Fionn and the Fianna


Just as winter brings to mind the Ulster Cycle and the incredible story of the Cattle Raid of Cooley, traditionally told in the winter months, after dark, the spring and summer make us think of the Fianna, that band of warriors who defended Ireland from dangers within and without.

There’s something inherently summery about their adventures: Fionn and his men begin so many tales out on the hunt, chasing down deer and keeping an eye out for any strange adventures, grist to the mill for their own storytelling, which would pay for their lodgings during the cold winter months. The stories seem to be infused with sunlight: from the gold of Fionn’s own hair, to the shaft of sunlight that Niamh Cinn Óir appears in to take Oisín away to Tír na nÓg. The vibrancy of nature in full bloom, and the swift running hounds racing through the forests of Ireland.

The Fenian Cycle is all about strength and heroism, of course, but it is also full of strange inversions, when the familiar suddenly becomes strange and threatening. Strange figures emerge out of the mists to lead the stalwart heroes into eerie landscapes; animals transform into people and people into beasts; enchantments rob the great heroes of their strength and vitality. But always, the Fianna can rely on one another, sound the Dord Fiann and call on their brothers in arms to come to their aid, and count on the strength of the ties that bind them to see them through every difficulty.

This is why we chose the Fenian Cycle as our theme for April, though we have by no means plumbed all these great heroes have to offer. You can expect to hear from them again over the summer months!

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