Irish Folklore and Legend

Cu Chalainn

Cu Chalainn is one of the most famous Irish mythological heroes and appears in the popular stories of The Ulster Cycle and Scottish and Manx Folklore. His given name at birth was Setanta and gained the name Cu Chalainn, meaning Culanns Hound by  killing a ferocious guard dog belonging to a smith named Culann. Cu Chalainn offered to take the place the dog until a replacement was found.

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Fionn Mac Cumhail

Fionn Mac Cumhail otherwise known as Finn MaCool was the legendary warrior who led a band of irish warriors and created The Giants Causeway

The story goes that Fionn built the causeway to get to Scotland and battle with a rival giant called Benandonner. When he got there he found that the Scottish giant was asleep but also far bigger than himself, so Fionn returned back across the causeway. When Benandonner woke up he came across the causeway intent on fighting Fionn. Fionn’s wife dressed up her husband as a baby and when Benandonner arrived she said Fionn wasn’t home and to be quiet not to wake up the baby. When Benandonner saw the baby he decided that if the baby was that big, Fionn must be massive. So he turned tail and fled back across the causeway ripping it up as he went. All that remains are the ends, here at the Giant’s Causeway and on the island of Staffa in Scotland where similar formations are found.

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The Legend of Diarmuid & Grainne

Grainne, was the most beautiful woman in Ireland, she was also the daughter of Cormac MacAirt, the High King of Ireland. Grainne was courted by Ireland’s most eligible, Princes and Chieftains, including the now ageing chief Fionn MacCool, who wanted the young maid as his second wife. He asked her to marry him, she agreed and a great feast was set up to celebrate the newly engaged couple. But on that night Grainne met Diarmuid, one of Fionn’s best warriors and it was love at first sight! Grainne was prepared to go to any lengths to get her man and drugged the entire party, apart from Diarmuid. With Diarmuid all to herself, Grainne confessed her love for him, but Diarmuid backed off, as he was loyal to his leader Fionn. But Grainne wasn’t taking no for an answer, so she put a spell on him and he fell in love with her.

The two ran off together, hotly pursued by a very angry Fionn and his men. All across Ireland the eloping couple ran and all across Ireland there are caves, trees and all kinds of nooks and crannies, under or inside of which, local legend has it that Diarmuid and Grainne, lay together and hid. After long years on the run, Grainne fell pregnant with Diarmuid’s child, but fate was about to catch up with them. One day out in the wilderness, with Fionn and his men closing in, Diarmuid and Grainne came across the heath of Benbulben in Co. Sligo, where a giant boar confronted them. This was bad news for Diarmuid, whom legend had told that the only living creature that could harm him, was a wild boar. As the boar charged, Diarmuid, protecting his heavily pregnant lover, wrestled it to the gound in a fight to the death. The warrior killed the boar with his sword, but not before the boar had gored Diarmuid, fatally wounding him.

As Fionn and his men came upon their long sought quarry, he found Diarmuid dying in a heavily pregnant Grainne’s arms. A despairing Grainne knew she had just one chance to save her lover. She implored Fionn to show mercy and save his former friend by curing Diarmuid with a drink of water cupped by his magical hands. But Fionn refused, still hurt that his best friend had eloped with his betrothed. With Diarmuid dying, Fionn’s men begged him to help this once great warrior to live. But still Fionn refused. It was only when Fionn’s son Oisin challenged his father and threatened to kill him that Fionn agreed to help Diarmuid. But it was to late, before Fionn had got the water, Diarmuid had died.

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Leprachauns 

In Irish folklore a Leprechaun is one of the faerie folk and are often associated with faerie forts, the ancient Celtic settlements. According to popular belief, this small elf like figure is pictured wearing traditional emerald green clothes and is often sporting a beard and smoking a pipe.

The Leprechaun is a cobbler by trade, but he has a secret stash of gold that he must reveal if you can capture him. But by his nature the Leprechaun is cunning and mischievous and will try anything not to hand over his gold.

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The Children of Lir

The legend of the Children of Lir has long been told in Ireland, and this Irish myth forms the basis of the famous ballet; Swan Lake.

According to the story, long ago there was an Irish King called Lir with four beautiful children. Their mother died when the children were very young and King Lir eventually remarried. But the new Queen was a devious woman of witchcraft who wanted the throne to herself, and saw the children as a threat to her plans.

One day, the Queen took the children down to the lake to teach them to swim, but once the children got into the water, the evil Queen cast a spell on them, turning them into Swans.

For 900 years the Children of Lir were doomed to live as swans by daylight and only in the light of a full moon could they take their human form. They lived on lake Davra, the sea of Moyle and the lake Isle of Glora in Mayo, before their spell was broken with the arrival of Christianity to Ireland.

When the Children of Lir heard the sound of bells ringing out from a church, they flew down to investigate and as they entered the church their feathers fell away and they once again became human.

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