Myths and Legends - The Children of Lir

The Children of Lir is an Irish legend that belongs to the Irish Mythological Cycle.

The Mythological Cycle relates tales and poems about Irish gods and goddesses and about various mythical invasions of Ireland by semi-human beings such as the Fir Bolg.

This legend tells the story of Lir and his four children.

Bodb Dearg, king of the Tuatha De Danann and rival of Lir, gave his daughter Aeb to Lir, in order to appease him. Lir and Aeb had four children: one girl, Fionnuala, and three sons: Aed and twins Fiachra and Conn. Aeb died and Bodb Dearg sent another of his daughters, Aoife, to marry Lir.

Aiofe was jealous of the children's love for their father and for this reason she decided to kill them but did not the courage; instead using her magic she changed the children into swans.They were condemned to wander for 900 years over certain lakes and rivers in Ireland.

The children had to spend 300 years on Lough Derravaragh, 300 year in the Sea of Moyle and their last 300 years as swans at Sruwaddacon Bay, (in Irish language Sruth Fada Con or Irrus Domnannan), near Erris in County Mayo, before flying to Inishglora.

Inishglora is an island off the coast of the Mullet Peninsula in County Mayo.

Here they met a monk who baptised them. Instantly they had back their human shapes but because of their very old age they died immediately.

They were buried on the island in the one grave, standing, as they said : Fionnuala in the middle, Fiachra and Conn on either side of her and Aed in front of her.

Focus on the Legend
Read the entire legend and touching song: The Fate of the Children of Lir in More Celtic Fairy Tales by Jacob Joseph,1895. Fionnula's song by Thomas Moore.