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The Legend of the Giant’s Causeway

Where the real hero in this Irish tale is the wife

By Shelley CarrollPublished 7 months ago 3 min read
Courtesy of wilderness

It’s been said: behind every successful man is a woman. This can be just as true in legend as in fact.

Having been exposed to a bit of Irish folklore during my recent travels, I’ve decided to share a tale - but from a slightly different slant.

In the version that was shared with me, the hero is Fionn mac Cumhaill (pronounced Finn McCool). But in the way I’ve chosen to interpret the story, the real hero is actually someone else: his wife Sadhbh (pronounced Siive). So I’ve decided to reframe the story from this perspective.

Where land meets sea at County Antrim, Northern Ireland, there stands a distinct geological formation of several thousand column-like stones, known as the Giant’s Causeway. While scientific theory suggests that the formations predate human history, legend has it that this wondrous sight is owed to a spat between a couple of giants and not to the volcanic age.

Long ago and far away in the part of the world that is now known as Northern Ireland, there lived a giant named Fionn Mac Cumhaill. He was as big and strong as he was proud and stubborn.

Standing by the edge of the water and facing the area of what is now known as the Isle of Staffa in Scotland, Fionn was pissed off. He was thinking about another giant by the name of Benandonner who lived over in that general direction. Fionn had no great love for his Scottish rival, particularly because he’d heard through the grapevine that Benandonner was talking smack about him. Having no other outlet for his fury in that moment, Fionn took out his frustrations by hurling rocks into the water. He was so angry that, in a short time, he’d tossed enough rocks and boulders into the sea to create a fixed link between the two land masses.

Realizing his haphazard engineering feat, he set out across the bridge to head to Scotland, find Benandonner, and beat him up.

Upon arriving on the Isle of Staffa, and only after shooting off his mouth about how he was set to take on Benandonner, Fionn soon learned that the object of his distaste and contempt was significantly larger than himself. So he scurried back to Ireland with his tail between his legs and went home to the safety and comfort of his wife Sadhbh and told her about his newfound knowledge.

Meanwhile, however, word got back to Benandonner that Fionn had been on his turf and was looking for a fight. Benandonner started flexing and doing push ups almost immediately. And when he was done, he retraced Fionn’s steps across the fancy new causeway and headed to the home Fionn shared with Sadhbh.

Giants have manners, though, so rather than barge right into their house, Benandonner knocked on the door. He was greeted by Sadhbh who informed him that no, her husband was not there and cautioned Benandonner to kindly keep it down as she was trying to get her baby to go to sleep. Peering over her shoulder, he noticed a very large baby crouching in a cradle. Unbeknownst to Benandonner at that time, Sadhbh had disguised Fionn as a baby in an attempt to keep him safe. When Benandonner saw the “baby”, he was gobsmacked. If Fionn’s baby was THIS size, then how big must Fionn be? So he bid the lady farewell, turned on his heels, and made his way back home. And as he did so, he tore up the stone structure that constituted the freeway - partly out of anger and partly out of fear that Fionn might try to follow him home.

All that remains to this day are the platform-like stone formations that make up the remnants of the Giant’s Causeway, a UNESCO heritage site.

Well, the stones are still there… as is the legend of how they came to be. I doubt very much there is even so much as a plaque or a pamphlet acknowledging Sadhbh’s role. So may this little offering serve as an homage to her quick-thinking - and how it saved Fionn from a severe ass-kicking. At least for one day.

FableHumorShort StoryAdventure

About the Creator

Shelley Carroll

Ms. Carroll is a 40-something year-old veteran public servant and mother of three adult children. She and her partner Hal live in Amherst NS with a sweet, anxiety-ridden rescue dog. Shelley loves running, red wine, and laughter.


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