Dec 15, 2010

The Stuff Legends Are Made Of

We know that the rock at the Giant's Causeway was the result of cooling lava compressed together millions of years ago (at least most people think it was millions of years ago.) This black rock is basalt and it's a natural wonder.

But what did the ancient people think when they saw it? They were no less intelligent but the study of rocks and the earth's composition was not part of their world. So what did they think when they gazed over the cliffs toward the sapphire blue ocean and see these rocks trailing out toward Scotland? (but disappearing before they reached it.) What they did was explain the
wonder in the traditional Irish way: they made up a story about it. This was not a manmade structure. No man could have done this, certainly. The gods? Well, maybe, but the gods are credited with all kinds of things. What if this was the work of a man--not an ordinary man, but a super hero?

They didn't use the term then, of course. This was the work of a giant, a mighty warrior. A giant named Fin MacCool or Fionn mac Cumhaill in Irish.

It seems Finn had a rival giant over in Scotland by the name of Benandonner. The two giants would shout to each other over the sea, challenging each other's strength. Nothing could be done about it, so Finn started building the causeway to reach the other giant.There are different versions of this story, but basically, when the Scottish giant started coming toward him, Finn realized how much larger he was. Using his sharp Irish intellect, he came up with a plan. He made himself a bed out of the rock and either went to sleep or pretended to be asleep. (I'd go with the latter. A bigger giant was after him! How could he fall asleep?) He pretended to be a baby while Finn's wife entertained the other giant by giving him tea made with stones and telling him MacCool would return shortly. As he chewed on the tea, Benandonner thought to himself, "This MacCool must be a tough one to drink this stuff." Then he noticed the "baby" asleep in his bed and thought, "If this is the size of the baby, how big is his father?" He reached out to touch the child and got his finger bitten clean off. Then he thought, "If the baby can do that, what is the father capable of?" Terrified, he ran off toward his home, tearing up part of the causeway as he went. That's why today it disappears into the sea.

This explanation of the existence of the causeway makes sense to me. How about you? ;-)

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