Fionn and the Fianna

He is a warrior, a poet, a hero, a leader, a fountain of wisdom. Fionn, an emanation of the most ancient wisdom, the leader of the Fianna, a band of roving warriors, is portrayed as brave, handsome, and generous.

The stories of Fionn and the Fianna, which form the Fenian Cycle, are amongst the dynamic in all of Irish tradition, but they are evenly distributed throughout Scotland, highlighting the many cultural links between the two nations. The Cycle has changed over the ages, altered forever by cultural contacts, literature, and the simple, steady march of time.

The Fenian Cycle developed in response to the Ulster Cycle, the stories of CuChulainn and the Red Branch Knights, who were associated with the Ulaidh tribe that inhabited the northern part of the island of Ireland. However, Fionn emerged as a hero across Ireland.

As much as anything else, the Fenian Cycle stories are about friendship, loyalty, and the conflicts and tensions which often threaten to tear the ties that bind us. Fionn and his Fianna – Oscar, Oisín, Caoilte, Diarmuid, Goll mac Morna, Conán mac Morna – were the ultimate outsiders. Archaeological, folkloric, literary and historic evidence suggests the existence of the fian, young, male, independent bands of warriors who lived on the margins of society, offering their services as warriors or mercenary bands to earn a living. Their presence at the perimeter of society may have allowed certain freedoms. The file (poet) also held a significant role in Irish society; the character of Fionn reconciles the warrior and poet figures.

Two themes dominate the stories: magic and heroism.

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