There are so many different Mythology and Mythological Beings recorded. Some are very popular and well known, others not so much. There are many similar beings, yet different depending on the culture it’s based in. The definition of Myth covers about anything in the Urban Fantasy/Fantasy realm to me.
This week we have:
Urban Fantasy author Margaret Ronald
Talking of the Legend of Fionn Mac Cumhaill.
Long Live the Legend of Fionn Mac Cumhaill
It would be inaccurate to say that the Evie books started with Fionn Mac Cumhaill; the story started with Evie, and ran from there. But it wouldn't be too far off.
Fionn Mac Cumhaill (usually pronounced and sometimes Anglicized as Finn MacCool) is a figure out of Irish myth -- and like many figures out of myth, he's changed as the centuries have gone by and the tellers of stories have changed. Depending on what part of the Fenian Cycle you read, he's a young boy who accidentally burns his thumb on the Salmon of Wisdom and thus gains knowledge beyond any druid, or an established war leader accompanying his band on raids and hunts, or an old and bitterly spurned man following the woman who rejected him. He's both a figure of awe or a buffoon. He's a giant in terror of the giant Cucullen (any resemblance to Cu Chulainn, the Hound of Ulster is . . . probably not coincidental, but confusing as all hell) who must rely on his wife Oonagh's ingenuity. He's a sleeper by the river, waiting to wake again. He is all of these.
For me, Fionn was a clear representative of what I wanted to write about in Spiral Hunt: the shifting nature of myth, and the ways that myth could be used for good and ill. And even more, because the story started with Evie herself, I knew Fionn had to be part of it -- because of family.
The story goes as follows: When Fionn had established himself as a leader and was working on alliances, he had a young and unmarried aunt named Uirne, and he arranged for her to be wed to a lord. However, the lord had forgotten to mention that he was already wed, and to a fairy wife at that. His wife was not pleased by this girl he'd brought home, and so she changed the girl into a hound. (Because baleful polymorph is totally the answer to bigamy. Ask any fairy tale.)
|Picture from Wikipedia, by Stephen Reid|
Uirne spends some time as a hound and eventually gives birth to a litter of two puppies. It's about then that Fionn finds them, and after he bites his thumb a bit, he realized that this is his aunt and these his cousins. He changes his aunt back -- one suspects she also had a few things to say to him about vetting potential bridegrooms -- but either he cannot change the puppies back or they don't want to be changed. So instead Fionn now has the two best hunting hounds in all of Ireland -- and given that he had Adhnuall before, who could run three times round the island, that's saying a lot. He names the bitch pup Bran and the hound pup Sceolang, and becomes possibly the only person who doesn't get yelled at for throwing table scraps at his cousins.
The story doesn't end there, sadly. Several years later and due to yet another baleful polymorph spell, Fionn's wife Sadb is changed into a fawn. Bran and Sceolang give chase, and to keep his hounds from killing his wife, Fionn is forced to kill Bran. What happened to Sceolang after that is not told . . . but I chose to believe that he became human again, and had a family.
That's one story. There are others -- Bran and Sceolang were not relatives at all, but monsters yoked to Fionn's will by an unbreakable golden chain -- but this was the one that I took to heart when working out exactly why Evie was the way she was. It made sense for someone whose power was an uncanny sense of smell to be related, far back, to someone who was hound and human both. By giving her a heritage that she didn't know about, I was able to give not just her character but the world a stronger structure -- after all, if this was the kind of world where myths were true and a hound could become a human again, then there were a number of other possibilities that could crop up.
And so when Evie runs into a strange, tattooed man who calls her cousin and who gnaws on his thumb when he needs to make a decision . . . well, that's when I knew I was on the right track. I used the name of Fionn's band as the name for the group of bad guys, showing how they'd co-opted and misused it as they had just about everything else. Fionn himself is a mutable character, and here I saw him as an escapee from this misuse, trying to contact the one person he knew might help, the one link to family.
And if there's a golden chain later on, unbreakable and inescapable . . . well, I made sure there was room for many versions of the myth.
Dropkick Murphy's "Legend of Finn MacCumhaill"
You can learn more of Margaret Ronald and her books:
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*Note: Spiral Hunt (the first book) is 99c on Kindle