Celtic Fairy Tale: The Children of Lir

After first being wed, Lir had a happy life. It continued that way ’til the death of his wife. He began to grieve and his friends were afraid that he’d ne’er depart from the edge of the grave. Bodb the Red declared to his friend: “No man should live unwed.” He offered his daughters for marriage so Lir’s heart could mend. Aeb was the oldest daughter of Bodb the Red. The was the one to whom Lir chose to be wed. In Lir’s castle atop the Hill of the White Field they began a new life. Two sets of twins were born, but then came more strife. The children were beautiful, but they could not save Lir from grief when Aeb went to her grave. Aoife was the next daughter of Bodb the Red to whom the unfortunate Lir was wed. She cared for her sister’s children, and for a time all was well, but she grew jealous of Lir’s love for them and wanted to send them to Hel. She took the children on a journey, but when they went away Aoife brought servants so the children they’d slay. The servants thought it a dreadful task and refused to obey. With a sword she had, Aoife did intend the lives of the four little children to end, but next to the servants her will was no stronger and so the children stayed alive a bit longer. In that same evening the carriage arrived at the edge of Loch Dairbhreach with them all still inside. Aoife offered the children a simple invitation – to refresh themselves in the lake for a little relaxation. As they entered the water, she toughed each with a wand. She chanted as the children turned into white swans: “Here on Dairbhreach’s lonely wave / For years to come your watery home / Not Lir nor Druid can now you save / From endless wandering on lonely foam“. When Lir learned of what had come to pass he hurried to the lake uncommonly fast. Four beautiful swans were all he did meet. They recognized their father, and Lir they did greet. “Do not mourn. Your love will give us strength to endure a thousand years,” (but no kind words can dry a grieving father’s tears!). Several centuries passed, then a few centuries more. After a thousand years their feathers fell to the lake’s floor. Finally, then, the children died when the feathers fell to reveal the humans inside. Villagers buried them under a stone inscribed, “Here lie the children of Lir, who rest in peace at last.” Now the children can sleep – free from the pain of the past.

Advertisements