More Celtic Fairy Tales: The Fate of the Children of Lir (cont.)

This story is part of the Celtic Fairy Tales (2) unit. Story source: More Celtic Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs with illustrations by John D. Batten (1895).

The Fate of the Children of Lir (cont.)

Lir and the Swans

And when the children of Lir saw him coming, Fingula sang the lay:

Welcome the cavalcade of steeds
Approaching the Lake of the Red Eye;
A company dread and magical
Surely seek after us.

Let us move to the shore, O Aod,
Fiachra and comely Conn;
No host under heaven can those horsemen be
But King Lir with his mighty household.

Now as she said this, King Lir had come to the shores of the lake and heard the swans speaking with human voices. And he spake to the swans and asked them who they were.

Fingula answered and said: "We are thy own children, ruined by thy wife, sister of our own mother, through her ill mind and her jealousy."

"For how long is the spell to be upon you?" said Lir.

"None can relieve us till the woman from the south and the man from the north come together, till Lairgnen of Connaught wed Deoch of Munster."

Then Lir and his people raised their shouts of grief, crying, and lamentation, and they stayed by the shore of the lake, listening to the wild music of the swans until the swans flew away, and King Lir went on to the Hall of Dearg the king.

He told Dearg the king what Oifa had done to his children. And Dearg put his power upon Oifa and bade her say what shape on earth she would think the worst of all. She said it would be in the form of an air-demon.

"It is into that form I shall put you," said Dearg the king, and he struck her with a Druid's wand of spells and wizardry and put her into the form of an air-demon. And she flew away at once, and she is still an air-demon, and shall be so for ever.

The Swans Depart

But the children of Lir continued to delight the Milesian clans with the very sweet fairy music of their songs, so that no delight was ever heard in Erin to compare with their music until the time came appointed for the leaving the Lake of the Red Eye.

Then Fingula sang this parting lay:

Farewell to thee, Dearg the king,
Master of all Druids lore;
Farewell to thee, our father dear,
Lir of the Hill of the White Field.

We go to pass the appointed time,
Away and apart from the haunts of men,
In the current of the Moyle,
Our garb shall be bitter and briny,
Until Deoch come to Lairgnen.

So come, ye brothers of once ruddy cheeks:
Let us depart from this Lake of the Red Eye;
Let us separate in sorrow from the tribe that has loved us.

And after, they took to flight, flying highly, lightly, aerially till they reached the Moyle, between Erin and Albain.

The men of Erin were grieved at their leaving, and it was proclaimed throughout Erin that henceforth no swan should be killed.

The Swans in the Storm

Then they stayed all solitary, all alone, filled with cold and grief and regret, until a thick tempest came upon them and Fingula said: "Brothers, let us appoint a place to meet again if the power of the winds separate us."

And they said: "Let us appoint to meet, O sister, at the Rock of the Seals."

Then the waves rose up, and the thunder roared, the lightnings flashed, the sweeping tempest passed over the sea, so that the children of Lir were scattered from each other over the great sea.

There came, however, a placid calm after the great tempest and Fingula found herself alone, and she said this lay:

Woe upon me that I am alive;
My wings are frozen to my sides.
O beloved three, O beloved three,
Who hid under the shelter of my feathers,
Until the dead come back to the living
I and the three shall never meet again!

And she flew to the Lake of the Seals and soon saw Conn coming towards her with heavy step and drenched feathers, and Fiachra also, cold and wet and faint, and no word could they tell, so cold and faint were they, but she nestled them under her wings and said: "If Aod could come to us now, our happiness would be complete."

But soon they saw Aod coming towards them with dry head and preened feathers; Fingula put him under the feathers of her breast, and Fiachra under her right wing, and Conn under her left, and they made this lay:

Bad was our stepmother with us;
She played her magic on us,
Sending us north on the sea
In the shapes of magical swans.

Our bath upon the shore's ridge
Is the foam of the brine-crested tide;
Our share of the ale feast
Is the brine of the blue-crested sea.

(800 words)

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