The Flight of the Sluggard

Patrick Kennedy
1891 (2nd Edition)

In such importance were held fictional narrations in old times, that they were carefully classified. The following were the chief varieties:—Tales of battles, of voyages, of the taking of forts, of sieges, of deaths of heroes, of cattle-raids, of courtships, of adventures in caverns, of land and sea expeditions, of banquets, and of elopements. Then there were the mere imaginative tales in prose or verse, of which Fion or some of his friends were the heroes. The one that follows is a specimen of the class of stories relative to flights and pursuits; it is called


After a great feast held at the palace of Almhuin, the Fianna betook themselves to Knockany, in Limerick. There Fion, setting up his tent, despatched his warriors to search the mountains that lie on the borders of Limerick, Cork, and Kerry, for game. As he was sitting in his tent playing chess, the scout placed on the brow of the hill entered to apprise him of the approach of a huge unwieldy man, leading, or rather dragging, a wretched horse after him. Coming out they beheld this worthy approaching in a most lazy mode, each step being achieved apparently by some complicated and painful operation. When he was within speaking distance, Fion accosted him. "What is your name—whence come you —and what do you seek?" "Giolla Deacair (slothful fellow) is the name I am called. The spot I came from is not worthy a place in your memory. No one will employ me, I'm so lazy, and so I come to seek service with the hospitable chief of the Fianna Eirionn." "And why do you bring this garran with you?" "To carry me when I go of messages, I am so lazy."

Fion, and those with him, laughed so loud that the wild game within a mile fled to their lairs. He told the lazy fellow he might stay among his giollas. "May the King of Lochlann live in fear of you a hundred years. Go, my poor garran, and graze with the noble beasts on that meadow: Fion allows you."

But Fion was scarcely set at his chess-board again, with Bald Conan opposite him, when he heard such squealing and galloping from the pasture that he was outside the tent in a moment; and there was the bony garran biting and kicking the war steeds of Oisin, of Oscur, of Fergus, and of Caeilte, and scattering them in all directions. "Dog of a sluggard," said Fion, "hasten to the pasture and secure your cursed beast, and let me not set eyes on either of you again." "Chief of the men of Erinn, the swift-footed Caeilte would be at Finntraighe, before your servant could reach that meadow. Let Conan rush and catch him by the mane, and I'll be warrant for his quiet." No sooner said than done. Conan seized the mane of the brute, and at once he stood still as if changed to stone. In vain did twigs and leather-braces sound on his ribs. With set feet he held his ground. "Bestride him, O Conan of the sharp tongue," said Slothful Fellow, "and perhaps he'll move." Up flew Conan, and strokes from his rod fell like hail on the sluggard's beast, but his legs remained as if rooted to the soil. "Ah! where has my memory fled?" said Giolla Deacair. "He will not move without feeling the weight of six men such as Conan Maol (the bald)."

Six of Fion's stoutest followers now mounted the steed of ill condition, and at a touch of the sluggard's rod of metal he was off to the ocean, like the arrow that cuts the air. It required the swift limbs of the chief to keep within view; and when they gained the white strand, horse and sluggard footed the waves as if they were a rolled meadow. They were Druids of the Tuath de Danaan people; and Fion, seeing the strange sight, stayed his course, sounded the Bar Buadh, and collected the Fianna to council.

End of this Story

For the pursuit of the captors and their prey over the Atlantic by Fion and a chosen band, the imprisonment of the heroes in a strong tower, and the disenchantment of the Druidic spells, we have not space.[1]


[1] The Fianna were disturbed by the Danaan Druids, much in the style adopted by the giants to plague Odin and his court.