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For St. Patrick’s Day: The Children Of Lir by Niamh Clune

On darkened cloud, so great it blotted out the sun, The Tuatha De Danann alighted on the ancient mountains of Connemara to lay claim upon the west coast or Erin. Of Heaven and of Earth, they were the people of the goddess Dana. Fierce in battle, they defeated the proud Fir Bolg, driving them to the furthermost reaches of Irish soil to settle on the Aran Islands.

One of the elected kings of The Tuatha de Danaan, Bodb Derg, gave his daughter, Aoibh, in marriage to Lir, who was the god of the sea. Aoibh bore Lir four children: Aodh, Fiachra, Conn and Fionnuala. The children were fair of face and loved each other.

Lir by Ed Org

One sad day, The children’s mother, Aoibh, died, leaving Lir and the children bereft. Bodb, not wanting his grandchildren to be motherless, gave his second daughter, Aoife, in marriage to Lir. But Lir loved his dead wife still. Aoife was possessed of a jealous nature and demonstrated none of the sweetness of her deceased sister. On seeing the children’s devotion to each other and to their father, she commanded her servant to have them killed. The servant could not carry out Aoife’s instruction, as he, like everyone else, loved the children. Aoife would free the world of the children herself. Summoning the ancient magic of The Tuatha De Danaan, she screamed:

“Out with you upon the wild waves, Children of the King!
Henceforth your cries shall be heard as a flock of birds.”

Jim Fitzpatrick

Jim Fitzpatrick

She turned The Children of Lir into swans destined to swim the Loughs of Erin for 900 years. Bodb, in a fit of rage and despair, summoned his own magic and turned Aoife into a demon of the sky. She haunts the skies of Erin to this day. But no magic could reverse the curse laid upon Lir’s children.

Night and day and day and night, they swam together upon the lakes of Ireland. They mourned the loss of their mother and father and all they had known. They suffered loneliness too terrible to imagine. They were tied together with silver chains. Staying close to each other for comfort and companionship, they sang such sweet laments of who they were and from whence they had come. Even as feathers and webbed feet consumed their form, they drifted irresolute on the lakes of Erin, longing for what was lost.

Some say that when Patrick came to Ireland, they heard the tolling of the Christian bell and were liberated from their enchantment by a monk who broke their silver chains. Having aged 900 years, they shrivelled and died. Others say The Children Of Lir swim still upon the lakes of Erin, calling with sweet song and beat of wings to the god of the sea. But the god of the sea hears only the cacophony of a flock of birds; for the people of the land pray to a new god, and Lir’s watery heart is grown cold and silent.

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About Dr Niamh

When I was a little girl (a very, very long time ago), I used to love learning new, really big words like ‘discombobulate’. As I grew, my love of words grew too, until I loved them so much, I could not stop writing them down. One day, as I was scribbling a particular word, a very peculiar thing happened. The word shouted at me, “Stop! Don’t put me there!” As you can imagine, I was shocked and nearly fell off my chair. When I recovered somewhat, I said to the word, “Could you stop shouting, please? I am not used to it.” Can you guess what happened next? No! I thought not. The word said, “I might be small, but I will misbehave if you do not use me properly. I will not tell the story you would like me to tell. I will say something entirely different!” I dropped my pen. I hoped that by dropping my pen, the word would stop talking. Alas! It did not. It carried on chitterchobbling, even after the ink had dried. I was in a pickle. I could not allow my words to run away with my story, now could I? I don’t know about you, but when this sort of thing happens, there is only one thing left to do if you prefer not to spend your time arguing. “Very well,” said I. “I will do as you ask if you will just be quiet and allow me to concentrate.” Since that day, I have been paying special attention to every word I invite into my stories. After all, a story should say exactly what it means to say and not be led astray. With love from Dr. Niamh, Ph.D in Learning Through The Imagination and Founder of Dr Niamh Children's Books. www.drniamh.co.uk

24 comments on “For St. Patrick’s Day: The Children Of Lir by Niamh Clune

  1. Uncle Tree
    March 16, 2013

    I believe The Bard would give thee 5 stars!
    for the history of this tragedy lives on.
    Thanks to you, Mi’Lady Clune.
    Beautifully sad, as said.

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      March 16, 2013

      Many thanks Uncle Tree…Sadness is inherent in the Irish psyche. That is where I write from.

      Like

  2. patriciasands
    March 16, 2013

    How very haunting and beautiful. Thank you for this, Niamh.

    Like

  3. Patricia Tilton
    March 16, 2013

    Your story is written so beautifully. You have such a way of telling a story. Is this based on Irish folklore or is there some fact beind it? Sounds like it would make a wonderful opera.

    Like

  4. ontheplumtree
    March 16, 2013

    I don’t think there is much fact behind it. I think it allegorises how, as Christianity became superimposed on the collective Irish psyche along with the idea of sin and crucifixion, the idea of creative transformation died in the collective unconscious. A splitting off seems to have happened in an extraordinary way. One minute, the old, druidic ways that honoured nature, magic and transformation were prevalent among the ancient people of Ireland, then Christianity severed the new Ireland from its past and its roots leaving in its place longing and inexplicable sadness.

    Like

  5. DiAnne Ebejer
    March 16, 2013

    Elegantly told story Niamh as your stories always are.

    Like

  6. Pingback: For St. Patrick’s Day: The Children Of Lir by Niamh Clune | DiAnne's Place II

  7. Shawn MacKENZIE
    March 16, 2013

    One of my favorite tales, so nicely retold…

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      March 16, 2013

      Many thanks Shawn. I had to do something for tomorrow…even though I am NOT a Patrick lover, or a lover of the farce that has become St. Patrick’s Day.

      Like

      • Shawn MacKENZIE
        March 17, 2013

        True enough. Commercialism and faux religiosity….And who came up with the idea of green beer? I mean, really!

        Like

      • ontheplumtree
        March 17, 2013

        The Americans!

        Like

  8. the secret keeper
    March 16, 2013

    What a sad story. Being released from the curse only to perish from the length of time to break it. It is also sad that jealousy so perverse as the children’s sister had could be so cruel. I do believe that this tale would come from truth. The Christians always seem to invade & destroy or turn to myth that which otherwise would have to be acknowledged as truth to the new order. Niamh, a well told story of a family with a member so treacherous. She did get her punishment, which was well deserved but, at last, for the children it arrived too late. I like to think their spirit stayed together and creates the song of the swans. They are such beautiful creatures and look so divine while they swim upon the water. I was not expected such a tale but as you said, sadness is in the Irish psyche. Maybe that is where it comes from deep inside of myself and those I know who have the blood of the Irish. Well, told story. It is good to pass it down so that it will be remembered. jk jennifer

    Like

  9. Darlene
    March 17, 2013

    A wonderful story. I will share. The same thing happened to our First Nations people when the Europeans forced their religion onto them.

    Like

  10. Pingback: St. Patrick’s Day | Darlene Foster's Blog

  11. thiskidreviewsbooks
    March 17, 2013

    I love this! So well written! 😀

    Like

  12. sunshineskye
    March 23, 2013

    I loved your re-telling of the story Niamh – and of course some of us who live in the hidden forests of Ireland still feel the ancient magic. I try to visit ‘my’ swans every day – they are very special creatures and mean the world to me – Sharon

    Like

    • ontheplumtree
      March 23, 2013

      Many thanks for your comment, Sharon. Let’s hope the Irish government leaves the Irish forests alone and many of the ancient ones have been cut down and replanted with Sitkus Spruce, which is not native to Ireland.

      Like

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This entry was posted on March 16, 2013 by in Special Projects and tagged , , , , , , , , .
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