Conall and the Ring
Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales from the Fenian Cycle
Fionn was not alone in seeking one of the salmon of knowledge!
There once was a young fellow called Conall, and he lived with his parents in the east of the country. They lived a quiet life, catching fish and digging up oysters for meat and lamps, but one dark day the Fomors came and demanded tribute. Having none to give, his father bid the sea demons begone, but instead they made to take himself and his family for slaves!
A terrible fight broke out and the Fomorians slew his parents, so Conall fled into the deep dark woods with the silver sea-hounds of the raiders slobbering at his heels. Deep into the rainy night he fled, across a wrenching and thundering river with boulders rolling around in it, until he came at last to a cave.
He scurried inside with no care for what else might be there, for he was only glad to get away from the hounds and out of the chill downpour, but he needn't have feared, for there was only a herd of goats as miserable as himself. Shivering with shock and the clinging wetness, he soon fell asleep.
Before too long who should come into the cave with a wriggling salmon in one hand but an enormous giant, whose earthshaking footsteps woke Conall from his fitful slumber and whose single eye in the middle of his forehead was as large as the sun in the sky! He was as tall as five men one standing atop the shoulders of the other, and wider yet, an enormous creature from olden times.
He saw Conall and let a roar at him. "Who is this who sleeps in my home uninvited? But seeing as you're here, you can make yourself useful and roast this salmon – carefully now mind! For if I spot a single blister I'll cut the head clean off your shoulders and roast you as well! And don't think you'd be the first."
He struck a fire from the stone and continued in a mumble as he slid to the floor to sleep himself, "Three days and three nights I've hunted this salmon, and never has it been out of my sight, for it is the most wonderful salmon in all the world."
With that he fell asleep on the floor, and Conall put the salmon on a spit, holding it above the crackling flames. No sooner had the giant gone to sleep than he started to snore, and each time he drew a breath into his body he dragged Conall, the salmon, the fire and the goats to his mouth! And when he exhaled, they were thrown back to where they were before.
Time and again Conall was sucked towards the giant's gaping mouth with such force that he was in dread of going down his throat, but nonetheless he managed to roast the salmon on the spit. Then with dread he saw what he feared most – a single large blister rising on the skin of the fish!
Knowing he was done for otherwise, he pushed down on the blister with his thumb in order to burst it and hide the damage from the giant, but he burned himself and put it into his mouth to ease the pain. Quick as a flash, he suddenly received the knowledge of all things, and in the next moment was pulled towards the mouth of the giant again, right up to his face.
Knowing what to do now, he plunged the sharp spit into the giant’s sleeping eye and destroyed it.
That instant the giant with a single bound was at the low entrance of the cave, and, standing with his back to the wall and a foot on each side of the opening, roared out: “I swear by my darkened eye that you will not leave this place alive!”
Conall killed the largest goat with his knife and skinned him as quickly as the deed could be done, then wrapped the skin about himself and drove the herd toward the entrance to the cave, between the giant’s legs. When he passed below the giant himself, the giant took him by the horns, but Conall slipped out of the skin and fled into the night.
With a sigh of great despair and sadness, the giant declared “Oh you have bested me! And I am undone. But before you leave, let me make you a gift to show there are no hard feelings.”
“I’m afraid to go near you,” said Conall, “if you wish to give me a present, put it out this way, and then step well back.”
So the giant put a ring on the ground a little distance from the cave, then went back. Conall took up the ring and put it on the end of his little finger above the first joint, where it clung so firmly that no man in the world could have taken it off.
The giant then called out, “Where are you?”
“On Conall’s finger,” cried the ring. Like a thunderbolt the giant sprang at Conall and almost landed on his head, and if he had been only a little closer there would have been only jam where Conall once stood. Conall leapt back, his forest ways standing to him as he moved in silence, but again the giant asked, “Where are you?”
“On Conall’s finger,” answered the ring.
And again the giant made a leap, coming down just in front of Conall. Many times he called and many times he almost caught Conall, who could not escape with the ring on his finger. Locked in this terrifying dance, he was at a loss as to how he should live to see the dawn, but he remembered the wisdom when he bit his thumb, and so he bit it again.
Conall bit his thumb so hard that he bled, and when he tasted blood he knew what to do. He took the knife with which he had skinned the goat, cut off his finger at the first joint, and threw it, with the ring still on, into a deep bog close by.
Again the giant called out, “Where are you?” and the ring answered, “On Conall’s finger.”
Straight away the giant sprang towards the voice, sank to his shoulders in the bog, and stayed there forever after.
We now have an amazing Patreon page as well, where you can listen to the many myths and legends on the Emerald Isle! Exclusive to our Patreon, you can now hear stories of ancient Ireland, folklore and fairy tales and more, all professionally narrated. It's at times like these that it's most important to support artists and creative people whose income might be reduced, so if you'd like to support the work that goes into Emerald Isle, the Patreon can be found here: https://www.patreon.com/emeraldisle
More Legends from the Fenian Cycle
The days of the heroes of the Fianna have captured the imaginations of many throughout the ages, and one such was the ninth century poet Gofraidh Fionn O’Dalaigh, one of the finest poets in all of Killarney and all of Ireland. For it was his pen and none other that first put quill and ink to parchment and recorded the old story of Reicne F ... [more]
It was a fine day in Ireland many years ago when Fionn and his Fianna took a fancy to go out hunting. Warm was the sun amid the whispering glades of ancient forests, gentle was the breeze and sweet the scent of summer flowers in its bosom. Sweeter yet was the sight of a mighty deer to the eyes of the hunters, and so they gave chase, howling with de ... [more]
It was in the days of Fionn and the Fianna, a very long time ago in Ireland, that the people of Ben Edair decided to hold a festival, a Feis or Aonach, to celebrate the season. All of Fionn’s hosts were gathered, the seven ordinary warbands and the seven extraordinary warbands, and they danced and played music merrily with the people. Then ... [more]
There are few these days who have not heard of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, hero and defender of Ireland, or at least might recognise his name. But there were no creatures that Fionn loved amongst his three hundred dogs more than his two favourites, Bran and Sceolan, meaning Raven and Survivor, and though it’s a stranger story than most, this is the t ... [more]
It is not unusual for stories in the Irish legendarium to have more than one meaning besides that of a literal recounting of historical events, whether by accident or by design. Some tales were meant to be understood in the context of the era and culture of the story teller, while others might instruct in certain arts, and yet others contain myster ... [more]
Those monks who recorded the mythologies and folklore of Ireland which had previously been passed down by word of mouth from bard to druid to bard for countless generations were, by their very nature, devout Christians. As Christians they were dedicated to not only God and his Church, but to the people that gave them birth, and everywhere they ende ... [more]
One day Fionn Mac Cumhaill, doughty hero of Ireland, and his friends Goll, Cialta and Oscar, as well as others of the Fianna, were resting after the hunt on a certain long hill now known by a different name. Their meal was being made ready, when what should happen only a girl of the kin of the giants came striding up and sat down among them, a grea ... [more]
Something which often appears in the most ancient tales of Ireland is the grisly vision of heads which speak after being separated from their bodies! This was said to be an art of the druids inherited from the necromancy of the Dé Danann, who were themselves said to be able to raise a whole army from the grave to fight again day after day! ... [more]
There once was a young fellow called Conall, and he lived with his parents in the east of the country. They lived a quiet life, catching fish and digging up oysters for meat and lamps, but one dark day the Fomors came and demanded tribute. Having none to give, his father bid the sea demons begone, but instead they made to take himself and his famil ... [more]
Young Fionn Mac Cumhaill was out walking with his dog Bran one fine morning, and he happened to pass into a deep and thick dark wood of the kind that once covered all of Ireland, for the hunting was better there, when what did he come across but a thousand horses hauling timber and men chopping down the trees and preparing the logs. "What a ... [more]
There was a mighty warrior in the west of Eriu, and Cumhal Mac Art was his name. Feared was his axe and he could skewer two men with a single cast of his feathered war-dart, and yet for all that he lived a lonely life, and a life of fear – for it had been foretold that should he ever marry, he would die in battle the very next day! But all ... [more]
It was in the day of Fionn Mac Cumhaill when he was an old man, yet still hale and hearty, that one of his warriors, whose name was Diarmaid son of Donn and grandson of Duibne, had carried off his young bride-to-be, Gráinne daughter of Cormac! The two had fallen in love and Gráinne, for all of Fionn's fame, wanted nothing to do wi ... [more]
One warm summer's day Fionn and his men were out hunting through the darkling forests of Ballachgowan in Munster, chasing deer and boar through the gloomy glades, when they stopped short all of a sudden and came face to face with a startling sight! For what had stepped between them and their prey but a strange, damp giant of a man. Black wer ... [more]
Fionn Mac Cumhaill stood at the door of his hunting lodge with his fists on his hips, his heart sinking as he realised his intentions to hunt for deer this day were lost in the waves of mist and fog that had rolled in from Dublin bay, although at that time it was known by a different name. It had come as far inland as Gleann na Smol, the Glen of th ... [more]
When Fionn Mac Cumhaill became leader of the Fianna, the fiercest and most warlike of those bands of heroes who lived in the wild places, hunting and acting as champions for their kings, and defending Ireland from evil, he decided that he wished to have only the best warriors to follow him. So he sat down and sucked his thumb to taste the wisdom ... [more]
Close by where Limerick city stands today lie the ruins of an ancient and once mighty fortress called Carrigogunnel, which commanded all the lands about with a stern hand. It was known then as a place of ill omen, and it is known today as the same, for it was once the home of an uncanny hag by the name of Gráinne. Amid the surrounding mar ... [more]
A dark horde of fell-handed warriors approached Ireland, sails gathered off the coast like storm clouds, billowing out in the gusts of uncertain wind, while oars bent to the rolling thunder of drums. Fierce indeed was the host of King Colgan, master of Lochlainn, and he came to make war on Cormac Mac Airt, High King of Ireland! As soon as Fionn ... [more]
Diarmuid the Fair, son of Donn or Duibhne of the Tuatha De Danann was one of the Fianna, the great warriors of ancient Ireland who protected the land from dangers near and far. It was said that no woman could resist his gaze, for he'd been granted the blessing of comeliness by the Ghost Queen Morrigan after he helped her out of a spot of bother ... [more]
Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the rest of the Fianna were resting after a great battle, weary and sore with sorrow at the loss of their fellows, when they spied coming along the shores of Loch Lein in County Kerry a beautiful young woman riding a swift horse, so swift indeed that its hooves scarcely seemed to touch the ground! Now although the women of ... [more]
Now it is known by some that the fairies of Ireland weren't much like the fairies we hear about in these latter days, harmless things of mischief and frolic, but were instead respected and often feared, for their anger was quick and their kindness was whimsical. Some would join men in battle, and some would make war on men, others were omens of ... [more]
It was a fine brisk spring morning in Ireland when Fionn Mac Cumhaill decided to take himself for a stroll along the white sandy beaches of the seashore, the better to breathe the air and enjoy the simple pleasures life had to offer. But that morning, life had more to offer and it didn't look pleasant, for it was a giant bearing down on the bea ... [more]
Fionn MacCumhaill was well known as a fair and handsome man, but his most distinguishing feature was his grey hair - and he was not born with it! Fionn was one time out on the green of Almhuin, and he saw what had the appearance of a grey fawn running across the plain. He called and whistled to his hounds then, but neither hound nor man heard hi ... [more]
After his seven years of training with the poet Finegas were done, Fionn Mac Cumhaill took himself from the river Boyne to the great hall of the High King in Tara, Conn of the Hundred Battles, to present himself there as a member of the Fianna, the very best of the best warriors throughout Ireland. Announcing himself, Conn took him into the band an ... [more]
Here is the story of how Fionn MacCumhaill gained the knowledge of the world. And wouldn't it be a great thing to know it all? Still, knowledge and wisdom must be balanced, and this was known to the young man called Fionn, which means fair and bright. He was fleeing from the warriors who had murdered his father when he came upon the hiding plac ... [more]