Fin M'Coul

Fin M’Coul: The Giant of Knockmany Hill by Tomie dePaola

Happy March, friends! St. Patrick’s Day is headed our way, and I’ve got another fun story time to share with you! This week, we’re reading Fin McCoul: The Giant of Knockmany Hill, by Tomie dePaola. You’ll love this old, Irish legend.

I remember reading this story as a child, but I never realized back then that it was the local lore of an actual, honest-to-goodness, place in Ireland. When I visited the Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland a couple of years ago, the story our guide told us about two giants sounded really familiar. I thought and thought, and finally put two and two together.

So while you’re reading this story, remember that the Causeway Fin McCoul is working on is a real place with such unimaginably fantastic geology that the locals created the legend to try to explain it. Be sure to look for the geometric, basalt columns toward the beginning of the story. We’ll be talking about them later.


Fin M’Coul lives atop windy Knockmany Hill, and spends his days with the other giants of Ireland, moving huge, stone columns to build a causeway to Scotland.  But one morning, he hears a rumor that Cucullin, the strongest giant in the land, is coming to find and fight him.

Fleeing home, Fin worriedly tells his wife he is going to hide!  But clever Oonagh the giantess has a plan— with her wits, her skills and her magic charms, she sets out to trick Cucullin and save her husband. This humorous retelling of the legend of the geologic wonders at Giant’s Causeway in Northern Ireland is sure to be one of your favorite St. Patrick’s Day books.

Story Time Activities for Fin M’Coul

What did you think of the story? Did you think the illustrations made it even better? Did you spot the huge, geometric basalt columns? Here are some photos I took of them when I visited the real Giant’s Causeway.

Fin M'Coul
Fin M'Coul

Thousands of years ago, (some geologists say millions) the Antrim coast in Northern Ireland was the site of intense volcanic activity. Highly fluid molten basalt seeped through chalk beds to form an extensive lava plateau. As the lava cooled it contracted and fractured somewhat like drying mud, with the cracks propagating downward through the mass as it cooled, leaving pillar-like structures, which over time fractured horizontally into “biscuits”.

Directly across the sea, around the Scottish Isle of Staffa, lies another grouping of identical basalt columns, part of the same ancient lava flow.

Literature Activity: Let’s learn about the Rock Cycle

Rocks are amazing!

1. Help your kiddos understand the rock cycle and the connections between igneous rock, metamorphic rock and sedimentary rock with The Rock Cycle Diagram and Song from ‘Beakers and Bumblebees’. The kinesthetic diagram will really build understanding that will stay with them a whole lot longer than a worksheet.

2. Watch this spectacularly entertaining video from the Geology kitchen. Mr. Dennie even shows a big piece of basalt from Hawaii. Make sure you have the ingredients to recreate his experiments at home, because your kiddos will be hungry by the time he’s done!

Literature Activity: Let’s Spread Cheer with Painted Rocks

My kids have seen painted rocks around and begged me to let them paint some, too. Somehow, we just never got around to it until now. Wash the rocks first with dishwashing detergent and scrub off any dirt.

Now they’re ready to paint — you’ll want to use acrylic paints so they’ll last outside. Acrylic paints won’t wash out of clothing or carpet, so make sure this activity is well-supervised! Hide your beautiful rocks all over the park to bring smiles to your neighbors faces.

Fin M'Coul

Literature Activity: Irish Geography

Print this map of Ireland and label both Dublin (capitol of the Republic of Ireland) and Belfast (capitol of Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom) with a red star. Color Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland different colors. Then find, label and color the Antrim Coast, which is where the story of Fin M’Coul takes place.

Literature Snack: DIY Geodes

Are you kidding me? You need a snack after completing the video from the literature activity? Just kidding!

Let me warn you that this snack will take at least a week to make. And it will be so beautiful, you may not even want to eat it once it’s finished.

In nature, geodes are formed inside the bubbles in volcanic rock. Over time, dissolved minerals seep into a hollow area and harden into an outer shell. Crystals then form inside the hollow, creating a geode.

You can create a geode of your very own! Check out these candy geodes from ‘Steam Powered Family’.

Fin M'Coul

Isn’t it amazing how many interesting things you can learn from a story? I mean, we didn’t even have to read an encyclopedia. This ten-minute-long, entertaining and FUN story helped us to learn about geography and geology and art and cooking! Isn’t that remarkable?

Thanks for joining us in our Story Time today!

>>>Looking for Another Story Time, with Fun Activities and Snacks?<<<

>>>15 Hilarious St. Patrick’s Day Books for Kids<<< 

Don’t forget to pin this Fin M’Coul Story Time for later!

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  1. “Fin M’Coul” is not only beautifully written but also enriched with vibrant illustrations that bring the story to life. Reading about the adventures of Fin M’Coul and his clever wife Oonagh was an absolute joy. It’s a story that not only entertains but also imparts valuable life lessons about wit, bravery, and teamwork.

  2. I have never heard of Fin M’Coul before. Thank you for sharing something new with me!

  3. I kinda want to read this now. I don’t know much about Finn Macool, as i’ve seen it spelled

    1. Amy Saunders says:

      You should read it to your kids — they’d love it. And yes, I’ve seen Fin M’Coul spelled many different ways!

  4. As someone who is from Northern Ireland I was very surprised to see the name of the giant spelt this way. We have always seen it as Finn McCool. However looking at Amazon I see that the author is American so may not be that familiar with the three legends that are told about the Causeway and the giant.

    1. Amy Saunders says:

      I think the second giant in that story is different entirely. I guess we can attribute the spelling an the other name to artistic license! 🙂 I’m curious about the other two legends — wanna share?

  5. I would sit in on these lesson for sure. Painting the rocks would be fun.

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