Konkurs realioznawczy - The Children of Lir

Konkurs realioznawczy - The Children of Lir

'The Children of Lir' is an old legend from Irish mythology that mixes magical elements, such as druidic wands and spells, with a message of Christian faith bringing freedom from suffering. It is also a story of loss and enduring love, and some of its themes can be recognized in other well-known European fairy tales.

According to the legend, long ago there was a king called Lir. He lived in a castle with his wife Aobh and their four kids: three boys and a girl. Alas, their happiness was ruined when Lir’s wife died. The king and the children were devastated, and they missed her very much. The monarch knew the children needed a mother, so he decided to marry again. He chose Aobh’s younger sister Aoife, who possessed magical powers, to be his new wife.

Aoife was very beautiful, but she turned out to be a wicked and envious woman. At first, she loved the children, but when she realised that Lir loved them more than he loved her, she became jealous. The new queen did not want to share the king’s love with anybody, so she decided to get rid of his offspring, and she devised a cruel plan.

She hired some men to kill the children, but when the time came, they backed out and ran. Aoife was so furious that she wanted to kill Lir's children with her own hands, but she was afraid that if she did that, their ghosts would haunt her forever. Thus, she decided that she would cast a spell that would force the three princes and their sister to live as swans for nine hundred years. The evil spell would only be broken by the sound of Christian church bells announcing the arrival of St. Patrick in Ireland.

When the children did not return home that evening, the king went to look for them beside the lake. He did not find them, but he saw four beautiful swans. To his amazement one of the swans called out. It was his daughter who told him what Aoife had done to them. Lir returned to his castle and pleaded with his wife to reverse the spell, but she refused. The king became very angry and banished her from his kingdom. He spent the rest of his life beside the lake talking to his children and listening to their beautiful swan songs. 

After nine hundred years had passed, the swans finally heard the sound they had been waiting for: the sound of a Christian church bell. They swam to shore and met a monk named Caomhog. He was stunned when he saw the four swans turn into humans in front of him. They were so happy that the spell was broken. However, they were now 900 years old. The monk listened to their sad story and when he noticed they started to age rapidly, he baptised them for fear they would die very soon. When they passed away, Caomhog buried them all in one grave. That night in his dream he saw four children flying up through the clouds. He understood that the children of Lir were now happy in heaven, with their mother and father, and their legend would live on forever.