If you go to Northern Ireland, Giant's Causeway is a great place to visit. It is a very unusual coastline, made up of thousands of basalt columns with polygonal faces rising up from the sea. Geologists say it was formed by volcanic eruptions 60 million years ago. As it cooled, the basalt lava separated into small spheres that grew and pressed against each other to form the columns that can be seen today.
Giant's Causeway basalt columns
However, Irish mythology provides a more interesting explanation: the rock formation is the remains of a highway across the North Channel (the sea that separates Ireland and Scotland) built by the giant Finn MacCool to fight his enemy in Scotland. That's why it's called "Giant's Causeway".
According to myth, Finn MacCool not only build Giant's Causeway. He also created Lough Neagh, the largest lake in Ireland, and the Isle of Man.
In one version of the story, he chases Benandonner back across Scotland, hurling a huge clump of earth at him. But it missed Benandonner, landing in the Irish Sea. The place where Finn scooped up the earth became Lough Neagh; the clump of earth is now called the Isle of Man.
After working on the great bridge night and day for a week, Finn was tired. He needed to rest so that he would be ready to fight his foe, a giant named Benandonner. So he bought time (and, as it turned out, achieved victory) by a cunning ruse. Benandonner came to Finn's house, ready to fight Finn. But Finn and his wife fooled him into thinking that Finn was much tougher and stronger than the Scottish giant. This made Benandonner so frightened that he fled Finn's house without a fight. He ran all the way back to Scotland across Finn's bridge, destroying it as he went. And today all that is left are the polygonal columns of Giant's Causeway and Staffa (an island off the coast of Scotland with similar rock formations).
Though unscientific, the Finn MacCool myth is a great story. It forms an important part of the rich Irish folklore tradition.
Article by: St. Louis Public Library staff