Welcome to a new year and a new legend! This term I will be retelling The Exile of the Sons of Uisneach, a Northern Irish/Scottish tale.
Do you know what its like to have your destiny planned for you? I do. But not just planned. Not just the dreams of ambitious parents. No, my destiny is written in the stars, into fate itself, they tell me. When I wasn’t yet born a prophecy was made. I don’t know what, no one will tell me, no matter how much I beg. But what came out of that night, the night of my birth, is that I am to wed the king of Ulster.
When I’m old enough. I am only thirteen now. But in a few weeks I will be fourteen, and then I will be taken to the palace, to meet my destiny.
It’s horrible. I’ve heard other girls don’t live like this. They live in a well lit house with many windows, the view stretching miles, whereas I can only see out into our orchard. The orchard is lovely, blossom floating down around my head as I run through the trees in springtime, and giving enough fruit to last all year. But around it is a high, smooth wall.
Other girls can run where they like over the grassy plains, meeting anyone they choose, whereas I’m shut in, a prisoner. The only people I’ve seen in my life are my foster father and mother and dear Lebharcham. No-one can keep her out, at least! They’re all afraid of her, for she, as a poet, has the gift of satire.* She is the best comfort to me.
Other girls can marry where they please, or at least can choose whether or not to give themselves in marriage, to men who are their equals, in age and beauty.
King Conchobar, my betrothed, is old. Or at least, he must be by now. If he was a well grown man when I was born, he must be nearly fifty! How is he a fitting husband for me?
But so it is!
That’s not to say I haven’t been happy here. It’s been a good life, while I was young enough to be content with this narrow world, the small range of experiences, too ignorant to think outside the wall of my prison. I have been happy. And they say this match is very important.
But…what else is there? And why must I not have the chance to forge my own path?
*In Irish mythology, satire is violent speech against a person, used as a punishment, and only to be used at the proper time, usually by poets. Similar to a curse, but more used in a legal way.