'The Giant's Causeway' | Circle Round 13020:43

("The Giant's Causeway" by Sabina Hahn)
("The Giant's Causeway" by Sabina Hahn)

What do you think is the most powerful part of your body? Is it your big, strong arms? Your long, sturdy legs?

What if I were to tell you that the most powerful part of your body is right up top? In your head?

In other words... your brain!

In today’s tale, we’ll meet a mighty giant who learns the true value of brain power.

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Our story is called “The Giant’s Causeway.” Versions of this tale come from Ireland: an island nation on the westernmost edge of Europe.

Voices in this episode include Kevin Corbett, Chris Tucci and Alison Wright. Alison Wright, whom you grown-ups may recognize from Snowpiercer on TNT, along with two FX series: The Americans and FEUD: Bette and Joan.

This episode was adapted for Circle Round by Rebecca Sheir. It was edited by Amory Sivertson. Original music and sound design is by Eric Shimelonis. Our artist is Sabina Hahn.

Coloring Page

("The Giant's Causeway" by Sabina Hahn)
("The Giant's Causeway" by Sabina Hahn)

ADULTS! PRINT THIS so everyone can color while listening. We’re also keeping an album so share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and tag it with #CircleRound. We'd love to see it! To access all the coloring pages for past episodes click HERE. Our resident artist is Sabina Hahn and you can learn more about her HERE.

Things To Think About After Listening

If you were a giant or giantess, what would you look like? What would you wear? Where would you live? What would you eat?

Find a piece of paper (or maybe even a big piece of posterboard!) and draw a picture of yourself as a giant or giantess. Show every enormous detail, and then share your picture with us. Grown-ups, our email address is

Musical spotlight: Bodhrán

Eric Shimelonis playing the bodhrán. (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)
Eric Shimelonis playing the bodhrán. (Photo courtesy of Rebecca Sheir)

The bodhrán is a wide, shallow frame drum traditionally made from goatskin or sheepskin; some say it resembles a tambourine without the cymbals.

The bodhrán's exact history is uncertain. Some historians believe the drum originated in Africa and came to Ireland by way of Spain, while others claim it began in Central Asia, and was carried through Europe to Ireland. Many experts say that in Ireland the drum wasn't originally used to make music; rather, Celtic warriors employed it in battle, and peasants used it as a tray to sift wheat and carry peat.

As a musical instrument, the bodhrán is most often played while sitting; you support the drum on your knees and use one hand to hold the edge of the drum, while your other hand holds a small double-ended drumstick called the tipper, bone, or cipín. You can also play the bodhrán with your bare hands. Either way, the bodhrán can create a number of wonderful rhythms and sounds!


NARRATOR: On the northern coast of Ireland… where the waters of the North Channel separate the Emerald Isle from Scotland... you’ll encounter an amazing sight.

It’s kind of like a road — only it juts out into the water. And it isn’t made of the usual asphalt, dirt, or gravel.

Instead, this road — or causeway, more like — is made out of stone columns.

Forty-thousand stone columns, all of them with six-sides, like a hexagon. And these hexagonal columns are all different heights, but they’re packed together, side by side, like the pieces of a puzzle, or the cells of a honeycomb.

This curious stone structure is known as the Giant’s Causeway.

But the Giant’s Causeway isn’t just off the coast of Ireland; it’s off the coast of Scotland, too! Across the North Channel, on the Scottish island of Staffa, you’ll find these same hexagon-shaped stone columns. And in between, you’ll find nothing but water.

Now, scientists will tell you that these matching stone columns in Ireland and Scotland were created by volcanoes. Ancient volcanoes that erupted tens of millions of years ago. When the lava cooled and cracked, it formed into these curious hexagonal structures.

But legend will tell you that they were created… by this guy.

FINN: That’s right! Finn MacCool’s my name. Being a mighty warrior is my game!

NARRATOR: It’s true: in Irish lore, Finn MacCool is known as one of the greatest warriors the Emerald Isle has ever seen.

FINN: Now wait there just a minute! “One of the greatest warriors the Emerald Isle has ever seen”?!?? Oh no, no, no! You mean “the greatest warrior the Emerald Isle has ever seen”!

NARRATOR: Fair enough.

The greatest warrior the Emerald Isle has ever seen.

But that’s not all.

Finn MacCool is also the biggest warrior the Emerald Isle has ever seen.

Legend has it that Finn MacCool was a giant who stood more than fifty feet tall. That's higher than a three-story building! His legs were as thick as tree trunks, and each of his hands was as big as a bathtub.

Across the North Channel from Finn MacCool… a dozen miles away, over in Scotland… there lived another giant.

His name was Benandonner.

BENANDONNER: Ha ha ha! That’s me! Benandonner! My name means “Mountain of Thunder,” so trust me: you don’t want to mess with this fella! Ha ha ha!

NARRATOR: The water between the two giants was too wide and deep to cross, so Finn MacCool had never met Benandonner. He’d never even seen him.

But he had heard him.

You see, Benandonner was a bully. And every day, the Scottish giant’s rumbling voice would echo across the North Channel, as he hurled insult after insult at Finn MacCool.

BENANDONNER: Hey! Finn MacCool! You may call yourself a “giant”... but I’ll bet you’re so small, when you pull your socks all the way up, they cover your eyes! (ad-lib laughter) I’ll bet you’re so small, that when you step into a puddle, you think you’re drowning! (ad-lib laughter) I’ll bet you’re so small, that when you applied for a job at the butcher’s, they turned you down! Because the “steaks” were too high! Get it? “Steaks”? “Stakes”? “Too high”?!? Like you can’t reach them?!? ‘Cause you’re so teeny-tiny?!? (ad-lib laughing)

NARRATOR: As Banendonner’s jokes wore on, Finn MacCool’s patience wore thin.

FINN: Uch! Who does that blustery Scottish bloke think he is? Endlessly poking fun at me — the greatest warrior in all of Ireland! (beat) Enough is enough! I’m going to show this smart-alecky Scotsman who’s boss! … In person! 

NARRATOR: So Finn set to work building a path of stepping stones from Ireland to Scotland. Night after night, he worked from sun-down to sun-up, collecting big pieces of rock and hurling them into the North Channel.

After some time, Finn’s stones stretched all the way from the coast of Northern Ireland to Staffa, an island off the Scottish mainland.

FINN: A-ha! That should do it! (beat) Oh, I can hardly wait to show Oonagh!

NARRATOR: Oonagh was Finn’s wife. The giant and giantess lived in a tidy cottage atop Knockmany Hill — a steep, windswept knoll with an exquisite view of the coast.

Finn bounded up Knockmany Hill and called through the cottage’s front window.

FINN: Oonagh! Oh, Oonagh! Come and take a look at my gorgeous new road!

NARRATOR: Oonagh stepped outside and cast her eyes down the hill. The morning mist still clung to the water, but if she squinted, she could make out thousands of stone columns extending toward the horizon.

OONAGH: (impressed) Why, Finn! It’s a fine road! Though technically, I would call it a 'causeway' because you built it over water. A road just goes from one place to another.

NARRATOR: Finn beamed at Oonagh. He had never known anyone so quick, so clever.

FINN: (with love) You’re right, my wise and wonderful wife, you’re right. It’s a causeway. And thanks to my causeway...

NARRATOR: ...he swept his arm toward the sea.

FINN: I can march right across the North Channel and prove to that so-called “Mountain of Thunder” that I am a formidable foe! That I am every bit as mighty and powerful as...

NARRATOR: Finn’s voice trailed off.

OONAGH: Finn?!? Are you alright? You’ve gone as pale as a birch tree!

NARRATOR: Finn didn’t respond to his wife. He just stared at the causeway, his wide eyes frozen.

Oonagh followed her husband’s unblinking gaze. Out on the misty North Channel, a figure had appeared through the fog. It was crossing Finn’s causeway, heading straight for the Irish coast.

Immediately, Oonagh and Finn knew exactly who it was:

OONAGH: / FINN: (slowly) The Mountain of Thunder!

NARRATOR: And boy, what a mountain he was!

Benandonner was at least four times the height of Finn MacCool. So instead of being as tall as a three-story building, Benandonner was as tall as a twelve-story building! Instead of having legs as thick as tree trunks, his legs were as thick as grain silos! And forget hands as big as bathtubs — Benandonner’s massive mitts were as big as modern-day SUV’s!

Finn felt a lump form in his throat. For the first time in his life, the greatest warrior the Emerald Isle had ever seen… was petrified.

FINN: Oonagh… what am I going to do? When Benandonner gets here, he’s going to squash me like a bug! Crush me like a grape! Flatten me like a pancake! Squeeze me like a lemon!

OONAGH: Enough, my dear!

NARRATOR: Oonagh laid a hand on her husband’s trembling shoulder. Her eyes were fixed on the burly brute lumbering down the causeway. But her mind was racing faster than a jackrabbit.

OONAGH: (formulating a plan) Listen, Finn. I know exactly how we’ll deal with that “mountain of thunder.” (beat) (slowly, dramatically) Just leave everything to me.

[theme music in]

NARRATOR: What do you think clever Oonagh is planning?

What would you do if you were the giantess?

We’ll find out what happens, after a quick break.

[theme music out]


[theme music in]

NARRATOR: Welcome back to Circle Round. I’m Rebecca Sheir. Today our story is called “The Giant’s Causeway.”

[theme music out]

NARRATOR: Before the break, the Scottish giant Benandonner — the “Mountain of Thunder” — was coming for the Irish giant, Finn MacCool.

As Benandonner crossed the causeway that Finn had constructed between Ireland and Scotland, Finn’s wife — quick, clever Oonagh — got to work formulating a plan.

OONAGH: Alright, Finn! I want you to go inside... find some baskets… and fill them with as much food as you can. Loads of food! Gobs of food! As much food as you can possibly carry!

NARRATOR: Finn didn’t know what Oonagh was up to, but he knew better than to ask questions when she was cooking up one of her schemes.

So Finn bustled into the house and swept through the kitchen, filling basket after basket with loaves of bread, wheels of cheese, sacks of potatoes, strings of sausages… He also threw in a few sides of bacon, plus the one-hundred golden-crusted scones that Oonagh baked fresh for him every morning.

Out in the yard, Oonagh raced to the clothesline and plucked off one of her frilly, lacy bonnets, plus a whole mess of bed sheets. When Finn came out with the food, Oonagh grabbed an old flour sack and stuffed it full of linens.

OONAGH: Now — follow me down Knockmany Hill, my love. Benandonner is getting closer. We don’t have a moment to lose!

NARRATOR: Oonagh and Finn darted down the steep, mossy hill. At the bottom, Oonagh found a sunny, grassy spot, right next to an abandoned tumbledown shack and a big pile of boulders.

Oonagh laid out one of the sheets like a picnic blanket. She covered it with the baskets of food. Then she pulled the rest of the sheets from the sack and thrust them into Finn’s arms.

OONAGH: Wrap these sheets around yourself, Finn. Nice and tight. Like a baby in its swaddle.

NARRATOR: Again, Finn didn’t ask any questions. He just wrapped himself up in the sheets until they covered his whole body.

OONAGH: Good! (beat) Now we just need to add this...

NARRATOR: She popped the frilly bonnet onto Finn’s head.

OONAGH: … and we’re ready for Benandonner! (beat) Lie down, make yourself comfy, and follow my lead!

NARRATOR: Finn lay down on his back — and just in time, too. For all of a sudden, an enormous shadow fell across the hillside. And as Finn and Oonagh cast their eyes upward, who should they see looming over them but the menacing, mountainous figure… of Benandonner.

BENANDONNER: Ho there! The name is Benandonner! I’m here to see the roustabout known as Finn MacCool!

NARRATOR: Oonagh took a breath, then flashed the Scottish giant her sweetest smile.

OONAGH: (launching her plan) You’re looking for Finn MacCool, are you? Why, it just so happens that Finn MacCool is my husband! But he’s out at the moment. The valley people a couple of counties over wanted one of their mountains moved… the pesky thing was always blocking the sun… so they asked Finn if he would pull it out of the earth for them.

NARRATOR: Benandonner put a hulking hand on his hulking hip.

BENANDONNER: So, Finn MacCool’s strong enough to move mountains, is he? (pshaw!) Well, that’s nothing! Back in Scotland, I move twenty mountains before breakfast!

OONAGH: (continuing her plan) I’m sure you do, a fine strapping bloke like yourself! (beat) Oh! And speaking of breakfast, the baby and I were just about to have ours!

NARRATOR: Benandonner peered down at the swaddled figure by Oonagh’s side.

BENANDONNER:Baby,” you say...?!? That big fella there is just a baby...?!?

OONAGH: (laying it on thick, continuing her plan) Of course he’s ‘just a baby’! Only a few days old, actually! And he’s the spitting image of his father! (beat) Though by the time Finn was his age, he was already sprouting whiskers on his face!

NARRATOR: Oonagh could have sworn she saw the Scottish giant shudder. Was he falling for her plan?

OONAGH: (continuing her plan) Oh, but where are my manners?!? I should invite you to join us for breakfast, Benandonner! I just hope you don’t mind if the baby eats first. He’s always so hungry in the morning. He definitely has his father’s appetite!

NARRATOR: Oonagh opened the picnic baskets and laid out the loaves of bread, wheels of cheese, sacks of potatoes, strings of sausages, sides of bacon, and one-hundred scones. She gazed at Finn and patted his frilly, bonneted head.

OONAGH: (as if talking to a baby) Here you go, sweetheart! Enjoy your breakfast!

NARRATOR: From the gleam in Oonagh’s eye, Finn knew just what to do.

He raised himself to his knees, held out his hands… then tore into the food, gobbling up entire loaves of bread and whole wheels of cheese. He wolfed down all the sausages and bacon, then popped the potatoes into his mouth one by one, like pieces of candy. Finally, he devoured all one-hundred scones, leaving nothing behind but crumbs.

Benandonner’s big, bushy eyebrows shot to the top of his forehead. If Finn MacCool’s baby could polish off such a meal, imagine what Finn MacCool himself could do!

Again, Benandonner shuddered.

Again, Oonagh noticed.

OONAGH: (continuing her plan) Oh, I’m so sorry, Benandonner! There isn’t a morsel of food left! It’s all in my baby’s belly!

NARRATOR: She gave Finn’s tummy a tickle, then tapped him on the nose.

OONAGH: (as if talking to a baby) (continuing her plan) Now, listen, sweetheart, now that you’ve finished your breakfast, would you like to go and play? Your favorite toys are right there!

NARRATOR: Oonagh grinned as she pointed toward the hillside.

And do you know what she was pointing at?

The big pile of boulders!  

One look at Oonagh’s mischievous smile, and Finn knew exactly what to do. He crawled over to the great heap of rocks. Then he reached up, hoisted one of the biggest boulders over his shoulder, and tossed it into the air.

[SOT: boulder flying up]

NARRATOR: Up, up, up the boulder flew… soaring higher and higher into the sky… before plummeting back to earth and landing right on the abandoned, tumbledown shack.

[SOT: smash]

NARRATOR: Benandonner’s gigantic jaw dropped. His hefty hands trembled. His jumbo-sized heart thumped in his chest. After witnessing Finn MacCool’s baby accomplish such tremendous feats of strength, the Mountain of Thunder suddenly felt no mightier... than a molehill!

With a very uncharacteristic cry and whimper

BENANDONNER: (ad-lib cry, shriek, whimper) I’m outta here!

NARRATOR: ...Benandonner spun on his colossal heel and went barreling toward the sea. And when he reached Finn’s causeway, do you know what he did?

He clenched his fists and began smashing it up! As he raced back to Scotland, he tore the causeway to pieces, stone by stone, so he could never receive an unwanted visit from the fierce and ferocious Finn MacCool.

But like we said at the start of our story, portions of the Giant’s Causeway — as it’s now called — still remain, in both Ireland and Scotland. They’re an eternal reminder of “the greatest warrior the Emerald Isle has ever seen” — and the  brilliant, brainy giantess who saved his life.

Rebecca Sheir Twitter Host, Circle Round
Rebecca Sheir is the host "Circle Round," WBUR's kids storytelling podcast.