Tír na nÓg

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Tír na nÓg
Irish mythology location
Type Otherworld
Notable characters Oisín, Niamh

In Irish mythology and folklore, Tír na nÓg ([tʲiːɾˠ n̪ˠə ˈn̪ˠoːɡ]; "Land of the Young") or Tír na hÓige ("Land of Youth") is one of the names for the Otherworld, or perhaps for a part of it. It is depicted as a paradise and supernatural realm of everlasting youth, beauty, health, abundance and joy,[1][2] its inhabitants are the Tuatha Dé Danann, the gods of pre-Christian Ireland.[1] In the echtrae (adventure) and immram (voyage) tales, various Irish mythical heroes visit Tír na nÓg after a voyage or an invitation from one of its residents, they reach it by entering ancient burial mounds or caves, or by going under water or across the sea.[1]

Other Old Irish names for the Otherworld include Tír Tairngire ("Land of Promise/Promised Land"),[1][3] Tír fo Thuinn ("Land under the Wave"),[1] Mag Mell ("Plain of Delight/Delightful Plain"),[1] Ildathach ("Multicoloured place"),[4] and Emain Ablach (the Isle of Apple Trees).

Oisín and Niamh travelling to Tír na nÓg, illustration by Stephen Reid in T. W. Rolleston's The High Deeds of Finn (1910)


Tír na nÓg is best known from the tale of Oisín and Niamh;[5] in the tale, Oisín (a human hero) and Niamh (a woman of the Otherworld) fall in love. She brings him to Tír na nÓg on a magical horse that can travel over water, after spending what seems to be three years there, Oisín becomes homesick and wants to return to Ireland. Niamh reluctantly lets him return on the magical horse, but warns him never to touch the ground. When he returns, he finds that 300 years have passed in Ireland. Oisín falls from the horse, he instantly becomes elderly, as the years catch up with him, and he quickly dies of old age.[4]

"A leannan sidhe," a beautiful fairy sweetheart, "can lure you against your will into Tir-na-nOg," wrote Patrick Harpur.[6]

Adaptations and references in popular culture[edit]

The composer (Sir) Arnold Bax wrote many classical pieces about Tir na NOg, specifically "Nympholept" (becoming transfixed by a wood nymph in Tir na NOg); his Third Symphony, about going to Tir na NOg; and the Sixth Symphony, in which Tir na NOg breaks off from our world and floats off into the ether never to come again.

Walter Maken wrote the book, Flight of the Doves, the movie version displays a stunning rendition of the song, The Far Off Place. It is sung by national heroine Dana, she sings in English and Gaeilge.

Northern Irish singer-songwriter Van Morrison's sixteenth studio album No Guru, No Method, No Teacher released in 1986 includes a song titled "Tir Na Nog."

In the 1997 movie Titanic, towards the end, as the water fills the ship, an Irish mother (played by Jenette Goldstein) can be seen telling the tale to her two children as they fall asleep in their bed.

American playwright Greg Banks adapted the legend of Tír na nÓg to a children's play in 1998,[7] this play was adapted to a First Nations perspective in a 2016 play titled "Spirit Horse" by Drew Hayden Taylor.[8]

The 1998-1999 show Mystic Knights of Tir Na Nog by Saban Entertainment prominently features a fantasy version of Tír na nÓg;[9] in this show the land is inhabited by fairy people and is accessible by touching a single stone to specific rock formations.

Brazilian celtic metal band Tuatha de Danann released a song called "Tir Nan Og (Land of Youth)" included in the album Trova di Danú in 2004.

The legend was celebrated in Welsh with the rock opera Nia Ben Aur, this was first performed at Carmarthen National Eisteddfod in 1974. Osian, the Prince of Ireland, has fallen in love with Nia Ben Aur (the Welsh version of Goldilocks), but has to choose between her and his country. Later in the year, the album was recorded in London and then at the old SAIN studio at Gwernafalau, Llandwrog. SAIN first released the Opera on cassette and record formats in 1975.[10]

Pat O'Shea's children's novel, The Hounds of the Morrigan, is set partly in Tír na nÓg.[11]

The final song on French shoegazing band Alcest's debut album Souvenirs d'un autre monde is entitled "Tir nan og".

The gene Nanog, involved in the self-renewal ability and pluripotency maintenance of embryonic stem cells, was named by Professor Ian Chambers and colleagues after Tír na nÓg. The Scottish scientist explained the choice with the virtual immortality conferred by the gene to that type of cells.[12]

Similar tales[edit]

The story of Oisín and Niamh bears a striking similarity to many other tales, including the Japanese tale of Urashima Tarō.[13] Another version concerns King Herla, a legendary king of the ancient Britons, who visited the Otherworld, only to return some two hundred years later after the lands had been settled by the Anglo-Saxons, the "Seven Sleepers of Ephesus", a group of Christian youths who hid inside a cave outside the city of Ephesus around 250 AD, purportedly awoke approximately 180 years later during the reign of Theodosius II.

Related concepts[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Koch, John T. Celtic Culture: A Historical Encyclopedia. ABC-CLIO, 2006. pp.1671
  2. ^ The Celts: history, life and culture, J. Koch general editor.
  3. ^ James MacKillop (1998). A dictionary of Celtic mythology Oxford University Press.
  4. ^ a b Monaghan, Patricia. The Encyclopedia of Celtic Mythology and Folklore. Infobase Publishing, 2004. pp.358, 368
  5. ^ T.A. Rolleston (1990). Celtic Myths and Legends Courier Dover Publications.
  6. ^ Harpur, Patrick (2002). The Philosopher's Secret Fire: A History of the Imagination. Ivan R. Dee, 2003. p. 17. ISBN 1-56663-485-7. 
  7. ^ http://playsforyoungaudiences.org/playwrights/greg-banks/
  8. ^ http://roseneath.ca/20162017-season/spirit-horse-about-the-play/
  9. ^ http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/1999-05-24/business/9905220321_1_mystic-knights-drew-carey-seaworld
  10. ^ http://www.sainwales.com/store/sain/sain-scd-2289
  11. ^ Hall, Joanne (9 March 2013). "The Hounds of the Morrigan by Pat O'Shea". Fantasy Faction. Retrieved 18 October 2017. 
  12. ^ "ScienceDaily: Cells Of The Ever Young: Getting Closer To The Truth". Retrieved 2018-02-19. 
  13. ^ Shah, Idries (1991). World tales : the extraordinary coincidence of stories told in all times, in all places. London: Octagon. p. 359. ISBN 978-0863040368. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]