kimurho (kimuro) wrote in sluagh_aotrom,

How the Strait of Reathainn Got Its Name

I don't really understand how the Scottish Gaels came up with the names for their stories - they seem to miss the point in my opinion. In my mind, I call this story "Real Men Don't Eat Greens".

vol. 1, July 15, 1904

CAOL REATHAINN : mar a fhuair e an t-ainm
le Alexander Carmichael

On a certain time when the Feinn had come home from the chase to the house at Farabheil, at the foot of Farabheinn in Ardnamurchan, they were surprised to find their wives so fat and fair and comely, for the chase was scant at that time with the Feinn. The Feinn put before them that they would know what their wives were getting to make them thus, and when they went away again to the hunt they left Conan, one of themselves, at the house so that he might find this out.

Conan kept a watch, and the food that they had was the hazel top boiled, and they were drinking the broth. It is said, too, that they used to wash themselves with this. The women understood that it was to watch themselves that Conan had been left at home, and there was great anger upon them. (I assume it was because he spied on them bathing. ---xmp)

In the night when Conan lay down to sleep they tied his hair to two stakes which they put into the ground on each side of his head. Then the women went out to the front of the house and they struck their palms and cried 'The harryings' with great lamenting till they wakened Conan. Conan sprang on his feet with great haste, but he left part of the hair and of the skin of his head fast to the stakes. (The real insult to this is that Conan was known as "the Bald" and didn't have much hair to begin with. ---xmp)

Conan was so angry with the trick played on him that he wanted revenge. He forced the women to return inside the house. When Conan had got the women within, he made a big pile of green heather and grey faggots in front of the house and set fire to it, so that he might kill the women with the smoke.

The Feinn were at this time in the Island of Skye, opposite to the house of Farabheil on the other side of Caol Reathainn, and when they saw the fire and the smoke rising up they called out loudly, striking their left hands on the fronts of their faces (foreheads) with their eyes on the sky. They ran to succour their set of wives, but the strait was between them ; but with their spears they leaped the strait all but one, the son of Reathainn. The son of Reathainn fell in the strait, and he was drowned, and from that day to this day 'the Strait of Reathainn' has stuck as a name to the strait.

Valour swiftly for the women of the Feinn,
And each one leapt on the point of his spear,
But they left the son of Reathainn in the strait.

By good fortune the women all came through it but one or two of them, for the Feinn made mighty running to aid them. The Feinn were in great wrath with Conan for what he had done, and they caught him to put him to death.

Conan asked as a favour that his head should be taken off him with Mac-an-Luinn, the sword of Fionn mac Cumhail, that would not leave a shred behind it, and that his own son Garabh should smite him on the thigh of Fionn. This was allowed him, but first seven grey hides and seven faggots of firewood and seven 'tirinn' of green turf were laid on top of Fionn's thigh. Then the head of Conan was laid on that and Garabh his son struck the head off him with Mac-an-Luinn. The sword also cut through the seven hides and seven faggots of wood to cut into Fionn's leg for it was said:

The crosses in the palm were not more numerous
Than the severed veins in the thigh of Fionn.

The shock of his father's death and the injury to Fionn, both done by his own hand, drove Garbh mad so that he knew not any of those around him. He asked where the Feinn were and when they told him that they down below him, he went down till he reached the sea, and he swam out into the sea till he drowned himself in it.
Tags: finn mccool, fionn mac cumhail, scottish folklore
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