Sunday 16 March 2008

A wee story

I was thinking about the forthcoming serial story suggested by Ben Langhinrich and as I said in my previous post there is a tradition of oral storytelling in Ireland where the bare bones of the story stay the same however the method of telling changes with each storyteller that tells it. I thought i would share one of these tales with you today, it being a Sunday ;-). What follows is a tale about marriage, the importance of having a smart wife and of not picking fights with Scottish Giants.

So get yourself a cup of tea from the pot, pull up a chair and get comfy ....

Once apon a time and it was a long time ago, sure if I’d been alive then I’d not be here today, in the very North of Ireland there lived a giant of a man. Fionn Mac Cool was his name, he stood a full fifteen feet tall in his stocking soles, had arms like legs and legs like tree trunks, but most noticeable was his shock of blond hair from where he got his name Fionn, which in Old Irish means fair.

Now many are the tales of Fionn and his brave deeds with his band of warriors the Fianna. Of how he started the causeway to Scotland and other marvels we will never see the like of again. However my tale today is of the other side of this great Irish Hero, because in between his mighty deeds and heroic struggles he, like all of us, had to go home to his house and his wee wife Oonagh. Now ‘tis said the behind every great man there stands a great woman and in Fionn’s case never a truer word was spoken. Oonagh was as wise as she was beautiful and did her best to curb her husband’s enthusiasm for getting into a fight at the drop of a hat.

Fionn and Oonagh had not long been married when Fionn was out for a wee walk along the cliffs at Ballycastle and now wasn’t it the best of summer days, the sun shone in the heavens and the birds were singing and Fionn was in a very good mood. Sitting on a large boulder he looked out over the sea and savored the view.

Now at that time giants were more common than they are today and not 14 miles away on the Mull of Kintyre lived another giant called Fergus. Now this Scottish giant was a bad tempered old brute, well full of himself and he had no great love for Fionn. On this particular day Fergus was out doing his garden, planting potatoes. As he drilled the holes to put the seed potatoes in he sang a Scottish song, Fergus was many things but a good singer he was not. His voice sounded the noise a donkey makes when it is surprised by having a broom handle stuck up it's bum and as Fergus was a giant his singing was very ,very loud.

From his perch on the cliff, Fionn could hear the dreadful noise of Fergus singing drifting over the water. He plugged his fingers in his ears but this didn’t help.

‘Och for gods sake will you give over you big Scottish lassie’s blouse!’, Fionn shouted

The singing stopped, Fergus got up and looked around he could see the shape of Fionn. He shook his fist and replied, ‘Fionn Mac Cool is that you?’

‘Aye, at least your eyesight is better than your singing voice' replied Fionn dismissively, "sure your voice is awful and it is made no better by that huge wart you call a nose!"

‘.*&^%*&^%..!’ Fumed Fergus, now if truth be told he did have an incredibly ugly nose, misshapen and bent and he was very self conscious about it.

Dropping his dibble, he raced to his boat and started to row, towards Ireland intent on teaching the impudent Irish Giant a lesson he would be long in forgetting. Fionn watched and listened with interest because there is nothing like an irate Scottish giant for the learning of colorful and illustrative insults ,none of which I can repeat here, apart from mentioning that A scabby sheep’s arse, a turnip, 3 barrow loads of pig slurry and Finn's mother played a substantial role.

As the Scottish Giant got closer and Fionn got a better look at him and he noticed to his horror that Fergus was a good 3 feet taller than himself. Now don't get me wrong Fionn was no coward but he was a realist and knew that he would very likely take a beating in a stand up fight. So he nipped back home and ran into the house looking for Oonagh.

‘Oonagh’ he called ‘Oonagh dote, were in blazes are ye?’

‘Fionn what’s the matter?’ called his wife from the kitchen

‘ Och darlin’ yon blurt of a Pig’s arse Fergus is on his way over and he wants to give me a thumping for saying he couldnae sing, I don't know what to do and darlin’ its a beating I don't want to get! What’ll I do he will be on his way up from the beach ... dear heavens what will I do ?

Oonagh thought for a second and told her husband.

‘Here wrap this shawl around you and lie in that big log basket by the hearth, and give quiet!’ Oonagh then tucked him in with a blanket.

Fionn knew better than to argue and did exactly as he was told, and not a minute to soon because in through the door came Fergus all bluster and red from the row across.

‘Were is that wee slather they call Fionn Mac Cool?, he lives here I ken .......’

‘That will be enough of that!’ interrupted Oonagh ‘ I don’t know who you are but if you are looking for my husband you will at least be civil in front of his wife and child’

Fergus looked at Fionn in the log basket, ‘That Fionn’s child is it?’ He asked

‘Och a happier wee child it would be hard to find and just like his dad, aren’t you your daddy’s wee pixie?’ She tickled Fionn under the chin

Fergus raised and eyebrow, if this was Fionn’s child what size was size was his father? The first seeds of doubt flitted across his mind. Oonagh turned and continued,

‘My husband is out shifting a wee mountain over by Donegal, the king didn’t much like it so he asked Fionn to move it for him. He wont be back for while, will you wait?’

‘Aye missus if I may’ replied Fergus

‘Well if you are going to wait you might as well be useful, I’m doing the wash today and the steam in the kitchen is something fierce, could you be a gentleman and turn the house round so the kitchen door catches the breeze?, Fionn would do it ‘twere he here and I’m only a wee lassie....’

‘Bloody Hell!’ thought Fergus ‘This Fionn has a child like a full grown Charloais bull, and he moves houses for his wife.......’ but unwilling to seem weak in front of this wee woman, outside he went and rolling up his sleeves he gripped a corner of the house and heaved and hauled and puffed and panted and heaved and hauled some more, the house started to move and gradually it turned until the kitchen door faced into the breeze. When he finished, Oonagh was standing at the back door, leaning on the jamb,

‘Sure didn’t you take your time, my Fionn would have done it in half the time but then your only a wee chap, I shouldn’t have asked but you get used to a useful man around the house, my apologies Fergus’

Fergus shuddered despite himself, this Fionn was starting to worry him, already the red mist had fallen from his eyes, but he could see no way of getting away without loosing face in front of Oonagh.

‘Would you take a wee cup of tea and a scone for your trouble?’ Asked Oonagh.

‘I would.....’ Replied Fergus

‘Come on in then and Ill get you a cup’ Now Oonagh had used the time while the house was on the move to stuff an iron poker into a large currant scone, which he now offered to Fergus. ‘There you go start ,on that, they are Fionn’s favourite wee bite and the child’s too’ She handed a poker free scone to Fionn in his log basket crib, which he set to and ate in three big bites.

Fergus took a bite of his and CLANG bit into the poker, ‘Arrhgghhhump’ he said, breaking 2 front teeth. ‘Is anything the matter?’ asked Oonagh

‘grumphgagrndbbs... no..’ mumbled Fergus. He took another bite.....CLANG another 2 teeth gone. Tears ran down Fergus’s cheeks, but he looked and Fionn in the basket the large child was licking the scone crumbs from his lips, Fergus finished the scone and, this is no word of a lie, there wasn’t a tooth left in his head that wasn’t broken!

‘Missus...’ he mumbled ‘ that is some child you have, how old is he?’

‘ Oh he’s nae more than 18 months and he is a bonny child’

‘He must have some set of teeth’ Fergus said

‘ An what would you mean by that?’ asked Oonagh arms akimbo,

‘Och nothing missus nothing.... It looks like it is all I mean, I can see the white glint frae here’

‘Oh.....’ Oonagh ‘thats all right then. Aye but he does have a fine set of wee teeth, strong as strong and white as milk, here stick you finger in and feel’

Fergus got up and put his forefinger in Fionns mouth. ‘Aye they are right and sharp and thats no mistake’ said Fergus, ‘Go on feel the ones at the back they are even more impressive’ said Oonagh, Fergus stuck his finger further in.

Now as you all know Giants are only strong and big because of magic, and giant magic is all stored in the forefinger and now here was Fergus with his magic forefinger inside Fionn’s mouth.

Fionn winked at Fergus and snapping his mouth shut, bit the finger clean off with a whizz, several bangs and the sound like that of of a balloon going down, Fergus started to shrink until he disappeared down a crack in the floor.

Fionn got out of his hiding place, spat out the severed finger and hugged his wife. Accepting her husbands thanks for a second, Oonagh then proceeded to beat her husband soundly with a rolling pin for being such a daft eejit. Oonagh was never one to spoil the husband by sparing the rolling pin.

That is the story of Fionn,Oonagh and Fergus. Finn had many more adventures, as did Oonagh and they and their children, because they had many, had full and happy lives. :)


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