Legend Of Fionn MacCumhal (Finn MacCool)
Fionn Mac Cumhal is an Irish Legend in Ireland’s Folklore. There are many folklore stories based on Mac Cumhal including how the famous Giants Causeway was created.
Fionn mac Cumhal’s mother, Murine, gave birth to Fionn after his father was killed in battle.
Murine felt that she could not protect the young Fionn so she gave him to Bodhmall, a female druid and a woman warrior called Laith to raise and teach Fionn the ways of the warrior and the magical arts.
Irish mythology and the Salmon of Wisdom
When Fionn was old enough he went to learn the poetry of Finneces from the master himself. Finneces was a great poet who lived on the banks of the River Boyne. Finneces was also the guardian of a magical salmon, legend states that whoever ate this salmon would possess all knowledge and foresight. Finneces guarded this salmon for seven years before deciding to cook it and eat it himself. Fionn by this time had changed his name to Demme and was helping to roast the salmon when juice spurted out and burnt Fionn on the thumb, automatically; Fionn sucked the burning juice from his thumb and so accidentally gained all knowledge. From that day on anytime Fionn sucked his thumb he had the knowledge of forthcoming events. This is known as the Salmon of Wisdom or Salmon of Knowledge in Irish mythology.
Fionn had two nephews, who had been transformed into dogs called Bran and Sceolan these two were Fionn’s faithful companions and because they had retained their human knowledge they were wiser that their canine counterparts.
Fionn became the leader of the Fianna / Fenians, who were the warrior protectors of Ireland. They consisted of 50 chiefs who each had 27 men serving under them. The Fianna were not only made up of warriors but also called Druids, Physicians and Musicians to their ranks.
To join the Fianna each warrior had to endure a rigorous initiation, which included tasks like learning to recite a poet’s entire repertoire by heart. They also had to pass various tests of courage and strength for example being bombarded with spears and being able to remove a thorn from the soul of their foot while running and stopping under low branches, only then were they deemed worthy to join the mighty Fianna.
One day, whilst out hunting with the Fianna, Fionn encountered Sadbh, a beautiful woman, whom by refusing the advances of Fear Doirche was transformed into a deer. Whilst in the vicinity of the Fianna, Fear Doirche had no magical hold over her and she remained in human form.
Fionn fell in love and married Sadbh but one day she left the protection of her home and once again became a deer. Seven years later the hounds, Bran and Sceolan, found a little boy- it was Fionn and Sadbh’s son Oisin.
Years later, the daughter of Cormac mac Art, Grainne was promised in marriage to Fionn but when she saw his greying hair she wondered if it was more appropriate to marry Oisin but at the wedding party she saw Diarmuid, Fionn’s nephew and a great hero in the Fianna, and decided this was who she wanted to be with.
Grainne gave all the guests at the wedding feast a sleeping draught and while Fionn and their guests slumbered Grainne and Diarmuid ran away together. Fionn was furious at this betrayal by Grainne and Diarmuid and swore that the two lovers would not sleep under one roof for two consecutive nights or eat a meal in the same place twice.
All across Ireland to-day there remains numerous stone circles and cairns which bear the inscription ‘The bed of Diarmuid and Grainne.’ Its believed such places as Poulnabrone dolmen, a single-chamber megalithic tomb, was built by Grainne and Diarmuid who were on the run.
After a long pursuit, Fionn finally made peace with the couple and sent Diarmuid to kill a boar which wounded him. Diarmuid begged for a healing potion from Fionn but Fionn’s true feelings of jealousy showed themselves and he allowed the potion to drip from his fingers to the ground leaving Diarmuid to die.
MacCumhal stood a whopping 52 ½ feet tall and has been credited with shaping some of Ireland’s stunning coastline. An area made up of basalt hexagonal columns aptly named the Giant’s Causeway is one of the most breathtaking sights to see and has been called one of the Modern Wonder’s of the World.
The story goes that Fionn invited the Scottish giant, Benandonner, to visit Ireland for a contest of strength. Fionn, deciding as an act of hospitality, to build a walkway between Scotland and Ireland so that Benandonner would not get his feet wet while he crossed the Irish Sea started to lay down the hexagonal stones.
After a few weeks of intensive work the pathway was nearing completion and Benandonner’s home, Fingal’s Cave was only a stride away.
Fionn, exhausted, lay down to sleep. At dawn break the next morning, Fionn’s wife, Oonagh woke to the thundering footsteps of Benandonner striding towards their home. Quickly realising the still resting Fionn would be no match for Benandonner she woke Fionn and dressed him in one of her nightgowns and placing a bonnet on his head she urged him to pretend to sleep.
Walking into the cave, Benandonner roared, ‘Right, where is he hiding?’
Pointing to the sleeping form of Fionn, Oonagh replied, ‘Be quiet or you’ll wake our baby!’
Thinking Fionn was indeed their child; Benandonner beat a hasty retreat as he did not want to wait around to meet the father. He was last seen running back across the causeway tearing it up in his wake leaving visitor after visitor to marvel at the spectacular coastline that is Fionn’s legacy to Ireland.
Another legend tells of how Fionn created the largest fresh water lake in the British Isles, Lough Neagh. Situated in the North of Ireland its banks touch five of the six counties and it is ranked among forty of the largest lakes in Europe.
The story goes that once again our intrepid warrior was engaged in battle with another giant and he reached down and scooped up a piece of land in his massive hand to throw at his opposing rival across the water. Falling short of his intended target the land crashed into the Irish Sea and formed what is now known as the Isle of Man.
Fionn not only outlived his son and grandson, he survived to unfortunately see the massacre of his beloved Fianna at the battle of Gabhra.
In fact, there is no known record of Fionn’s death. It is widely believed that he is not dead but has just faded away into the Other world where he sleeps peacefully to rise once again when Ireland needs him.