Douglas Adams: fishing in Celtic mythology

Gods, the Universe and Everyt’ing

The new book by Hitch-Hiker’s Guide author Douglas Adams is out – and we have a rather fabulous review of it on our sister site.

The Salmon of Doubt is the last – and possibly the strangest – book by Douglas Adams. It contains many musings on Life, the Universe and Everyt’ing, and has several features of particular interest to dedicated God checkers. (See how THOR the God of Thunder copes with those newfangled telephones! Learn how to make an artificial deity!)

The title Salmon Of Doubt is never explained in the book. But a nagging suspicion led our Godchecker-In-Chief to undertake some research. And after a lot of red herrings he came upon the SALMON OF KNOWLEDGE…

The Salmon of Knowledge revealed

FINTAN – In Celtic mythology, one of the Salmon Of Knowledge. Where did it get its knowledge? From pootling around in a Holy Well of Inspiration which stood on a hill next to an amazing old hazel tree. The hazel branches dangled over the well and occasionally Hazel Nuts of Knowledge would plop down into the water. Naturally, being immersed in magic water, FINTAN became the wisest fish in the world.

He wasn’t wise enough to avoid being caught though. Due to a fracas involving NECHTAN, BOANN and the Holy Well God, FINTAN found himself being whooshed out into the River Boyne where he was caught by a very ancient druid named FINEGAS. What bait, fly or line was used is a piscatorial secret known only to those who go fishing for souls. FINEGAS, who’d been trying to get his hands on the famous salmon for years, was delighted. Whoever ate the salmon would gain all the knowledge in the universe. This was definitely catch of the day.

Unexpected guest at fish supper

But fate is not to be messed with. Who should come along but FINN McCOOL, the cool young leader of the Fenians and prospective candidate for King of Ireland? “I come seeking wisdom,” he said. FINEGAS was inclined to be grouchy: “Sorry, I’m just about to cook my dinner. Come back tomorrow.” But the eager FINN persuaded him to sit back and relax while he tried his hand at being celebrity chef for the evening. “Okay okay,” said FINEGAS, “but don’t you dare nibble my salmon.”

The poached salmon was sizzling nicely on the spit, but young FINN, like all inexperienced cooks, couldn’t help prodding it. Ouch! He burnt his thumb on a hot fin. Sucking the scorched digit, he felt a strange feeling of wisdom come over him. FINEGAS sighed. As a venerable druid he knew it was no good fighting against fate. “Go on son, you have the half-burnt raw fish garnished with stinging nettles. I’m not hungry any more.”

So FINN McCOOL stuffed his face with the Salmon of Knowledge and became the wisest King that Ireland had ever known. And FINEGAS never ate fish again.


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