The Children of Lir – Monochrome Madness Challenge

The Children of Lir

I always found swans to have a majestic presence and Gaelic mythology is filled with great stories linked to them. Swans normally tend to mate for life and are known to be extremely loyal. One of the oldest laws still in existence dates back to the old Brehon laws were it was a crime to murder a swan. The most famous swans in Celtic mythology are the Children of Lir. Its one of the earliest ancient tales that I remember and the short version of the story goes like this.

”Bodh Dearg was elected King of the Tuatha De Dannan much to the chagrin of Lir, his main rival. To appease him, Bodh Dearg sent him one of his daughters, Aoibh, to take as his wife. She bore him four children, a girl named Fionnula and three sons Aodh, Fiachra and Conn. Aiobh died, so Bodh Dearg sent another of his daughters, Aoife to marry Lir. Aoife soon became jealous of the love that Lir had for his four children so she decided to banish them. She turned them into swans, when Bodh heard of this he transformed Aoife into an air demon for eternity. The children, as swans were forced to spend three hundred years on Lough Derravaragh, Co. Westmeath; three hundred years on the Sea of Moyle, lying between Co. Antrim and the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland and three hundred years on Inis Gluaire, off the coast of Co. Mayo. After nine hundred years they eventually were granted sanctuary on Inis Gluaire by a monk named MacCaomhog. The children were tied together with silver chains to ensure that they would always stay together. However, Deoch the wife of the King of Leinster Lairgean demanded that she wanted the swans. Lairgean attacked the monastery on Inis Gluaire, however during the raid, the chains were broken and the swans transformed into old, withered people, before they died they each were baptised. According to some accounts the site of Lir’s castle is currently occupied by Tullynally Castle, Co. Westmeath, home of the Earl of Longford, Tullynally is the anglicised form of Tullach na n-eala or ‘hill of the swan”. 

So if you are into Black & White photography as much as I am, then I highly recommend that you head on over to Leanne Cole’s blog where you can either contribute your own B&W images or view the images of some really good photographers. The Challenge goes live later today depending on your time zone 🙂

For these and more of my images, why not visit my Website or join me on Facebook or Twitter.

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About edmooneyphotography

Photographer, Blogger, Ruinhunter, with an unhealthy obsession for history, mythology and the arcane.
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35 Responses to The Children of Lir – Monochrome Madness Challenge

  1. Ali Isaac says:

    Lovely image, Ed, and love that story. It must be one of the most famous tales from Irish mythology.

    • It must be, I think I was told this long before I ever heard about Fionn or Cuchulainn

      • Ali Isaac says:

        Yes, its one of the first stories kids get told in national school. I remember both my boys coming home and telling me about it. Its a shame they dont tell them more. Its a great lead into early Irish history etc…

        • Sure is, although I have noticed that my eldest is getting alot of the Fenian cycle, but they aint telling it right. Its like they have re-written the story 🙂

          • Ali Isaac says:

            You need to go in there and sort them out grrrr!!! You could offer to tell the stories and show them related photos of associated places!

            • LOL, I always end up having a row with the wife when I tell him the true story. Its the same with the Irish language. Im no scholar, but I can speak and write it. The stuff they teach them now is S$%t. Like mother is Máthair, not fecking Mamo?
              Dont think it would be a great idea to go into that school, might get arrested for throwing chalk at the teachers, like they would do to us when we were kids 🙂

              Sorry thats my little rant for today finished.

  2. socialbridge says:

    You’ve found a swan and Children of Lir twin here! Lovely post.

  3. hfryan says:

    It’s like an old engraving.

  4. lioandshezz says:

    they are so lovely!!!

  5. Wicked says:

    A beautiful photo and lovely story. I afraid of swans though, my grandparents and I were attacked by one when I was little. I’m sure he felt he was protecting his mate, but it left me with fear and a respectful distance. They are quite beautiful though.

    • Sorry to hear that, they can be extremely protective especially when they have young around. Their wings are said to be capable of breaking an adults arm.
      A respectful distance is always advisable 🙂

      • Wicked says:

        Yes, and their mouths are nothing to play with either. My grandmother and I made it inside the car. My grandfather didn’t. He wasn’t hurt seriously or anything, but it sure bloodied him up.

        • Wow, they must have been really annoyed over something, I have witnessed a few attacks in my day. But after some hissing and a short chase, they usually stop once you have moved out of their space. Sounds like these swans were looking for a fight? Hope he wasn’t hurt too badly?

          • Wicked says:

            Bruised and had bites and was shaken, obviously.

            I was young, we’d been feeding ducks in a pond at my uncle’s college while we waited on him. The swans were on the other side of the pond and the male just came after us. Chased us back to the car. I never saw any little ones, though it’s possible we just didn’t see them.

  6. lauramacky says:

    Not surprisingly I haven’t heard of this story. The processing of the swans is wonderful and uniquely you! I love that when an artist is recognizable.

    • Wow, thank you so much, you have me speechless for once 🙂
      If you like these stories, I could recommend some further reading. Irish Mythology is a fascinating subject and even at the ripe old age of 37, im still learning new tales.

      Lady Gregory’s Irish Myths & Legends and W.B. Yeats Treasury of Irish Myth, Legend & Folklore are both an excellent start 🙂

  7. I love the story of the children of Lir and the beautiful statue in the Garden of Remembrance in Dublin!! Beautiful photo Ed!! Swans are so inspiring. Many legends surround them in different cultures.

  8. James Keegan says:

    Majestic creatures for sure. Great story too, I will have to read up on Lir.

    • Thank you James, so glad you enjoyed this. Its definitely worth reading. We have a wealth of ancient tales that could rival the biggest Hollywood blockbusters. Im shocked that nothing has been done with them to date 🙂

  9. belshade says:

    Very nice shot – you got them at the exact moment. Des.

  10. suzjones says:

    Myths and fables have always interested me. This is a lovely story (if not a little sad). 🙂

  11. Reblogged this on Arthurian Romances and commented:
    Ed Mooney is an incredibly talented Irish photographer. If you love castles and a bit of Irish and Celtic mythology, you must visit his blog at
    EdMooneyPhoto@wordpress.com

  12. Beautifully captured, matched with lovely words…

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