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The Legend of the Salmon of Knowledge

Salmon of Knowledge
Artwork and story research by Barry Maher & John Gannon, Coolderry National School, County Offaly, Ireland.

Finegas was a poet. He was one of the wisest men in Ireland. He lived near the River Boyne. Finegas read books and wrote poems. Finegas was watching all the time to try and see the salmon of knowledge in the river.

The salmon of knowledge was a magic fish. The first person to taste the salmon would be the wisest person in Ireland. Its skin was the colour of gold. Its eyes were magic. A lot of people tried to catch it but they failed.

There was no school but young warriors were taught by wise men like Finegas. People went to live with poets and they learned a lot and after that people became true warriors. Fionn was a son of a warrior called Cumhall. Fionn was training to be a warrior. Then Fionn went to live with Finegas the poet.

Suddenly Finegas saw a huge powerful fish swimming in the river. It was the salmon of knowledge. He had never seen a fish like it before. He rushed to get a strong net. Fionn was sitting with his back to the river so he never saw the salmon. Finegas was very careful not to look into its eyes because if you did you would fall into a deep sleep. Finegas tried to catch the fish but couldn’t. All of a sudden the fish jumped high into the air towards him. The old poet was taken by surprise when he looked at the fish. He fell fast asleep.

Fionn saw him asleep and rushed to wake him up before the salmon got away. When Finegas woke up he asked Fionn to fetch him a cloth. Then Finegas covered his eyes with the cloth. He threw in his net again. For hours and hours he tried to catch the fish.

Night was falling. He had one last try. This time he was lucky. He caught the salmon. The huge fish struggled to get out. It pulled and tossed and turned but could not escape. Finegas was tired after this so he told Fionn to cook the fish. Finegas warned Fionn not to eat the fish, not even a mouthful. Fionn promised he would not eat any of the salmon. Fionn built a fire and when it was ready he placed the fish over the fire. A drop of oil went onto his thumb. Fionn put his thumb in his mouth.

When the salmon was done he brought the fish to Finegas. The wise poet noticed there was something different. His cheeks were redder and his eyes were a lot brighter.
“Have you eaten any of the salmon?” Finegas asked Fionn.
Fionn told him the truth. “I did not eat any of the fish.
Finegas was still not happy. “Have you even tasted the fish,” he asked.

Then Fionn remembered that he had burnt his thumb and put it in his mouth. He told this to Finegas. Finegas knew at once he had the wisdom of the salmon of knowledge. At first he was very sad. He knew he would never be the wisest man in Ireland. But he was happy that Fionn got the gift. Finegas knew that Fionn would become the greatest warrior that the Fianna had ever known.

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