Emerald Isle

The Tyrant Giantess

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales and Irish Ghost Stories

The bigger they are, the harder they fall

The tale of Kilmagoura in County Cork is, for the most part, a peaceful and quiet one, as it lay under the power of the Fitzgeralds for many years, and they were, for the most part, just and fair rulers. So good were they that nobody had anything bad to say about them, and tales were told of their heroism and generosity.

But as they say, it is the exception that makes the rule, and so it was with the giantess Eileen Óg Fitzgerald! Rumours abounded that her father was a sidhe, or one of the fairy folk, for from the moment she came into the world, she grew to a prodigious size at an impressive rate! She was said to be “of the great woods”, or Kylemore, in part for her strange size and in part for her wild ways.

She was fierce and restless, rousing up the warriors of her clan to raid nearby farms and settlements. Any who stood in her way were slain with her great hammer, the heads knocked clean off them to sail over the trees, then she would carry away anything of theirs that wasn't nailed down, and put her mark on their land too!

From the high lios, or fortress of her family she ruled with an iron fist, and it was in that fort she buried all of her ill-gotten gains.

And yet for all of her strength and ferocity, she didn't live very long. Whether she passed in the natural way or died at the hand of a vengeful warrior or jealous lover isn't told, but when the nights are dark and the wind blows from the west, the people of Kilmagoura make sure to close their windows and doors up extra tight, for her ghost has been seen wandering over the lands she once plundered!

As evil as she was in life, she was no less evil in death, although she was condemned to wear only a thin cloth dress and appear as an old woman with no strength in her, shivering in the chill night air. Her feet were those of a sheep, with hooves at the end of her legs.

And if you should happen across her and ask why she was trapped in that way, she may very well answer: “For my cruelty in oppressing the poor, for forcing them to perform weighty tasks, and for depriving a poor widow of the milk of her five sheep, my feet are deformed, and I am thus doomed to perpetual motion, until the Day of Judgment.”

But when you ask the local people what they fear about her wretched shade doomed to wander forevermore, they will fall silent and look away ashen-faced.

Kilmagoura is marked on the map below.

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