Monday, July 11, 2011

Celtic Myth Monday

The Children of Lir
One of my favorite Irish myths is the story of the Children of Lir.  I have a silver necklace that my DH brought back to me from Ireland and I wear it more often than not. 
In the time of the Tuatha Dé Danann, Ireland was a place of magic and spells.  Lir, lord of the sea, had four children: a daughter, Fionnuala, a son, Aodh, and twin boys, Fiachra and Conn.  Being children of the lord of the sea, they were gifted with webbed feet and the ability to swim underwater.  When their mother died, Lir remarried her sister, Aoife.  Consumed with jealousy for the children’s beauty and special abilities, she used her powers and her father’s magic cloak to cast a spell upon the children.  She turned them all into beautiful swans and cursed them to nine hundred years in that form.  Three hundred years would be spent on Lough Derravaragh, three hundred on the Straits of Moyle, and three hundred on the Isle of Inish Glora.  She did leave them with their voice, however, so that they could sing loveliest songs ever heard.  The only way they could break the spell was to one day hear the bell of the new God.
Aoife later told Lir that his children had been killed by wild boars, but the daughter, Fionnuala, found her father and told him the truth.  Furious, he banished his wife and exiled her in the form of an air demon.
 He visited his children every day on Lough Derravaragh, ensuring their three hundred years there would be filled with peace and love.  When they had to leave for the Straits of Moyle, Lir never saw his children again.  Their time on the straits was horrible.  They missed their father and endured frequent storms that separated them.  Somehow they rejoined every time and managed to survive together.  After three hundred years, they flew to Inish Glora and wept when they saw the ruins covering the land.  They realized the time of the Tuatha Dé Danann had ended.  At Inish Glora they met an old man, Mochua.  He told them he was a monk, a follower of the new God.  He told them of Saint Patrick and of God.  The swan children became excited about this news and they remained with Mochua for many years as he built them a bell made of old swords and shields.  On the day the bell was complete, a warrior arrived to steal the swans away.
'I am Liargren, King of Connaught' he shouted,
'My wife desires those swans and I will have them.
Give them here or I will tear this building down.'
Fionnuala said they would go, rather than see the monastery destroyed.  They were being loaded onto a carriage, when suddenly the church bell tolled loudly.  Magic surrounded the carriage as a mist blew from the lake and enveloped the swans.  They were transformed back into their human form, but now that the spell was broken, the children began to age rapidly.  Mochua quickly baptized each of them so that the children of Lir, last of the Tuatha Dé Danann, would live for eternity with God.
In Dublin, there is a statue of the Children of Lir.  It symbolizes the rebirth of Ireland after nine hundred years of struggle for independence from England.


Kim said...

Thanks Heather I hadn't heard the tale quiet that way before. Such a sweet tragic end. I'm so glad that in fiction we can cast the story in a different light.

Elizabeth Michels said...

What a beautiful story! I so wanted the children to escape, go back and peck the evil step-mother to death with their swan beaks. And then they would live happily ever after... I'm loving the tales of Irish lore!

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