Long ago, in the dark, pre-Christian ages of Ireland, King Lir tragically lost his beloved wife and was left alone to raise his four children. Of course, no man is capable of remaining alone for very long, and he soon took another wife, whose bitter heart quickly hardened over her stepchildren’s love for their deceased mother. She used her wicked powers to turn them into swans. The legend veers off in several directions depending on what version is read, but it seems as though the poor children remained in their unfortunate state for several hundred years before the curse was lifted.
A sculpture of the Children of Lir can be found with Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance.