The Legend of Fionn MacCumhaill

Written by Ryan Grace on 08/07/2022

Fionn MacCumhail is possibly the most famous mythological figure in Ireland’s rich folklore. He is thought to have lived in the 3rd Century AD. His name, Fionn, comes from Old Irish meaning fair, bright and blessed. He is said to hail from the province of Leinster.

He was a renowned leader of the legendary army, the Fianna, and many of the most famous myths centre on his great leadership, quick thinking and strength in battle.

This article will take a look at a legend from Fionn’s youth and one from his later life.

The Salmon of Knowledge

Legend has it that there was a magical fish called the Salmon of Knowledge that once lived in the River Boyne which flows through the province of Leinster. The first person to touch the Salmon of Knowledge would be bestowed with all the wisdom of the world in an instant.

As a young warrior, Fionn MacCumhail studies with a poet, Fingeas, who lives near the River Boyne. One day, after a lifetime of trying, Fingeas catches the Salmon, instructing Fionn to help him cook it. While turning the fish, Fionn scalds his finger and puts it in his mouth to numb the pain.

Immediately, Fionn is granted the all-knowing power of the Salmon of Knowledge and becomes the wisest man on the island of Ireland.

The Giant’s Causeway

In this story, Fionn is a giant, travelling to Scotland to fight a rival named Benandonner. Fionn MacCumhail builds the Giant’s Causeway, a basalt rock formation found near Belfast in the north of the Island in order to travel across the sea.

Upon seeing the size of his foe, Fionn treads the stones back to Ireland in fear of defeat. Benandonner soon makes the journey to Ireland in search of his enemy. Fionn, knowing he is on the way, dresses up as a baby, imploring his wife to tell the giant that he is out. When Benandonner sees the giant supposed offspring of Fionn, he decides that if the baby is so big, Fionn must be huge.

He flees back across the causeway, tearing it up as he goes. The remnants of this supposed trail to Scotland can be found just outside Belfast today and attract thousands of tourists each year.

Legend has it that Fionn MacCumhail is not dead but sleeping with the rest of the Fianna, waiting for the time to come when Ireland is in its greatest need. Other stories of his great adventures are well worth exploring and include The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn, Finn the Fair and Liath Luachra and the treasure of Cumhal.

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