Macgnímartha Find ‘The boyhood deeds of Finn’

  • Middle Irish
  • prose
  • Finn Cycle
Late Middle Irish narrative about the exploits and fortunes of Finn mac Cumaill as a boy. The sole extant manuscript copy is imperfect, breaking off in the middle of an episode about Finn's encounter with an Otherworldly rival.
ff. 118rb–121v
rubric: ‘Macgnímartha Finn innso sis’
beg. ‘Dorala comtinol aigh ocus imfich debtha imon fianaigecht
  • Middle Irish
12th century (Meyer)
prose (primary)
verse (secondary)
Textual relationships
The text includes an older poem on May Day beginning ‘Cétamon’, ascribing it to Finn.
Related: Dinnshenchas of Almu IDinnshenchas of Almu IDinnshenchas poem on Almu (the Hill of Allen, Co. Kildare), which recounts the tale of the conception of Finn mac Cumaill.
Associated items

Old Irish poem on May-day, which offers images of the season of May in all its vivid glory, from the blackbirds and bees to the appearance of the trees. The poem is extant as a composition incorporated in a later text, Macgnímartha Find (‘The boyhood deeds of Finn’), where it is attributed to Finn as a demonstration of his poetic skills after he had learned the three arts of poetry (teinm láeda, im-us forosna and díchetal di chennaib).


Finn Cycle
Finn Cycle
id. 578


Finn mac Cumaill
Finn mac Cumaill (Find úa Báiscni)
(time-frame ass. with Finn Cycle, Finn mac Cumaill, Cormac mac Airt)
Finn mac Cumaill (earlier mac Umaill?), Find úa Báiscni: central hero in medieval Irish and Scottish literature of the so-called Finn Cycle; warrior-hunter and leader of a fían

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Primary sources Text editions and/or modern translations – in whole or in part – along with publications containing additions and corrections, if known. Diplomatic editions, facsimiles and digital image reproductions of the manuscripts are not always listed here but may be found in entries for the relevant manuscripts. For historical purposes, early editions, transcriptions and translations are not excluded, even if their reliability does not meet modern standards.

[ed.] Meyer, Kuno [ed.], “Macgnímartha Find”, Revue Celtique 5 (1882): 195–204, 508.  
comments: Corrigenda in Archiv für celtische Lexikographie 1 (1900): 482.
Internet Archive: <link> CELT – edition: <link> CELT – translation: <link>
Meyer, Kuno, “Macgnímartha Finn”, Archiv für celtische Lexikographie 1 (1900): 482. Corrigenda.  
comments: Corrigenda to the 1882 edition of the Macgnímartha Finn.
Internet Archive: <link>
[tr.] Carey, John [tr.], “[Various contributions]”, in: John T. Koch, and John Carey (eds), The Celtic Heroic Age. Literary sources for ancient Celtic Europe and early Ireland & Wales, 4th ed., 1, Aberystwyth: Celtic Studies Publications, 2003. [Various].
§ 93 [‘The boyhood deeds of Finn’]
[tr.] Meyer, Kuno [tr.], “The boyish exploits of Finn”, Ériu 1 (1904): 180–190.
Internet Archive: <link>

Secondary sources (select)

Murray, Kevin, The early Finn Cycle, Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2017. 200 pp.  
The Finn (or Fenian) Cycle (fíanaigecht) is classified by modern scholarship as one of four medieval Irish literary cycles along with the Ulster Cycle, the Cycle of Historical Tales (or Cycles of the Kings) and the Mythological Cycle. It is primarily composed of material dealing with the legendary character Finn mac Cumaill, his warrior band (fían), his son Oisín and his grandson Oscar. In a fashion recalling the expansion of the Arthurian legend throughout Europe, the traditions centred on Finn grew from localized beginnings to spread throughout the entire Gaelic-speaking world. This study takes as its focus the early Finn Cycle, up to and including the composition of the most significant fíanaigecht tale, Acallam na senórach (‘The colloquy of the ancients’), at the beginning of the Early Modern Irish period. The volume also deals in detail with topics such as the nature of the fían; the extent of early fragmentary Finn Cycle sources; the background to Tóraigheacht Dhiarmada agus Ghráinne (‘The pursuit of Diarmaid and Gráinne’); the boyhood deeds and death of Finn; and the development of the Fenian lay tradition. The Early Finn Cycle details and investigates the primary and secondary sources for the study of this material and traces the literary development of the early fíanaigecht corpus. In so doing, it seeks to account for the emergence of the Finn Cycle from fragmentarily documented beginnings to become the dominant genre of Gaelic literature after 1200.
esp. 117–123; also 19, 50–52, 77–78, 85–90, 140–143, 161
Dennis Groenewegen
Page created
February 2011, last updated: January 2024