Myths and Legends of South County Dublin

Oisín and St. Patrick

Fionn Mac Cumhail, chief of the Fianna, had a son called Oisín. One day the Fianna were out hunting, when a lady of great beauty approached them. She was Niamh of the Golden Hair. She chose Oisín from among all the Fianna to be her husband. She told him to come with her on her fairy horse, and they rode over the land to the sea and across the waves to the land of Tír na nÓg. In Tír na nÓg you never grew old: it was a beautiful and magical place.

Oisín remained in Tír na nÓg for three years, but he longed to be back with the Fianna. Niamh gave him a fairy horse for his journey home. But she warned Oisín not to let his feet touch earthly ground or he would never return to her.

Oisín promised Niamh that he would be careful and set out for Ireland. To his disgust he found Ireland inhabited by a race of puny folk to whom the names of Fionn and his followers were nothing more than a part of dimly remembered history.

Oisín asked the men where Fionn and his men would be. A monk told him that Fionn and his men had not lived for three hundred years. Oisín could not believe this, so he turned his horse and rode towards Glenasmole.

As he came out of Glenasmole, he saw a group of men on the hill of Tallaght, heaving and sweating, trying to lift a large boulder out of the ground. He took pity on them and offered to help them.

He set his hand under the stone and sent it rolling down the hillside. The men gazed in wonder at this godlike man, but their cheers of praise soon turned to cries of terror as they saw the change in Oisín. In bending over to lift the stone, Oisín had broken his saddle and had fallen to the ground.

The instant he touched the ground the powerful young warrior turned into an old man.

The men brought Oisín to St. Patrick, to see what he could do for the confused old man. Storytellers for a thousand years have delighted in the arguments of the two: the struggle between pagan and Christian; between physical strength and mystical power; has inspired writers and poets, including W. B. Yeats. St. Patrick wrote down the Fianna stories that Oisín gave him and so kept them alive for future generations.


Binary Salmon of Knowledge
Size: 23.2M bytesModified: 13 October 2010, 11:02

Next - Other stories in Englishnext