The Tuatha de Danaan: Midhir and Etain
pre-12th century—present. Old Irish | Modern Irish, folklore.
Midhir rises up into the rafters holding Etain tightly, and all the king can see when he reaches the open air is a pair of swans flying away.
Midhir was married to Etain but now she is the wife of the High King of Ireland. Desperate to win her back, Midhir challenges the High King to a game of chess. They play. Midhir loses and is required to give the king fifty horses. They play again. Midhir loses and he and his people spend many months afterwards labouring as a result.
They play a third game, Midhir wins and asks for Etain, the king’s wife, as his prize. The king agrees only to a single kiss from his wife, and that reluctantly.
Midhir arrives at the palace to receive the kiss from Etain. But the High King of Ireland has assembled all his finest warriors around him and as Midhir takes Etain in his arms, they draw their swords and prepare to strike him dead. Midhir then rises up into the rafters, holding Etain tightly to him, and they both float out through the roof. Dashing outside in frantic pursuit, all the king can see when he reaches the open air is a pair of swans flying away.
Story fragment recounted from: Gregory, Lady A., 1904. Gods and Fighting Men: The Story of the Tuatha de Danaan and of the Fianna of Ireland, Arranged and put into English by Lady Gregory. John Murray, London. Reprinted, 1998. Irish Myths and Legends. Running Press Book Publishers, Philadelphia, USA. Part One: The Gods. Book IV: The Ever-living Living Ones. Chapter 7: Midhir and Etain, pp 100–11.