reviewed by Patti Abbott
I liked the Children of Lir, as a child. I never was really into the folklore but I liked that one.
For me to totally relate to most things I have to bring them back to what I know.
So in this day and age I reckon that three children getting lost for years to normality could only mean one thing, drugs.
Once I thought of that concept the story kind of wrote itself.
Neville Thompson is the author of five novels (most recently A Simple Twist of Fate) and several plays. For this project, he chose the Irish folk tale, “The Children of Lir,” writing that although he was not much of a folk-tale reader as a child, this one stuck with him.
In the original tale, King Lir is living an uxorious life with his wife and four children when suddenly his wife dies. He quickly marries his wife’s sister who is jealous of his children and plots their death. The servant assigned to murder them cannot do it, and instead uses magic to turn them into swans. Lir finds out about his wife’s plot and turns her into an air demon. However, the fate of the children, now swans, is not a happy one in most versions. Various endings have them tied together with chains or turning into old people.
Thompson updates the story by turning Lir into a drug dealer, a king in many poor neighborhoods in 2010. Thompson writes, “for me to totally relate to most things I have to bring them back to what I know.” So Thompson writes the clever line, “When you want decent gear, go to Lir.” Hence the title change. “He doesn’t serve up shite,” is Lir’s motto too.
Lir is a honest but humble truck driver before his wife dies. The story closely follows the folk-tale above after that. Instead of outright murder, the stepmother turns his children into drug addicts out of jealousy, a strangely apt way to get revenge on a man selling drugs and poisoning the children of others. Lir tries to save his children, to redeem himself and fails. In the final scene, they are four ghostly presences, “They have been lost forever.”
This is a folk tale that updates well and Mr. Thompson gives it the feel of today without preventing the reader from recognizing the original story.