great heroes, Oisín possessed incredible beauty. It seemed women were always falling in love with him after gazing on his perfect face. One day, while hunting with Finn and several members of the Fianna, Oisín noticed a woman riding toward them on a white horse.
The beautiful maiden was dressed like royalty. She wore a gold crown on her head and a brown silk robe with red-gold stars draped over her shoulders. Even the horse on which she rode was bedecked with gold horseshoes and had a silver wreath around its head.
Finn asked the woman her name. She replied that she was Niamh, daughter of Manannán Mac Lir, god of the sea and king of the Land of Promise.
She explained that she had come all the way from her invisible fairy home because of her love for Oisín. She asked him to return with her. Oisín immediately agreed. Finn and his companions could do nothing to stop the lovestruck young man. They watched as he climbed on to the white horse behind Niamh and wrapped his arms around her.
The pair rode for a long time—across the land and then over the tops of the waves of the sea. Along the way, Niamh described the Land of Promise as the sweetest and dreamiest place in the universe. Oisín felt as if he were in a trance. He felt very peaceful, but lost track of time and place.
Strange sights kept appearing before his eyes. He saw fairy palaces with strange towers and gateways. A hornless deer ran by slowly, chased by a white dog with one red ear. These strange dogs only existed in the “other world.”
Finally, Niamh and Oisín reached the Land of Promise. While there, Oisín had a few adventures, such as saving a princess from a Fomori giant. He was blissfully happy there with Niamh. After a period of what he thought was three weeks, though, he realized he missed his father and his homeland.
He asked Niamh if he could go back to visit. Niamh granted his request and even lent him her fairy horse. The only rule she had was that he could not let his feet touch earthly soil or he would never be allowed to return to the Land of Promise. Oisín promised and made his way to Ireland.
When he arrived, he found the country entirely changed. The palace of the Fianna was no longer in the same place. The men who roamed around seemed tiny compared to Oisín. He asked if anyone knew where he could find Finn and the Fianna.
The only responses he received were surprised glances. He was told that those were the names of people who had lived long ago. Oisín had not been gone for three weeks as he had thought—he had been gone for three hundred years!
As Oisín was trying to figure out what to do, he noticed a group of men trying to move a great boulder. He rode over to help them. The men were in awe of the beautiful, giant man. He was stronger than all of them combined.
While still in his saddle, Oisín leaned over to move the boulder. With one hand, he put it in its rightful place. The men cheered for Oisín.
Their celebrations did not last long, though. As Oisín sat back into his saddle, a strap broke and his foot hit the ground. Instantly, the white horse disappeared and the man dropped to the ground. As he stood up, the men were shocked to see not a young, strong giant, but a weak, withered, gray-haired man who was no larger than they were.
The old man seemed confused. He was babbling about Finn and asking where he could find the Fianna. Because the old man was too weak to care for himself, the men brought him to Patrick.
Patrick had arrived in Ireland many years earlier. He had converted the Irish to Christianity. Rather than believing in many gods, they now believed in only one, all-powerful god.
Patrick took Oisín into his home. He treated the old man with great respect and hospitality. The two men did not see eye to eye on religion, though. Patrick tried to convert Oisín to Christianity, but Oisín always refused his arguments. The pair spent the rest of their lives debating the issue.
Despite their different beliefs, Patrick took a great interest in Oisín’s stories. Oisín stayed with Patrick a long time, telling stories of the Fianna every day.
Patrick suggested Oisín write down his adventures so that the stories of Finn and the Fianna could be preserved forever. Legend has it that Oisín’s own transcription is how people came to know his story.