The legend of Tír na nÓg and The Land of Eternal Youth is one of Ireland’s most ancient tales.
Many years ago, in Éire, there lived a great and noble warrior named Oisín. Oisín was the son of the legendary Fionn Mac Cumhaill, the leader of Fianna and the protectors of the land. As the Fianna were hunting deer on the shores of Lough Leane in County Kerry one morning, a beautiful woman came riding towards them on a snow-white horse. She was the most beautiful girl they had ever seen, with long golden hair down to her waist, dressed in pale blue and surrounded by light.
She rode close to the Fianna and declared “I am Niamh of the Golden Hair and my father is King of Tír na nÓg. I have heard of a great warrior named Oisín. I have to come to find him and ask him to return with me to the Land of the Young.” Oisín accepted Niamh’s invitation, having immediately fallen in love with this beautiful princess from another land, and waving goodbye to Fionn and the Fianna, he jumped on the snow-white horse with Niamh.
Over the land and the sea the horse ran, reaching the magical shores of Tír na nÓg. The king and queen welcomed Oisín and held a great feast in his honor. It was a magical land where by day Oisín hunted and feasted, and at night he sat and told ancient stories of Fionn, the Fianna and Ireland.
Oisín lived in Tír na nÓg for three hundred years, but soon the longing to return to the Emerald Isle began to overcome his love of the Land of Eternal Youth. Niamh did not want him to go, but she agreed, warning him that if he were to “set foot on the soil of Ireland, you will never be able to return to Tír na nÓg.”
Oisín reached Ireland to find that everything had changed – to him it felt as though just three short years had passed instead of three hundred. There was no longer the sight of his father or the Fianna hunting through the hills, and the castle he once called home had now begun to crumble. As he passed through Gleann na Smol, the Valley of the Thrushes, he saw a group of men trying to move a large stone. Oisín wanted to help, leaning down in his saddle to do so and lift the stone, but the saddle strap broke and he fell to the ground. Immediately the magical white and mighty horse galloped away and all of a sudden the great hero Oisín became a withered, old man, ageing before the men’s very eyes.
Image Source: PJ Lynch Gallery
Legend has it that the men were shocked and immediately brought Oisín to St. Patrick. St. Patrick tried to comfort Oisín but when Oisín learned that the Fianna and his father were long since dead, his heart filled with sadness and despair. Oisín spoke of the days of his life alongside the Fianna and the many great deeds of his father Fionn Mac Cumhaill, when they hunted, dined and listened to great stories together. He spoke of his time in Tír na nÓg and his beautiful golden haired wife Niamh. Oisín died soon after, never returning to Tír na nÓg but the wonderful stories of Niamh and Oisín have lived on throughout the ages and the legend of the Land of Eternal Youth remains.