One day Finn and Goll, Keelta and Oscar, and others of the Fianna, were resting after the hunt on a certain hill now called the Ridge of the Dead Woman, and their meal was being got ready, when a girl of the kin of the giants came striding up and sat down among them. ‘Didst thou ever see a woman so tall?’ asked Finn of Goll. ‘By my troth,’ said Goll, ‘never have I or any other seen a woman so big.’ She took her hand out of her bosom and on her long slender fingers there were three gold rings each as thick as an ox’s yoke. ‘Let us question her,’ said Goll, and Finn said, ‘If we stood up, perchance she might hear us.’
So they all rose to their feet, but the giantess, on that, rose up too. ‘Maiden,’ said Finn, ‘if thou have aught to say to us or to hear from us, sit down and lean thine elbow on the hill-side.’ So she lay down and Finn bade her say whence she came and what was her will with them. ‘Out of the World Oversea where the sun sets am I come,’ she said, ‘to seek thy protection, O mighty Finn.’ ‘And what is thy name?’ ‘My name is Vivionn of the Fair Hair, and my father Treon is called King of the Land of Lasses, for he has but three sons and nine and seven score daughters, and near him is a King who hath one daughter and eight score sons. To one of these, Æda, was I given in marriage sorely against my will. Three times now have I fled from him. And this time it was fishermen whom the wind blew to us from off this land who told us of a mighty lord here, named Finn, son of Cumhal, who would let none be wronged or oppressed, but he would be their friend and champion. And if thou be he, to thee am I come.’ Then she laid her hand in Finn’s, and he bade her do the same with Goll Mac Morna, who was second in the Fian leadership, and she did so.
Then the maiden took from her head a jewelled golden helmet, and immediately her hair flowed out in seven score tresses, fair, curly and golden, at the abundance of which all stood amazed; and Finn said, ‘By the Immortals that we adore, but King Cormac and the poetess Ethne and the fair women-folk of the Fianna would deem it a marvel to see this girl. Tell us now, maiden, what portion wilt thou have of meat and drink? Will that of a hundred of us suffice thee?’ The girl then saw Cnu, the dwarf harper of Finn, who had just been playing to them, and she said, ‘Whatever thou givest to yon little man that bears the harp, be it much or little, the same, O Finn, will suffice for me.’
Then she begged a drink from them, and Finn called his gillie, Saltran, and bade him fetch the full of a certain great goblet with water from the ford; now this goblet was of wood, and it held as much as nine of the Fianna could drink. The maiden poured some of the water into her right hand and drank three sips of it, and scattered the rest over the Fianna, and she and they burst out laughing. Finn said, ‘On thy conscience, girl, what ailed thee not to drink out of the goblet?’ ‘Never,’ she replied, ‘have I drunk out of any vessel but there was a rim of gold to it, or at least of silver.’
And now Keelta looking up perceived a tall youth coming swiftly towards them, who, when he approached, seemed even bigger than was the maiden. He wore a rough hairy cape over his shoulder and beneath that a green cloak fastened by a golden brooch; his tunic was of royal satin, and he bore a red shield slung over his shoulders, and a spear with a shaft as thick as a man’s leg was in his hand; a gold-hilted sword hung by his side. And his face, which was smooth-shaven, was comelier than that of any of the sons of men.
When he came near, seeing among the Fians a stir of alarm at this apparition, Finn said, ‘Keep every one of you his place, let neither warrior nor gillie address him. Know any of you this champion?’ ‘I know him,’ said the maiden; ‘that is even he to escape from whom I am come to thee, O Finn.’ And she sat down between Finn and Goll. But the stranger drew near, and spake never a word, but before any one could tell what he would be at he thrust fiercely and suddenly with his spear at the girl, and the shaft stood out a hand’s breadth at her back. And she fell gasping, but the young man drew his weapon out and passed rapidly through the crowd and away. Then Finn cried, red with wrath, ‘Ye have seen! Avenge this wicked deed, or none of you aspire to Fianship again.’ And the whole company sprang to their feet and gave chase to that murderer, save only Finn and Goll, who stayed by the dying maiden. And they ran him by hill and plain to the great Bay of Tralee and down to the Tribute Point, where the traders from oversea were wont to pay their dues, and there he set his face to the West and took the water. By this time four of the Fianna had outstripped the rest, namely, Keelta, and Dermot, and Glas, and Oscar, son of Oisín. Of these Keelta was first, and just as the giant was mid-leg in the waves he hurled his spear and it severed the thong of the giant’s shield so that it fell off in the water. And as the giant paused, Keelta seized his spear and tore it from him. But the giant waded on, and soon the Fians were floundering in deep water while the huge form, thigh deep, was seen striding towards the setting sun. And a great ship seemed to draw near, and it received him, and then departed into the light, but the Fians returned in the grey evening, bearing the spear and the great shield to Finn. There they found the maiden at point of death, and they laid the weapons before her. ‘Goodly indeed are these arms,’ she said, ‘for that is the Thunder Spear of the King Oversea and the shield is the Red Branch Shield,’ for it was covered with red arabesques. Then she bestowed her bracelets on Finn’s three harpers, the dwarf Cnu, and Blanit his wife, and the harper Daira. And she bade Finn care for her burial, that it should be done becomingly, ‘For under thy honour and protection I got my death, and it was to thee I came into Ireland.’ So they buried her and lamented her, and made a great far-seen mound over her grave, which is called the Ridge of the Dead Woman, and set up a pillar stone upon it with her name and lineage carved in Ogham-crave.1
1 Ogham-craobh: ‘branching Ogham,’ so called because the letters resembled the branching of twigs from a stem. The Ogham alphabet was in use in Ireland in pre-Christian times, and many sepulchral inscriptions in it still remain.