Athirne the Unsociable
Athirne the Importunate, son of Ferchertne: it’s he who was the most inhospitable man who ever lived in Ireland. He went to Midir of Brí Léith and brought the three cranes of exclusion and inhospitality away from him to his own house, for the sake of stinginess and inhospitality, so none of the men of Ireland would visit his house expecting celebration or entertainment.
‘You’re not coming in,’ said the first crane. ‘Get out of here,’ said its companion. ‘Keep walking,’ said the third crane.
From that day on, none of the men of Ireland who saw them would go to his door.
He would never eat his fill where anyone could see him. So he went with a cooked pig and a wineskin of mead to eat his fill by himself. He was settling himself down in front of the pig and the wineskin when he saw a man coming towards him.
‘You were going to eat that by yourself!’ said the man, striking the pig and the bottle from him.
‘What is your name?’ said Athirne.
‘It’s not well known,’ said the man. ‘Sethor Ethor Othor Sele Dele Dreng Gerce mac Gerce Ger Gér Dír Dír, that’s my name.’
Athirne couldn’t compose a satire on that, so he didn’t get the pig back. It may be that the man was sent by God to take the pig, for Athirne stopped being unsociable from then on.
Notes and manuscript sources
- This is my own translation of a short text from the Book of Leinster (c. 1160). Thanks to Dennis King, David Stifter and the Old-Irish-L listserv. © Patrick Brown 2003.
- R I Best et al (1954-1983), The Book of Leinster p. 434
- John Carey (1997), “Tales from the Ulster Cycle”, The Celtic Heroic Age (eds John T Koch & John Carey), pp. 48-133