The Best Tales of Finn Mac Cool
"He felt as though he had never been weary in all his life and could never be weary in all the rest of it."
This is from the tale of the Giolla Dacker and his nag mare. It has humor and high strangeness, irony and heroism. And it has the male lead Dairmund taking a magic bath after fighting the King of the Land Under the Sea for three days. The bath so refreshes him and mends all his wounds that "he felt as though he had never been weary in all his life and could never be weary in all the rest of it."
What would that feeling actually feel like? The imagination and the body work together to wonder, and the breath slows and the eyes relax and the body itself secretes a feeling of wonder in its organs to Know, viscerally, what that might feel like.
It is a marvellous story in Sutcliff's 'High Deeds of Finn Mac Cool' and probably the best literary narrative there, alongside the romance of 'Diarmund and Grianna', which I have not yet re-read. The Illiad-like military epic of the 'Hostel of the Quicken Trees', with treachery and a desperate stand against the men of Lachlan, I also fondly remember and am eager to re-read.
And of course the two episodes of Finn's first wife, where she is enchanted as a dappled fawn and stolen again so tragically, has all the main themes and magic of the daily life of the Fianna troops, and shows how Finn's heart is broken by a Faery woman early on in life, and experience which would turn any man to warfare.
These are the best of the lot, though, and one wonders if Sutcliff invented or simply stole from an older book this splendid phrase: "He felt as though he had never been weary in all his life and could never be weary in all the rest of it."
I should like perhaps to rewrite these tales one day, and make them as strong as their hero's character is, perhaps. But we will see.