Saint Kevin of Glendalough

Saint Kevin was 120 years old when he died in AD 617. He loved animals and he was very kind to them, but he didn\'t like people very much. When he was a young man, he decided that he wanted to do nothing but live alone and think about God. He left his parents\' home in Cualu near Dublin and walked over the Wicklow Hills until he came to a beautiful, deserted cul-de-sac glen called Glendalough, which means the Glen of Two Lakes.

(If you look at the map, you will see that the smaller of the two lakes, the Lower Lake, is also called "Loch Péist", which means "The Lake of the Water Monster". I\'ll tell you why in a minute.)


Kevin lived contentedly in the stump of a hollow tree at the closed end of the glen next to the larger lake, the Upper Lake, ate the fruits and nuts that grew wild in the glen, and dressed in the skins of animals that had died of old age.
He used to stand up to his waist in the lake, which is very deep and cold, and pray with his arms outstretched and the palms of his hands raised to heaven. One day when he was praying like this, a blackbird put a twig into one of his hands, then another and another, until she had built a nest. Kevin loved animals so much that he stood there without moving until the bird had laid her eggs, the eggs had hatched, and the baby birds were old enough to fly away. This is why Kevin is often pictured with a bird in his hand, as in this drawing from Giraldus Cambrensis\' 13th-century History and Topography of Ireland.


Before Kevin\'s time, Saint Patrick took a tour around Ireland with Oisín, son of Fionn mac Cumhail, to hear the stories of how places got their names. When they arrived at Glendalough and Oisín told Patrick about Loch Péist, Patrick asked why Fionn hadn\'t killed the monster, as he had so many others. Oisín said it was because Fionn knew that Kevin would come along in a few centuries to sort out the problem.


No one else lived in the glen at that time, but a 100-cow farmer from County Meath was taking his cows on a grazing tour, and he grazed them for a while near Glendalough. One day, this farmer noticed that one of his cows gave as much milk as fifty other cows, and he sent one of his servants to follow the cow the next morning and find out what she was eating that made her give so much milk.


The servant followed the cow as she went away from the herd until she came to Kevin\'s hollow tree, and there she spent the whole day doing nothing but licking Kevin\'s feet. When the servant reported this, the farmer said, "That man must be a saint," and he brought Kevin to his house and cleaned him up. He cut his long hair and beard and his fingernails and toenails and gave him a bath and dressed him in regular clothes.


Kevin hated it. He had been happy living with only the animals for company, but he knew that his discovery was a sign that he was meant to tell people about God. The story about how he was found by the cow gave him a reputation as a holy man, and people came from all over Ireland and from other countries to be near him and listen to him preach.
This was good news for the monster who lived in the Upper Lake, because it meant he didn\'t have to go far from home to find his dinner. He never tried to eat Kevin, because Kevin was so kind to animals, but he ate the people who came to be near Kevin. This probably didn\'t bother Kevin, because it made Glendalough less crowded, but it annoyed the people who were eaten, and the people who weren\'t eaten yet wanted to kill the monster. Because Kevin loved animals and didn\'t want him to be killed, he asked the monster to please move over to the smaller lake, Loch Péist (which the tourist authority