One of the three great ‘Sorrowful Tales’ of Irish storytelling, the Fate of the Children of Lir is probably the best-known of all our legends.
Lir was a lesser king of the mystical Tuatha Dé Danann, passed over for the kingship in favour of the warrior Bove Derg; he had by his young wife Aobh, three sons and a daughter Fionnuala. When Aobh died tragically Lir married again, this time to a sorceress called Aoife who became their stepmother.
At first, it was said, she loved them all dearly but as time wore on and she saw the affection the children were held in by Lir she became increasingly jealous. One day she took them away and once out of sight she placed them under an enchantment and turned them into four white swans at Loch Derravarragh.
They remained there for over four hundred and Lir had them entertained by poets, fiddlers and harpists as they sang of their sorrowful plight.
Then one day they flew away and settled in the Sea of Moyle between Ireland and Scotland, where they spent three hundred years enduring the cold and misery; from there they spent three more years in Erris, Co.Mayo where they endured even more sorrow.
At last their period of enchantment came to an end and they flew to Shí Fainnachta but sadly it was in ruins with their father and his people long dead. A saintly Christian named Mochaomhóg realized they could communicate and they stayed with him and were treated with great kindness until slowly they returned to human form but went from young children to aged adults to wizened and withered old ones over a short time.
They were baptized by Mochaomhóg and they died peacefully and were all buried together under the shadow of a high cross.
Artist’s note: This painting was originally for the cover of my friend Michael Scott’s rendition of the story and included 10 pen and ink drawings. It has appeared in many publications, from cards to calendars, ever since then and is one of my most popular images.
The A4 8×11 and A3 11×16 are printed by me in my studio, the A2 16×23 prints are colour lithographic prints on white 300gsm heavy textured linen finish stock, the A1: 33”x23”, are printed by me in my studio. The A1:33”x23” prints are printed professionally by a top quality Irish printing company. All prints are reproductions made directly from the original painting/drawing and are as close to the original as is possible.
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