The Primitives' Tale
Time passed slowly. After Partholan, life returned to normal. No more blood-letting. Again
we settled on the estuary shore and resumed our old pursuits. The shellfish of the sea and
the crayfish of the river fed our people, young and old. Not a trout, not a single fish of
fresh or salt water. That was our compact. Mussels, crabs, cockles, lobsters, all the
shell-backed denizens of pool and ocean were ours to harvest and enjoy, their meat our food,
their shells our tools, for cutting, for boring, for ornament. Oyster pearls, big, black
and rounded, our children used in games. Sharp of eye, steady of hand, deft of finger, at
playing marbles they passed their childhood days.
Oh, the living was good, and the salmon freely came and went. The forbidden fish. The king
of the fish. Only hawk was free to catch the young salmon, swooping down from the sky,
talons outstretched, eyes focused, unwavering, trajectory plotted for the kill. And the
innocent, unsuspecting fish, plucked right from the river, drops of water falling from its
flanks, back broken and crushed by the cruelly gripping claws, was mercifully dead before
the first tearing wounds ripped into its body, scales and blood mingled in communion as hawk
feasted, and fed the remains to frantic, chirping young.
Woods grew denser, thicker. Great oaks plunged roots deeper and wider into mother earth.
Stags and does grazed the meadows and the foothills. On the southern shore winds blew sand
in tiny ridges. The tides swept them away. The winds built them up again. Which god was
greater--the god of sea or the god of wind?
The seasons were kind to the spot in which we lived. Memories of a colder time, when the
sea froze and the mountains were sheathed in snow, slowly faded. The living was easy, and
our women good looking. Our children grew fat and happy.
Generations were born. Generations died. Hawk circled over all.
Then our peaceful existence was shattered once more. The earthmen came, and tried to teach
us their ways. But their ways were not our ways, and once again we were driven from our
homes, our lands, our life-giving estuary, and had to flee northward into the ragged,
jagged coastland, far from the reach of the new invaders. There the living was not easy.
There our women grew wan. There our children no longer played with the big black oyster
"The Age of the World, 3266. The Firbolgs took possession of Ireland at the end of this
year. Slainghe, Gann, Genann, Seangann and Rudhraihghe were their five chieftains. Genann,
the fourth brother, had the province of Connaught from Limericke to Easroe. Rorye, the
fifth brother, and the youngest, had from Easroe to Inver Colpe, which is the province of
For the second time partition reared its ugly head. And the first election recorded in the
history of Ireland took place, four of the chieftains electing Slainghe as their overall
(Annals of the Four Masters).
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