Ossian is a legendary warrior bard who appears as the narrator in the Celtic legends of Fionn mac Cumhail. These tales were known as the Fenian Cycle or the Ossianic Cycle and make up one of the four great cycles of Celtic mythology and legend. They were supposed to have taken place during the 3rd century AD.
The historical figure
The historical person was memorialized in legend under the name Oisín, a great bard and member of the Fianna.
Oisín fell in love with Niamh, the Queen of Tír na nÓg and returned with her to Tír na nÓg, but became homesick after what he thought was three years. Niamh let him borrow Embarr, her horse who could run without touching the ground, and made him promise not to touch Irish soil.
The three years he spent in Tír na nÓg turned out to be 300 Irish years. Whilst travelling through Ireland, Oisín was asked by some men to help them move a boulder. He tried to help them from his horse, but he fell, and upon touching the ground he instantly became an old man. Meanwhile, Niamh had given birth to his daughter, Plor na mBan. Niamh returned to Ireland to search for him, but he had died.
The forged poetry
In 1760 James Macpherson, a Scots poet, claimed to have found poetry written by Ossian. He published translations of it during the next few years. The poems achieved international success and were proclaimed as a Celtic equivalent of the Classical writers such as Homer. Many writers were influenced by the works, including the young Walter Scott. However it became clear after a few years that his claims were false and the poems were condemned as forgeries, although forgeries of some artistic merit. The most famous of these poems was Fingal written in 1762.
Ossian is a town in Livingston County, New York