Posts Tagged ‘Giants’

An Interlude: The Giant’s Causeway

Sunday, May 24th, 2009

Since I was young I have longed to see the Giant’s Causeway, not simply because it is a wonder of the natural world, but also because the story of the giant Finn McCool was one of my favorite stories growing up. You may have heard it, but I wanted to retell it for anyone who hasn’t. Next time you see the Giant’s Causeway, remember, it’s not a natural wonder, but rather the work giants. So, the story.

The Giant Finn McCool was not particularly large for a giant. He only drank one or two barrels of mead in the evenings and ate only a few roasted cows for lunch, but yet all the citizens in his kingdom in northern Ireland loved him. While some giants stormed around all day laying waste to the countryside, scaring the livestock, and playing ninepins with peoples houses, Finn McCool preferred kinder pursuits. With his height, he would help farmers find their missing sheep, and with his strength he would help build bridges, houses, and fences from large rocks. Finn McCool wasn’t always in a good mood, though. He had an enemy who lived in Scotland across the sea and his name was Benandonner. He was another giant, but a mean one. His favorite activity was tearing the roofs off of peoples houses while they slept and laughing as they screamed and yelled.

One day, Benandonner saw Finn McCool far away across the sea and shouted “Oye! Finn McCool! I hear ye aren’t giant enough to even throw the puniest of cabers!” Well, Finn McCool got mad and went storming home to his castle. When he came in, he smashed the huge door so loudly that an earthquake rumbled through the countryside knocking over several of the fences he had helped to build. His wife, Oonagh, looked up from sewing a new kilt for herself and exclaimed “Why, Finn McCool, what are you doing causing such a ruckus around the countryside, you’ve certainly woken up our son Angus!” Just as she said that they heard a crying from the other room. It sounded like 20 cows lowing loudly.

“I’ve had enough of Benandonner’s abuse!” Shouted Finn in a voice that echoed through the vales and lochs collapsing several of the bridges he had helped to build. “I’m going to teach him that a McCool isn’t to be trifled with!”

“Now, Finn,” said Oonagh in a soothing tone, “why do you let that wretched Scot get your goat? You are loved by your people and all his people are horribly afraid of him because he treats them so cruelly.”

Finn, however, would have none of her soothing and declared in a voice that made all of the people cower in their huts “Today I will build a bridge to Scotland and settle the matter with that cur Benandonner once and for all!”

So, Finn built a bridge. It took him a long time to collect stones of just the right size and fit them all together. Several days later after working day and night he finally reached the shores of Scotland just before nightfall and crept up to Benandonner’s castle. Looking through the window, however, he caught a glimpse of the sleeping giant and was astounded by his size up close. His snores were like thunder and shook the castle walls. Finn was seized by fear and ran as quickly as he could back to the bridge, but he accidentally knocked over a peasant’s house on the way, waking up the sleeping giant with the noise.

Benandonner leapt from his bed and to the window spying the fleeing Finn in the distance on his way back to the bridge. “BLARGH!!!” he shouted in surprise, toppling several small mountains from the sheer volume of the yell. Then, in his nightgown still, he grabbed up his sword and charged after Finn, shouting the whole time at the top of his lungs.

Finn reached his castle well before Benandonner and slammed the door, much to Oonagh’s surprise. “What’s wrong with you, your face is as white as a sheep!” she said. “Benandonner’s coming to kill me!” squealed Finn in a very ungiantlike way. “Shhh,” whispered Oonagh, “I have a plan.”

Then, taking their baby and giving him to one of their servants to care for, she shoved Finn into the baby’s cradle, put a bonnet on his head and a pacifier in his mouth and went to the door where Benandonner was raging and carrying on and threatening to tear the castle down stone by stone. “What do you want,” said Oonagh rather disapprovingly, “You’ve woken up my baby.” And she pointed to the cradle where Finn sat curled up in a bunch of blankets looking like a very large baby.

“I’m very sorry, ma’am,” said Benandonner politely, rather taken aback by the size of the baby. “I’m here because your husband trespassed on my land yesterday and I have challenged him to fight.”

“Well,” said Oonagh, “you’ll just have to wait, Finn is out moving an inconvenient mountain so that he people have more pastureland. Why don’t you sit down and I’ll get you some supper.”

She left the room and Finn sat with eyes the size of dinner plates staring at his mortal enemy who was just across the room, but who didn’t know that the baby was actually Finn!

When Oonagh came back she carried a large plate of scones and two buckets of tea. “I’ve got supper on but here are some scones and tea for now,” she said putting down some scones into which she had slipped iron plates and a bucket of scalding hot tea in front of Benandonner then some normal scones and warm tea in front of Finn, then she left the room.

Benandonner picked up a delicious-looking scone and bit down on it then shrieked! The scone was as hard as iron and had broken several of his teeth! He picked up the bucket hoping to sooth his mouth but, taking a mouthfull found it to be scalding hot and he shrieked again spitting hot water and scone out of his mouth.

Oonagh came back into the room saying “What’s the matter?” to Benandonner. “The scones, they broke my tooth!” he stammered, his eyes wide with shock. “Well, that’s the way, Finn likes them,” she replied, “he eats several dozen of those at teatime every day.” Benandonner’s eyes got even wider and his sore jaw dropped. Then he noticed that the baby in the corner was happily chewing on a scone, with no problem at all. That’s when he decided that if the baby was that huge and could eat such horrible scones, he was sure the father must be even larger and more formidable. His face went white with fear and he began to shake. “I have to go” he said to Oonagh.

“But you haven’t had your supper yet!” she replied.

“I have to go!” he said, and ran for the door, slamming it behind him and as fast as he could charged for the bridge, looking behind him to make sure that Finn wasn’t following him. He thudded his way across the bridge tearing it up behind him so that Finn couldn’t follow him and, when he arrived at his castle he spent the next two days in the most protected part of his castle peering out of the windows looking for Finn who he was sure would be coming after him.

Meanwhile, Finn and Oonagh stayed in their castle laughing uproariously and since that time they were never bothered by the cruel giant anymore. Finn went on to fix the things he had damaged in his fear, but he never fixed the bridge And that is the story of why the giant’s causeway exists but doesn’t go all the way across the sea.

Daniel Z