Love & Vengeance: The Legend of Diarmuid & Gráinne

Believed to date back to the 9th century, the ancient Celtic tale of Diarmuid and Gráinne is a true classic much loved by the Irish. 

Gráinne (pronounced Graw-nyah) was the daughter of the High King of Ireland, Cormac MacAirt. She was renowned for her unparalleled beauty and grace. Suitors traveled from all over Ireland to woo the young princess. Gráinne’s hand was eventually promised in marriage to the legendary Irish warrior, Fionn MacCumhaill, and a great celebration feast was arranged.

On the night of the feast Gráinne encountered Diarmuid (pronounced Deer-mud) –  one of Fionn’s must trusted soldiers. Diarmuid boasted a “love spot” on his forehead which made him irresistible and Gráinne fell in love at first sight.

Diarmuid & Graáinne as Illustrated by celebrated Irish artist, Jim Fitzpatrick
Diarmuid & Graáinne as Illustrated by celebrated Irish artist, Jim Fitzpatrick. Image Source:

That night, Gráinne placed a spell on the party and set about eloping with the handsome warrior. While the guests lay sleeping, she confessed her love to Diarmuid. Not wanting to betray his trusted leader, he vehemently refused her advances. The young princess would not take no for an answer and cast a love spell on him.

Fionn awoke from his slumber to find his both his bride and his best warrior missing. A great tracker, he spent years and years pursuing the couple across the Emerald Isle. The two managed to evade capture by hiding in caves and other secret spots (many of which you can still visit today!)

Darby's Bed, Image Source:
Darby’s Bed in Co. Limerick: Diarmuid & Gráinne were said to sought refuge for a night inside this tomb when they were fleeing Fionn Mac Cumhaill. Image Source:

The star-crossed lovers’ luck ran out when Diarmuid was attacked by a wild boar. The blow was fatal and the brave warrior collapsed in his now heavily-pregnant lover’s arms. As he drew in his final breaths, Fionn MacCumhaill and his posse caught up on the two.

Gráinne begged Fionn for mercy and implored him to save poor Diarmuid by handing him a drink of water from his magical hands. Fionn, blinded by anger and thoughts of vengeance, refused outright. His son, Oísín pleaded with his father to help the hapless duo and yet Fionn still refused. It was only when Oísín threatened to kill his father, that Fionn relented. Sadly, it was too late. Diarmuid had passed while the heated discussions took place.

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