Heritage > Myths and Legends > Ireland

Deidre of the Sorrows


Deidre, was the baby daughter of a harpist to King Conchubar of Ulster. A druid made the prophecy that when Deidre cried her first words, she would be the most beautiful girl in all of Ireland, but in turn that this beauty would bring trouble and sorrow to many.

To avoid this foretold trouble, Deidre's father sent his little girl to be brought up in a hut, deep in a forest by a foster mother. No contact could be made with the outside world. One night, when Deidre was about 15 years of age, a hunter arrived at the secluded hut. He was seeking shelter as he had become lost in the forest. Hesitantly, the foster mother allowed to come into the hut. Naturally, the hunter was astonished by Deidre's beauty, and decided that she would make a most suitable bride for the king.

The hunter told the king about the girl's beauty on his return to Emain Macha. The king visited the girl and fell in love at first sight. The king wanted to marry Deidre at once. Deidre bargained with success for one year in which to prepare herself for her impending royal duties.

That very Winter, three young men who were the most majestic in Ireland, passed through the forest. They were the "Sons of Usnach", all brothers, and Deidre fell in love with the tallest and bravest of them all ~ Naoise. However, they both knew there love would bring sorrow, because Deidre had been promised to King Conchubar.

Accompanied by Naoise's brothers, Naoise and Deidre hurriedly travelled to Scotland. The king heard of this and sent Fergus Mac Roigh of Ulster to commandeer them back. The king promised them that they would not be harmed in any way. Fergus set off for Scotland. Naoise and his brothers knew of Fergus and trusted him, so they all returned to Emain Macha with Deidre in hand.

What a mistake, because King Conchubar's promise was a false one. As soon as the travellers from Scotland landed in Ireland at the "Rock of Usnach", he sent his warriors to murder all three brothers.

Sadly, as Naoise was killed, Deidre took her own life as she could not bear to live without him. From that day forward, she is known as "Deidre of the Sorrows".

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