw their ashes in the sea."
   Then the seven battalions of the Fianna made seven fires to every battalion; but for all they could do, they could not set fire to one pig. Then Bran, that had great sense and knowledge, went away, and she came back bringing three logs along with her, but no one knows what wood it was they came from. And when the logs were put on the fire they lit up like a candle, and it is with them the pigs were burned; and after that their ashes were thrown into the sea.
   Then Oisin said again: "Let us go now to Brugh naBoinne and avenge the death of our people." So the whole of the Fianna set out for Brugh na Boinne, and every step they made could surely be heard through the whole of the skies.
   And Angus sent out messengers to where Finn was, offering any one thing to him if he would spare his people. "I will take no gift at all from you, Angus of the slender body," said Finn, "so long as there is a room left in your house, north or east, without being burned." But Angus said: "Although you think bad of the loss of your fine people that you have the sway over, yet, O Finn, father of Oisin, it is sorrowful to me the loss of my own good son is. For as to the black pig that came before you on the plain," he said, "it was no common pig was in it, but my own son. And there fell along with him," he said, "the son of the King of the Narrow Sea, and the son of the King of the Sea of Gulls, and the son of Ilbhrec, son of Manannan, and seven score of the comely sons of kings and queens. And it is what destroyed my strength and my respect entirely, they to have been burned away from me in a far place. And it is a pity for you, sweet daring Bran," he said, "fosterling of Fergus of the thirty woods and plains, that you did not do something worth praise before killing your own foster-brother. And I will put a curse on you, Bran," he said, "beyond every hound in Ireland, that you will never see with your eyes any deer you may ever kill."
   There was anger on Finn when he heard that, and be said: "If you put a curse on Bran, Angus, there will not be a room left, east or west, in the whole of your great house without being burned." "If you do that," said Angus, "I will put trees and stones in front of you in every battle; and I will know what number of men you have in your armies," he said, "looking at them through my ring."
   Then Oisin, that was wise, said: 'It is best for you to agree between yourselves now; and let us be helpful to one another," he said, "and pay whatever fines are due."
   So they agreed to that, and they made peace, and gave children to be fostered by one another: a son of Finn's to Angus, and a son of Angus Og to the Fianna.
   But for all that, it is not very friendly to Finn Angus was afterwards, at the time he was following after Diarmuid and Grania through the whole length of Ireland.


Deidre of the Sorrows, by John Duncan