Thursday, March 23, 2017

Where O Where is Seamus?

Did you wear your green last week? I feel like less people celebrate St. Patrick's Day each year. We certainly can't ignore it around here, since we have a leprechaun. Although this year, we didn't get any puzzles from Seamus.

Still, we dutifully got gold for Seamus and made our wishes.

You may have noticed Hannah in there. She and June were in the midst of some serious History Fair prep, so she got to make wishes with us. (She was practically living with us while the girls were getting their exhibit ready.)

We still stick coins to our head and drop them in the pot. Robyn was taking too long, in my opinion, so I gave her a whack on the head and sure enough, the coin came right off. (I don't think she was terribly pleased with me.)

The next morning, there was something in the pot, and a very interesting letter included. It wasn't from Seamus.

You’ve probably noticed that Seamus has been a bit scarce this year. Well, that’d be because he’s traveling. He’s on a great adventure that promises a large bounty of gold.

It’s leprechaun custom to protect territory, especially when one is engaged in a great quest. Seamus and I have a great, long history together, and when he left on his adventure, he sent me to protect his lands while he’s away.

Seamus is a natural puzzler, but I do not possess his innate abilities for befuddlements and bemusement. I, on the other hand, am an archivist — a historian and storyteller. And so, in return for the gold you’ve passed to me and Seamus, I leave you a story, such as it is.

It is a story of ancient origin, around the time of the formation of the race of man and all the glorious fairy creatures.

The great heroes of the age grew large in stature in direct relation to their fame, their strength, and their cunning. And the most giant of the heroes was Fionn mac Cumhaill, or as you say it “Finn MacCool.”

Finn was no ordinary giant. He possessed great strength and skill. He was the greatest giant in all of Ireland. He hand was so enormous he could fit a hundred men on one hand and easily raise them into the air. Many claimed they could hear his bellowing laughter across the sea, but others claim it was just thunder.

Finn lived with his wife, Oonagh. You say it “Oonah.” Finn and Oonah lived in an ancient castle set formidably on the rolling hills of County Antrim, overlooking the sea.

Finn and Oonah received many visitors and encouraged common folk to come and see them. They came to admire Finn, to speak with Oonah, and sometimes to ask for help. Finn performed many brave deeds in service to the people. That’s how he became a hero of the people. And each great deed added to his already great stature.

At that time, aye and to this day, Scotland harbored power thirsty, indecent folk who would say or do anything for recognition. They too had heroes, and while they were large, they certainly never achieved the size of Irish giants — especially Finn. Nevertheless, a messenger arrived from Scotland over the sea, bearing a challenge from Scotland’s great giant, Angus, who unabashedly proclaimed himself as stronger than Finn and larger than Finn. Angus wanted to show everyone that the giants of Scotland were greater than any giant in Ireland.

Now Finn had never seen this Angus before, but with the honor of Ireland at stake, he couldn’t ignore Angus’ challenge. Finn dropped to the ground to cast his eye upon this puny messenger. He squinted and oogled to see if he could find any clues about Angus. Finding none, Finn stood, clapped his hands, and boomed that he should like to meet this Angus. He set the messenger in his boat and fully hurled the boat skipping across the sea back to Scotland.

As no boat float Finn, he set about building a bridge from Ireland to Scotland — a veritable giant’s bridge. He pulled great basaltic rods from volcanoes to drive into the ocean floor, thus forming a great rocky bridge on a direct route to Scotland.

Mile after mile of causeway, Finn built this legendary bridge toward Scotland. Humans came from all around to see the great formation, and word soon traveled to Angus’ ears that Finn had begun work on the great bridge. Not to be outdone, Angus started construction of the causeway on the Scottish side, claiming he’d achieved the idea himself. For weeks, the giants labored to span the sea. Each night they would return to their respective homes over the massive rocky bridge to rest and prepare for the next day.

One morning, as Finn was preparing to go to the causeway, Oonah came rushing toward him. She was red faced and clearly shaken. She had been to the bridge to observe Finn’s work and had found the great Angus nearly completing the causeway. What she saw struck fear in her heart: Angus was indeed much taller than Finn. He was nearly twice Finn’s size! She immediately made for the castle to share this information with Finn.

“He’s twice your size!” she blurted, “and twice your strength. You cannot match him in battle. You must retire from the match!”

“How can I fight a giant twice my size?” Finn wondered aloud. His forehead was creased and his brow furrowed with anxiety.

Just then, a knock at the door tugged at their attention. It was the messenger from Scotland. Having crossed the sea on foot over the great giant’s causeway, he extended his formal invitation. “On the morrow at sunrise, you are hereby called to a battle of brute strength. Angus will meet you here.”

Finn glanced at Oonah, then considered his words. Could he really fight another giant twice his size? What would Ireland think if he abandoned the fight now? What should he do? This questions hung in the air as the messenger awaited Finn’s answer.

“What shall I tell Angus?” he demanded.

“Tell him to find me here at sunrise,” Finn intoned through the door.

“So be it,” the messenger affirmed, “Angus shall be here, tomorrow at sunrise. Then we shall see who is the greatest giant in all the land!” With that, he gestured a quick farewell to the door and returned to the causeway.

Oonah stared at Finn in disbelief. How could this work out well for Finn? She and Finn discussed their plight throughout the night. And by morning, they had settled on a plan.

As the sun peaked over the rolling hills of County Antrim, Angus came thundering across the causeway eager to meet Ireland’s Finn. He strode to the castle and pounded the door with such force that dust fell from the ceiling.

“I am Angus, the great giant of Scotland. I seek Finn, champion of Ireland. Today we fight for the title of the greatest giant of the land.”

It was Oonah that came to the door. “Quiet,” she hushed, “you’ll wake the baby!”

Now Angus hadn’t made an account of Finn’s children. Out of deference to the child’s mother, Angus hushed his tone. “My apologies. I did not know Finn had a child.”

“You may see him if you wish. Finn’s is preparing for the challenge and shall be with us by and by. Please come in.”

Angus entered the castle and cast his eyes toward the enormous cradle. A deafening cry issued from the bassinet, and Angus peeked over the edge. There lay the largest baby Angus had ever beheld. “Is this Finn’s son?” Angus posed, chagrined.

Oonah rushed over to the edge of the cradle to comfort the cries. “Oh, young Finn is awake now, but he doesn’t seem too upset yet.” She cooed softly into the cradle. Angus couldn’t see it, but Oonah gazed carefully at him.

Angus’ eyes grew wide and he began to consider this baby. The baby was over half his size, and if this was the small infant baby of Finn...there can be no doubt that Finn must be colossal! He must not allow himself to be seen! Finn would surely crush him in a physical brawl. He backed away from the cradle, shaking his head from side to side. Then, at once, he turned and positively bolted from the castle.

He flew past the startled messenger, striding for the causeway. “Retreat!” he yelled. “Back to Scotland.” He tore across the causeway and didn’t slow until he reached his own country. Afraid that the great Finn might follow him across the causeway, he started to tear the basaltic stone rods from their moorings. The bridge soon lay in ruin as the sea reclaimed the passage between Ireland and Scotland.

For his part, the last Finn ever saw of Angus was his rapid retreat across the causeway. He stood at the door of his castle, draped in blankets that served as his “baby” clothes.

If you travel to County Antrim today, you can still see a small piece of the causeway. Today it’s called the Giant’s Causeway — built by the great Finn MacCool, the most famous giant in the history of Ireland.

Well, now you know the story of Finn MacCool and his crafty wife, Oonah. You are all pretty crafty too, eh? I’ll see to it that Seamus gets the gold, minus a small handling fee for me, of course. I guess we’ll see where Seamus is next year, but that’s another story.

By the way, dear Ivory, Seamus has loved being your leprechaun these fine years. He told me ye all were a fine lot, and I can see from your letter than ye have tender, genuine hearts. I’ve forwarded your letter on to Seamus, who no doubt will be pleased to have news of his homeland. Please accept this as a token of my appreciation for the opportunity to share your company.

Your friend,
Keeper of the lands, and
Teller of tremendous tales,

Faolan Connolly

You pronounce that name as Fway-lan. (We had to look it up.) And Faolan was nice enough to leave us some treats. The girls seemed happy with the story and the sugar.

Happy St. Patrick's Day. (Even if you didn't wear green.)

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