The Children of Lir is an old Irish legend I have loved ever since I was a little girl growing up in Dublin. I listened enraptured as my grandaunt Nan told the tale of the four children who were turned into swans by their jealous stepmother, Aoife.
Today let’s explore this wonderful, yet sad Irish tale from days gone by. To mark the importance of the Children of Lir in Irish folklore and history, we’ll have a little giveaway for a magnificent pendant designed by Tracy Gilbert, an outstandingly skilled Irish jeweler.
Tracy will introduce her work in just a little while, but first let’s learn about the Children of Lir…..
The Children Of Lir:
A long, long time ago in Ireland there a lived a King called Lir who had four wonderful children whom he loved dearly.
Fionnuala (pronounced Fin-ool-ah), Fiachra (pronounced Fee-ah-kra), Aodh (pronounced Eh), and Conn (pronounced Kahn) lost their mother when they were young. They missed her stories and singing so much King Lir decided they needed a new mother.
He married his late wife’s sister, Aoife. At first she loved the children but over time she grew jealous of how much the king loved his children.
One day, as the children swam in Lake Derravaragh, Aoife cast a spell on them, turning them into swans. Although they were no longer human they retained their mystical singing voices.
Aoife’s spell forced them to live as swans for nine hundred years. She bade them spend three hundred years on Lake Derravaragh, three hundred years on the Sea of Moyle and three hundred years on the Island of Glora. Only the sound of a bell would break the spell.
Their father Lir learned of the singing swans, and soon reconnected with his children. He turned their wicked stepmother into mist upon learning of her cruel spell.
The first 300 years on Lake Derravaragh were happy in the company of their father. Once they bade goodbye to him, 300 years of sorrow awaited them on the fierce waves of the Sea of Moyle, which separates Ireland from Scotland.
The Children of Lir at Ballycastle, County Antrim flying out to the Sea of Moyle.
© Copyright Patrick Baldwin and licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License.
When they returned to Ireland they discovered their father had passed away and his castle was now in ruins. Their last 300 years were were spent on the Island of Glora where in the final years of the spell they met a holy man named Caomhóg (pronounced Kway-vohg).
The King of Connacht learned of their beautiful singing voices. He tried to capture them, but upon hearing Caomhóg’s bell, a mist descended and the swans regained their human forms. At first they were children, but they aged rapidly.
Before they died Caomhóg christened them, and their legend has lived on ever since, being passed down from generation to generation through the spoken annals of ancient Celtic folklore.
This tale might be considered way too sad for American children today, but as Irish children we grew up on tales of treachery, sorrow, magically mixed together with Celtic mysticism.
And I continue to share these legends with my children. A little bit of sorrow does them no harm at all.
Swans are plentiful in Ireland in the winter months. Swans are never killed by hunters, because they are revered in Celtic legends, like the Children of Lir.
Stunning Irish Jewelry Inspired by Irish Ancestry and Folklore:
Tracy Gilbert is a Dublin-based designer and maker of beautifully hand-crafted contemporary Irish jewelry. Tracy not only makes beautiful things in Ireland, she also makes Ireland into beautiful things.
The map of Ireland features in many pieces. Turn a piece from the ‘Growing Home’ collection in just the right way, to reveal a perfectly formed map of Ireland.
Tracy is immensely proud of her Irish heritage. She was educated through the Irish language and has always been inspired by the rich artistic and mythological history of Ireland.
Each piece is meticulously made with love for Irish roots, history and folklore.
The meanings attaching to Tracy’s pieces are very important to her.
Tracy’s very first design, the Celtic Trinity Heart pendant, was made for somebody very special and is a simple reworking of the traditional Celtic Trinity knot. The addition of the heart in the middle of the knot symbolises ‘Forever love’.
Tracy’s Growing Home collection is a reimagined ‘Tree of Life’ with Ireland represented as a beautiful oak tree – strong and enduring (rotate the piece anti-clockwise and you’ll see that the canopy of the tree is indeed a map of Ireland). Like most trees, it has weathered many storms but continues to grow strong, it is deeply rooted.
It also reflects the wearers ancestry, with roots firmly planted in Ireland. Also, that Ireland as a nation continues to grow and will provide shelter to her people no matter where they are living.
Tracy’s Children of Lir collection is inspired by the tale, in Irish folklore, of four siblings who were turned into swans for 900 years by their stepmother, jealous of the children’s love for each other and their father, Lir.
The swans are entwined to form a heart, symbolizing love and dedication.
You can view all of Tracy’s pieces on her website Tracy Gilbert Designs.
One lucky reader will win a beautiful sterling silver pendant, inspired by the Irish tale of the Children of Lir. A pair of swans intertwine to reveal a heart of love and devotion, highlighted by stunningly blue Celtic waves.
Valued at €175.00 this piece is a perfect gift for any lover of Irish legends and Ireland.
A big thank you to Tracy for sponsoring the prize for this giveaway, in perfect time for Christmas.
To enter just leave a comment on this blog post by noon on Wednesday, December 16th 2015.
Any comment will do. What you write does not affect your chance of winning, but if you need inspiration for your entry why not tell us about your favorite characters from Irish history, that might inspire Tracy in her future jewelry designs.
A winning comment will be chosen randomly. Remember to leave your e-mail so that I can contact you should you win. Your e-mail won’t be published, just used to contact our lucky contestant for mailing of the prize.
Winners will be announced on Wednesday December 16th, 2015, at the bottom of this blog post.
You may check out Irish American Mom’s complete terms and conditions for sweepstakes entries by clicking here.
A big thank you to Tracy for sharing her inspiring jewelry with us today. And thanks to everyone who supports this little giveaway. Best of luck to all the entrants.
Update – Winner Chosen On December 16th, 2015
Good news. Our winner has been chosen using the randomized “Pick Giveaway Winner” WordPress plug-in.
Congratulations to …..
I’ll send you a quick e-mail to let you know you are our prize winner.
Thanks to everyone who joined in and entered this little giveaway.
And a big thank you to Tracy Gilbert for introducing us to her beautiful work and for sponsoring this magnificent prize.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)
Irish American Mom
If you enjoyed this post here are some other stories and tributes you might enjoy.