Giant’s Causeway in Bushmills, Northern Ireland is one of the world’s natural wonders. It was formed around 60 million years ago, when volcanic lava protruded through the earth’s chalk beds creating liquid basalt ‘ponds.’ As the lava cooled the new stones fractured in a ‘Y’ shape; forming the pentagonal, hexagonal, heptagonal, and octagonal stones we see today.
This understanding of the formation of Giant’s Causeway came from studying dried riverbeds. However, in previous centuries people where left to their own devices to explain this geographic formation. Giant’s Causeway became entwined with Irish folklore, and the story of Finn McCool (spelling varies among sources).
In the 19th century Giant’s Causeway became a tourist attraction, with a rail link bringing in visitors for the day. Now looking at rock’s doesn’t actually take that long; so a whole tourist economy developed to provide entertainment for the day. There were tea rooms, photographers, and fortune tellers; telling the story of the Causeway. As people gained their own modes of transportation and became less reliant on the railway; the tourist economy died out. Don’t get me wrong, people still come to visit; but know that most have their own cars they only spend a few hours before moving on. The tea huts, and fortune tellers along the path are gone.
I’d like to share the story of Giant’s Causeway as it was told me by my guide.
Finn McCool and Giant’s Causeway
Finn McCool lives in Bushmills, Ireland with his wife Oona.
Finn is the biggest giant in all of Ireland, and it’s protector. But he isn’t a brute; he’s an animal lover.
He also has musical abilities.
Just over 12 miles away lives the giant Benandonner, on a Scottish island (let’s say Islay).
Benandonner believed he was the biggest, strongest giant in all the Isles; and challenged Finn to a fight. Finn McCool, who has never backed down from a challenge, was eager to best Benandonner. But there was one small problem; Benandonner was across the sea and giants are afraid of getting wet.
But Finn was a clever giant, and soon devised a plan. He figured out that if he could get a bunch of tight fitting stones, he could build a walkway over to Scotland; and fight Benandonner.
And so, Finn built the Causeway.
Once it was built, Finn strolled his way over to with nary a wave licking his toes.
When he got to Scotland, Finn tracked Benandonner. He came upon him in the glen; and Finn was amazed at the size of him. Benandonner’s shear size was enough to crush Finn, let alone if he knew how to use his fists.
Finn decided that this would be the one fight that he would shy away from, and ran back across the Causeway; before Benandonner could notice him. However, the sound of Finn’s footsteps alerted Benandonner to his presence and Benandonner took off in pursuit of Finn.
Finn could hear Benandonner’s steps in the distance. He ran faster, nearly slipping into the ocean. Finn was in such a rush that he lost his shoe on the beach at Bushmills. But he kept running in fear of Benandonner.
When he finally got back home he told Oona what happened; and that Benandonner was on his way. Now, Oona is a smart lady; and she knew how to solve this problem.
She wrapped Finn up as a baby, and put him in a cradle at the back of the cave. When Benandonner arrived, Oona informed him that Finn was out, but that he could wait there for his return. She said: “I’ll pour you a glass of whiskey, while you wait. Just please rock the cradle as I go about my work”
As Benandonner drank his whiskey, he reached over to the cradle and was struck by the size of the baby. And as he finished his whiskey, it dawned on him; if this is the size of the baby, how big is the father? He had only caught a glimpse of Finn on the far side of the Causeway. Had Finn just come over on a scouting trip to size up Benandonner? If Finn didn’t want to fight, he would have destroyed the Causeway on his way home?
As the effects of the whiskey set in, Benandonner excused himself and decided to make his way back to Scotland before Finn returned. Stumbling down the lane …
… destroying the Causeway behind him. So that he would never have to face Finn McCool; the biggest giant in all of the Isles.
Or perhaps, just the giant with the cleverest wife? 🙂