The Story of Tir na nÓg
As a child growing up in Ireland, there was no shortage of tales and stories of Irish Folklore to listen to and be amazed by.
A couple of the stories still stand testament to this day and are suitable for young and old alike. Among them are “The Children of Lír” who were turned into Swans by their wicked stepmother, Aoife, for 300 hundred years because she was jealous of the attention that her husband, Lir showed to his children. So Lir turned Aoife into a moth and set up his home on the shore’s of the lake where he could be beside his children, now swans, until the spell breaks in 300 years.
But our story, “The Story“, is all about the Magical Land of Tir na nÓg, “The land of eternal youth, that know’s no sorrows and where no one ever ages.“
Fionn Mac Cumhaill, the bravest warrior, turned leader of “The Fianna”, who were a group of great protectors who guarded the High King of Ireland and defended Ireland from threats, both domestic and foreign. who was out hunting one day with his warriors when they spotted a doe. They chased and chased, and one by one the warriors all dropped off until there was was only him and his hounds left. He knew there was something special about this doe, as it seemed to be leading his hounds on a merry dance. He caught a twinkling of the doe’s eye and when the doe finally allowed Finn to get near, it transformed into a beautiful young woman called Bláith, who was the daughter of Fionn’s arch enemy, Dearg. They spent the night together on the Hill of Allen and the next morning, Bláith was gone. A year to the day Finn was out hunting again and caught sight of the doe, who led him into an opening where he discovered a baby boy infant, and almost magically, she disappeared into the forest. Finn took this to mean that this baby boy, was Bláith’s son, his son, so he took him home and named him Oisín (pronounced “oosh-een”) which means “little deer”
Oisín grew up to be the most amazing, bravest and handsome man with a beautiful soul, who also a leader of a clan of the Fianna making an oath to defended Ireland. One morning Oisín was sitting on the beach with his father Fionn, staring out to sea, watching the sunlight dance on the sea, when all of a sudden they though they saw a woman on white horse galloping towards him on the crest of the waves. They were not imaging this, and the woman Oisín saw before him was the most beautiful woman with golden hair that he ever did see. Oisín was enchanted with her from the second she opened her mouth. She told Oisín that she her name was Niamh (pronounced “ne-ave”) and that she had heard wonderful things about him from where she came from, about his beauty, bravery and beautiful soul. She said, I come from the land of Tir na nÓg, a land that knows no sorrow or no one ever ages. Will you come with me to the Land of Eternal Youth to be my husband. Oisín, although sad about leaving his father Fionn and brothers in the Fianna behind, jumped on the Niamh’s horse with a heart full of love and with a longing for adventure, and off they galloped through the waves to the magical land of Tir na nÓg.
Tir na nÓg is the home of the Tuath De, the ancient gods, along with the fairies, and was forbidden from mortal humans, apart from Oisín that is. There they lived their in perfect happiness and had three wonderful children, but Oisín missed his home land so much. Every time he mentioned it, Niamh would take his mind off it by organising some entertainment or a banquet fit for a king until he forget why he was sad and was content again. But again, and again Oisín’s heart grew sad and he really missed Ireland, his father Fionn and all his Fianna friends. After what only seemed like three years he asked Niamh would she mind if he went home for a visit. She really did not want him to go but could see his pain and sorrow. With a heavy heart she said told Oisín that time goes by very slowly in the land of Tir na nÓg, and the land you long to go back to see no longer exists. Oisín was so sad to hear this but he was determined to see it with his own eyes. Niamh put him up on her white horse and told him that he was not allowed to set foot on the island of Ireland as if he did he would never be able to come back to the land of Tir na nÓg and see her or his children again.
Off he galloped across to the sea to Ireland, a land that he no longer recognised. All the forests where he loved to roam and hunt had been chopped down and was now full of crops. As he travelled around Ireland he saw people no bigger than children, who looked feeble and weak. He went back to his fort which was now a ruin, covered in grass and weeds, and he soon realised whilst speaking to people and asking about his father Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Fianna, that these people believed these stories to be made up and were not true, were that the time he was from, had sadly passed. He decided to leave and go back to the Tir na nÓg with a very sad and heavy heart to be with Niamh and his children, when he spotted four young men trying to lift a large rock. He reached down from his horse without touching the ground and lifted it in one hand and as he was going to throw it away, he slipped from the horse’s saddle falling to the ground. As soon as Oisín touched the ground, his past caught up with him and he turned into a very old man and aged 300 years almost immediately and the horse ran away and galloped over the sea to Tir na nÓg.
The people could not believe what had just happened, that this young, big, strong beautiful man turned into a very frail old weak man in front of their very eyes. Oisín told them his story of Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Fianna. They could not decide if he was telling the truth or he had turned mad from his fall from the horse, so they decided to bring him to Saint Patrick whom he also told his story to. St Patrick wrote down these stories carefully so as not to forget, and told Oisín about Christianity, and eternal life and offer to baptise him. Oisín asked was his father or other members of the Fianna baptised to which St Patrick said no, and he was probably in hell for all of eternity. This will happen to you as well Oisín if you do not get baptised. Oisín replied to St Patrick and said that there was No army of devils or demons that could keep my father Fionn Mac Cumhaill from anywhere he did not want to be, and that he would rather join his father and his brothers from the Fianna, where ever that may be, than go and spend eternity with a God in Heaven that would not let his father or brothers in. He died shortly after and was buried by St Patrick.