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The Boyish Exploits of Finn

Author: Unknown

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Kuno Meyer

Translated into English by Kuno Meyer

Electronic edition compiled by Beatrix Färber

Funded by School of History, University College, Cork

1. First draft.

Extent of text: /// words


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Text ID Number: T303023


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    Manuscript Source for the Irish original
  1. Oxford, Bodleian Library, Laud 610, fo. 118a2–121b1.
    Editions and Translations
  1. John O'Donovan (ed. and tr.), Mac-gnimartha Finn mac Cumaill, 'The Boyish Exploits of Finn mac Cumhaill', Transactions of the Ossianic Society for the year 1856, vol. 4 (Dublin 1859) 281–304.
  2. Kuno Meyer (ed.), Macgnimartha Find, Revue Celtique 5 (1882) 195–204.
  3. Kuno Meyer (tr.), The Boyish Exploits of Finn, Ériu 1 (1901) 180–190 (English translation).
  1. Kuno Meyer, Fianaigecht: being a collection of hitherto inedited Irish poems and tales relating to Finn and his Fiana, Todd Lecture Series 16 (London 1910). (For introduction and 'The Finn episode from Gilla in Chomded húa Cormaic's poem "A Rí richid, réidig dam"').
  2. Joseph Falaky Nagy, The Wisdom of the Outlaw: The Boyhood Deeds of Finn in Gaelic Narrative Tradition (Berkeley CA 1985).
  3. J. T. Koch and John Carey, The Celtic Heroic Age. Literary sources for ancient Celtic Europe and early Ireland and Wales (Aberystwyth 2003) (includes translations).
  4. Proinsias Mac Cana, 'Fianaigecht in the Pre-Norman period', in: Béaloideas 54–55 (1986–1987) 75–99. Reprinted in: B. Almqvist et al. (ed), 'The heroic process' (1987) 75–99.
  5. Tom P. Cross and Clark Harris Slover (eds.), 'The Boyhood Deeds of Finn mac Cumaill: Ancient Irish Tales (New York 1936, reprinted 1977).
  6. Further references are available onímartha_Find.
  7. For references to place names, see
    The edition used in the digital edition
  1. Kuno Meyer, Macgnimartha Find in Ériu. Volume 1, Dublin , School of Irish Learning (1901) page 180–190


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The present text represents pages 180–190 of the published edition, including introduction. The Irish original is available in a separate file, G303023.

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Text has been proof-read twice.


The electronic text represents the edited text. The editor's footnotes are included and note type="auth" and numbered.


Direct speech is tagged q.


Hyphenation was introduced. When a hyphenated word (hard or soft) crosses a page-break, the page-break is marked after the completion of the hyphenated word. Soft hyphens are silently removed.


div0=the tale. Poems are included as embedded texts, with stanzas numbered. Page-breaks are marked pb n="".


Names are not tagged, nor are terms for cultural and social roles.

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Created: By Kuno Meyer. (1901)

Use of language

Language: [EN] The translation is in English.
Language: [GA] Irish occurs in the translated title.

Revision History

Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition: T303023

The Boyish Exploits of Finn: Author: Unknown


From MS Laud 610

¶1] There befell a meeting of valor and a contest of battle about the chieftaincy of the Fian and about the high-stewardship of Ireland between Cumall son of Trénmór, and Tirgriu son of Lugaid Corr of the Luagni.1 That Cumall was of the Corco Oche of Cúil Contuind,2 for to these the Ui Tairrsig, Cumall's tribe, belonged. Torba, daughter of Eochaman of the Erne, was the wife of Cumall, until he married Muirne of the fair neck.

¶2] Then the battle of Cnucha3 was fought between them, to wit, between Cumall and Urgriu. Daire the Red, son of Eochaid the Fair, son of Cairbre the Valorous, son of Muiredach, and his son Aed were fighting the battle along with Urgriu. Another name for that Daire was Morna Wryneck. So the battle was fought. Luchet and Aed, son of Morna, met in the battle. Luchet wounded Aed, and destroyed one of his eyes, whence the name of Goll, (i.e. the One-eyed) clave to him from that time forth. Luchet fell by Goll. The man who kept Cumall's treasure-bag wounded Cumall in the battle. Cumall fell in the battle by Goll, son of Morna, who carried off his spoils and his head, whence there was a hereditary feud between Finn mac Cumaill and the sons of Morna.

¶3] Hence sang the shanachie:

    1. Goll, son of Daire the Red, with fame,
      Son of Eochaid the Fair, of valor fair,
      Son of Cairpre the Valorous with valor,
      Son of Muiredach from Findmag.4

    2. p.181

    3. 5] Goll slew Luchet of the hundreds
      6] In the battle of Cnucha, 'tis no falsehood:
      7] Luchet the Fair of prowess bright5
      8] Fell by the son of Morna.
    4. 9] By him fell great Cumall
      10] In the battle of Cnucha of the hosts.
      11] 'Tis for the chieftaincy of Erin's Fian
      12] That they waged the stout battle.
    5. 13] The children of Morna were in the battle
      14] And the Luagni of Tara,
      15] Since to them belonged the leadership6 of the men of Fál7
      16] By the side of every valorous king.
    6. 17] Victorious Cumall had a son,
      18] Finn, bloody, of weapons hard:
      19] Finn and Goll, great their fame,
      20] Mightily they waged war.
    7. 21] Afterwards they made peace,
      22] Finn and Goll of the hundred deeds,
      23] Until Banb Sinna fell
      24] About the pig at Tara Luachra.8
    8. 25] Aed was the name of the son of Daire
      26] Until Luchet with glory wounded him:
      27] Since the fierce lance had wounded him,
      28] Therefore was he called Goll.

¶4] Cumall left his wife Muirne pregnant. And she brought forth a son, to whom the name of Demne was given. Fiacail, son of Conchenn, and Bodbmall the druidess, and the Grey one of Luachair came to Muirne, and carry away the boy, for his mother durst not let him be with her. Muirne afterwards slept with Gleor Red-hand, king of the Lamraige9, whence10 the saying, ‘Finn, son of Gleor.’ Bodbmall, however, and the Grey one, and the boy with them, went into the forest of Sliab Bladma. There the boy was secretly reared. That was indeed necessary, for many a sturdy stalwart youth, and many a


venomous hostile warrior and angry fierce champion of the warriors of the Luagni and of the sons of Morna were lying in wait for that boy, and for Tulcha, the son of Cumall. In that manner then those two women-warriors reared him for a long time.

¶5] Then, at the end of six years, his mother came to visit her son, for she had been told that he was in that place, and besides, she was afraid of the sons of Morna for him. However, she passed from one wilderness to another, until she reached the forest of Slieve Bloom. She found the hunting-booth and the boy asleep in it. And then she lifts the boy to her bosom, and presses him to her, and she pregnant at the time.11 It was then she made the quatrains, fondling her son:—
Sleep in peaceful slumber, etc.
Thereupon the woman bade farewell to the women-warriors, and told them to take charge12 of the boy till he should be fit to be a fighter. And so the boy grew up till he was able to hunt.

¶6] On a certain day the boy went out alone, and saw ducks upon a lake. He sent a shot among them, which cut off the feathers and wings of one, so that a trance fell upon her; and then he seized her and took her with him to the hunting-booth. And that was Finn's first chase.

¶7] Later he went with certain cairds to flee from the Sons of Morna, and was with them about Crotta.13 These were their names: Futh14 and Ruth and Regna of Moy Fea, and Temle, and Olpe, and Rogein. There scurvy came upon him, and therefrom he became a scald, whence he used to be called Demne the Bald. At that time there was a reaver in Leinster, Fiacail, the son of Codna. Then in Feeguile15 Fiacail came upon the cairds, and killed them all save Demne alone. After that he


was with Fiacail, the son of Codna, in his house in Sescenn Uairbeóil.16 The two women-warriors came southwards to the house of Fiacail, the son of Codna, in search of Demne, and he is given to them. And then they took him with them from the south to the same place.

¶8] One day he went out alone until he reached Moy Liffey,17 and a certain stronghold there; and he saw the youths hurling upon the green of the stronghold there. He went to contend in running or in hurling with them. He came again the next day, and they put one-fourth of their number against him. Again they came with one-third of their number against him. However, at last they all go against him, and he won his game from them all.

¶9] ‘What is thy name?’ they said. ‘Demne,’ said he. The youths tell that to the man of the stronghold. ‘Then kill him,18 if ye know how to do it — if ye are able to do it,’ said he. ‘We should not be able to do aught to him,’ said they. ‘Did he tell you his name?’ says he. ‘He said,’ say they, ‘that his name was Demne.’ ‘What does he look like?’ said he. ‘A shapely fair (finn) youth,’ said they. ‘Then Demne shall be named Finn, (the Fair),’ said he. Whence the youths used to call him Finn.

¶10] He came to them on the next day, and went to them at their game. All together they threw their hurlets at him. He turns among them, and throws seven of them to the ground. He went from them into the forest of Slieve Bloom.

¶11] Then, at the end of a week, he came back to the same place. The youths were swimming in a lake that was close by. The youths challenge him to come and try to drown them. Thereupon he jumps into the lake to them, and drowns nine of them in the lake. And after that he goes to Slieve Bloom. ‘Who drowned the youths?’ everybody asked. ‘Finn,’ say they. So that henceforth the name Finn clave to him.

¶12] Once he went forth across Slieve Bloom, and the two women-warriors together with him, when a fleet herd of wild deer is seen by them on the ridge of the mountain. ‘Alas!’ say


the two old women, ‘that we cannot get hold of one of those!’19 ‘I can,’ says Finn, and he dashes upon them, and lays hold of two bucks among them, and brings them with him to their hunting-booth. After that he would hunt for them constantly. ‘Go from us now, lad,’ said the women-warriors to him, ‘for the sons of Morna are watching to kill thee.’

¶13] Alone he went from them until he reached Loch Leane,20 above Luachair,21 and there he took military service with the king of Bantry. At that place he did not make himself known. However, there was not at that time a hunter his equal. Thus said the king to him: — ‘If Cumall had left a son,’ says he, ‘one would think thou wast he. However, we have not heard of his leaving a son, except Tulcha mac Cumaill, and he is in military service with the king of Scotland.’

¶14] He afterwards bids farewell to the king, and goes from them to Carbrige, which at this day is called Kerry,22 and takes military service with the king of that land. Then, on a certain day, the king came to play fidchell. He was prompted by Finn, and won seven games one after another. ‘Who art thou?’ says the king. ‘The son of a peasant of the Luagni of Tara,’ says he. ‘No,’ says the king; ‘but thou art the son whom Muirne bore to Cumall, and be here no longer, lest thou be slain while under my protection.’

¶15] Then he went forth to Cullen23 of the Ui Cuanach,24 to the house of Lochán, a chief smith, who had a very beautiful daughter, Cruithne by name. She fell in love with the youth. ‘I shall give thee my daughter, though I know not who thou art.’ Thereupon the girl slept with the youth. ‘Make spears for me,’ said the youth to the smith. So Lochán made two spears for him. He then bade farewell to Lochán, and went away. ‘My son,’ says Lochán, ‘do not go upon the road on which is the sow called the Beo.’ She it was that devastated the


midlands of Munster. But what happened to the youth was to go upon the very road on which the sow was. Then the sow charged him; but be thrust his spear at her, so that it went through her, and left her without life. Then he takes the head of the sow with him to the smith as a bridal gift for his daughter. Hence is Slieve Muck25 in Munster.

¶16] After that the youth went onwards into Connaught to seek Crimall, the son of Trénmór. As he was on his way, he heard the wail of a woman. He went towards it, and saw a woman; and now it was tears of blood, and now a gush of blood, so that her mouth was red. ‘Thou art red-mouthed, woman!’ says he. ‘Good cause have I,’ says she, ‘for my only son has been slain by a tall, very terrible warrior who came in my way.’ ‘What was thy son's name?’ says he. ‘Glonda was his name,’ says she. Hence is the Ford of Glonda and the Causeway of Glonda on Moinmoy,26 and from that redness of mouth the Ford of the Red Mouth27 has been so called ever since. Then Finn went in pursuit of the warrior, and they fight a combat, and he fell by him. This is how he was: he had the treasure-bag with him, the treasures of Cumall. He who had fallen there was the Grey one of Luachair, who had dealt the first wound to Cumall in the battle of Cnucha.

¶17] Thereupon he goes into Connaught, and finds Crimall as an old man in a desert wood there, and a number of the old Fian together with him; and it is they who did the hunting for him. Then he shows(?) him the bag, and told him his story from beginning to end; how he had slain the man of the treasures. Finn bade farewell to Crimall, and went to learn poetry from Finnéces, who was on the Boyne.28 He durst not remain in Ireland else, until he took to poetry, for fear of the sons of Urgriu, and of the sons of Morna.

¶18] Seven years Finnéces had been on the Boyne, watching the salmon of Fec's Pool;29 for it had been prophesied of him


that he would eat the salmon of Féc, when nothing would remain unknown to him. The salmon was found, and Demne was then ordered to cook the salmon; and the poet told him not to eat anything of the salmon. The youth brought him the salmon after cooking it. ‘Hast thou eaten anything of the salmon, my lad?’ says the poet. ‘No,’ says the youth, ‘but I burned my thumb, and put it into my mouth afterwards.’ ‘What is thy name, my lad?’ says he. ‘Demne,’ says the youth. ‘Finn is thy name, my lad,’ says he; ‘and to thee was the salmon given to be eaten, and verily thou art the Finn.’ Thereupon the youth eats the salmon. It is that which gave the knowledge to Finn, to wit, whenever he put his thumb into his mouth and sang through teinm láida,30 then whatever he had been ignorant of would be revealed to him.

¶19] He learnt the three things that constitute a poet: teinm láida, imbas forosna,31 and dichetul dichennaib.32 It is then Finn made this lay to prove his poetry:—


May-day, season surpassing! Splendid is colour then. Blackbirds sing a full lay, if there be a slender shaft of day.
The dust-colored cuckoo calls aloud: Welcome, splendid summer! The bitterness of bad weather is past, the boughs of the wood are a thicket.
Summer cuts the river down, the swift herd of horses seeks the pool, the long hair of the heather is outspread, the soft white bog-down grows.
Panic startles the heart of the deer, the smooth sea runs apace — season when ocean sinks asleep — blossom covers the world.
Bees with puny strength carry a goodly burden, the harvest of blossoms; up the mountain-side kine take with them mud, the ant makes a rich meal.
The harp of the forest sounds music, the sail gathers — perfect peace. Colour has settled on every height, haze on the lake of full waters.
The corncrake, a strenuous bard, discourses; the lofty virgin waterfall sings a welcome to the warm pool; the talk of the rushes is come.
Light swallows dart aloft, loud melody reaches round the hill, the soft rich mast buds, the stuttering quagmire rehearses.
The peat-bog is as the raven's coat, the loud cuckoo bids welcome, the speckled fish leaps, strong is the bound of the swift warrior.
Man flourishes, the maiden buds in her fair strong pride; perfect each forest from top to ground, perfect each great stately plain.


Delightful is the season's splendour, rough winter has gone, white is every fruitful wood, a joyous peace in summer.
A flock of birds settles in the midst of meadows; the green field rustles, wherein is a brawling white stream.
A wild longing is on you to race horses, the ranked host is ranged around: A bright shaft has been shot into the land, so that the water-flag is gold beneath it.
A timorous tiny persistent little fellow sings at the top of his voice, the lark sings clear tidings: surpassing May-day of delicate colours!

¶21] However, Finn went to Cethern, the son of Fintan, further to learn poetry with him. At that time there was a very beautiful maiden in Bri Ele,33 that is to say, in the fairy-knoll of Bri Ele, and the name of that maiden was Ele. The men of Ireland were at feud about that maiden. One man after another went to woo her. Every year on Hallowe'en the wooing used to take place; for the fairy-knolls of Ireland were always open about Hallowe'en; for on Hallowe'en nothing could ever be hidden in the fairy-knolls. To each man that went to woo her this used to happen: one of his people was slain. This was done to mark the occasion, nor was it ever found out who did it.

¶22] Like everybody else, the poet Cethern went to woo the maiden. However, Finn did not like the poet's going on that errand. At that time the name of Cumall's son was Finnéces. As they went to the wooing they formed themselves into three bands. There were nine in each band. As they went towards the fairy-knoll, a man of their people was slain between them; and it was not known who had slain him. Oircbel the poet was the name of the man that was slain there. Hence is Fert Oircbeil (the Grave of O.) in Clonfad. Thereupon they separated, and Finn went from them and [...]34 However, Finn thought it a grievance and a great disgrace.35

¶23] He went until he came to the house of the champion Fiacail mac Conchinn, at Slievemargue.36 It is there his dwelling was at that time. To him, then, Finn made his complaint, and told him how the man had been slain among them in the fairy-knoll. Fiacail told him to go and sit down by the two Paps of Anu37, behind Luachair. So he went and sat down between the two strongholds which are between the two Paps of Anu.

¶24] Now, when Finn was there between them, on Hallowe'en night, be saw the two fairy-knolls opened around him, even the two strongholds, their ramparts having vanished before them. And he saw a great fire in either of the two strongholds; and he heard a voice from one of them, which said: ‘Is your sweet-foot good?’ ‘Good, indeed!’ said a voice in the other fairy-knoll. ‘A question: shall anything be taken from us to you?’ ‘If that be given to us, something will be given to you in return.’ While Finn was there he saw a man coming out of the fairy-knoll. A kneading-trough was in his hand with a [...]38 pig upon it, and a cooked calf, and a bunch of wild garlic upon it. That was Hallowe'en. The man came past Finn to reach the other knoll. Finn made a cast with the spear of Fiacail mac Conchinn. He hurled it southward from him towards Slievemargue. Then said Finn: ‘If the spear should reach any one of us, may he escape(?) alive from it! I think this was a revenge for my comrade.’39

¶25] That passed, till forthwith he heard a lament, and a great wail, saying:
‘On the Barrow, by a sharp-pointed spear,
Aed, Fidga's son, has fallen:
By the spear of Fiacail, Codna's son,
Finn has slain him
Then Fiacail came to Finn, and was at the two Paps of Anu. Fiacail asked him whom he had slain. ‘I know not,’ saith Finn, ‘whether any good has come from the cast which I have thrown.’ ‘'Tis likely, indeed,’ said Fiacail, ‘that some one has been slain. It seems to me if thou dost not do it to-night, thou wilt not do it to the end of another year.’ However, Finn said that he had sent a cast, and that it seemed likely to him


that it had reached some one. And he heard a great wailing in the fairy-knoll, saying: —

    (Voice from fairy-knoll)

    1. Venom is this spear,
      And venomous he whose it is,
      Venomous whoever threw it,
      Venom for him whom it laid low.

¶26] Outside the fairy-knoll of Cruachan Brig Ele Finn seized a woman in pledge for his spear. The woman promised to send out the spear if he released her. Finn let the woman from him into the knoll. Then, as she went into the knoll the woman said: —


    1. Venom is this spear,
      And venom the hand that threw it
      If it is not cast out of the knoll,
      A murrain will seize the land.
Thereupon the spear is thrown out, and Finn takes it with him to where Fiacail was. ‘Well,’ said Fiacail, ‘keep the spear with which thou hast done the famous deed.’ Then Fiacail said the occasion was fortunate, since the man had been slain who had killed Finn's comrade. ‘He whom thou hast slain here,’ said he, ‘'tis he who used to kill every man that came to woo the maiden, because it is he who loved the maiden.’

¶27] Thereupon Finn and Fiacail went onward. Now, Fiacail had a tryst with the Fian at Inver Colptha.41 Then he said to Finn that they should go home [...]42 since their business was finished. Said Finn: ‘Let me go with thee,’ says he. ‘I do not wish thee to go with me,’ says Fiacail, ‘lest thy strength should fail thee.’ ‘I shall find out,’ says Finn. Then they went forth. Twelve balls of lead were round the neck of Fiacail to hem his vigour, such was his swiftness. He would throw one ball after another from him, and Finn took them with him, and (yet) Fiacail's running was no swifter than Finn's.

¶28] They reach Inver Colptha. Then Finn brought all the twelve balls of lead to him, and he was pleased. That night they slept there. Then they make Finn keep watch that night, and he was told to wake the warrior if he heard any [cry of] outrage. Now, one hour of the night, as Finn was watching, he heard a cry from the north, and did not wake the warrior.


He went alone in the direction of the cry to Slieve Slanga.43 While Finn was there, among the men of Ulster, at the hour of midnight,44 he overtook three women before him, at a green mound, with horns (?) of fairy-women. As they were wailing on that mound, they would all put their hands on the mound. Then the women flee into the fairy-mound before Finn. Finn caught one of the women as she was going into the fairy-knoll of Slanga, and snatched her brooch out of her cloak. The woman went after him, and besought Finn to give her back the brooch of her cloak, and said it was not fit for her to go into the fairy-knoll with a blemish, and she promises a reward [...]45

Kuno Meyer.