Monday, March 10, 2008

The Lianhan Shee

Since we’re talking about all things Irish this week, you have me at a disadvantage. While I can lay claim to English, German and even a microscopic drop of Cherokee in my blood, there’s nary a dram of the Emerald Isle running through my veins. So, like the good writer that I am, I went and did some research on Irish folklore and found someone you might be interested in meeting…

She is the lianhan shee, or the love fairy. A powerful creature who seeks the love and domination of mortal men, you might think of her as the femme fatale of the fae realm. She is desire incarnate. If a man falls for her, he becomes hers forever, body and soul. Once she’s ensnared him, he will live only for her and his all consuming passion will often destroy him. She’s a fairy dominatrix, because the more suffering she inflicts on the man, the more he wants her. She’s a tease, and the more he hungers for her, the more she eludes him. The lianhan shee creates such passion in a man that he will do anything, sacrifice everything, to have her.

But she will never take a human lover in the mortal realm. To have her, the man must follow her to Tír na nÓg, the Land of Eternal Youth. Unfortunately, to get there, he has to die first. Bummer. But if a man can resist her--and it’s a very rare man who can--she is the one who becomes his slave.

Legend says there is only one lianhan shee and, though no one has ever physically described her, she is sometimes said to be more a force than a single woman. Maybe this is because according to lore, every fairy woman who falls in love becomes one with her. I’m guessing that every time this happens, she morphs, taking on the characteristics of the ‘new addition’ to become someone (or something) else. Or it could be that every man who falls under her spell and manages to survive (again, I’m guessing there aren’t many of them who make it back from the other side), jealously guards his love for her and fears if the world knows about her, another will try to take her from him. But more than likely, it's because while she may choose her lovers from our world, the lianhan shee never allows them to kiss and tell.

Now, you may ask how this can be romantic. The minute a fairy woman falls in love, she gets absorbed into another woman and ceases to exist. Or if a man falls in love with the lianhan shee, he’s ruined for all other women for the rest of his life. He becomes her eternal love slave (some men may say this is not such a bad thing), if he doesn’t whither up and die from wanting her first. Both scenarios kinda puts a damper on the whole HEA thing. But for the writer in me, I see all sorts of potential here.

What if . . . the hero falls in love with a fairy woman (not the lianhan shee). When she goes ‘poof’ he’s delighted because he knows she truly loves him, but then he has to fight to get her back. Don’t ask me how, but he’s probably going to have to call upon some split personality fairy mojo to do it.

Or, what if . . . the hero falls under the lianhan shee’s spell and the human heroine has to go to Tír na nÓg and battle the love fairy to get him back. Major cat fight potential there.

Or, what if . . . the hero is the one man who can resist her and the lianhan shee falls in love with him. Will she give up eternal youth to stay in the mortal realm? And will another lianhan shee come into being to take her place?

Of, what if . . . a fairy hero decides to show the lianhan shee that fairy lovin' is way better than human sex. Maybe she didn’t know what she was missing. *G*

See, for anyone with some imagination (and a little fairy love), anything is possible. What kind of HEA would you give the lianhan shee?


  1. Very interesting post! This is the first I've ever heard of the Lianhan Shee, but she sounds like someone to write about. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Hmn. How did I miss this fairy when I was researching them? I have a couple in the Bar story, one ends up with another fairy. My Nix (who is protected by an Am Fear-faire) ends up with a dragon. LOL However, it's true that there are lots of ways you can play things with the fae. I prefer not to follow the legends exactly, but just use the interesting parts.

  3. Very interesting. I will have to think about it but if I were doing a HEA I would do the situation where the fairy of love falls for a mortal and he resist her.
    And her struggle with being humbled by the experience and giving up the one thing she holds dear power to go to a man who may or may not return her love.
    Turn about is fair play ;)
    Great article

  4. My favorite part of the writing process is brainstorming...taking that kernel of folklore and manipulating it into a full blown story.

    Ya gotta love that.


  5. Really it interesting, I never knew this legend. Great story material, no?

  6. COOL! Where can I find this lady? I have a few dozen men I'd like to introduce her to! My old boss, a few old boyfriends, an exhusband, my eldest brother...