In a pool such as this, according to Irish legend, the poet Finn Eces finally caught the Salmon of Knowledge, An Bradán Feasa as it is called in Irish,
bradán being the word for a salmon, after seven long and weary years of trying. The salmon held all the knowledge of the world, which explains why it was so difficult to catch, and the first person to eat it would acquire this omniscience. The poet was beside himself with joy thinking of the wisdom his poems would hold and the respect he would be accorded during his lifetime and for future generations stretching far into the distance time. Irish custom holds that you die three times, first physically, a second time when a few days later your spirit departs and thirdly, when people no longer speak your name. Fame, such as the poet envisioned, is therefore a form of immortality.
He called his servant, a young lad by the name of Fionn, and told him to cook the fish but not to eat any of it. The diligent and obedient Fionn got to work, turning the fish regularly to ensure it was cooked to perfection. Then, just as Fionn picked the readied fish from the pan, he burnt his thumb and instinctively placed it in his mouth to cool it down, thus acquiring with the burn all the wisdom known to man. The poet took this turn of events as a poet should and gave the rest of the salmon to Fionn to eat. Fionn grew up to be a hero and leader, full of wisdom and knowledge, though prone, as those who know their Irish folklore appreciate, to human errors, weaknesses and miscalculations.
I was reminded of the legend of the salmon last weekend as i prepared an Irish breakfast for my family. Turning the rashers on the grill, i burnt my fingers and sucking them, i thought of Fionn. This was not the first time i so burnt my fingers and if wisdom were to be gained from the fat of sizzling rashers then i would be wise indeed. I stood there, licking my fingers and enjoying the smell of the morning fry, remembering past weekend mornings in employment enforced exile, far from Irish shores, when such moments would revive memories of home and bring peace to my restless mind and pleasure to the mixed gathering of emigrants.
Peace is surely as great a gift as wisdom.
Perhaps the pig is as powerful as the salmon.