Niamh

Niamh

Long long ago in ancient Ireland, there lived an island far off to the West. This was the Island of Tír na nÓg. Only fairies lived on this island. It was an island of great beauty and nobody ever aged, everyone lived forever. There was no sorrow, or huger or thirst.

On Tír na nÓg, there lived a fairy princess by the name of Niamh, and, for years, she had heard about a great warrior by the name of Oisín, and she wanted desperately to meet him. One day, she left Tír na nÓg, and she set off across the sea on her magical horse Embarr to visit Ireland and meet Óisín.

Oisín was indeed a great warrior, son of Fionn Mac Cumhaill, and leader of his band of Fianna warriors. They spent many days exploring the countryside as they hunted. On one of these trips, Oisín saw, in the distance, a beautiful white horse, galloping towards them. On its back was the most beautiful woman Oisín had ever seen. Her hair was golden, like the sun, and fell to her waist, she wore a blue dress, the colour of the sky itself.

As she drew close, all the men stopped. “I am Niamh” she said, “my father is King of Tír na nÓg, a land that knows no sorrow, and where nobody grows old”. “I have heard a great many things of the warrior Oisín, I have come to meet him and to ask him to come back with me to the Land of Eternal Youth”.

Oisín, having fallen in love with Niamh from the first sight of her riding towards them, stepped forward and said, “I am Oisín, and I will return with you to Tír na nÓg”. Fionn didn’t want his son to go, and although sad at leaving his father and the Fianna, Oisín promised him to return to Ireland to see him again soon. Then mounting the horse behind Niamh, the white horse set off for Tír na nÓg.

As Niamh had promised, Tír na nÓg knew no sorrow, no one went hungry or thirsty, and everyone lived forever. Niamh and Oisín were married, and lived for many years happy together, although a small part of Oisín missed Ireland and his father, and the Fianna.

Soon enough, the longing grew in Oisín to return to Ireland, and he begged Niamh to let him return. Niamh was reluctant, because she knew the danger of Oisín returning to Ireland, and that she would never see her husband again. Niamh saw how much Oisín missed his family, and, because she loved him so much, she agreed to let him return and see them. She gave him her magical white horse, Embarr, and, before leaving, warned him not to get off the horse, or to let his feet touch the ground, for, if he did, he would be unable to ever return to her in Tír na nÓg. This Oisín promised.

Oisín set off across the sea on Niamh’s horse, and soon arrived in Ireland. But things, he could see, had changed. What Oisín didn’t know was that time moved more slowly in Tír na nÓg, and what had seemed like only a few short years had been 300 years in Ireland. The Fianna no longer rode the countryside hunting, and the castles and homes they all lived in stood in crumbling ruins.

As he searched for his father and the Fianna, he came across two old men who were trying to move a large boulder. He stopped to help them and leant down on the horse to help them, and, in doing so, lost his balance and fell to the ground. The moment Oisín touched the ground, he aged the 300 years he had been gone from Ireland, and Embarr turned and galloped back to Tír na nÓg.

Now a frail old man, he asked the men to tell him where is father, Fionn Mac Cumhaill was, and the Fianna. They told him they had been gone for many years. Broken hearted and hundreds of years old, Oisín died soon after. On seeing Embarr return empty of its rider, Niamh knew Oisín was dead, and would no longer return to her, and her heart broke.

Never again has Niamh, or Embarr, crossed the ocean from Tír na nÓg.

“Empty needles are the pen with which I create my story, yarn is my ink.” –
Ruth