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Tóraigheacht an Ghiolla Dheacair


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Irish title of the 16th-century comic Fenian tale known in English as The Pursuit of the Hard Gilly/Difficult Servant. Found in both manuscript and oral tradition, the narrative is also known as Eachtra [Adventure] an Ghiolla Dheacair.

Gilla Decair [Ir., difficult servant] seems to be a deformed churl when he appears before the Fianna with his raw-boned mare, asking them to mount it. Fifteen, including Conán mac Morna, agree; the animal finds new life and speedily carries them off through such inaccessible territories as Tír fo Thuinn [Land Under Wave]. In one folk variant, the weight of the warriors breaks the animal's back. In the usual versions, however, Fionn and the rest of the Fianna must board a ship to seek out the missing men, arriving at last in fairyland. The Hard Servant is revealed to be Ábartach, a magician who wants the Fianna to help him against a rival king. The narrative ends with Fionn's marriage to Taise of the White Arms, which releases the captured Fianna. All the Fianna forgive Ábartach except Goll, who demands fourteen of the finest women and the magician's own wife as compensation, to which he agrees; all the women disappear when the party arrives home.

Standish Hayes O'Grady, ‘Pursuit of the Gilla Decair’, Silva Gadelica, ii (London, 1892), 292–310.Hiberno-English oral version: Jeremiah Curtin (ed.), ‘Gilla na Grakin and Fin MacCumhail’, in Myths and Folklore of Ireland (London, 1890), 244–69.See also Carol T. Heffernan, ‘Combat at the Fountain: The Early Irish Pursuit of the Gilla Decair and the Old French Yvain’, Éire-Ireland, 17(4) (Winter 1982), 41–57;A. H. Krappe, ‘La Poursuite du Gilla Dacker et les Dioscures celtiques’, Revue Celtique, 49 (1932), 96–108, 216.

Subjects: Religion.


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