Myths and Legends

Tír na nÓg

The Fianna were the ancient warriors of Ireland.  One day Fionn Mac Cumhaill,  their leader, and his son, Oisín were hunting near Killarney.  A mist came down and out of the mist came a white horse with beautiful girl on its back.  This girl had long bright golden hair and wore a silken dress.  She wore a crown of diamonds on her head.

The beautiful girl stopped her horse.  She spoke to Oisín.  ‘Are you Oisín, son of Fionn Mac Cumhaill?’ she enquired.

‘Yes, I am’, he answered.

‘I am Niamh of the Golden Hair’, the daughter of the King of Tír na nÓg.  It is a land far away across the sea, a land in which no one ever grows old.  I would love for you to come with me to this land.

Niamh was smitten and was delighted when Oisín agreed to go to Tír na nÓg.  They mounted a horse together and travelled across the ocean to Tír na nÓg.  The king was delighted to see his daughter.  Soon afterwards Oisín and Niamh married.

They lived in happiness for a long time but Oisín missed Fionn and the Fianna and he wanted to return to Ireland.  Niamh and her father eventually allowed him to go back but ordered him never to set foot on Irish soil as he would lose the gift of eternal youth.  Oisín agreed and waved goodbye to Niamh.

The Fionn and the Fianna were by that stage long dead.  Oisín was broken hearted.  On his way back to the coast,he saw some men trying to lift a huge boulder.  They were building a church.  Oisín was surprised as he knew that any of the Fianna could have easily lifted such a rock.  He bent down from the horse to give the men a helping hand.  The strap holding the saddle snapped and Oisín fell to the ground.

As he touched the ground of Ireland, Oisín felt a change coming over his body and he became weaker and older.  His strength disappeared and he became a very old  man.  The horse galloped back to Tír na nÓg.

St Patrick was travelling around Ireland, explaining the message of Christ to the people.  Oisín was brought to the saint.  He told Patrick all about Fionn Mac Cumhaill and the Fianna. St Patrick baptised him.  Shortly afterwards Oisín died.

Questions:

  1. Who were the Fianna?
  2. Who was the leader of the Fianna?
  3. Name Fionn Mac Cumhaill’s son?
  4. Who appeared from the mist?
  5. With whom did Niamh of the golden hair fall in love?
  6. Where did Oisín & Niamh go?
  7. Did people grow old in Tír na nÓg?
  8. Why did Oisín want to return?
  9. Was Niamh happy to see him go?
  10. What happened when Oisín returned to Ireland?

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