and the Fianna
There are a lot of amazing stories about Finn and we could easily start at the beginning where he is an orphaned prince raised in the woods by old druidesses, and some poets, and then the vagabonds who murdered the poets, and then the druidesses again. The first duck he ever hunted. The guys that didn’t like him because he was better at swimming than they were. The first of the Tuatha de Danaan that he ever killed and the grateful king that made him the leader of the army known as the Fianna…
Finn may have been, essentially the perfect blend of gods and men that the age of heroes aspired to; he had a fiery temper in battle but in diplomacy was always even headed and fair (the exception being, it seems, any of his dealings with Angus Og), he worked always to be generous and fair, never promised anything he could not deliver, and never betrayed a confidence. But that doesn’t mean he didn’t get into his fair share of scrapes, particularly with women.
The Shadowy One
On the mountain of Bearnas Mor, Finn and his best girl Bran were hunting and they came across a wild pig. The pig almost gets the best of Bran but, being the strong female character pupper that she is, she gets the upper hand in the end. With the pig’s dying scream, a very tall druid emerges from the mountain through what I can only assume is one of those sliding doors from 90’s cartoon villain lairs. He escorts them into the mountain and into the realm of the Sidhe, who traditionally live inside mountains, hills and mounds. There, inside the mountain, he introduces Finn to Scathach. The Shadowy One.
Sidhe are a race of beings that aren’t gods, but they’re not not gods either. Amongst them there are the ageless Tuatha de Danaan and the mortal Sons of Mil. They have tribes and fight over territory.
Scathach and her father invite Finn to stay for a meal and Finn asks Scathach for her hand in marriage. Her father gives his blessing and Scathach brings out her harp to play. The harp has three strings, one of iron, one of silver and one of bronze. The iron string will set the host (Christianity seeps in, I don’t know at the point of writing what the original wording would have been) crying forever. The bronze string would set them laughing for a day. But it is the silver string that she plays and it puts all of the world of men to sleep.
When Finn wakes up, he and Bran are back out on the mountain where they killed the pig. Was he married to Scathach? It never comes up again. But fear not because he definitely tries to marry one of the Sidhe again and it goes roughly the way you would expect.
Daireann, daughter of legendary Bob Dearg, a Sidhe queen in her own right, approaches Finn one day when he and his men are sitting on a hill. She offers to marry him on two conditions. The first is that she be his only wife for the first year and then have half of his days after that.
And he says no. Absolutely not. Never, no way, no woman. Ever. No.
Now, back in the day it was not unusual for young men and women to live together as man and wife for a year before they committed to staying married, and after that twelve months had the option to leave, no harm no foul. So, her first condition isn’t so unreasonable. I do understand his reluctance on the second condition because this isn’t his first rodeo. He;s been caught out before. Half of his days is a sinister stipulation too. If he is, say, 30 years old at this point, and agrees, and she leaves after ten years he knows that he only has ten more years left to live. What if she leaves after one year?
Daireann responds to his refusal by giving him a cup of mead and it just so happens that Finn is under a curse so that he cannot refuse anything that belongs to a feast which is so specific. It must have been one of those things that he wasn’t even concerned about at the time, like sure ok whatever how could having to accept food and drinks from people ever backfire. Even now, if someone laid a curse on me that I had to accept food and drinks from people I would be like is that even a curse I would always say yes anyway. Oh No, fReE FoOd aNd WiNe hOw wIlL I eVeR EnDuRe iT?
So he drinks the mead and it is of course magic mead, or maybe it is was just really strong, because it turns Finn into a total wad. He starts talking smack about all of his friends, just laying it all out. Every petty little mean thought he’d ever had, everything his men had ever done to annoy him, every mistake they had ever made. Everyone gets really mad and gradually abandons him, raving away on the hill, off his face on fairy mead. Everyone except Caoilte.
Caoilte was an absolute goddamn madman, and he absolutely deserves his own post. For now, we will simply say that if he didn’t 100% love Finn, he would have 100% murdered Finn and everyone else. He;s a skinny grey haired guy who could run the fastest of all the Fianna; who killed a five headed giant with a door, killed an enchanted boar no one else could kill; and would kill again at the drop of a hat. This one time Finn was taken hostage and– no. Wait. That story is epic. We’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Back to Caoilte on the hill, trying to calm down his drunk friend. He goes after everyone, basically like “you know he didn’t mean it, he loves you. The fairy lady got him messy drunk, she’s just causing trouble.”
It takes him 13 trips but he eventually gets everyone back and Finn sobers up. Apart from that other thing, its the hardest thing Caoilte ever had to work.
And then there was this one time a woman tried to make Finn fall in love with her by getting him to eat some magic nuts but he was like “Pfft no, I’m not eating those weird nuts, they might be a love spell,” so he buries them instead.