4. Máel Dúin Learns the Truth

ONE DAY, the youths of the Royal Court were at play, competing among themselves in tests of strength and skill. Máel Dúin was winning every contest, and at last one of his companions, consumed with envy, burst out in anger and frustration:

“To think that you, whose clan and kin no one knows, whose father and mother no one knows, can beat us in every game of skill and strength, on land or on water, on horseback or on the chess board! What shame for us, who are born to royalty!”

And the others who were there agreed, and laughed at Máel Dúin.

On hearing this, Máel Dúin ceased his playing, and stood in silence, deep in thought, for until then, he had believed that he was the son of the King and Queen, and that their three sons were his brothers.

Confused and surprised, he went to the Queen.

“Who are my mother and father? I will neither eat nor drink until you tell me the truth.”

“Why are you asking me that?” said the Queen. “Pay no heed to the jealous nonsense of your companions. I am your mother, for no mother ever loved her son more than I love you.”

“This is true, and I do not doubt your love,” replied Mael Duin. “But I must know who my parents are. So please, tell me who they are.”

And as Máel Dúin insisted on knowing the truth, the Queen at last took him to meet his own mother, the prioress, who at first refused his request.

“My dear son,” she said, “it will make you no happier to know who he was, nor will it in any way profit you. He has been dead for many years.”

“Be that as it may,” replied the youth, “but it is better for me that I know.”

And so the prioress relented, and told her son: “Your father was Ailill Ocar Agha, chief of the Eoganacht of Ninuss.”

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