Study Guide

Finn Cycle

by Unknown

Finn Cycle Characters

Characters Discussed (Great Characters in Literature)

Finn

Finn, an Irish legendary hero, the leader of the King’s warriors known as the Fianna Erinn. The Finn Cycle is composed of a series of ballads celebrating the brave exploits of this third century hero and his band of warriors; their virtues and their weaknesses; the eventual diminution of their powers; the dissolution of the band; and the waning of a heroic age.

Cumhal

Cumhal, the former leader of the Fianna Erinn and Finn’s father.

Murna

Murna, Finn’s mother.

Goll Mac Morna

Goll Mac Morna, the leader of the rival clan and, later, Finn’s strong and loyal warrior.

The Lord of Luachar

The Lord of Luachar, a chieftain slain by Finn in his first heroic exploit.

Finegas

Finegas, a sage from whom Finn learns wisdom and the art of poetry.

Conn

Conn, the ruler of Ireland, who makes Finn captain of his band of warriors known as the Fianna Erinn.

Oisin

Oisin, Finn’s son. He is a warrior poet. After his father’s death, he is taken to an enchanted land where none grows old. After more than two hundred years, homesick for Ireland, he returns and finds the land populated by weaklings, and the heroic age long since passed.

Oscar

Oscar, Finn’s grandson, the fiercest fighter of the Fianna Erinn.

Dermot

Dermot, the ladies man,

Keelta

Keelta, the warrior poet,

Conan the Bald

Conan the Bald, the gluttonous and slothful trickster, and

Mac Luga

Mac Luga, the one skilled in courtesy, Finn’s men.

The Dark Druid

The Dark Druid, a sorcerer who changes his beloved into a deer. She is released from the spell by Finn and becomes his wife. When Finn is called away to war, the Dark Druid recaptures the girl and takes her away, this time forever.

Vivionn

Vivionn, a giantess.

Fergus

Fergus, a minstrel whose music restores peace between quarreling clans.

Grania

Grania, the daughter of the king of Ireland. She is married to Finn in his old age.

Niam

Niam, a fairy princess who takes Oisin to an enchanted land where none grows old.

Finn Cycle Bibliography (Great Characters in Literature)

Gregory, Isabella Augusta. Gods and Fighting Men. 2d ed. Gerrard Cross, England: Colin Smythe, 1976. A reprint of Lady Gregory’s 1904 retelling of Irish legends. Includes an introduction to the influence of Irish myth by W. B. Yeats and a preface. Most of the book represents stories from the Finn Cycle with some explanation. Includes interesting notes.

Mac Cana, Proinsias. Celtic Mythology. New York: Peter Bedrick Books, 1985. An excellent introduction to Celtic mythology and the Finn Cycle. A perfect source for beginners. Includes index.

Matthews, John. Celtic Battle Heroes: Cuchulainn, Boadicea, Fionn MacCumhail, Macbeth. Poole, Dorset, England: Firebird, 1988. An informative and accessible supplement that provides information on all essential elements of the Finn Cycle. Examines the legend’s thematic relation to contemporary ideas.

Rolleston, T. W. Celtic Myths and Legends. 1911. Reprint. New York: Dover Publications, 1990. An exhaustive study of Irish and Welsh myths within a historical, literary, and religious setting. A solid, often enjoyable retelling of the stories. Includes drawings, a copious index, and glossary.

Sutcliff, Rosemary. The High Deeds of Finn Mac Cool. New York: Dutton, 1967. An enjoyable retelling of the legends surrounding the Finn Cycle. Drawings enhance the text. Includes an interesting introduction to the project.