Children of the River
|Children of the River|
The age-old tale entitled “Children of the River” originates from the isle of Eriu-Innis. The tale is usually passed down to Claith children by their mothers. The exact origins of this story is unknown, but scholars suspect it to have come from a farmer’s wife, as stated within the tale, though her name has since been lost to time. The story is extremely well known on the Isle, and to learn it one would simply have to ask a Claith from Eriu-Innis, seeing as nearly all of them probably would have heard the tale at one time or another. It is also possible to find versions of it in books written by traveling Regalians. The story is explaining the rather barbaric tradition, of sacrificing unfit babies to the Fae so that they may be reborn stronger, that the Claith maintain.
Children of the River
Long ago, when our home, Eriu-Innis, was first being lived on, the Fae inhabited the land. They loved us, the Claith, and took us under their care, helping us learn to live upon our beautiful Isle. As time passed and we survived happily, the Fae begun to worry.
So many little ones were born small and sometimes did not survive their first year, passing with the wind or the rains, so one Fae rose to the challenge to protect us. Their name was Heinua. Like all Fae, it was neither a lass nor a lad, but Heinua was seen as a beautiful Fae with long, dark red locks and golden eyes like the sun or the moon. They floated on their silver wings to the small cottage of a mother. Before approaching the door, Heinua grew tall like one of us and knocked on the door, dressed no longer in river lilies and instead in a rough wool dress, looking like an unnatural, yet beautiful woman from lands far, far away.
Heinua knocked on the door and the weeping woman opened to see her, gaping at such beauty and allowing the unsuspected Fae into her home. The mother was told that Heinua’s name was not Heinua at all, but Heia and that she, Heia, was not of Eriu-Innis but a distant land of strange cultures.
Heia told the mother, whose name as long since been forgotten, that her child was weak and would only cause distress - especially when it died come the rains or the wind. Heia rested her palms on the cracked wooden table that laid in the center of the house and spoke in her ringing voice; clear and beautiful, like bells. Heia told the mother that instead of caring for such a disgrace of a child - though her words were not exactly ‘disgrace’, but rather something softer more like ‘draw-back’ - that she should lay her baby by the river so that the Fae may take it and have it reborn much stronger.
The mother was conflicted, which was made clear by her twisted expression and sad eyes, but eventually she began to ponder. She knew that the neighboring woman not two miles off had had a child who had passed with her first cold, and that her own baby drew similar characteristics, and knew again that the neighboring childless mother had spent so much on medicines and visits to the expensive town healer that when her baby had died, she was also struck with poverty worse than ever before.
Slowly, the mother agreed as she wrapped her baby up in a small, thin blanket. The Claith woman and Heia ventured a small walk to a nearby creek that fed into the gushing river. She set the baby carefully onto the ground after a light kiss on its forehead before turning ‘round and hurrying away. Heia touched her fingers to the child’s forehead where their mother had kissed them, before fleeing after the Claith woman.
In tears the woman sat, refusing to look up to Heia until a shimmering light cast from her. A moment later, a small figure stood before the woman, Heinua letting their silver wings sway open and closed gently. The woman was in shock - a Fae had been telling her to abandon her child? Were the Fae not looking out to protect them? Slowly, though, Heinua retold the worries of the winged creatures of the Isle- that they would have too many ill children to carry on. Heinua swore that the mother should expect herself with child, a child of good health, within a year and that it should be her one lost, reborn no longer weak.
A year passed and the mother did have a child of better health, and so she passed the story along. Once to the childless mother that laid neighbor, who spoke it if in the village while selling wheat with her husband. The Fae’s message seemed to spread by the wind.
With the warning and message in hand, the people of Eriu-Innis became, decidedly, less weak and they grew. The Fae kept their promise and Heinua returned every child to them, reborn stronger - never shall the Claith remain weak again.
- Despite the morally deplorable message behind the story, Claith mothers tell it to their young children at bedtime, as a way to pass on the tradition as well as give a reason for having participated themselves.
- In other versions of the story, Heinua is sometimes replaced by a more masculine Fae named Ghuie, or by a Fairy insisting that she is the Queen.