The Story of ‘The Children of Lir’

Long ago there was a king called Lir. He lived in a castle with his wife and four beautiful children Fionnula, Aodh, Conn and Fiachra. Lir’s wife died and they all missed her very much. The king saw that his children were very sad and needed a mother, so he decided to marry again. Dearg, the High King, sent Aoife, his daughter, to be Lir’s new wife. Aoife was beautiful but she was not the kind-hearted person that Lir thought she was. At first Aoife loved the children, but soon she started to grow jealous of them. She knew that Lir loved them more that he loved her. She wanted the kings love all for herself so she planned to get rid of the children.

One summers day Aoife took the children to swim in Lough Derravaragh, when the children were playing Aoife took out a Druid’s magic wand and she cast a terrible spell on them. There was a flash of light and the children vanished. In there place was left four beautiful swans with feathers as white as snow. One of the swans opened its beak and spoke with Fionnula’s voice: “What have you done to us?”

Aoife cackled “I have put a spell on you. You will be swans for nine hundred years. You will spend three hundred years on this lake, three hundred on the Sea of Moyle and three hundred on the waters of Inish Glora. Only the sound of Christian church bell can break the spell”

 

When the children did not return home that evening, the king went to look for them beside the lake. But all he saw were four beautiful swans. To his amazement one of the swans call out. It was Fionnula. She told him what Aoife had done to them. Lir returned to his castle and pleaded with Aoife to reverse the spell, but Aoife refused. Lir became very angry and banished her from his kingdom. Lir spend all his time beside the lake talking to his children and listening to their singing. When Lir grew old and died the children were very sad.

After three hundred years had passed they moved to the sea of Moyle between Ireland and Scotland. It was very cold and stormy on the sea. When the time came they flew to Inis Glora, by now the swans had grown old and tired. Life was easier on the island, it was warmer and there was lots of food. Then one morning they heard the sound they had been waiting for. It was the sound of a Christian church bell. They swam to shore. Outside the church where the bells were ringing was a monk named Caomhog. He was stunned when he saw the four swans turn into four old people in front of him. Fionnuala put her arms around her brothers, they were so happy to be human again. They were now 900 years old. Caomhog listened to their sad story and baptised them, soon after they died of old age. He buried them in one grave. That he dreamt that he saw four children flying up through the clouds. He knew that the children of Lir were now with their father and mother.