Reading My Way Around the World

Thursday 17 April 2014

Oisín and the land of Tír na nÓg

Listen to Farewell My Own Dear Native Land

The Legend of Oisín and Niamh and the land of Tír na nÓg.

Oisín (pronounced Osheen) was the son of the legendary giant Finn McCool (who lies buried on the mountains in front of our house - see my post about Finn here).   One day he was out hunting with his father and in the distance he saw the most beautiful woman he had ever seen sitting on a magnificent white horse and immediately fell in love with her.

An Irish stamp depicting Oisin and Niamh
She said her name was Niamh (pronounced Neeve) and she was the daughter of the king of Tír na nÓg - (pronounced Teer-nah-nogue, it  means land of the ever young in Irish) a mystical, magical land across the seas, where time stood still, no-one ever grew old and everyone was happy.

Niamh said she had heard about this brave warrior, Oisín and asked him come with her and although he was torn to leave Ireland and his father and family, he had fallen in love with the beautiful woman and agreed to go with her.

Legends are used widely as images in Ireland
They were very happy together for many years, but deep down Oisín had a longing to see his family and home again.   Niamh told him he couldn't go back but eventually she agreed, if he would take her horse and make sure never to step on the ground because if he did he would never be able to return and although only a few years had passed in Tír na nÓg, back in Ireland more than 300 years had gone by.

Many publishers have stories
for children of these legends
When Oisín arrived back across the seas to Ireland everything had changed, the castle where he had lived was falling down and the Fianna (pronounced Fe-anna) no longer hunted in the woods.  (The Fianna were a group of elite warriors who protected the High King.)   He saw some old men who were trying to move a rock and rode up to them and asked about Finn MacCool but was told that they were long since passed away.  He leaned from his horse to help the old men, but slipped and fell to the ground and in an instant he aged the 300 years that had gone.   Oisin died very soon afterwards brokenhearted, but not before passing on the stories of Finn, the Fianna and Tír na nÓg.  And these are the stories that we still know to be true.

There are many great sites with legends of Ireland - I think Ireland of the Welcomes is lovely and has great information.

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  1. Wow, I have goosebumps. What a sweet and sad legend! :-)

  2. Oh, I'm in the eastern part of the USA, Pennsylvania. We saw a big wave of Irish immigration during the potato famine/blight, thus, many people of Irish descent live here. My children's paternal side arrived during the famine. We are closest to the city of Pittsburgh on the western side of the Appalachian mountains. Philadelphia Pennsylvania is on the Eastern side of the mountains.

    1. I sang in Pittsburgh a few years ago Teresa - unfortunately I was only there for one evening and didn't get a chance to look around, but hopefully there'll be another opportunity.


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