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1001 Stories Collection

Oisin in Tir na Nog

1001 Oisin In Tir Na N Og Tiago Almeida
Added on 09th September 2020

Oral tradition Folktale from Ireland

A haunting story of love and loss.

Story

One day, while the Fianna were resting during a hunt, a beautiful young woman approached on a white horse. Her name was Niamh, daughter of the King of Tir na Nog, a land of perpetual youth, where trees and humans alike lived forever. Niamh took their great warrior-poet, Oisin, with her back to her magical home, where he was welcomed with open arms. Niamh and Oisin fell in love. He lived with her in perfect happiness for, what he thought, was about three years before he began to long to see his home again. But on returning for a visit he found his father’s fort was no longer there and there was no sign that it ever had been there. Puzzled, he asked directions from a shepherd who told him it was three hundred years since the time of Fionn Mac Cumhaill ….

Why we chose it

A haunting Irish legend. Oisin is one of the most famous Irish heroes, a brave warrior poet

Where it came from

Oisin (otherwise known as Osian/Ossian/Osheen) is a legendary figure from Irish mythology, a great poet, a warrior of the Fianna, and the son of their leader Fionn McCumhaill (MacCool). He first appears in the Fenian Cycle (or the Ossianic Cycle) of Irish literature, which depicts the heroic exploits of Fionn McCumhaill and his war band, the Fianna Éireann. Fenian lore has its roots as far back as the 3rd century AD, and its tales were first recorded in early manuscripts such as The Book of the Dun Cow (c.1100) and The Book of Leinster (c. 1160). The tale of Oisin in Tir na Nog is an ‘echtra,’ a type of pre-Christian Old Irish literature depicting a hero’s adventures in the Otherworld.

Where it went next

In the 18th century, Oisin was at the centre of a great literary fraud. In 1762, Scottish poet James Macpherson claimed to have discovered and published Oisin’s epic poetry, claiming they were translations from 3rd century Gaelic originals. The poems won wide acclaim and were instrumental in the early Romantic movement, but many Irish scholars were frustrated as they mixed Fenian and Ulster legends and linked the heroes to Scotland’s past rather than Ireland’s. In the late 19th century they were proven to be fakes, but the poems still had great influence and popularised the name Ossian over Oisin. The legend has also influenced many other writers, including W. B. Yeats in his poem The Wanderings of Oisin.

Associated stories

There are many other legends about Oisin in Irish mythology, particularly in the Fenian Cycle. His name means ‘young deer’ or ‘fawn’ and one tale tells of his mother, Sadhbh, who was turned into a deer by a druid before she met his father.

Added on 09th September 2020

Oral tradition Folktale from Ireland