CELT document G303003

The Death of Finn Mac Cumaill


The Death of Finn Mac Cumaill

The usual account of the death of Finn is that he was slain in battle against the Lúagni Temrach at Áth Brea on the Boyne by Aiclech mac Dubdrenn, who cut off his head. This is the account given by the tenth-century poet Cinaed húa Hartacáin in the poem beginning Fianna bátar i n-Emain, 1 by Tigernach2 and the Four Masters, 3 and, with greater detail, in the tale entitled Aided Finn or “The Violent Death of Finn”. 4 In this tale it is stated with some emphasis that the account there given is the true one: ‘is í sin iarum Aided Finn iar fírinne in senchasa amail adfiadat na heólaig’ (Aided Finn, ed. in Cath Finntrága, 72–76; translated in Silva Gadelica II, 96-99.) “that then is the Death of Finn  p.463 according to the truth of history, as the learned relate.”

So there were other versions.

One of these we can piece together from two scanty fragments, in which, I believe, we have the beginning and end of an Aided Finn story, while the connecting piece is lost. The first of these fragments I have already published on p. 76 of my edition of Cath Finntrága, though not quite correctly and without translation. It is found in the well-known Bodleian codex Laud 610, fo. 122b, 2, where it follows immediately upon the above-mentioned version of Aided Finn. It breaks off with the end of that page. With fo. 123a a new layer of vellum and a different hand begin.

The second fragment is preserved in the British Museum MS Egerton 92, fo. 6a, 1. It is much defaced and partly illegible.

The two fragments together make a fairly intelligible story. According to this, Finn in his old age, being forsaken by one after another of his fiann, who prefer service with the king of Tara, determines to put his remaining strength to the test by an attempt to leap across the Boyne at a spot which bore the name of Léim Finn or Finn's Leap. He accordingly sets out from where he is in the west of Ireland, 5 passes along the high road of Gowran in Kilkenny, till at Mullaghmast he meets a woman making curds. Here the first fragment ends. He probably asks this woman for a drink, and thereby in some way violates one of the gessa laid upon him. 6 The opening of the second fragment I think we can understand with the help of a passage in the other Aided Finn. It had been prophesied to Finn by his wife Smirgat 7 that if he drank out of horns, his death would be nigh. It was therefore his custom alwways to drink out of cups. Now, in a place called Adarca Iuchba (the Horns of Iuchba) in Offaly he found a spring and drank out of it. An old woman reminds him of the prophecy, and Finn acknowledges its truth. For the rest of the tale I refer the reader to my translation of the second fragment.


Edited by Kuno Meyer

The Death of Finn Mac Cumaill


1. (Laud 610, fo. 122b, 2.)

Ar toidhecht arrsaighechta do Finn h-ua Baíscne ro-airighset a muinnter fair ⁊ nír leig air. “Cidh na h-anaidh-siumh” ol siat “i farradh rí Eirenn ⁊ ro thinolfamais-ne chugat?” “Maith lium”, ol se, Anaidh nonbhur. Luidh fer dibh leisin feínn iar n-a bharach. Luid didiu araile, co nach bí acht eṅfer. “Fír tra”, ol se “áes airighit na fir forum-sa. Ro fedar-sa im' rith ⁊ im' leím sin, ar is tair ata mo leím .i. for Boínn ⁊ ragh-sa dia bruach.” Is ed do rala reimhe aníar for Belach n-Gabrain i Maistin. Is ann fuaír an mnaí ag tath an grotha a Maistin. Ní thairic tra {}

2. (Egerton 92, fo. 6a, 1).

“{}nuic so,” or Finn {} ar sisi {} “tairngaire {} do n-epelad cones {} neimh a h-adhairc”. “Fir, a chailleach”, or se. “Ac so mu dealg duit.” Is ann luidhes lasin m-Boind sair co raínic a Leim. Ro gab iarum idir da charraig co tarrla a etan imon carraig, co m-bai a inchinn uimpe, co m-búi marbh etir an da charraig. Co-n-fuaradar iascaire na Boinde. Ceathrar doibh .i. tri maic Uircreann ⁊ Aicclech mac Duibhreann. Co-n-fuaradar sidhe. Co n-écmaing Aicleach a cheann de ⁊ co rubhradar maic Uircrend. Rucsat a chenn leo i ̇fasteach ⁊ ro ̇fuinsit a n-iasc ⁊ ro rannsat i n-de. A cheann h-i cind tenedh. “Tabraidh dantmír dó”, or fer dubh docluiche, “o na mair(?) Aicleach.” Ro rannadh p.465 int iasc i n-de .i. fo tri ⁊ badar tri cuibhrind ann beos. “Cidh so?” or fer dibh. Is ann isbert an cend a cind tened:

  1. Is ed fodera an tresraind
    libh-si cen sil n-apeli,
    ar n-a tabhar dam-sa oc proind
    uaib-si mo mhír ma {} ele.

Tan {} oic {} h-í sunn co m-badar {} a n-asbeir senchaid:

  1. Robíth Find
    ba do gaibh gan niach guin
    doall Aicleach mac Duibhrenn
    a chenn do mac moctha Muin.
{} Of the rest of the page I cannot make out anything that will give sense except the words: ⁊ a guba ⁊ a lia.

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Title statement

Title (uniform): The Death of Finn Mac Cumaill

Title (extended): [Two Fragments]

Author: unknown

Editor: Kuno Meyer

Responsibility statement

Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: University College, Cork and Professor Marianne McDonald via the CELT Project

Edition statement

2. Second draft.

Extent: 2000 words

Publication statement

Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland—http:www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2004

Date: 2010

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: G303003

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

Source description

Manuscript sources

  1. Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Laud 610, folio 122 b2; for details see Brian Ó Cuív, Catalogue of Irish manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford and Oxford College Libraries, Dublin: DIAS 2001, pp. 62–88: 87.
  2. London, British Library MS Egerton 92, folio 6a, 1; for details see Robin Flower (ed.), Catalogue of Irish manuscripts in the British Library (formerly the British Museum) vol. 2, pp. 505–19: 505.

Editions of this tale

  • Kuno Meyer (ed.), The Death of Finn Mac Cumaill, Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie 1 (1897) 462–65.

Editions of related tales and secondary literature

  1. Kuno Meyer (ed. and trans.), Fianaigecht: Being a collection of hitherto inedited Irish poems and tales relating to Finn and his Fiana, with an English translation. Royal Irish Academy; Todd Lecture Series 16; Dublin and London 1910. (Repr. 1937 and 1993, DIAS, Dublin). [Still a standard work, comprising introduction to the Finn Cycle, annotated editions of various tales, with English translation, Glossary of the rarer words, and indexes of personal names, tribe names and place names.]
  2. Duanaire Finn, the Book of the Lays of Fionn, 3 vols; 1: Irish text with translation (part I); ed. by Eoin Mac Néill, ITS 7 (1908); 2: Irish text with translation (part II); ed. by Gerard Murphy, ITS 28 (1933); 3: Introduction, Notes, Appendices, Indexes and Glossary; ed. by Gerard Murphy, Anne O'Sullivan, Idris L. Foster, Brendan Jennings, ITS 43 (1953).
  3. James MacKillop, Fionn mac Cumhaill: Celtic Myth in English Literature. Syracuse 1986. [With useful, well-structured bibliography on pp. 197–249].
  4. Daithí Ó hÓgáin, Fionn Mac Cumhaill: Images of a Gaelic Hero. Dublin 1988.
  5. Máirtín Ó Briain, Review of Ó hÓgáin, Bealoideas 57 (1989) 174–183.
  6. Donald E. Meek, Review of Ó hÓgáin, Cambridge Medieval Celtic Studies 22 (Winter 1991) 101–103.

The edition used in the digital edition

‘The Death of Finn Mac Cumaill’ (1897). In: Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie‍ 1. Ed. by Kuno Meyer, pp. 462–465.

You can add this reference to your bibliographic database by copying or downloading the following:

  editor 	 = {Kuno Meyer},
  title 	 = {The Death of Finn Mac Cumaill},
  journal 	 = {Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie},
  number 	 = {1},
  address 	 = {Halle/Saale},
  publisher 	 = {Max Niemeyer},
  date 	 = {1897},
  pages 	 = {462–465}


Encoding description

Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

Sampling declarations

The electronic text represents pp. 462–465 of Kuno Meyer's article, including introduction, and annotated edition of the two fragments. The English translation is available in a separate file.

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Correction: Text has been proof-read twice.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text. Word segmentation is in line with CELT practice. Expansions are tagged ex; footnotes are marked note type="auth" n="". Text supplied by the editor is tagged sup resp="KM". The f carrying a punctum delens becomes ̇f.

Quotation: Direct speech is marked q.

Hyphenation: CELT practice.

Segmentation: div0=the saga fragments; div1=the individual fragment. The editor's introduction is in an unnumbered div outside div0.

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A canonical reference to a location in this text should be made using “Fragment”, eg Fragment 1.

Profile description

Creation: By one or more unknown author(s). c1000?–c1200?

Language usage

  • Text is in Middle Irish. (ga)
  • Introduction and annotations are in English. (en)
<particDesc default="NO" TEIform="particDesc"><person id="FINN" TEIform="person">Finn Mac Cumaill</person></particDesc>

Keywords: saga; prose; medieval; Finn Cycle

Revision description

(Most recent first)

  1. 2019-06-05: Changes made to div0 type. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2010-04-15: Conversion script run; header updated; new wordcount made; file parsed. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2008-09-01: Keywords added; file validated. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  4. 2008-07-27: Value of div0 "type" attribute modified, creation tags inserted, content of 'langUsage' revised; additions made to header and file. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  5. 2005-08-25: Normalised language codes and edited langUsage for XML conversion (ed. Julianne Nyhan)
  6. 2005-08-04T16:00:29+0100: Converted to XML (ed. Peter Flynn)
  7. 2004-01-22: Bibliographical references checked. (ed. Benjamin Hazard)
  8. 2004-01-21: Introduction and footnotes keyed in and proofed (1); file proofed (2); additions to header; bibliography compiled; HMTL file created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  9. 2004-01-19: File converted to ASCII, header created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  10. 1997-07: File proofread, basic structural mark-up applied. (ed. Students at the CELT Project)
  11. 1997(?): Text captured by scanning. (text capture Students at the CELT/CURIA Project)

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T303003: The Death of Finn Mac Cumaill (in English Translation)

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  1. In the glossed copy of this poem in Egerton 1782, fo. 52a, the lines 'la féin Lúagne aided Find / oc Áth Brea for Bóind' are glossed as follows: .i. la Aiclech mac Duibrenn dorochair Finn ac Ath Brea ós Boaind ⁊ ní a mBeola Broghoige a Luachair. This seems to refer to the existence of yet another version of the death of Finn, which must have been entirely different, as it places the event at so distant a place as Luachair in Munster. 🢀

  2. See Stokes' edition in Rev. Celt. XVII, p. 21. 🢀

  3. The Four Masters (A.D. 283) add two stanzas, the first of which is identical with the quatrain quoted in Fragment 2 below. It also occurs as an addition to Cinaed's poem in Egerton 1782, fo. 53b, 1: Robith Finn dna, robith Finn, / ba do goeib goniach guin, / dothall Aicclech mac Duibrenn / a chenn do mac Murni Muin. 🢀

  4. Edited in Cath Finntrága, pp. 72–76, translated in Silva Gadelica II, pp. 96–99. 🢀

  5. Somewhere in Munster, but no special place is mentioned. 🢀

  6. So does Cúchulinn on the last day of his life by eating the flesh of a hound. See the story of his death in Rev.Celt. III, p. 176. 🢀

  7. This is her name in Aided Finn (Cath Finntr. p. 74, 1). In a poem in LL. p. 139a she is called Smirnat ('Little Marrow'). 🢀


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