The Children of Lir legend is a must know story that will meet your curiosity for history. So, if you’re the type of person who’s fascinated by the past’s fantasies, you’ll be amused after reading this legend. Children of Lir is an amusing ancient fable and a part of bigger mythology, Celtic mythology. Due to the legend’s fame, it has a wide variety of versions. However, this one will be closest to the original version as much as possible.
If you’re into Irish history chiefly you’ll be thrilled after reading this legend Even though its sad and gloomy context, The Children of Lir, is one of the most renowned myths throughout the human history. Simply, knowing about ancient fantasies allows you to explore how people lived in the past were thinking, living, and interacting.
Mythology is not only an ancient thing and has nothing to do with the present and future. Undoubtedly, early myths and legends are major elements in shaping and forming the modern culture.
What is Celtic Mythology?
The Celtic mythology is similar to any other mythologies that you’ve heard of before. For instance, the ancient Greek and Egyptian mythology. Mythologies are folklore series of myths that were originated in a specific region or culture. Most of them have many features in common such as roles of gods and supernatural mortals.
Moreover, through the Celtic mythology, many fables were created that appeared the most renowned myths of the Irish mythology. As examples, Finn MaCcool and The Giant Causway, The Tale of Air Na Nog, The Legend of Poocas, The Frenzy of Sweeny Tales, and The Children of Lir.
Furthermore, the Tuatha de Danann is the most important chain of characters among the Celtic mythology. Tuatha de Danann race or tribe, who were mortals with some supernatural and magic abilities, are one of the most renowned mythical characters in Irish history.
Background of The Children of Lir
The story takes place in the context of Tuatha de Danann realm that it starts when the king dies, hence, the council gathers to vote for a new king. Lir, who was expecting the votes to go for him, stormed out and refused to swear loyalty to the new king. Bodb Dearg, the new king, decided to win Lir on his side so he decided to arrange a marriage between Lir and one his daughter. Lir married Bodb’s eldest daughter Eva and they both had a happy life. Eva gave him one girl, Fionnuala, and three boys who were Aodh, Conn, and Fiachra. It also believed that the four children were extremely beautiful and charming. Sadly, this happy mood did not last so long, Eva got sick and it only took a few days for her death.
The New Mother
After the death of Eva, Lir and his children started to be in miserable conditions and the children were in grief and in need for someone to fill their mother’s care. Hence, their grandfather, king Bodb, decided to arrange another marriage between Lir and one of his daughters. Lir married Aoife, Eva’s sister, and the picture of the happy family reappeared again. For the children, Aiofe was the mother they never had, until jealousy started to play its role. Aiofe realized that Lir was so much committed to his children and didn’t really care about her. She got envious of the fact these are her sister’s children and she didn’t have her own. Consequently, the new caring mother the children had, turned into a hating and bitter enemy. She started to plot to get rid of Lir’s children. She made many attempts to exclude them from Lir’s life and even killing was one of her options.
Full of hatred, Aiofe, ordered all of her servants to kill the children but they refused. After many efforts, she took a sword and sneaked while there were sleeping to kill them but she couldn’t do it. Even though she couldn’t kill the children by herself, she was still determined to separate them from their father. Then, she gave it one last shot to get rid of the children of Lir. She told the children to go swimming in a lake nearby their castle, and while they were swimming she used a magical wand pointed towards them and casted spells. Hence, her magic turned the four children into four swans. And here where darkness and gloom dominated the story.
The Children of Lir’s fate
Although she cursed the children of Lir and turned them into four Swans, Aiofe left for them the ability to talk and sing. In reaction, Fionnuala, the daughter, cried and asked her when would their curse end. Aiode replied by saying that no other power on earth could remove this curse. However, she told them that this curse will end when they spend 900 years divided in different places. Firstly, they should live for 300 years in this lake, spend another 300 years in the Sea of Moyle, and spend the final 300 years in Isle of Inish Glora. After the news came to his castle, Lir, ran to the lake to see the fate of his cursed children. He cried in grief and his swan children started to sing for him until he fell asleep. Then, he left headed to Bodb’s castle to tell him what his daughter has committed. As an avenge, Bodb ordered Aoife to transform herself into an air demon, which she still until this day.
The Singing Swans
For 300 years, the Children of Lir lived in the lake Derravaragh lake, where they were not totally isolated from people. Bodb, Lir, and people all across Ireland kept frequently visiting the swans to listen to their beautiful voices. In the next 300 years, they left the lake and headed to Sea of Moyle, and as a consequence, the king issued a law that no one is ever allowed to kill a swan. Moreover, the Swans’ new home, where they felt isolated, appears to be a dark place and cold. However, they spent the next and final 300 years in the Isle of Inish Glora, which is a small and isolated island where the conditions went worse and problematic for the four swans. Finally, after spending 900 years cursed to transform in the form of swans, the children of Lir flew to their father’s castle. However, they found only the wrecks and the remnants of the castle.
The Uncertain Ending of the Children of Lir
This is the part that varies the most among the many versions of the Children of Lir’s legend. However, the most renowned ending was that the four swans continued to fly across the land in grief.
Moreover, when a queen heard their story she sent her guards to bring them the children of Lir to her. When the guards found the swans, they shed their feathers and returned into a human form. However, they did not return into young children as they once were, they transformed into old figures ageing hundreds of years.
Later, the four previous swans met a Christian monk. Also, it was believed that this monk was St. Patrick who arrived in Ireland and spread Christianity there in the same timeframe. They asked him to baptize them since they feel that their death is close. Consequently, the monk, who is also believed to be St. Patrick, baptized them and it was only a short period before their death. Hence, this was the fate of the Children of Lir.