There are several names of the legend: Oidheadh Chlainne Lir, “The Tragic Story of Lear’s Children” or “The Fate of Lear’s Children”; Aided Chlainne Lir, as “The Violent Death of Lear’s Children.”

“Children of Lir” (Irish: Oidheadh ​​chloinne Lir) is a Celtic legend that combines the Christian message of freedom through the world of magic and spells. The legend shows the Christianization of Ireland and its influence on the old faith, as the elements of the new religion are everywhere in the mythological characters – from the perception of the main characters about the passage of too much time (shows the passing of old beliefs); to the part of the legend that shows the coming of a new age appearance when they hear the ringing of the bells of a new religion ”).

Children of Lir Legend

A nobleman named Lir married the daughter of the king of De Dannan – Bov. From the happy marriage of Lir and Eve, two children were born – a girl named Finuula and a son named Aed. However, a big change came in Lir’s world – Eve died while giving birth to twin sons -Fiachra and Conn .

Lir and Bov’s sadness was great, overwhelmed with grief when Eve died, but soon Bov proposed: marry another of his daughters, Aife. She loved the large Finuula family, Hey, and the twins Fiakhra and Kon.

The Curse

However, over time, Aife began to despise Lir’s children, and jealousy prompted her to look for someone to kill them. For the horrible act, she first took the children to her father’s house, but did not find out who would commit the horrible act. It occurred to her to try to do this horrible job on her own, but she couldn’t force herself. So she took them to the nearby Lough Derravaragh Lake.

She reached the lake and there with a magic Druid scepter turned the children into four beautiful swans, and the curse she uttered afterwards was to live in the lake for three hundred years, then three hundred years on the seashore of Moyle to the north and another three hundred years on Gluaire Island (Inishglora) to the west. They would regain their human form when they heard the bells of a new religion ring. She left them the ability to speak and sing lovely unearthly songs.

Lir and the swans, by H.R. Millar‘s (1905)

Aife’s father realized what she had done and banished her to heaven forever, turning her into a demon by magic. No one saw her again, but the curse remained. Bov and Lir and others from De Dannan went to Lake Derravaragh. They admired the swans and listened with difficulty to their human words, captivated by their tender songs, resigned to the heavy curse.

Three hundred years have passed. To the north was the second place the swans were to fly to the Moyle Sea. They lived by the rocks that surrounded the stormy waters. Loneliness and cold were their constant companions in this remote place, and even the warmth of Finuula’s embrace could not drive away the bitterness.

Gluaire Island was the third place of the curse. After another 300 years, swans flew north from the coast of Ireland to this island. Gluaire’s harsh conditions were like those on the shores of Moyle’s Sea. When their last years of the curse were finally over, they decided to return to their father’s palace, but as expected, time had left its mark: they found grass, bushes, hills, and trees, and the buildings had long since been destroyed.

New Religion

After seeing the remains of their former home from another time hundreds of years ago, with sadness and compulsion, they headed back to Gluaire Island. There they heard the bell ringing – the new religion was already here. Throughout the exile of the swans, Christianity had reached the shores of Ireland. From the hermit’s chapel the bell rang, the swans were not used to it and thought it was a piercingly ugly sound. Getting to know the hermit, he befriended them and told them about the new religion. He ordered a silver chain to connect with the four swans.

The swans seem to have finally found a place to live in peace. But this did not last long: the local King Lirnon married Dioca of Southern Ireland. She found out about the beautiful singing swans talking and wanted to have them for herself and listen to their beautiful songs. King Lirnon stormed the chapel to satisfy his new queen’s request. The swans fled and headed for the altar, but the king deftly grabbed them by the necks. At that moment, the swans became human, fulfilling the last condition of the curse to be “touched by the new religion.” But what could the king see, old men stood before him: so much time had passed that swans had become old men, a testament to the centuries. Lirnon was stunned and fled the chapel. However, Finuula realized that she and her brothers had little life left. She asked the hermit to baptize them and bury them together. He agreed and the four died peacefully, gathered together forever.