Once upon a time, there lived a noble warrior Oisín, the leader of the defenders of Ireland called the Fianna. One day, a beautiful goddess, Niamh of the golden Hair, came to ride her magical white mare on the shores of Lough Leane. And it so happened that Oisín and the Fianna hunted stag near those shores on that very same day. As fate would have it, it was there Niamh came upon him. She’d never seen such a stunning man, nor he such a dazzling woman, and they fell in love at first sight. But Niamh was of Tír na nÓg (the Land of Eternal Youth), and Oisín only a mortal. What was the love-stricken warrior to do but follow his one true love to her magical shores?
In Tír na nÓg, Niamh and Oisín lived in love and contentment and had three beautiful children. But after three years had passed, Oisín grew homesick and set his sights on visiting Ireland. Niamh begged and pleaded with him not to go, but seeing that he’d made up his mind, she gave in. Yet she made him swear he’d always ride Moonshadow, her white mare, and not let his feet touch the Irish soil, lest he never return to Tír na nÓg.
But what did Oisín find when he crossed through the mist into the emerald hills of Ireland? Not one, not two, but three hundred years had passed, for time flows differently in Tír na nÓg. All his family and friends had perished, and his home was gone. Mournful of the life he’d lost, he rode without purpose until he came upon some men who struggled to lift a heavy boulder. So distracted did Oisín grow by his grief that he forgot Niamh’s warning and dismounted to help them.
As soon as his feet touched the ground, Oisín aged three hundred years and became frail and blind. Before he passed, he told the people of Ireland stories of the brave Fianna, the magical Tír na nÓg, and the beautiful goddess Niamh of the Golden Hair. And this is how we came to know of them.
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