An Irish Folklore Story


Children Of Lir



The Children of Lir is a well known legend that can be recounted by ay Irish school child and most adults too. Lir was an ancient king and ruler of the sea, and was married to a beautiful and kind woman named Eva. Eva gave him four children; the eldest son Aodh, a daughter called Fionnula and twin boys, Fiachra and Conn. Sadly, she died while giving birth to the twins, so to ease his broken heart Lir eventually married Eva’s sister Aoife. Aoife, who had magical powers, became increasingly jealous of the time Lir was spending with his four children. The children were especially close to one another and to their father, and feeling more and more isolated from the family unit, she plotted to destroy the children. Knowing that if she killed them they would come back to haunt her forever, she instead took them down to the lake near their castle. She transformed them into swans and bound them to spend 300 years in Lake Derravaragh, 300 years on the Straits of Moyle and 300 years on the Isle of Inish Glora. Only when they heard a bell tolling for the new god would the spell be broken.

Aoife returned to Lir and told them his children had all drowned. Devastated, he went to the lake where Fionnuala in her swan form approached him and told him what happened (apparently Aoife’s magic was not so powerful that the children lost the ability to speak or sing). Naturally, Lir was appalled at what his wife had done and banished her, spending the rest of his days down by the lake with his children. The swans served their 300 years on each of the designated lakes, passing the time by singing and flying. Before long they were well known all across Ireland, with everyone wishing to see and hear them for themselves. One day they heard a bell toll and knew their time under the spell was coming to an end. They returned to the shore and met a priest there who blessed them, and they transformed back into their now withered and elderly human bodies. In some versions of the ending, they died immediately after their transformation, although in others they lived long enough to be baptised first.

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