Dia Greine, the Sun Goddess

Dia Greine DCack in the days when the world was young and men and animals spoke the same language, there was a king and a queen, and they lived happily together and had a much beloved son, Brian, but the queen fell ill and passed away, and so the king devoted himself to his boy and brought him up to be wise in all the ways of the world. 

One year, a long, harsh winter fell upon the kingdom, much longer than any winter that had ever come before. As the cold, dark days dragged on, word reached the kingdom that the sun goddess was being held captive by the Lord of the Wildwood and until she was released, winter would continue to blanket the land. The king urged Brian to take on the quest but Brian was reluctant to leave his ageing father. After a time, and much reassurance from the king, Brian agreed to set out to restore the sun to the land. 

“Find the old Cailleach and gift her these rivlins, and she will help you” the king advised his son, handing him a beautifully cobbled pair of untanned leather brogues. 

Brian set off and he walked much further than I can tell or you can think, until he reached the house of the Cailleach. He gave her the rivlins as his father had instructed and she was well pleased. She gave him his bed for the night, and in the morning she said to him, “It is time you arose Brian, for your journey is far. You must find the Giant of Five Heads, Five Humps, and Five Throttles, and bring me his marvellous bird. Then I will tell you how to find the Sun Goddess.”

As Brian made his way to the door, he wondered how he would make it such a way on his own. Somewhat reluctantly he bade the Cailleach farewell, and she assured him that they would meet again soon enough. As he stepped outside, what should he see but a fox pulling on his shoes and stockings. “Sguir beathach!” he shouted. “Stop beast! You had best leave my lot of shoes and stockings for myself!”

“Ach,” said the fox, “it’s long since a shoe or stocking was on my feet and I was thinking that I should put them to use on this day. But if you would be willing to take me as your servant, you will get your shoes and stockings.”

“Aye, you may follow me, but the way is long” Brian warned.

They had not travelled far when the fox asked Brian if he was good at riding, which of course he was, as his father had skilled him in all such things. 

“Come on top of me for a while then,” said the fox. 

“On top of you, fox? Silly beathach, I would break your back!”

But even as he spoke, the fox turned itself into a beautiful chestnut steed before his eyes. Brian climbed on top of the fox-horse and they set off, driving spray from each pool and sparks from each pebble, and they took no halt nor rest until they reached the vast home of the Giant of Five Heads, Five Humps, and Five Throttles.

“You must ask the Giant to take service with him,” the fox advised. “He has every bird you can imagine in his keeping. Look after those he tasks you with well and he will trust you to feed his most marvellous bird soon enough.”

Brian did as the fox had said and he pleased the giant. He tended every kind of bird you could imagine until at last the Giant asked him to feed and groom his marvellous bird. One night long after, when Brian was sure he had the trust of the bird, he waited until the Giant was fast asleep, grabbed the bird and made off with it, but as soon as the marvellous bird crossed the threshold of the Giant’s home it let out a great screech, and knowing his prized bird’s screech all too well, it roused the Giant. “Oh! Sleekit boy! You would try to steal my bird!” he exclaimed, and threw Brian into the peat corner and laid binding on him so he could not escape, and there he was until morning when the Giant returned. 

“So, boy,” he boomed. “You want my marvellous bird? Well, you have two rathers: would you rather I dash your head on the floor of my peat corner, or will you go to steal for me the White Glave of Light from the realm of the Big Women across the sea?”

“A man is always kind to his life,” said Brian. “I will steal the White Glave of Light for you.”

The Giant untied Brian and he set off. He had gone some way and had just set foot on the rocky shore when the fox met him, shaking his head disapprovingly. “That did not go well,” the fox said. “The White Glave of Light is ten times as hard to steal as the marvellous bird of a Giant.”

“Well there is nothing I can do to help that now,” said Brian. “I must take myself to it.”

“Then I will come with you, and we will hope that you will be more careful this time.” the fox said.

They had made their way to the shore when the fox asked Brian if he was good at sailing, which of course he was, as his father had skilled him in all such things. 

“Come on top of me for a while then,” said the fox. 

“On top of you, fox? Silly beathach, I would break your back!”

But even as he spoke, the fox turned itself into a beautiful golden sailed boat before his eyes. Brian climbed on to the fox-boat and they set sail, skimming great white waves and speeding through the water like a dart, and they took no halt nor rest until they reached the shores of the realm of the Big Women.

“Now,” said the fox, “you must sit here and you must cry, and when the Big Women come out and find you sorrowing they will lift you in their oxters and take you to their home, and they will try to coax you but you must never stop crying until you are given the White Glave of Light, for they will leave it with you in your bed for the length of the night to keep your weeping quiet.”

Brian did as the fox had said and was blubbering and crying when the Big Women came, and one of them tucked Brian into her oxter and took him home with them, and try as they might Brian would not stop crying, until at last night fell and they lay him down on a straw bed and lay the White Glave of Light beside him, and he stopped his sobbing and closed his eyes as if asleep. He waited until he heard the deep sleep breathing of the Big Women before he grabbed the White Glave of Light and made off with it, but as soon as the Glave crossed the threshold it let out a great ring, and knowing the Glave’s ring all too well it woke the Big Women. “Oh! Sleekit boy! You would try to steal our Glave!” they exclaimed, and threw Brian into the peat corner and tied him roundly like a knot so he could not escape, and there he was until morning when the Big Women returned. 

“So, boy,” they said. “You want our White Glave? Well, you have two rathers: would you rather be reduced to sparks under the bellows, or will you go to steal for us Dia Greine, the Sun Goddess, from the castle in the Wildwood?”

“A man is always kind to his life,” said Brian. “I will steal Dia Greine for you.

The Big Women untied Brian and he set off. He had gone some way across the land when the fox met him, shaking his head disapprovingly. “That did not go well,” the fox said. “Dia Greine is ten times as hard to steal as the White Glave of Light.”

“Well there is nothing I can do to help that now,” said Brian. “I must take myself to it.”

“Then I will come with you, and we will hope that you will be more careful this time.” the fox said.

They had reached the great tangle of the Wildwood when the fox asked Brian if he was good at yielding a sword, which of course he was, as his father had skilled him in all such things. 

“Hold my tail and swing me as you would a blade,” said the fox. 

“Swing you, fox? Silly beathach, I would break your back!”

But even as he spoke, the fox turned itself into the most beautifully crafted blade he had even seen. Brian grasped on to the hilt of the fox-blade and advanced through the Wildwood, chopping and hacking at the dense walls of knotted branches as he went, and they took no halt nor rest until they reached the castle in the centre of the Wildwood where Dia Greine was being held prisoner. 

“You must make your way to the deepest part of the castle where Dia Greine is being held in a cage of thatched iron,” the fox advised. “Retrieve the key from the wall outside the door and release her. You must use all of your skills to keep as quiet as a mouse, for if you disturb the king of the Wildwood, he will surely slay you without hesitation. There will be no bargaining here.”

Brian remembered the lessons his father had taught him and put them all to use on the path to the deepest part of the castle: he kept his footsteps small and soft, as his father had taught him to do when stalking deer; he kept his breathing shallow and slowed, as his father had taught him to do when stumping for trout; he moved swiftly but silently, as his father had taught him to do when hunting waterfowl. After an impossible time, he reached the prison in the depths of the castle and swung the door open.

There before him, curled up in a ball in a thatched iron cage, was Dia Greine, the sun goddess, and the most beautiful creature Brian had ever seen. Each strand of her hair glowed like the dawn rising in the east in hues of oranges and yellows and reds. Her skin was as fair as a cloudless sky in spring, and her eyes were wide, bright pools of molten gold. The light emanating from her that lit up the the room like the midday summer sun seemed to come from inside her, and as he basked in her heat she smiled warmly at him. 

Brian came to his senses and unlocked the cage, taking the hand of the sun goddess and motioning for her to silence. He slowly led her out of the castle without so much as a peep from either of them, and as soon as they reached the door they ran as fast as their legs would carry them. The fox-horse met them at the edge of the Wildwood and bade them climb on to his back. He galloped across the land, over hill and glen, until they were well away from the threat of the Wildwood and nearing the realm of the Big Women once again. 

“Now Brian,” said the fox. “Is it not a great pity to give away this sun goddess for the White Glave of Light?”

And Brian agreed that it would indeed be a a great pity, for he knew that with her freedom Dia Greine could bring her warmth to the land of his father and end the endless winter that had plagued their kingdom for so long, and he had loved her dearly since he first set eyes on her.

“Then I will make a sun goddess of myself,” the fox said, “and you will give me to the Big Women, but they will not keep me long.” 

And so Brian returned to the Big Women with the fox cloaked as the sun goddess, and the Big Women gave him the White Glave of Light in exchange, and Brian and Dia Greine made their way back to the shore and rested. Two days passed before the fox returned to them, and he transformed himself into the boat with the golden sails and bade Brian and Dia Greine to sail across the sea on his back, which they did. 

“Now Brian,” said the fox. “Is it not a great pity to give away this White Glave of Light?”

And Brian agreed that it would indeed be a a great pity, for he knew that the White Glave of Light was a mighty weapon that could protect his kingdom from even the fiercest of foes. 

“Then I will make myself a White Glave of Light,” the fox said, “and you will give me to the Giant of the Five Heads, Five Humps, and Five Throttles , but they will not keep me long.” 

And so Brian returned to the Giant of the Five Heads, Five Humps, and Five Throttles with the fox cloaked as the White Glave of Light, and the Giant gave him the marvellous bird in exchange, and Brian and Dia Greine and the marvellous bird made their way to a valley and rested. Two days passed before the fox returned to them, and he transformed himself into the chestnut horse and bade Brian and Dia Greine, and the marvellous bird to climb on to his his back, and they made their way back to the cottage of the Cailleach.  

When they reached the Cailleach’s cottage, Brian and Dia Greine dismounted and knocked on the door, but knock as they might, there came no answer. As Brian turned to ask the fox what they might do, the fox transformed in to the Cailleach before his eyes, and held out her arms to the marvellous bird. 

“The marvellous bird is for me,” said the Cailleach. 

“You!” exclaimed Brian. “You were my guide! My father said that you would help me, but I did bargain for so much.”

“Aye,” the Cailleach nodded. “Your father is a wise man indeed. The sun had to be returned to the land. I can usher in winter and I can throw winter out but I cannot control the sun. I needed your help to do that. Now, return to your father’s kingdom with the sun goddess and give her warmth and light back to your people, and live happily together.”

And the Cailleach shuffled inside her cottage, slipping her feet into the rivlins that sat on the doorstep, carefully grasping her marvellous bird, and closed the door behind her. 

And so Brian and Dia Greine returned to his father’s kingdom, and his father made them a great wedding with joy and gladness that lasted a year and a day, and Dia Greine gave warmth and light back to the kingdom, and the people rejoiced, and never again did the winter last so long, and if they’re not dead, they’re living yet. 



  • Tarkabarka

    I love this! So beautiful! I know there is a Grimm version of this tale, and also a Hungarian version called the Fox-eyed maiden. Neither calls the princess a Sun Goddess, though. Makes so much sense! :)

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from

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