Ireland, as we all know, is a land full of legends, myths and superstitions. I like them very much, hope you like it too! After I went to Killarney (it would have been more clever to do it before!) , I informed myself about the legends of the place…I’ve already told the story about Mór O’Donoghue. So now I would like to write another one, which seems to have taken place on the shores of Lough Leane, Killarney National Park’s largest lake. Its name, which in Gaelic means “lake of knowledge”, probably comes from the fact that in 640 AD, on the island of Innsfallen, was built a monastery which became the most important center of education during the early Middle Ages.
Well, it seems that one day a group of Irish legendary warriors, the Fianna, were hunting near the Lough Leane when a beautiful woman came out of the water, riding on a white horse. The Fianna were led by their chief, Fionn, and among them there was his son, the warrior and poet Oisin. The woman wasn’t actually a woman, she was Niamh Chinn Oir, a fairy. She fall in love with Oisin and invited him to follow her in the lake, to the Tir na N’og, which is the land of eternal youth. No one would ever get old in that land, everyone would always be happy there and death would never come to grab its residents.
After some years, Oisin felt the desire to see his family again and decided to return to the earth. (Apparently the infinite happiness was not so satisfactory…or maybe the fairy wasn’t to his liking?) However, the fairy told him that 300 years had passed on the earth since he left and so no one he knew was still alive. Despite this warning, Oisin was decided to return to earth, to see how things had changed in such a long time. Niamh told him not to dismount from the horse, because if he hit the ground, all the years he didn’t pass on earth would land on him, making him grow old all at once.
Since we all know that mythology (and not only that) is based on the fact that heroes always end up doing exactly what is forbidden, we can imagine that there will be an unhappy ending for him! In fact, wandering around Ireland with his horse, looking for the places where his tribe lived, he run into five men trying to move a huge stone. Oisin declared that one Fianna would be able to move the stone alone, is challenged to try. The exact moment he reaches out to push the stone, his horse’s stirrup broke and Oisin fell on the ground, becoming outright old.
There are several versions of how the legend ends. Some narrate that Oisin died shortly after, other versions on the opposite tell that he knew St. Patrick and told him many stories of the past, including that of the Fianna, helping him to understand better Irish history and traditions.