Just a refresher, Morna White Mask is a warrior witch of some renown. She is among the wildlings who agree to Jon Snow's price for refuge behind the Wall. She removes her mask to kiss his hand, and offers to be his man or woman until the spring, and gives over one or more sons to be hostage to the Watch. Jon gives her Queensgate in return.
One of our pal Finn's most famous adventures surrounds the Salmon of Wisdom.
The Salmon himself has an interesting history, having had Noah's granddaughter Cessair as one of his sixteen wives. They fled to Ireland before the flood, but Fintan mac Bochra (as he was named) was the only survivor of the eventual deluge. He survived as a Salmon, living in an underwater cave.
He eventually became an eagle, and then a hawk, and then again a human who advised Irish Kings for 5,000 years, and ultimately became the repository of all human knowledge. Shapeshifting and skinchanging and unnaturally long life and advanced knowledge, all good basic mythological stuff that we find in droves in ASoIAF.
His alternate story is that an ordinary salmon ate some magic nuts, and whoever ate the salmon would become the wisest man in the world.
Another time he helped a wise and powerful sage catch the Salmon of Wisdom, a magical fish that granted the gift of supreme intelligence to the first person that ate it (as a bizarre side note, the Salmon of Wisdom got its interesting powers super-geniusness by eating the Nuts of Wisdom. There's no mention of where the nuts came from, but I kind of love the fact that there's such a thing as the mythological nuts of wisdom.) Finn was cooking this crazy thing, but burned his finger on it, and when he instinctively put his thumb in his mouth to soothe the flesh-searing agony, the crazy powers of brilliance transferred from the magic salmon to him. From that point on, Finn McCool was able to divine the correct solution to any question simply by sticking his thumb in his mouth. It was like his entire finger became a fleshy magic eight ball.
"Eating" the salmon was purely an accident. An important poet/Bard named Finegas (who dwelt by the River Boyne) spent many years trying to catch the fish.
on leaving the shelter of the old men in the wood he went to learn wisdom and the art of poetry from Finegas, who dwelt by the River Boyne, near to where is now the village of Slane. It was a belief among the poets of Ireland that the place of the revealing of poetry is always by the margin of water. But Finegas had another reason for the place where he made his dwelling, for there was an old prophecy that whoever should first eat of the Salmon of Knowledge that lived in the River Boyne, should become the wisest of men.
This version of the story supports the Salmon as an Immortal named Finntan.
Now this salmon was called Finntan in ancient times and was one of the Immortals, and he might be eaten and yet live. But in the time of Finegas he was called the Salmon of the Pool of Fec, which is the place where the fair river broadens out into a great still pool, with green banks softly sloping upward from the clear brown water. Seven years was Finegas watching the pool, but not until after Finn had come to be his disciple was the salmon caught. Then Finegas gave it to Finn to cook, and bade him eat none of it. But when Finegas saw him coming with the fish, he knew that something had chanced to the lad, for he had been used to have the eye of a young man but now he had the eye of a sage. Finegas said, "Hast thou eaten of the salmon?"
"Nay," said Finn, "but it burnt me as I turned it upon the spit and I put my thumb in my mouth" And Finegas smote his hands together and was silent for a while. Then he said to the lad who stood by obediently, "Take the salmon and eat it, Finn, son of Cumhal, for to thee the prophecy is come. And now go hence, for I can teach thee no more, and blessing and victory be thine."
Now I know there are no salmon in ASoIAF but there is weirwood paste. The salmon almost acts as an apple from the tree of Wisdom in Genesis. Another similar substance in the books is the Shade of the Evening that Dany drinks to cause her visions at the HoTU.
Also of note is the belief in prophecy. The poet Finegas was not meant to be the one to catch and eat the salmon, and he realizes that.
So Finn became a poet, among other things.
With Finegas, Finn learned the three things that make a poet, and they are Fire of Song, and Light of Knowledge, and the Art of Extempore Recitation. Before he departed he made this lay to prove his art, and it is called "The Song of Finn in Praise of May":—
May Day! delightful day! Bright colours play the vales along. Now wakes at morning's slender ray, Wild and gay, the blackbird's song.
Now comes the bird of dusty hue, The loud cuckoo, the summer-lover; Branching trees are thick with leaves; The bitter, evil time is over.
Swift horses gather nigh Where half dry the river goes; Tufted heather crowns the height; Weak and white the bogdown blows.
Corncrake sings from eve till morn, Deep in corn, a strenuous bard! Sings the virgin waterfall, White and tall, her one sweet word.
Loaded bees of little power Goodly flower-harvest win; Cattle roam with muddy flanks; Busy ants go out and in.
Through, the wild harp of the wood Making music roars the gale— Now it slumbers without motion, On the ocean sleeps the sail.
Men grow mighty in the May, Proud and gay the maidens grow; Fair is every wooded height; Fair and bright the plain below.
A bright shaft has smit the streams, With gold gleams the water-flag; Leaps the fish, and on the hills Ardour thrills the flying stag.
Carols loud the lark on high, Small and shy, his tireless lay, Singing in wildest, merriest mood Of delicate-hued, delightful May.
I have to say, though, the first place my brain went with that was unexpected, though related. Part of this was influenced by the talk of skinchanging & second life in Heresy, btw. Deer, dog, skinchanging, being brought home to rest. Weird leap warning, bear with me. Ned brought home Lyanna's bones to be buried in Winterfell's crypts...but he also made point to return William Dustin's big red horse.
Why in the world would Ned have gone to all that trouble to bring back a horse, particularly when he couldn't bring back the rider? Why couldn't he have left that horse in Dorne, at Starfall, or sold it for return passage or something? Why was it important to drag that damn horse all the way back to Barrowton?
What if...the horse was no longer just a horse?
by the way I really like this. Something else may come along as I dig through the rest of the stories.
by the way I really like this. Something else may come along as I dig through the rest of the stories
Further discussion of it probably doesn't belong in this thread, but I was sparked by the idea of the woman being "forced" to take on her deer form - like someone being "forced" into their second life by an untimely human death.
OK now that we've established Finn as not only an exemplary warrior but also the wisest man in the world, here is how he fulfilled one of the prophecies to become the leader of the Fianna as his father Cumhal was.
When the Tuatha Dé Danann - a supernatural race - came to Ireland, they travelled in black clouds that darkened the sun for three days. They are ultimately the Aos Si (fairies) of later folklore. They brought four treasures with them, one of which is called Claíomh Solais - the Sword of Light, which I'll cover in another post.
One of the Tuatha De Danann named Aillen came from the Underworld once a year to make all the inhabitants of the city of Tara fall asleep by playing his harp. He would then breathe fire and destroy the city. He was essentially a dragon-fairie. Finn stuck his thumb in his mouth to figure out what to do. Then he inhaled poison (from his own spear) so he would stay awake and wouldn't succumb to Aillen's harp, and he slew the dragon-fairie.
And was so rewarded by being made the leader (Lord Commander) of the Fianna.
I'm going to make a separate thread on this, but I want to include this basic information on the Sword of Light. What is shockingly familiar (in an ASOIAF kind of way) is the essential connection between the Sword of Light, and creatures who are shapeshifters/skinchangers. The "soul" or "vulnerable part" of the enemy is hidden behind layers of animal disguises, and only the Sword of Light can defeat the soul of such a creature.