Fionn Folklore: new oral heritage site showcases the Fianna’s lesser-known tales

1916 rebel Éamonn Builfin performing in Standish O'Grady's “The Coming of Fionn”, with Fionn Folklore logo.
Éamonn Builfin playing the role of Cairbre in “The Coming of Fionn” by Standish O'Grady (credit: Pearse Museum via Fionn Folklore). Builfin later took part in the 1916 Easter Rising.

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With Fionn Folklore, dive deep into the enchanting world of Fionn mac Cumhaill and his warrior band, the Fianna. This new oral heritage database brings together 3,500 stories about these legendary heroes. Discover the enduring legacy of this ancient mythology and learn about the people that preserved these tales.

The newly launched Fionn Folklore website makes the rich and fascinating world of the legendary hero Fionn mac Cumhaill and his roving warrior band, the Fianna, more accessible to the public than ever before. Boasting a database of some 3,500 orally-collected stories, songs and poems, Fionn Folklore provides unprecedented global access to records featuring the much-loved heroes of ancient Ireland. The database is free and fully open to all website users.

While our readers are no doubt familiar with Fionn’s catching of the “salmon of knowledge”, the pursuit of Diarmaid and Gráinne, and Oisín and Niamh’s exploits in Tír na nÓg, this online database also includes their many lesser-known adventures. This vast corpus shines new light on the enormous array of tales about the Fianna and on the talented storytellers and collectors who preserved them.

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The easy-to-navigate website is designed to cater to casual readers and serious scholars alike, providing a wealth of informative and engaging information. The site presents a plot summary for each tale, a comprehensive list of all known versions, digital maps, character lists and descriptions, links to digitized manuscripts and recordings, and numerous other resources.

>>> RELATED: St Patrick’s contribution to the legends of the Fianna

Stories about Fionn and the Fianna have been told for over a millennium, and as the Irish settled outside of Ireland, so too did the legends spread across the world. On Fionn Folklore, you can explore information about the “interviewees” from whom the lore was collected, their sources and the collectors.

Fionn, a Dramatic Spectacle: performance by students from Pádraig Mac Piarais’ Scoil Éanna.
Students from Pádraig Pearse’s Scoil Éanna (St Enda’s School) perform “Fionn, a Dramatic Spectacle” on the school grounds (credit: Pearse Museum via Fionn Folklore).

The documented stories appear in four languages: Irish, Scottish Gaelic, Manx and English. They were collected between the 18th and 21st centuries across Ireland, Scotland, the Isle of Man, England and from diasporic communities in North America and elsewhere, but this oral tradition also shares links with medieval and early modern Fenian literature. The database draws heavily on the Irish National Folklore Collection, the School of Scottish Studies Sound Archive, and numerous other collections and archives.

The project was jointly sponsored by Harvard University and the Irish government’s Emigrant Support Programme. The brainchild of Dr Natasha Sumner, Associate Professor in the Department of Celtic Languages & Literatures at Harvard University, she explained that,

“These stories and songs are one of the most important bodies of intangible cultural heritage in the Gaelic languages. After nearly a decade of cataloguing and development, it is exciting to finally welcome visitors to the site!”

To mark its launch, project researcher Dr Pádraig Fhia Ó Mathúna will deliver workshops in universities and cultural centres across Ireland and the United States in the coming months. These are aimed not just at folklorists and researchers but also at writers, teachers, storytellers, singers, students and the general public.

The website is trilingual and can be accessed in English, Irish or Scottish Gaelic. Browse Fionn Folklore now to read your favourite Fianna legend, discover who, when and where it was recorded, or find out which tales dominate in your local area!

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