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Benandonner Giant

Jul 27, 2023 | Bestiary


Benandonner is a Scottish giant who figures in the myths of both Scotland and Ireland. He is said to have played a role in the formation of the Giant’s Causeway.

Finn McCool and Benandonner

Ireland is a land of enchanting tales and profound mysteries. Among these is the tale of how The Giant’s Causeway was formed. Today the Giant’s Causeway is one of the major tourist attractions in Ireland. Although its natural allure is captivating,  what gives it a place among the seven wonders of the world is the legend intertwined with it, the tale of Finn McCool.

Owning to his great feats in Irish mythology, Mac Cumhaill or Finn McCool, exploits have been written down and treasured in the Finn Cycle. Without a doubt,  one of the tales that stands out involves a rival giant, Benandonner, also known as the Red Man.

The Giants Feud

This Scottish giant and Finn McCool often exchanged heated words, their voices echoing across the waters. Before long, the feud escalated to the point that Finn challenged the Red Man to a duel, a task that necessitated the construction of a pathway, which is now known as the Giant’s Causeway. Consequently, he hauled stones from Antrim into the sea, creating a path to Scotland. However, as he reached the Scottish shores, Finn recoiled at the sight of the colossal Benandonner. Overwhelmed with dread, he retreated to Ireland, closely pursued by the Red Man. Legend states that during his hasty escape, Finn lost a boot that remains at the Giant’s Causeway to this day.

Upon reaching his stronghold in Fort-of-Allen, County Kildare, Finn desperately searched for a strategy to vanquish his gigantic adversary. The ground shook beneath the thunderous footfalls of Benandonner, which were so loud that Finn had to stuff moss into his ears to muffle the sound.

Oonagh’s Deceives Benandonner

His valiant spirit shaken, Finn turned to his cunning wife, Oonagh. She wrapped him in a sheet, disguising him as a baby and tucked him into a bathtub. Benandonner, soon at their doorstep, was greeted by Oonagh who excused Finn’s absence, citing a deer hunt in County Kerry. She led the giant on a tour of her home, showcasing Finn’s massive weapons and serving a deceitful meal of griddle-bread with an iron griddle baked within it, which cost the Red Man five teeth.

Upon Benandonner’s request to see her child, he was taken aback by the gigantic size of the ‘baby’, none other than Finn, camouflaged in a sheet. Fear seized him, imagining the colossal size of Finn, if this was the size of his infant. Consequently, he fled back to Scotland, destroying the causeway in his wake.

Benandonner’s Retreat

As he fled, Finn is said to have hurled a chunk of Antrim earth at him, a warning to never set foot on Irish soil again. The thrown piece fell midway and as a result, formed the Isle of Man. The void left behind filled with water to form Lough Derg, Ireland’s largest lake.

In a more gruesome version, Finn, disguised as the ‘baby’, bit off Benandonner’s middle finger, draining him of his strength thus prompting his permanent exit from Ireland.

This legend, though vibrant with giants and deception, gives a more enchanting explanation of the Giant’s Causeway compared to the scientific account. In reality, this natural marvel emerged over 60 million years ago as a result of volcanic activity. As the lava cooled, it was moulded into the extraordinary interlocking basalt columns we see today. This has resulted in a stunning assembly of 40,000 interlocking columns, each bearing an almost flawless hexagonal shape, which joined together make up the Giant’s Causeway.

 Fact File

Name Pronunciation:

Benandonner is pronounced as “ben-AN-don-er” in English.

Benandonner’s Appearance:

Benandonner is a Scottish mythical creature often depicted as a giant. He is described as an enormous and fearsome figure, towering over the landscape with great strength and power. His name means ‘Mountain of Thunder’, whereas his nickname the ‘Red Man’ comes from his hair colour.

Benandonner’s Habitat:

Benandonner is believed to reside in Western Scotland, particularly in the vicinity of Fingal’s Cave on the Isle of Staffa. Here, the basalt columns belong to the same lava flow that created the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland. According to legend, this formation is said to be the result of a confrontation between Benandonner and the legendary Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool).

Benandonner’s Behaviour:

Benandonner is known for his aggressive and formidable behaviour. According to folklore, he is depicted as a fierce warrior giant with a short temper. He is said to have a tendency for violence and would engage in battles with other giants, particularly Fionn mac Cumhaill. The stories often depict epic encounters and fierce struggles between the two giants, showcasing Benandonner’s ferocity and strength.


Benandonner is a specific creature in Scottish and Irish folklore, associated with the Giant’s Causeway and the tales of Fionn mac Cumhaill.  Other Scottish giants include the Giant of Bennachie and the giantess, the Cailleach Beara.

Benandonner’s Location in Scotland:

Benandonner is associated with the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland and Fingal’s Cave on the Island of Staffa.

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