Emerald Isle

Finnbhear King of the Fairies

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales tales of Ireland

The Amorous and Jovial Finnbhear, King of the Fairies

After the Tuatha De Dannan were defeated in battle by the great race of Milesians, who held sway in Ireland long after, some of the Tuatha decided to leave and go elsewhere while some chose to stay in Ireland. Those that stayed agreed that they must live beneath the earth, and they were led by a great King in the west, Finnbhear son of Dagda, who it was said reared him from a horse.

And so among the roots of the old trees and deep forests of Ireland they made their homes, clearing great halls and hidden ways by which they could travel the land without being seen. Many were the wondrous works they wrought, and their realm in time became distant enough from this world that it can now only be reached through caves, cracks, passageways and the fount of sacred springs. Still, it was the case that no new buildings were erected without first asking their permission!

In times past people would offer them a part of their crops, and Finnbhear was well known to favour horses as he rode a flaming-eyed steed, the game of hurling, chess - many's the mortal has lost his fortune to Finnbhearr after chancing a game - and above all else, women! Although what his wife Úna made of that is anyone's guess.

He would take a fancy to a young girl and whisk them off on his fiery steed to dance the night away amid the twinkling pillars of his palace, but they always awoke safe and sound in their own beds. Well, almost always, once he happened to take a particular shine to a lovely young lady and she never made it back!

Her husband was beside himself but her old nanny said he must dig down into the fairy mound if he wanted to find his wife agan, and begin at the top, with no help from anyone. He set to it with a will but it was heavy work and as he rested, the fairies would come and fill in the tunnel with earth. Then the nanny told him to sprinkle the earth with salt and to surround the hole with burning turf, so the fairies couldn't pass, and so he did. The next morning, his wife was returned none the worse, if a little exhausted from all her dancing!

When he wasn't out sowing his own royal oats Finnbhearr was often tipped to bring a good harvest for the farmers in the west, Each year he would have a battle with the fairies of Ulster, if he won the crops would be good in Connacht, and if he lost the crops failed. Some say still they can tell when the crops will be good by reading the signs on the fairy-paths, the soft breezes that pass of an evening in West Galway. A soft hot blast indicates the presence of a good fairy; while a sudden shiver shows that a bad one is near.

King Finnbheara dwelt and dwells still at Cnoc Meadha, surrounded by ancient cairns and mounds of great antiquity, indicated  on the map below.

Further Folk and Faerie Tales of Ireland

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