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Updated 11/19/2019


Fingal's Weeping

Fingal may refer to an individual or the county in the Republic of Ireland.

Fingal (Fine Gallin Irish, meaning "foreign tribe", i.e. Norsemen) is a county in the Republic of Ireland. It was formed from part of the former county Dublin. The Vikings referred to the area as Dyflinarskiri, the hinterland of Dublin. The original name however derived from the old Gaelic Fionn Gall meaning fair strangers, denoting the Norse, whereas south county Dublin was called Dubh Gall, denoting the occupying Danes. Early Anglo-Norman versions of the name include the similar Fiehengall, Fynnegal, Fyngal, and Finegal, which led to the mis-identification with Fine Gall. Fingalian is an extinct language, a hybrid of Old English and Old Norse, with Gaelic influences, which was spoken by the people of Fingal until the mid-1800s.

In Irish mythology, the hero Fingal is known as Fionn mac Cumhaill. Most of Fionn's early adventures are recounted in the narrative The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn. He was the son of Cumhall, leader of the Fianna, and Muirne, daughter of the druid Tadg mac Nuadat who lived on the hill of Almu in County Kildare. Cumhall abducted Muirne after her father refused him her hand, so Tadg appealed to the High King, Conn of the Hundred Battles, who outlawed Cumhall. The Battle of Cnucha was fought between Conn and Cumhall, and Cumhall was killed by Goll mac Morna, who took over leadership of the Fianna.

Muirne left the boy in the care of Bodhmall and a fighting woman, Liath Luachra, and they brought him up in secret in the forest of Sliabh Bladma, teaching him the arts of war and hunting. As he grew older he entered the service – incognito – of a number of local kings, but each one, when he recognized Fionn as Cumhal's son, told him to leave, fearing they would be unable to protect him from his enemies.

The young Fionn met the leprechaun-like druid and poet Finn Eces, or Finnegas, near the river Boyne and studied under him. Finnegas had spent seven years trying to catch the Salmon of Knowledge, which lived in a pool on the Boyne and became all-knowing through its diet of hazelnuts from a holy tree: whoever ate the salmon would gain all the knowledge in the world. Eventually the old man caught it, and told the boy to cook it for him. While cooking it Deimne burned his thumb, and instinctively put his thumb in his mouth. This imbued him with the salmon's wisdom, and when Finn Eces saw that he had gained wisdom, he gave young Fionn the whole salmon to eat. Fionn then knew how to gain revenge against Goll, and in subsequent stories was able to call on the knowledge of the salmon by putting his thumb to the tooth that had first tasted the salmon.

In a story from Violet Russell's Heroes of the Dawn, every year for 23 years at Samhain, a fire-breathing man of the Tuatha Dé Danaan, Aillen the Burner, would lull the men of Tara to sleep with his music before burning the palace to the ground, and the Fianna, led by Goll mac Morna, were powerless to prevent it. The Fianna were a band of warriors also known as a military order composed mainly of the members of two clans, "Clan Bascna" and "Clan Morna", the Fenians were supposed to be devoted to the service of the High King and to the repelling of foreign invaders. Fionn arrived at Tara, armed with his father's crane-skin bag of magical weapons. He kept himself awake by touching the point of his magically red-hot spear to his forehead. The pain kept Fionn awake, allowing him to pursue and kill Aillen with the same spear. After that his heritage was recognized and he was given command of the Fianna: Goll willingly stepped aside, and became a loyal follower of Fionn, although in some stories their alliance is uneasy. Fionn demanded compensation for his father's death from Tadg, threatening war or single combat against him if he refused. Tadg offered him his home, the hill of Allen, as compensation, which Fionn accepted.

Fionn's sword was called "Mac an Luinn".

According to the most popular account of Fionn's death, he is not dead at all, rather, he sleeps in a cave, surrounded by the Fianna. One day he will awake and defend Ireland in the hour of her greatest need. In one account, it is said that he will arise when the Dord Fiann, the hunting horn of the Fianna, is sounded three times, and he will be as strong and as well as he ever was.