Transcript – Informant speaking
Mother: “And then there were the children of Lir, L-I-R, em, and that’s basically, that Swan Lake, the Russian ballet is based on the story of the children of Lir. And that’s one of these kind of evil stepmother stories where I think there were four children and their mother died. The father remarried. I think it was supposed to be his wife, the mother’s sister, who had magical powers, and she was very jealous of the love between the father and the children. Em, so she turned them into Swans, em and they lived for hundreds of years, but… they were able to tell – even though they were Swans, they were still able to sing, and they were able to tell their father in song what had happened to them. So that didn’t do much for the relationship between the father and the stepmother. So they lived apparently for 300 years or something like that. So that’s kind of all I know about that one.”

During a conversation between me and my parents about Irish folklore, my mother told me this story. This is a story that is part of their culture, however, i’m guessing by the way that my mom’s telling it that she likely heard it more from authored literature, or from a childrens book, than from actual folk talk. I also didn’t feel a very strong attachment to this piece in particular from either of them.

My mom has a very thick northern irish accent which is palpable while speaking. Also, while I would love to give context on the Russian Ballet story, I… literally don’t remember anything about it.

What’s interesting is how familiar it feels to stuff like Hansel and Gretel, as well as other grim stories. But unlike the others, there does seem to be some tragic positivity. While the children don’t stop being swans, they live long and gain beautiful voices. Moreover, everything is set right in the end when the witch gets her comeuppance.