Fionn Folklore Database hopes to make the tales of ancient Irish heroes more accessible to the public through stories, digital maps, character lists, and other resources.
The recently-launched Fionn Folklore Database aims to connect people around the world with approximately 3,500 orally-collected stories and songs about the greatest heroes of the Gaelic world, Fionn mac Cumhaill and his legendary warrior band, the Fianna.
Stories about Fionn and the Fianna have long been held in high regard, both in their homelands and among overseas emigrants. Before this project was undertaken, however, the great extent of the corpus was entirely unknown, even among the scholarly community.
Granting the Irish heroes their long-awaited due, the Fionn Folklore Database shines new light on the vast array of tales about the Fianna, and on the talented storytellers and collectors who preserved them from the 18th century to the present day.
In addition to detailed information about how each story can be accessed (with links to stories available online), visitors will enjoy summaries of each tale or lay in the database, a glossary of useful terms, and descriptions of the most prominent characters to be encountered along the journey into the world of the Fianna.
Visitors can also use the database’s interactive digital map to locate storytellers and tales in their locality or ancestral region, whether in Ireland, Scotland, and the Isle of Man, or further afield in England, the United States, and Canada. The website is trilingual and can be accessed in English, Irish, or Scottish Gaelic.
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The project, which is jointly funded by Harvard University and the Government of Ireland’s Emigrant Support Program, is the brainchild of Dr. Natasha Sumner, an Associate Professor in the Department of Celtic Languages & Literatures at Harvard University.
“These stories and songs are one of the most important bodies of intangible cultural heritage in the Gaelic languages,” Dr. Sumner says. “After nearly a decade of cataloguing and development, it is exciting to finally welcome visitors to the site!”
To mark the database’s launch, project researcher Dr. Pádraig Fhia Ó Mathúna will offer workshops in universities and local cultural centers across Ireland and the United States in the coming months.
“The site’s stories and information provide a fascinating resource not only for researchers, but also writers, teachers, storytellers, singers, and the general public,” he says.
“Many people are familiar with tales like the pursuit of Diarmaid and Gráinne, Oisín in Tír na nÓg and Fionn’s catching of the ‘salmon of knowledge’. While visitors to the site will find versions of all these stories, they will also have a chance to explore the many lesser-known exploits of the Fianna.”
You can learn more about Fionn Folklore Database on its website and social media or by emailing fionnfolklore [@] fas.harvard.edu.