BRAN AND SCEOLAN

Bran and Sceolan were the two faithful hounds of Fionn Mac Cumhal, they were always with him wherever he went.  They were so wise and knowing that they seemed human in knowledge, many times they displayed magical skills related to fairies.  These two hounds were not ordinary animals, they were not born of an ordinary bitch, but of a Tuatha de Danann woman.
Fionn's mother, Muire and her sister Tuiren would  frequently stay with him at Almhuin, the headquarters of the Fianna where he lived.  Iollan Eachtach, a Fianna chief, asked Fionn for Tuiren's hand in marriage, which was granted  under the condition that if for any reason Tuiren was displeased with her bargain, Iollan should allow her to return freely.

Iollan already had a sweetheart among the Tuatha de Danann, she was Uchtdealb of the Fair Breast, and when she heard that Iollan was married she was bitterly jealous.  She took on the appearance of Fionn's woman messenger and, going to Tuiren's house, she said: 'Fionn sends all good wishes and a long life to you, and bids you prepare a great feast, and if you will come aside with me I will tell you how it must be'.  Tuiren went aside with her, but when they were out of sight Uchtdealb took out a rod and smote her with it. Immediately she turned into a most beautiful little bitch hound, carrying unborn pups.  Still in the form of Fionn's messenger, Uchtdealb led her away to Fionn's house and said to him, "Your dear Aunt wishes you to foster and take charge of this little bitch, as she is with young, and she knows you will not let her join the chase when her time is near."  Fionn did not find this request strange at all and grew very fond of the swift and clever hound.

In the meantime, it became known that Tuiren had disappeared, and Fionn called Iollan to account for it.  Iollan claimed that she had gone and he could not find her, but, being pressed very hard he begged for time to search for her.  When he could not find her he went to Uchtdealb and told her what danger he was in.  She consented to free Tuiren if he would be her sweetheart forever and flee together.  She then went to Fionn's house and freed Tuiren from her shape, hastily fleeing the countryside with Iollan.  But the two whelps were already born, and after finding out the real story from his unfortunate Aunt, Fionn kept them by his side all his life.  One was a jet black pup, the other grey.  The black pup he named Bran, the grey was called Sceolan.

The grey hound was the most dangerous and seemed only to be controlled by Bran, who, like his master, was gifted in a remarkable degree with the foreknowledge of evil; so was able to give his lord many warnings to keep him from danger.  More than once, when victory was not for the Fianna leader, Bran showed the deepest sorrow.  He would come to Fionn, a pitiful wet and weary sight, lay down before the chief and howl bitterly.  In this way, Fionn would have ample warning.

The Irish wolf-dog had a lithe body, a slender head, and was as fleet as the wind.  Bran is described in Bardic legends as "A ferocious, white-breasted, sleek-haunched hound; standing as high as mid-chest of a full grown man; fiery, deep black eyes that seemed to swim in sockets of blood."  Sceolan was described as, "Slightly smaller than the black beast, small headed, having eyes of a dragon, the claws of a wolf, the vigour of a lion; and the venom of a serpent."  In the same ancient poem Fionn himself, is described in highly ornate bardic language, as he leads the hounds by a chain of silver attached to a collar of gold: "A noble, handsome, fair-featured Fianna prince; young, courteous, manly, puissant, powerful in action; the tallest of the warriors;  the strongest of the champions; the most beautiful of the human race."

The Fianna generally went to hunt accompanied by about three thousand hounds; Bran leading, the wisest and fleetest of all.  The Fianna formed a godly army, a thousand or more knights - each  wearing a silken shirt and a chotan of fine silk around their neck, a green mantle and fine purple cloak worn over to protect it; a golden diademed helmet on the head, and a javelin in each man's hand.

The beautiful lady and Fionn's splendid hound disappeared altogether and were seen no more.  But in memory of the event, the cliff from which he leaped is still called Coegg-y-Bran (Cliff of Bran); while the lake and the castle beside it are called Tiernach Bran (the Lordship of Bran) to this day.  So the name and memory of Fionn's hound, and his wisdom and achievements are not forgotten by the people.  Many dogs of the chase are still called after him, for the name is thought to bring luck to the hunter and sportsman.

But the Cailleach Biorar (the Hag of the Water) is held in much dread, it is believed that she still lives in a cave on the hill, and is ready to work her evil spells whenever opportunity offers.  Her house is reputedly under the cairn, also a beaten path is said to be where she traverses to the lake.  Many efforts have been made to drain the lake, but the Hag of the Water always interferes, and so the lake has never been successfully drained of water.
 
 
  http://home.iprimus.com.au/sidhe/hounds.html
 
 

 

 

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