Irish Tales: Oisín and Tír na nÓg

Inspired by my previous posts, I wanted to try my hand at retelling the classic Irish fairytales I grew up with. We knew these stories so well, and it has been great to look back on them. By looking into these fairytales, I started to realize how vast Irish mythology is and how these stories only scrape the surface of our legends. I may make a post about Irish mythology down the line. But today, I shall be telling the story of Oisín and Tír na nÓg. Just as a preface for this story, the Fianna were a band of semi-independent warriors in Irish mythology. Tír na nÓg is known as The Land of the Young, and another way to name the Celtic Underworld. My retelling of this tale is taken from a children’s book I read years ago. So this will be told in a different way to other versions. So enjoy this retelling of “Oisín and Tír na nÓg.”

 

One morning, the Fianna were out hunting deer on the shores of Loch Lein in County Kerry. They saw a beautiful white horse coming towards them. Riding on the horse was the most beautiful woman they have ever seen. She wore a long blue dress, blue as the summer sky, studded with silver stars, and her long golden hair went down to her waist. 

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“What is your name and what land do you come from?” asked Fionn, leader of the Fianna. 

“I am Niamh Chinn Óir (Niamh of the Golden hair). My father is the king of Tír na nÓg” she replied. “I have heard of a warrior called Oisín. I have heard of his courage and of his poetry. I have come to find him, and take him back with me, to Tír na nÓg.” 

Oisín was the son of Fionn. He was a great leader and a poet. “Tell me,” Oisín said. “What sort of land is Tír na nÓg?”

“Tír na nÓg is the land of youth,” replied Niamh. “It is a happy place, with no pain and no sorrow. Any wish you make comes true, and no one grows old there. If you come with me, youll find out all of this is true.”

Oisín mounted the white horse, and said goodbye to his father and friends. He promised he would return soon. The horse galloped over the water, moving as swiftly as a shadow. The Fianna were sad to see Oisín go, but Fionn reminded them of his promise to return soon. 

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The King and Queen of Tír na nÓg welcomed Oisín, and held a great feast in his honour. It was indeed a wonderful land, just as Niamh had said. In Tír na nÓg, the trees were in constant bloom and the leaves never fall or die. All the people who lived in Tír na nÓg, were young and beautiful. They hunted and feasted, and at night, he told stories of Fionn and the Fianna, and their lives in Ireland. But he never felt as happy as he did, when he was with Niamh. And before long, they were married, and had two children, Oscar and their daughter, Plor na mBan (Flower of Women). Time passed quickly, and although he was very happy, Oisín began to think of returning home for a visit. Niamh didn’t want him to go. But at last, she said, “Take my white horse. It will carry you safely to Ireland and back. Whatever happens, you must not get off the horse, and touch the soil of Ireland. If you do, you will never return to me, and to Tír na nÓg.” She didn’t tell him that, although he had only been away for a few years, he had really been there for 300 hundred years.

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Ireland seemed like a strange place when Oisín arrived back. There seemed to be no trace of his father or the rest of the Fianna. As he passed through Gleann na Smól, he saw some men trying to move a large stone. “I will help you,” said Oisín. The men were terrified of this giant on a white horse. Stooping from his saddle, Oisín lifted the stone with one hand and hurled it. With that, the saddle strap broke, and Oisín was flung to the ground. Immediately, the white horse disappeared, and the men saw before them, an old, old man. They took him to a holy man, who lived nearby. Some say that the holy man was Saint Patrick. 

“Where is my father and the Fianna?” Oisín asked. When he was told they were long dead, he was heartbroken. He spoke of the many deeds of Fionn and the Fianna, and their many adventures together. He spoke of his time in Tír na nÓg, and his beautiful wife that he would never see again. 

Although he died soon after, the wonderful stories of Oisín have lived on. To this day, children in Ireland still retell the story of Oisín, and his magical adventures in Tír na nÓg. Some people claimed to have seen the beautiful white horse through the early mists of the dawn, only to disappear before their eyes, when the mist clears. 

 

Hope you enjoyed it. I have so many more tales I plan to share on my blog. Thats all I have for this post and I shall see you in the next one x

 

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