Finding Tír na n-Óg written by Ciara Kennedy, illustrated by Melanie Mclntyre.
Oisín and Niamh are best friends from Doolin, Co. Clare in the West Coast of Ireland. Oisín is 14 years old and Niamh is 12 years old. They grew up living close to each other and have been doing everything together since they were very little. They walk to school together, meet for lunch break, hang out after school and even help each other with their homework. Their parents are amazed at how much they love each other’s company.
One day Oisín and Niamh were exploring the vast and magical countryside of the west coast of Ireland. Miles and miles of green farmlands and stonewalls, wild horses and sheep grazing on the rocky lands. They were having so much fun singing, playing and chatting that they got lost whilst walking on the narrow, winding country roads.
Suddenly the night was drawing close and darkness was setting in, each road they took was unrecognizable. Niamh began to worry. Oisín could sense the panic in Niamh and put his arm around her shoulders.
‘Don’t worry Niamh’ I’ll find our way home, I promise you.’
Oisín’s soft words comforted Niamh and the fear she was feeling left. Another hour passed and all the winding narrow country roads started to look the same. Oisín could not understand how they had not passed one house in the entire hour. It was getting much later and Oisín knew the darker it got the harder it would be to find their way home. Niamh could now sense the fear in Oisín so she took hold of his hand and pointed towards the stars,
‘Don’t worry Oisín, we will follow the stars and they will help us find our way home.’
This brought a smile to Oisín’s face and a deep warmth to his heart. Holding hands Oisín and Niamh carried on walking and singing in the darkness while following the stars above them. Niamh thought Oisín was a wonderful singer and loved to listen to his deep voice as he reeled off Irish folk songs.
Another two hours passed by, Oisín and Niamh were even more lost now than they ever were, they couldn’t recognize any of the roads, they had not come upon any people, houses or cars. There was something very strange going on. Both Niamh and Oisín were now really scared. Niamh looked at Oisín with tears in her eyes;
‘Oisín do you think we will ever find our way home?’
Oisín put his arms around Niamh, and hugged her tightly.
‘I promise you Niamh, I promise you, we will find our way home’
Then suddenly the most beautiful sound came from the top of the hill beside them, it sounded like the voice of a young woman. Oisín and Niamh looked at each other and smiled with delight. Holding hands they climbed up the hill following the comforting, sweet voice to find the woman who was singing.
‘Oh do you think she will help us find our way home?’ cried Niamh in joy
‘Of course she will’ sang Oisín
Oisín and Niamh finally reached the top of the hill and there in front of them was the most beautiful young woman they had ever seen. The young maiden was sat on a stonewall, singing and brushing her long golden blonde hair whilst gazing out onto the fields. Her white long dress was flowing with intricate designs of stars and roses woven throughout. There was shimmering golden light glowing from her, like her aura was lit up from the light of the moon.
‘Is she real?’ Niamh whispered to Oisín
‘I hope so!’ Oisín whispered back
The beautiful young woman heard the whispers coming from Oisín and Niamh and turned her attention to them.
‘Come sit with me’ she sang in the most loving and comforting voice.
Oisín and Niamh felt the love coming from her and without hesitation walked up and sat at her feet in the dark country field.
‘You look lost’ the young woman said with pity in her voice
‘We are’ cried Oisín
Niamh looked at Oisín and could finally see how truly scared he had been, he had put up such a brave face to make her feel safe the entire time. This made her realize how much she loved and appreciated her best friend.
‘Well there is no need to worry anymore, I will help you find your way home.’ The beautiful young woman assured them both.
She asked Oisín and Niamh their names and upon hearing them she asked if they had ever heard of the old Irish legend about two people who were also called Oisín and Niamh, an Irish legend about the land of Tír na n-Óg.
Oisín and Niamh both replied no at the same time and looked at each other in excitement.
‘We would love to hear this story’ Niamh said with excitement in her voice.
The beautiful young woman began to speak in the most soft, caring, musical voice.
The legend is about a young woman called Niamh and a young man called Oisín. Niamh is a beautiful young woman with long red flowing hair down to her waist, Niamh is from Tír na n-Óg. Tír na n-Óg is the magical land of eternal youth, a hidden island off the west coast of Ireland. In Tír na n-Óg nobody grows old, there is no fighting, no war, no pain, no fear and even no homework, she said with a wink.
Everyone is happy there; they live a simple, natural life, communing with nature, a life of magic, peace and love. The people that live there are a divine, mystical race known as the Tuatha Dé Danann.
One day Niamh decided to leave this land in search for her one and only true love. She had dreamt about her love, a heroic warrior, and knew that she would find him in the far off emerald island called Ireland. Niamh took her white horse and after a month of searching Ireland came upon a warrior of the Fianna called Oisín in County Cork. Oisín recognized Niamh immediately, her beauty and grace brought a tear to his eye, upon first glance he knew that this was his true love. Niamh spoke to Oisín and said ‘My name is Niamh, my father is king of Tír na n-Óg. I have dreamt of your courage, your poetry and your open heart, I have come to take you back to Tír na n-Óg with me.’ Even though Oisín loved being a warrior of the Fianna and had many family and friends in Ireland he could not deny the beautiful young woman before him, he mounted the white horse, said goodbye to his father Fionn and his family and friends and promised to return soon. Oisín and Niamh rode on the white horse to the land of Tír na n-Óg. Oisín lived the most magical, amazing life in Tír na n-Óg, He hunted and feasted each day and every evening would sit around a fire telling the children of Tír na n-Óg about Fionn and the Fianna and his life in Ireland. Time passed quickly and even though Oisín was the happiest he could ever be with Niamh, he missed his family and friends in Ireland dearly.
Niamh could see how much Oisín missed his family and friends and although she knew it could be very dangerous Niamh allowed him to return to Ireland to see them. But she asked that he take her white horse and while he was there that he would not set foot on Irish soil. Oisín promised and off he went to return to the emerald isle of Ireland.
Oisín was unaware of the time difference between Ireland and Tír na n-Óg, and although for him it only felt like a few years had passed when he returned to Ireland 300 years had gone by. All Oisín’s family and friends had long passed. With a heavy heart Oisín rode Niamh’s white horse around Ireland searching for any trace of his family. Oisín could not believe all the changes that had taken place. All the men seemed so much shorter and weaker, the women seemed sad and the children were not laughing. Oisín passed men who were trying to move stone, they were having trouble as they were not strong enough, Oisín offer to help and as he lent down from the side of his horse to pick up the stone, the saddle of the horse gave way and Oisín fell on the Irish soil. Suddenly the white horse vanished and Oisín aged 300 years and turned into an old man. The worker men could not believe what happened and took Oisín to see St Patrick, Oisín was dying, on his death bed he whispered to St Patrick, tell Niamh I promise to find her again. Oisín was given the funeral of a hero. Ever since Niamh has been searching the emerald island of Ireland to find her beloved Oisín and return to the magical land of Tír na n-Óg’
The beautiful young woman had finished her story and could see the wonder on both children’s faces.
Niamh looked up at her in anticipation and asked,
‘So what happened then, did Oisín and Niamh ever find each other?
The beautiful young woman looked down and held both Niamh and Oisín’s hand and replied;
‘Yes, after lifetimes and lifetimes of searching and searching they have finally found each other, they are both finally together, finally able to return home.’
Niamh and Oisín looked deep into each other’s eyes and instantly knew that this story was about them.
Oisín put his arms around Niamh and whispered ‘I kept my promise’.
Oisín and Niamh embraced each other for the longest time. As they looked up the beautiful young woman had vanished and the morning light was setting in. After lifetimes of searching for each other Niamh and Oisín held hands and found there way home to the land of Tír na n-Óg.