Celtic Mythology:
Ruad and the Mermaids

The British Isles, like Greece, have a strong bond with the sea. Celtic mythology is therefore full of stories of sea monsters, sea gods and of course mermaids. Ruad, a prince of Ireland, was crossing the sea to Norway in a fleet of three small ships. Suddenly, Ruad's ships stopped in the middle of the water and would not move. Ruad ordered his men to wait for him, and he dived into the water. Under each boat he found three beautiful women holding them fast. When the women saw him, they grabbed him and took him down to their land beneath the sea.

Notice the repetition of the number three. Three is a magic number in Celtic mythology.

He remained with them for nine days (nine is three times three), but wished to escape to his own world. He told them he was sad and missed his brother. He had been on his way to visit him when the women caught him. The women said that once he returned to the surface he would never want to come back, and refused for that reason to let him go. Ruad argued that if they really loved him they should trust him. Finally, they agreed to let him go if he promised to return. He gladly made the promise and left.

Returning to his ships he continued his journey to Norway and spent seven years with his brother. Finally, the day came when he had to return to Ireland. Of course he did not want to return to the land under the waves. He decided to leave at night and take the fastest boats he could find to outwit the sea women.

Under the sea, unknown to Ruad, one of the women he had slept with had had a son. When the women discovered that Ruad meant to break his promise, they took the child and headed after him in a bronze boat. This boat was very fast and began to catch up to Ruad. He ordered his men to row as fast as they could, but still he despaired of reaching Ireland again. However, luck was with him. Just as the bronze boat was about to come up to his, he reached land and jumped ashore. The women were angry beyond words. The boy's mother took Ruad's son and killed him, and threw his head on the beach. There were terrible screams of horror. From that time since that area has been known as Inber-n-Aillbine - the bay of the Awful Scream. This is the naming of names in Celtic mythology, an explanation of how a place came to have it's name.

The women turned their bronze boat out to sea and vanished forever over the horizon. According to legend, Ruad returned to his kingdom but he was never brave enough to cross the sea again.

Celtic Mythology: Ruad --> Mermaid Mythology

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