[The stage is dark. A young woman, wearing a colorful dress and carrying
a candle, steps to the middle of the stage and bows. She begins to speak.]
NARRATOR: In days long ago, the great hero Fin M'Coul lived on the top of
the hill Knockmany. His reputation spread throughout the land, for no man
could best him in a fight. The giant Cucullin heard of Fin's prowess, and
decided one day to test it himself. Fin caught word of this, and he felt
great fear of the giant, so he ran home to seek the council of his wife
[The NARRATOR hands the candle to an older woman, wearing a simple peasant
dress. OONAGH walks around the stage, using the candle to light lanterns
around the set. FIN (Caoimhin) sits at a dining table, and OONAGH steps
over to a kitchen counter and begins chopping vegetables.]
FIN: It's this Cucullin that's troubling me. When the fellow gets
angry, and begins to stamp, he'll shake you a whole townland; and it's
well known that he can stop a thunderbolt, for he always carries one about
him in the shape of a pancake, to show to anyone that might misdoubt it.
[FIN claps his thumb in his mouth]
OONAGH [sweetly]: Fin, darling, I hope you don't bite your thumb at me,
FIN: Nay, woman, as you well know: It's my thumb where my prophecy lies.
I'm seeing where Cucullin is, and where he goes.
OONAGH: Yes, jewel; but take care and don't draw blood.
FIN: He's coming. I see him below Dungannon, and how to manage I don't
know. If I run away, I am disgraced; and I know that sooner or later I
must meet him, for my thumb tells me so.
OONAGH: When will he be here?
FIN: Tomorrow, about two o'clock. [He groans.]
OONAGH: Well, my bully, don't be cast down. Depend on me, and maybe I'll
bring you better out of this scrape than ever you could bring yourself, by
your rule o' thumb.
NARRATOR: [Appears at the edge of the stage, next to a cradle.] This
quieted Fin's heart very much, for he knew that Oonagh was hand and glove
with the fairies; and, indeed, to tell the truth, she was supposed to be a
fairy herself. If she was, however, she must have been a kind-hearted one,
for, by all accounts, she never did anything but good in the neighborhood.
Oonagh then drew the nine woolen threads of different colors, which she
always did to find the best way of succeeding in anything of importance she
[OONAGH ties nine colorful ribbons into three braided rings, then puts one
around her right arm, hangs one from a necklace to cover her heart, and
puts the third around her right ankle. She walks around the stage, putting
out all of the lanterns, and hands the candle to the NARRATOR, who stands
at the front of the darkened stage.]
NARRATOR: Having everything now prepared, she sent round to the neighbors
and borrowed one-and-twenty iron griddles, which she took and kneaded into
the hearts of one-and-twenty cakes of bread, and these she baked on the
fire in the usual way, setting them aside in the cupboard according as they
were done; and then did she cook two cakes with no griddle inside. She put
down a large pot of new milk, which she made into curds and whey, and gave
Fin due instructions how to use the curds when Cucullin should come.
Having done all this, she sat down quite contented, waiting for his arrival
on the next day about two o'clock, that being the hour at which he was
expected -- for Fin knew as much by the sucking of his thumb. Now, this
was a curious property that Fin's thumb had; but, notwithstanding all the
wisdom and logic he used to suck out of it, it could never have stood to
him here were it not for the wit of his wife. In this very thing,
moreover, he was very much resembled by his great foe, Cucullin; for it was
well known that the huge strength he possessed all lay in the middle finger
of his right hand, and that, if he happened by any mischance to lose it, he
was no more, notwithstanding his bulk, then a common man.
[A light appears above the stage, so you can see once again the inside of
the house, with dining table, two chairs, kitchen counter, and cradle, and
a door to the right.]
OONAGH: [Looks out the door.] Ho, Fin, here comes the giant. [She places
a blanket over the cradle in the corner.] Fin, lie here. You must pass
for your own child, so lie there snug, and say nothing, but be guided by
FIN: Ah, what man am I, to hide in the cradle so?
OONAGH: Quiet, Fin, and lie there. Leave it to me.
[FIN gets into the cradle and covers himself with the blankets.]
[A man wearing furs knocks on the door.]
CUCULLIN: Gods save all here! Is this where the great Fin M'Coul lives?
OONAGH: Indeed it is, honest man. Gods watch you kindly -- won't you be
CUCULLIN: [Enters and sits down.] Thank you, ma'am. You're Mrs. M'Coul, I
OONAGH: I am, and I have no reason, I hope, to be ashamed of my husband.
CUCULLIN: No, he has the name of being the strongest and bravest man in
Maire, but for all that, there's a man not far from you that's very
desirous of taking a shake with him. Is he at home?
OONAGH: Why, then, no, and if ever a man left his house in a fury, he
did. It appears that some one told him of a big basthoon of a giant
called Cucullin being down at the Causeway to look for him, and so he set
out there to try if he could catch him. Troth, I hope, for the poor
giant's sake, he won't meet with him, for if he does, Fin will make paste
of him at once.
CUCULLIN: Well, I am Cucullin, and I have been seeking him these twelve
months, but he always kept clear of me; and I will never rest night or
day until I lay my hands on him.
OONAGH: [Snorts contemptously.] Did you ever see Fin?
CUCULLIN: How could I? He always took care to keep his distance.
OONAGH: I thought so. I judged as much; and you take my advice, you
poor-looking creature, you'll pray night and day that you may never see
him, for I tell you it will be a black day for you when you do. But, in
the meantime, you perceive that the wind's on the door, and as Fin himself
is from home, maybe you'd be civil enough to turn the house, for it's
always what Fin does when he's here.
CUCULLIN: [Looks surprised briefly, then stands and cracks the middle
finger of his right hand three times. He goes outside, and the insides of
the house shake and blur horizontally, giving the impression that the house
FIN: [Yelps as the house turns.]
OONAGH: Quiet, you.
OONAGH: Arrah, then, as you are so civil, maybe you'd do another obliging
turn for us, as Fin's not here to do it himself. You see, after this long
stretch of dry weather we've had, we feel very badly off for want of
water. Now, Fin says there's a fine spring well somewhere under the rocks
behind the hill here below, and it was his intention to pull them asunder;
but having heard of you, he left the place in such a fury, that he never
thought of it. Now, if you try to find it, troth I'd feel it a kindness.
[OONAGH leads CUCULLIN out the door.]
NARRATOR: [Appears at side of stage, near cradle.] OONAGH then brought
CUCULLIN down to see the place, which was all one solid rock; and, after
looking at it for some time, he cracked his right middle finger nine times,
and, stooping down, tore a cleft about four hundred feet deep, and a
quarter of a mile in length, which has since been christened by the name of
Lumford's Glen. This feat nearly threw Oonagh herself off her guard; but
what won't a woman's sagacity and presence of mind accomplish?
OONAGH: [From offstage] You'll now come in, and eat a bit of such humble
fare as we can give you. Fin, even although he and you are enemies, would
scorn not to treat you kindly in his own house; and, indeed, if I didn't
do it even in his absence, he would not be pleased with me.
[OONAGH and CUCULLIN enter. CUCULLIN sits, and OONAGH places six of the
cakes in front of him, together with a side of boiled bacon, and a stack of
CUCULLIN: [Puts one of the cakes into his mouth and takes a big bite, then
roars.] Blood and fury! How is this? Here are two of my teeth out! What
kind of bread is this you gave me?
OONAGH: [Coolly.] What's the matter?
CUCULLIN: [Shouting.] Matter! Why, here are the two best teeth in my head
OONAGH: Why, that's Fin's bread -- the only bread he ever eats when at
home; but, indeed, I forgot to tell you that nobody can eat it but
himself, and that child in the cradle there. I thought, however, that as
you were reported to be rather a stout little fellow of your size, you
might be able to manage it, and I did not wish to affront a man that thinks
himself able to fight Fin. Here's another cake -- maybe it's not so hard
CUCULLIN: [Eyeing the cake suspiciously, then hungrily, and finally taking
a big bite from it.] Thunder and giblets! Take your bread out of this, or
I will not have a tooth in my head; here's another pair of them gone!
OONAGH: Well, honest man, if you're not able to eat the bread, say so
quietly, and don't be wakening the child in the cradle there. There, now,
he's awake upon me.
FIN: [Bellows.] Mother, I'm hungry -- get me something to eat!
OONAGH: [Goes back to the counter, takes one of the cakes with no griddle
in it and hands it to FIN, who promptly eats it.]
CUCULLIN: [Shocked.] I'd like to take a glimpse at the lad in the cradle,
for I can tell you that the infant who can manage that nutriment is no
joke to look at, or to feed of a scarce summer.
OONAGH: With all the veins of my heart. Get up, acushla, and show this
decent little man something that won't be unworthy of your father, Fin
FIN: [Dressed as an infant, gets up from the cradle, and eyes Cucullin
suspiciously.] Are you strong?
CUCULLIN: Thunder an' ounds! What a voice in so small a chap!
FIN: Are you strong? Are you able to squeeze water out of that white
stone? [Puts a white stone into Cucullins hand.]
[CUCULLIN squeezes the stone as hard as he can, but to no effect.]
FIN: [With great contempt.] Ah, you're a poor creature! You a giant! Give
me the stone here, and when I'll show what Fin's little son can do; you
may then judge of what my daddy himself is. [Takes the stone, slyly
exchanges the curds, and squeezes the curds until the whey drips out of his
hand.] I'll now go in to my cradle; for I scorn to lose my time with
anyone that's not able to eat my daddy's bread, or squeeze water out of a
stone. Bedad, you had better be off out of this before he comes back; for
if he catches you, it's in flummery he'd have you in two minutes. [Returns
to the cradle and covers himself in blankets.]
CUCULLIN: [Looking afraid.] I admit that I'm not a match for old Fin,
strong as I am; tell him I will avoid him as I would the plague, and that I
will make myself scarce in this part of the country while I live.
OONAGH: It's well for you that he doesn't happen to be here, for it's
nothing but hawk's meat he'd make of you.
CUCULLIN: I know that, divil a thing else he'd make of me; but before I
go, will you let me feel what kind of teeth they are that can eat
griddle-bread like that?
OONAGH: With all pleasure in life, only, as they're far back in his head,
you must put your finger a good way in.
CUCULLIN: [Puts out his right middle finger, sticks it deep into FIN's
mouth, probes around for a moment, then screams as FIN bites the finger
off. He waves his hand around, dripping blood.] Cor! He bit my finger
clean off, my good middle finger! [Groans, then falls to the floor.]
NARRATOR: And thus did FIN, through the wit and invention of OONAGH, his
wife, succeed in overcoming his enemy by stratagem, which he never could
have done by force. And thus also is it proved that the women, if we
bring you into many an unpleasant scrape, will succeed in getting you
out of others worse.
All of the cast step to the front of the stage, link arms, and bow.
Return to Turn 101