Salmon of Knowledge
Salmon of Wisdom or Salmon of Knowledge (bradán feasa) is a
creature figuring in the Fenian Cycle of Irish mythology.
The Salmon figures prominently in The Boyhood Deeds of Fionn,
which recounts the early adventures of Fionn mac Cumhaill.
According to the story, it was an ordinary salmon that ate the
nine hazel nuts that fell into the Well of Wisdom (aka Tobar
Segais) from nine hazel trees that surrounded the well. In doing
so, the salmon gained all the knowledge in the world. Moreover,
the first person to eat of its flesh would, in turn, gain this
The poet Finn Eces spent seven years fishing for the salmon.
When he finally caught it, he instructed his apprentice, Fionn,
to prepare it for him. Fionn burned his thumb when spattered
with a drop of the hot fat from the cooking salmon and
immediately sucked on it to ease the pain. Unbeknownst to Fionn,
all the wisdom had been concentrated into that one drop, and
Fionn had just imbibed it all.
When he brought the cooked meal to Finegas, his master saw a
fire in the boy's eyes that had not been there before. When
asked by Finegas, Fionn first denied that he had eaten of the
fish. But when pressed, Fionn admitted his accidental taste.
Throughout the rest of his life, Fionn could access this font of
knowledge merely by biting his thumb.
It was this incredible knowledge and wisdom gained from the
Salmon of Knowledge that allowed Fionn to become the leader of
the Fianna, the famed heroes of Irish myth.
In Welsh mythology, the story of how the poet Taliesin received
his wisdom follows a similar pattern.