The legend of Grían the Brightcheeked

Still searching for suspects and sense in vain, naively reasoning that there must be a trace of an all enlightening remark somewhere of such a dominant site. But so far, hills of the sun springing up everywhere, except in Inishowen. As for the legend below – What shame it does not belong to our hill.


Cormac Gaileng, son of Tadg son of Cían, son of Ailill Olum, ancestor of the Gailenga east and west,* and of the Luigne and of the Saithne. Gaileng then from this: Cormac son of Tadg made a great feast for his father at Breslech, and there was a hundred of every kind of four-footed animal at that feast except badgers only. Tadg told Cormac to go and seek badgers for the feast. Cormac assented to this and went forth from the place.

And there came to him Odrán, the druid, the son of Láidir, charioteer of the son of Tadg’s steward.” What is thy desire, O Cormac,” said Odrán. “To seek badgers,” said Cormac, “for Tadg’s feast.” “There is a prophecy to me of it,” said Odrán, “that I should get badgers for thee.” ” Are there any for me?” said Corniac. “There are,” said the druid, “badgers which have been transformed, and they are human beings by origin, who were changed by Grían the Brightcheeked , daughter of Firae son of Eogabal, into the forms of badgers. And this was Grían’s reason for (changing) them, namely, five sons of Conoll, son of Echaid Ron, son of Mug Núadat, were they, and they slew Grían’s maidservant, and these youths destroyed Firae’s sid (fairy knoll), and Grían came to them, and changed those champions into badgers, and they are so still,” said Odrán.

(And when Conoll heard that his sons were destroyed, he came to Cnocna curad (hill of the champions), which is called Cnoc Gréine (Grían’s hill), and found Grían asleep there, and a contest took place between them , so that he nearly killed her. “Is it thou, O Conoll,” said she. “It is I,” said he. “Come close to me, O Conoll,” said she, “so that a blessing may be given to thee.” Conoll came close to her. The maiden shook ashes [on him].

Then she went from the hill to Carn Conuill, and found death there, and from her the cairn is named. Grían afterwards died on that hill, and from her is it called Cnoc Gréine.)

Cormac and Odrán went to seek the badgers. Then Odrán said to Cormac that they would not come out on his protection, and that they would come on the truth of his father. Cormac took the spear of Tadg with him as a sign of truth towards them. Without Tadg’s knowledge then Cormac bore the spear with him, and he took their fortress from the badgers, and said to them, that they should come forth to him on the truth of Tadg. Then the badgers came forth from their fort, when they saw Tadg’s spear in sign of truth to them; and Cormac slew them after that. So that therefore Tadg drove his son from him, i.e. Cormac, so that he is apart in consequence of breaking his faith with the foolish animals unde dicitur Gailenga and Cormac Gaileng. Gaileng now, i.e. gua-lang .i. gua a lie, and lang deceit, i.e. deceit which Cormac did to the badgers, etc.

Gaileng dicitur quasi lang in gai, ‘deceit of the spear’, for it was the spear of his father that was in Cormac’s hand, when he killed the badgers with it. Cormac Gaileng, a quo the four Gailengs, i.e. the Little Gailenga in Meath, and Gailenga Collamrach, and Gailenga Murbuilg and Gailenga Chail, etc.

*Now Gallen in the county of Mayo and Mor-gallen in the north of the countv of Meath.

Cormac’s glossary, codex A, (from a manuscript in the library of the Royal Irish Academy), 1862, p.xliii

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