CELT document T303012

Finn and the Man in the Tree


The first four volumes of the Ancient Laws of Ireland published under the auspices of the Brehon Laws Commissioners have repeatedly been made the subject of severe but just criticism. Among other things, the urgent necessity of a collation of the printed text with the original manuscripts from which O'Donovan and O'Curry made their transcripts has often been pointed out. Such a collation I hope will soon be undertaken  p.345 by members of the School of Irish Learning founded in Dublin, and the results laid before the public. But far more than this would be necesary if the student is to be supplied with a critical edition of the various texts contained in the four voulmes. O'Donovan and O'Curry selected certain manuscript versions without consulting and comparing, except in a few instances, other copies which often furnish better readings, supply gaps, or contain additional matter of importance. Perhaps now that the first volume is out of print, the Commissioners may see their way to entrust a new edition of the Senchas Mór based upon all existing copies to a scholar of recognised standing. To show by example what important additions to our knowledge may be expected from such an edition I print here an interesting story of the Finn cycle taken from the version of the Senchas Mór contained in the vellum codex H. 3. 18. It is given as an example of the practice of incantation called imbas forosnai, and has, so far as I am aware, not been preserved elsewhere.


Finn and the Man in the Tree


As did Finn ua Baiscne. When the fian were at Badamair on the brink of the Suir, Cúldub the son of Ua Birgge came out of the fairy-knoll on the plain of Femen (ut Scotti dicunt) and carried off their cooking from them. For three nights he did thus to them. The third time however Finn knew 1 and went before him to the fairy-knoll on Femen. Finn laid hold of him as he went into the knoll, so that he fell yonder. 2 When he withdrew his hand, a woman met him 3 (?) coming out of the knoll with a dripping vessel in her hand, having just distributed  p.347 drink, and she jammed the door against the knoll, and Finn squeezed his finger between the door and the post. Then he put his finger into his mouth. When he took it out again he began to chant, the imbas illumines him and he said [Here follows an untranslatable “rhetoric”].


Some time afterwards they (i.e. the fian) carried off captive women from Dún Iascaig 4 in the land of the Dési. A beautiful maiden was taken by them. Finns mind desired 5 the woman for himself. She set her heart on a servant whom they had, even Derg Corra son of Ua Daigre. For this was his practice. While food was being cooked by them, the lad jumped to and fro across the cooking hearth. It was for that the maiden loved him. And one day she said to him that he should come to her and lie with her. Derg Corra did not accept that on account of Finn. 6 She incites Finn against him 7 and said: “Let us set upon him by force!” Thereupon Finn said to him: “Go hence,” said he, “out of my sight, and thou shalt have a truce of three days and three nights, and after that beware of me!” 8


Then Derg Corra went into exile and took up his abode in a wood and used to go about on shanks of deer (si uerum est) for his lightness. One day as Finn was in the wood seeking him he saw a man in the top of a tree, a blackbird on his right shoulder and in his left hand a white vessel of bronze, filled with water, in which was a skittish trout, and a stag at the foot of the tree. And this was the practice of the man, cracking nuts; and he would give half the kernel of a nut to the blackbird that was on his right shoulder while he would himself eat the other half; and he would take an apple out of the bronze vessel that was in his left hand, divide it in two, throw one half to the stag that was at the foot of the tree, and then eat the other half himself. And on it he would drink a sip of  p.349 the water in the bronze vessel that was in his hand, so that he and the trout and the stag and the blackbird drank together. Then his followers asked of Finn who he in the tree was, for they did not recognise him on account of the hood of disguise which he wore.


Then Finn put his thumb into his mouth. When he took it out again, his imbas illumines him and he chanted an incantation and said: “'Tis Derg Corra son of Ua Daigre,” said he, “that is in the tree.”

Pöstyen, Hungary,

Kuno Meyer

Document details

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File description

Title statement

Title (uniform): Finn and the Man in the Tree

Title (extended): [H. 3. 18, p. 361 b]

Author: unknown

Responsibility statement

Translated by: Kuno Meyer

Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber

Proof corrections by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: The HEA via PRTLI 4

Edition statement

1. First draft, revised and corrected.

Extent: 1368 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland

Date: 2009

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: T303012

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT project for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Source description

Manuscript source for the Irish text

  • Dublin, Trinity College Library, H 3 18, a vellum of the 16th century.

The edition used in the digital edition

‘Finn and the Man in the Tree’ (1904). In: Revue Celtique‍ 25. Ed. by Kuno Meyer, pp. 344–349.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  editor 	 = {Kuno Meyer},
  title 	 = {Finn and the Man in the Tree},
  journal 	 = {Revue Celtique},
  number 	 = {25},
  address 	 = {Paris},
  publisher 	 = {Émile Bouillon},
  date 	 = {1904},
  pages 	 = {344–349}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling declarations

The electronic text covers pages 344–349. The English translation is available in a separate file.

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Correction: Text has been proof-read once.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text including footnotes.

Quotation: Quotations are rendered q.

Hyphenation: When a hyphenated word (hard or soft) crosses a page-break, the page-break is marked after the completion of the hyphenated word (and punctuation).

Segmentation: div0=the tale; div1=the section.

Interpretation: Names of persons (given names) and places are not tagged.

Reference declaration

A canonical reference to a location in this text should be made using “story”, eg story 1.

Profile description

Creation: By Kuno Meyer

Date: May 1904

Language usage

  • The translation is in English. (en)
  • Some words are in Latin. (la)
  • Some terms are in Irish; the footnotes contain Irish words. (ga)

Keywords: saga; prose; medieval; Finn Cycle; imbas forosnai; translation

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2016-02-12: Minor update made. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2009-05-22: File proofed (1); introduction and content of footnotes added; names marked up. Header created; file parsed; SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2009-05-22: Text keyed in. (text capture Beatrix Färber)

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G303012: Finn and the Man in the Tree (in Irish)

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  1. I take 'norat' as the Latin word. 🢀

  2. allda anall= alla anall, LL 88a 6, contracted into allánall, LU 84b 17. 🢀

  3. fritninnle, from fris-indlim, with infixed -dn-, but I do not know the exact meaning. 🢀

  4. oc Dún Iscaig for Siuir, Rev. Celt. 11, 242. 🢀

  5. atecoboride seems to contain some form of the verb ad-cobraim. 🢀

  6. atagegai (she desired him?) domnid do is obscure to me. 🢀

  7. cotsáid, 3. sing. pres. ind. with infixed pronoun of con-sáidim, verb noun cossáit. 🢀

  8. fom-cialta-sa, 2. sing. imper. of fo-ciallur. 🢀


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