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Finn

Finn

Finn, also known as Finn MacCumhail or Finn MacCool, is the hero of a series of Irish legends known as the Fionn (or Fenian) Cycle. Finn was the son of Cumhail, who led a band of warriors called the Fianna. Members of this group were chosen for their bravery and strength and took an oath to fight for the king and defend Ireland from attack. In time, Finn became the leader of the Fianna and was the greatest warrior of all.

As a boy, Finn became the pupil of a druid, a Celtic priest. The druid had been told that he would gain all the world's knowledge if he caught and ate a certain salmon. He caught the fish and instructed Finn to cook but not to eat it. While preparing the fish, Finn touched it and burned his thumb. He sucked the thumb to ease the pain and received the knowledge that was meant for the druid.

Finn later traveled to Tara, the court of the Irish king, Cormac MacArt. Every year a demon came and destroyed Tara. Finn managed to kill the demon and save the hall. As a reward, the king named Finn the leader of the Fianna. Under his leadership, the Fianna performed many amazing deeds, such as traveling to the underworld and defeating supernatural enemies. Always a select group, the Fianna became even more exclusive when Finn invented tests of strength and courage for all those who wanted to join.

underworld land of the dead

supernatural related to forces beyond the normal world; magical or miraculous

Several legends concern Finn's death. However, some stories say he is not dead at all, just sleeping in a cave or a hollow tree, and that he will awaken when Ireland once again needs his help.

See also Celtic Mythology; Druids.

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Finn

Finn / fin/ • n. a native or national of Finland or a person of Finnish descent.

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Finn

Finnagin, akin, begin, Berlin, bin, Boleyn, Bryn, chin, chin-chin, Corinne, din, fin, Finn, Flynn, gaijin, gin, Glyn, grin, Gwyn, herein, Ho Chi Minh, in, inn, Jin, jinn, kin, Kweilin, linn, Lynn, mandolin, mandoline, Min, no-win, pin, Pinyin, quin, shin, sin, skin, spin, therein, thin, Tientsin, tin, Tonkin, Turin, twin, underpin, Vietminh, violin, wherein, whin, whipper-in, win, within, Wynne, yin •weigh-in • lutein • lie-in • Samhain •Bowen, Cohen, Owen, throw-in •heroin, heroine •benzoin •bruin, ruin, shoo-in •Bedouin • Islwyn •genuine, Menuhin •cabin, Scriabin •Portakabin • sin bin • swingbin •bobbin, dobbin, robin •haemoglobin (US hemoglobin) •Reuben • dubbin • dustbin • Jacobin •kitchen, lichen •Cochin • urchin

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Finn

Finn

Nationality/Culture

Irish/Celtic

Pronunciation

FIN

Alternate Names

Finn MacCumhail, Finn MacCool

Appears In

The Fenian Cycle

Lineage

Son of Cumhail

Character Overview

Finn, also known as Finn MacCumhail or Finn MacCool, is the hero of a series of Irish legends known as the Fionn (or Fenian) Cycle. Finn was the son of Cumhail, who led a band of warriors called the Fianna (pronounced FEE-uh-nuh). Members of this group were chosen for their bravery and strength and took an oath to fight for the king and defend Ireland from attack. In time, Finn became the leader of the Fianna and was the greatest warrior of all.

Finn was born with the name Deimne, but earned the nickname Finn (meaning “fair”) when his hair turned white at a young age. As a boy, Finn became the pupil of a druid, a Celtic priest. The druid had been told that he would gain all the world's knowledge if he caught and ate a certain salmon. He caught the fish and instructed Finn to cook but not to eat it. While preparing the fish, Finn touched it and burned his thumb. He sucked the thumb to ease the pain and received the knowledge that was meant for the druid. Later, he found he could suck on his thumb to gain additional insight or knowledge whenever he needed it.

Finn later traveled to Tara, the court of the Irish king, Cormac MacArt. Every year a fire-breathing demon came and destroyed Tara. Finn managed to kill the demon and save the hall. As a reward, the king named Finn the leader of the Fianna. Under his leadership, the Fianna performed many amazing deeds, such as traveling to the underworld (land of the dead) and defeating supernatural enemies.

Always a select group, the Fianna became even more exclusive when Finn invented tests of strength and courage for all those who wanted to join.

Several legends concern Finn's death. However, some stories say he is not dead at all, but sleeping in a cave or a hollow tree, and that he will awaken when Ireland once again needs his help.

Finn in Context

For the Irish people, an important element of the myth of Finn was the idea of the dormant or sleeping leader. This idea suggested that Finn was immortal, or able to live forever, which only increased his status as a hero. It also provided comfort that the Irish would have a defender to lead them in a future time of need.

Although Ireland is now a prosperous country, it was marked by grinding poverty for centuries. The Irish were also repressed, often brutally, by the British government, which controlled all of Ireland starting in the 1200s. The Irish rose up against the British many times, and at last began to achieve some success in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In the nineteenth century, an organization named the Fenian Brotherhood was created in the United States. Named after the Fianna, the organization aimed to support Irish citizens in their efforts to re-establish Ireland as an independent republic free of England's control. Legendary characters like Finn served as a unifying force for the Irish culture. The Irish were able to achieve independence for most of Ireland by 1937.

Key Themes and Symbols

In Celtic mythology , Finn represents the courage and cleverness of the Irish people. His white hair symbolizes wisdom, which he achieved at a very young age. This knowledge is also symbolized by the salmon he cooks, of which he accidentally consumes a small portion. In Celtic mythology, fish, and salmon in particular, are associated with knowledge. Finn may also represent eternal vigilance or guardianship, always ready when needed to protect Ireland.

Finn in Art, Literature, and Everyday Life

Finn appears in several literary works, especially those of Irish and Scottish writers. He appears throughout James Joyce's 1939 novel Finnegan's Wake, and is the subject of James MacPherson's 1761 epic poem Fingal, which the author claimed was based on an existing Scottish work (though many scholars doubt this). In 1994, historical fantasy author Morgan Llewellyn (also spelled Llywelyn) created a retelling of the stories of the Fenian Cycle in her novel Finn MacCool.

Read, Write, Think, Discuss

Finn is viewed by many Irish citizens as a mythical protector of Ireland. Modern comic book superheroes are often viewed the same way by the fictional cities they inhabit. Superman, for example, is viewed by the residents of Metropolis as their guardian against crime. Can you think of other examples? What are the qualities that these protectors have in common?

SEE ALSO Celtic Mythology

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