I believe I have made much mockery of Fionn mac Cumhail without actually giving enough reason for you to believe me that he is, indeed, in all seriousness, my favorite Irish mythological figure. So today, we shall do just that.
We already talked about Fionn’s origins and how he started his road down the path of kickasstitude, but let’s do a quick recap: He was raised by his two warrior moms (his aunt Bodhmall the Warrior-Druidess and her ‘friend’ Liath Luachra the Fighting Woman) and the three of them went on various adventures, some chronicled, most not, and all the while several hitmen were looking for him. His childhood name, Demne, was changed to Fionn, which means literally “white” or “bright”, in reference to his long, flowing white mane of hair, to mask him from those who pursued him due to his increasing fame.
Now, today, I want to talk to you about THE exploit that put Fionn on the map, and no, I am not talking about the Salmon thing, I mean an actual deed of martial mastery and weaponized self-mutilation.
Now an adult, Fionn found himself wandering the land, as he would always be turned away from various orders of knights when his employers realized who he was, since he was a wanted man and target of the mightiest knights ever, the Fianna Knights. Downtrodden but still resolute, Fionn arrived at the city of Tara. There was kind of a big problem with the city of Tara, however: It was burned down to the ground every year for the last 23 years. Not even the Fianna Knights could stop it.
Aillen the Burner was the one responsible for this. Once a year, for the last 23 years, Aillen had burned the city to the ground after using his magical music to put everyone to sleep in the city. Every year, he did this shit, and no one could stop him, because they were ASLEEP and USELESS while Aillen just burned things down with his fire breath calmly and at his own pace. Oh, yeah, by the by, Aillen was a Sidhe from Tuatha De Dannan, AKA a god-like existence. Stopping him wasn’t that simple.
But Fionn took one look at this dude and said “I AM GOING TO SUPLEX HIM”.
Fionn knew the event was to happen the day he arrived, so he made the necessary preparations. Actually, he didn’t, because each one of his testicles has a gravitational field and is harder than steel. He stood outside of the palace of Tara holding his Crane-Skin Bag of Weapons, patiently waiting.
NOW, FIONN FACT: Unlike many heroes, Fionn did not have a named weapon. Instead, his “weapon” was the Crane-Skin Bag. The Crane-Skin Bag, which had once belonged to his father, housed a myriad of magical weapons that Fionn would flexibly use in combat to meet the needs of any particular engagement. Fionn’s power, basically, was having an inventory. Like, you guys remember Doraemon?
Right, so basically, Doraemon is Fionn’s fursona. Literally the same character. The only difference is that Fionn was pulling out sick chainsaws and shotguns out of his bag instead of helicopter hats for his loser friend.
So Fionn was doing a newspaper sudoku, waiting for this shit to go down, when suddenly, over yonder, he heard a very suspicious voice.
“Yo yo yo I’m doing this I’m DOING THIS a 24th time baby #westside time to BURN WHORES”.
It was Aillen the Burner, with his beautiful song that lulls mortals to sleep! One by one, the citizens and warriors of Tara fell asleep like defenseless babes, and Aillen was readying his fire breath when he noticed one thing: Fionn, very much not asleep, was running at him at around 300 kilometers per hour, a huge spear in hand.
“Yo yo ok wtf the fuck, that’s never happened before, what’s your deal, how are you still awake?”
See, Aillen’s plan was, for the most part, flawless. He just failed to account for someone with just the right amount of senseless disregard for his own safety and neurons: Fionn came to the conclusion that if you just avoided falling asleep, Aillen himself couldn’t be too tough, if he was relying on this strategy in the first place. So did Fionn use his literal infinite salmon knowledge superpower to create a balm that would neutralize the effects of the lullaby? No, he didn’t, he just grabbed one of his spears, the poisoned one, and went to town on his own face with it to stay awake.
Let me say that again.
One of Fionn’s spears was poisoned with an extremely potent venom (like fucking every other spear in Irish mythos), and when I say potent, I don’t mean “it stings”, I mean “mere contact with the tip of the spear felt like dipping your fingers in magma”. He held his spear with both hands and, as he ran after Aillen, he kept smashing the tip of his spear against his own face to keep himself awake with the pain of the burning tip.
So Aillen, very reasonably scared shitless, ran. He ran for like three blocks and then the much physically superior Fionn caught up to him, his face ANGRY like a bull who had just been kicked in the balls by man in red spandex, grabbed him by the shoulder, and absolutely pincushioned him with spear thrusts like he was some Fist of the North Star live action adaption character. Fionn is actually the first recorded machine gun in history, and what gun companies nowadays use as a basis for their gatling guns, because holy fuck he just RIDDLED the dude into something that would make swiss cheese mold green with envy.
So this kinda left everyone very impressed and even more uncomfortable because, holy shit, ok, Fionn, uh, saved them all, but he’s also the dude they were supposed to kill. How the fuck do you kill THAT? I mean he kinda just killed a god by smashing a spear against his own face repeatedly REALLY HARD for a good while, do YOU want to go against that kind of man? That’s the kind of shit someone with nothing to lose steps away from. Damn.
So, with no viable options other than Not Fighting That Lunatic, Fionn’s heritage was acknowledged, and Goll, in his wisest moment ever recorded, stepped away voluntarily. Goll mac Morna was the guy who staged the coup that killed Fionn’s dad and stole the Fianna Knights leadership from him. The other guy that indirectly killed Fionn’s dad, Tadg mac Duanat, gave Fionn his beautiful house on the hills of Allen to Fionn in exchange for not obliterating him in loud, bloody, gory vengeance. Fionn accepted. Reminder that Tagd is also Fionn’s grandfather on his mother’s side.
And that’s how Fionn regained his rightful ownership of the Fianna Knights, stopped being a wanted man, and killed a god through sheer masochism.
The moral of the story is that if you can beat the fuck out of your own face, your enemies will assume you can do that to their faces just as fine, and they will give you free real estate so you don’t do that.