13. The Island of the Fiery Swine

THEY SAILED for a long time, suffering much from hunger and thirst, and praying fervently to be relieved from their distress. At last, when they were beginning to sink into a state of despondency, being quite worn out with toil and hardship of every kind, they sighted land.

It was a large and beautiful island, covered with countless fruit trees bearing an abundance of gold-coloured apples. Under the trees they saw herds of short, stout animals, of a bright red colour, shaped somewhat like pigs — but coming nearer, and looking more closely, they saw with astonishment that the animals were all fiery, and that their bright colour was caused by the red flames which penetrated and lit up their bodies from the inside.

The voyagers now observed several of the creatures approach one of the trees as a group, and striking the trunk all together with their hind legs, they shook some of the apples loose, and then proceeded to eat them.
In this manner the animals employed themselves every day, from early morning until the setting of the sun, when they retired into deep caves, where they stayed until the next morning.

Numerous flocks of birds were swimming on the sea, all around the island. From morning till noon, they continued to swim away from the land, farther and farther out to sea; but at noon they turned round, and from then until sunset they swam back towards the shore. A little after sunset, when the fiery creatures had retired to their caves for the night, the birds flocked back onto the island, and spread all over it, plucking the apples from the trees and eating them.

Máel Dúin proposed that they should land on the island, and gather some of the fruit, saying that it could not be harder or more dangerous for them than it was for the birds; so two of the crew were sent beforehand to examine the place.

They found the ground hot under their feet, for the fiery animals, as they lay at rest, heated the earth all around and above their caves; but the two scouts persevered, and returned to the boat with some of the apples.
When morning dawned, the birds left the island and swam out to sea, and the fiery animals, coming forth from their caves, went among the trees as usual, and ate the apples till evening.

The crew remained in their curragh all day; and as soon as the animals had gone into their caves for the night, and the birds had taken their place, Máel Dúin led all his men ashore.

And they plucked the apples till morning, and brought them on board, until they had gathered as much as they could stow on their vessel. And then, refreshed, they put to sea once more.


Return to Index

Leave a Reply