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The Children of Lir
This story takes place after the Tuatha De Danaan had gone to live in the sidh. The position of High King fell open and so the kings of each sidh met to hold an election.

Deargh, son of a respected druid, was chosen. King Lir, of Fionnachaidh, was offended, as he had wanted to be king. He left in anger and the other kings were all for riding after him to wound him for his treachery, but Deargh stopped them.

"We must rather have him with us than against us," he said to them.

Lir's own wife had died and he had been grief stricken and refused any consolation. Deargh saw an opportunity to reconcile Lir with the kings.

So Deargh offered Lir one of his three foster daughters as a wife. They met at the Lake of the Red Eye where Lir was to choose his wife but Lir could not choose between the maidens as they were of equal beauty so he chose the eldest, Aeb (also known as Ove), for she was the noblest.

Lir returned home with his wife and soon she became pregnant and gave birth to twins, a daughter and a son, Fionnguala and Aed. Soon she was pregnant once more and twin boys resulted, Fiachra and Conn, but the birth of these twins cost her her life.

Once again Lir was grief stricken and only his children could console him. Deargh heard the news so he offered Aoifa, sister to Aeb, as a second wife.

Lir married Aoifa and they were happy. At first Aoifa loved her sister's children and did what she could for them. Deargh to loved them like his own grandchildren and they spent much time visiting him.

Their popularity became to have its effect on Aoifa and she became jealous to the point of illness. During her time of illness she plotted how to get rid of them.

She planned to take them with her to see Deargh. Fionnguala had a dream the night before and knew of the wicked intent that Aoifa had, but her fate had been sealed and she had to go.

When they reached the Lake of the Oaks Aoifa attempts to incite the people there into killing the Children of Lir in exchange for anything they wanted, but the people would have nothing to do with it claiming it wicked to even think of such things.

Being a warrior woman Aoifa considered doing it herself but she lacked the courage so she sent the children to bathe in the lake. Upon their entering the lake she turned them into snow-white swans with a druid's wand and threw silver chains over their necks.

The curse could not be lifted off them until 900 years had passed and a man from Connacht in the north and a woman from Munster in the south were married. With this time set no one could undo the curse, not even the Tuatha De. Afraid of Lir's anger she granted the swans gifts not usually found in birds. They received the gift of singing and they retained the language of man and they retained their human mind and senses.

They spent three hundred years in the area conversing with the people and singing them to sleep at night.

Then one night, they circled the lake three times and with a mournful song of farewell they began winging their way to Scotland. On their way there a fierce storm separated them, but they had planned for such an occurrence and so Fionnguala went to Seal Rock to await her brothers. Conn and then Fiachra came, bedraggled and chilled, to huddle under her wings. Only Aed remained to come and at last he too appeared and huddled beneath his sister's breast. The four were reunited again.

One day a troop of horsemen approached. The swans recognised them as Deargh's two sons, from the Otherworld. The sons told the swans of how their father and Deargh were well but mourned the loss of the Children. Fionnguala sang a song lamenting the fate of the Children of Lir.

The sons returned to the Otherworld and told of all they had seen and heard.

Eventually another three hundred years past and during this time St Patrick arrived in Ireland and the swans sang with the monks.

The full nine hundred years past and as Aoifa had said the Princess of Munster and the Prince of Connacht were to be wed, but first the prince had to bring her the swans.

He went in search of them and found them swimming on the Lake of Birds. He rowed out to the swans and removed the silver chains they wore and they were returned to their human forms.

But their human forms had aged nine hundred years and they died within the hour so he buried them with Conn and Fiachra on either side of Fionnguala and Aed at her breast.

Category: The Three Sorrows of Story Telling | Added by: obiflo (22 October 10)
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