When Fionn was a boy he was fostered on the hermit, Finaghast, who was to be his instructor.
The old hermit had been living by the river Boyne with the aim of catching the Salmon of Knowledge.
Tradition had it that the first person to taste the flesh of that salmon would receive
the gift of past and future sight and would become the wisest man in all Erin.
Finaghast had spent many years fishing in the river, hoping that
one day the Salmon of Knowledge would swim by.
One day, as Finaghast was pitching Fionn his, Auraicept, by the river, there were unusual stirrings in the water of the Boyne.
Old man and boy peered into the river and saw a beautiful, speckled salmon swimming swiftly towards them.
“The Salmon of Knowledge!” cried Finaghast running for his fish-net.
As he returned to the river-bank with the fish-net to hand, the Salmon of Knowledge leapt out of the water and gazed into his eyes.
Finaghast-the-Hermit, immediately collapsed to the ground in a deep sleep, for it was an ability of the Salmon that whosoever its gaze first fell upon when breaching the water course would always be put into such a condition.
Fionn ran to Finaghast and attempted to shake him awake, but to no avail.
With his instructor lost to the world it was left to the pupil to land the fish, which Fionn did, eventually, after an almighty tussle.
Still unable to wake his instructor, Fionn, set about cooking the salmon in the hope that the aroma of the broiling fish would bring old Finaghast round.
It nearly worked too, but just as the fish was softening nicely, and Finaghast began to stir, a drop from the boiling pot fizzed out and caught Fionn plumb on his thumb, so scalding him.
Fionn instinctively stuck his thumb into his mouth to cool it.
When Finaghast woke from his sleep he noticed a great change in his young pupil.
There was a light behind his eyes, like that of a flame, and his cheeks were glowing brightly.
“Fionn, did you eat of the salmon?” asked Finaghast.
“I did not eat of the salmon,” said Fionn.
“Fionn did you taste any of the salmon at all?” asked Finaghast.
Fionn then explained all that had happened and the old hermit realised that the grace of wisdom had been granted, not to him, but to his foster son…