Bran and Sceolan - The Loyal Hounds of Irish Legendary Warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill

Fionn mac Cumhaill

The mythology of the Celtic peoples stretches back through the mists of time into a mysterious lost age. Although much was forgotten the stories passed on through oral tradition from generation to generation carried forward a memory and history of a magical past. Those that remained were preserved in the great works of Irish medieval literature. Tales that are steeped in the pre-Christian religious beliefs of the time. An age of wonder filled with magnificent, often flawed, heroes. Some gifted with supernatural abilities or aided by those possessed with magical skills. Pitted against dark forces also able to draw upon sourcery to achieve their ends. Animals and nature feature strongly in these stories, demonstrating the importance and connection that the Celtic people have to the environment in which they live. One such figure was Fionn mac Cumhaill, who is celebrated in Irish legend as a great warrior. The stories of Fionn and his followers the Fianna, form the Fenian Cycle (an Fhiannaíocht), many of them narrated in the voice of Fionn's son, the poet Oisín. It is one of the four major cycles of pre-christian Irish mythology along with the Mythological Cycle, the Ulster Cycle, and the Historical Cycle.

Fionn had two hunting dogs Bran and Sceolan. Intelligent and skilled in hunting they displayed a great loyalty to Fionn. Dogs are often known for these traits but with brother and sister Bran and Sceolan there was an added factor, for they were related to Fionn. Legend has it that they were born to Fionn’s aunt, Tuiren. This was at a time after she had married and fallen pregnant. Her husband Iollan Eachtach had been the lover of Uchtdealb who belonged to the Sidhe, which is a supernatural race with magical powers known in Irish, Scottish and Manx mythology. They belong to the Otherworld often associated with the Celtic pantheon of the Tuatha Dé Danann. Uchtdealb was jealous and turned Tuiren into dog. She remained in this form until the spell was broken, but by then she had given birth to the puppies who remained as dogs.


One day when Fionn was out hunting with the dogs they tracked a deer. The was in fact Sadhbh, a woman of great beauty who by refusing the advances of Fear Doirche, a dark malevolent creature of the Otherworld, had been transformed into a deer. Bran and Sceolan with their human understanding recognised a kindred spirit within the deer as they tracked her down. They left the deer unharmed. Fionn saw that there was something special about this deer and brought her back to his home. Overnight Sadhbh returned to human form and Fionn fell in love with her. They were married, but she could not go outside the walls of Fionn’s fort, because the threat or Fear Doirich was ever present. Fionn and Sadhbh spent a very happy year together during which she became pregnant.

It was when Fionn was called away to defend Ireland from invasion that Sadhbh was tricked by the evil Fear Doirich and lured away from the protection of Fionn’s home. She was turned back into a deer and returned to the wild. For many years the broken hearted Fionn accompanied by his dogs Bran and Sceolan searched for Sadhbh. It was during such a search some seven years later that Bran and Sceolan found a little boy in the wild. Fionn saw how the dogs guarded and cared for the boy in the same way that they had done with Sahdbh when she had been found so many years ago. He knew that this boy must be his son. So Fionn took the boy back to his fort. As he learnt to speak the boy described the gentle kind deer that had raised him and Fionn named him as Oisin (little fawn). Fionn never did find Sadhbh and Oisin grew up to be a valiant warrior - one of the best of the Fianna - and he had many adventures of his own. As for Bran and Sceolan, they stayed loyal and true until the end of their days and hold a special place in Irish hearts.