Bobh or Bodbh Dearg was a fair and just King of An Tuatha Dé Danann. He became King at a time of much upheaval and uncertainty for An Tuatha. The Milesians had arrived and had forced them underground to the mounds and hills of Ireland. They did not want to be ruled by the Milesians, so they decided to elect their own King and Bobh, being the son of The Dagda, was chosen. He proved to be a very wise and good king. He distributed the various hills and mounds fairly among his people to build their homes or ‘sidhe’ and he enlisted the help of The Dagda and Manannán Mac Lir to create a magical mist to hide them from the Milesians.
However, Bobh’s election was recognised by all of his rivals, except Lir, who refused him homage. Bodb’s followers believed that Lir should be punished for not recognising the King they had chosen, but Bobh refused to harm him. He wanted to forge an alliance with Lir through support and friendship instead of forcing him to accept him.
Bobh Dearg is most famous for his role in the tale of ‘The Children of Lir’. Here we see the support and kindness he shows Lir but also his ability to ensure justice when a wrong has occurred.
After Lir’s first wife died, Bobh offered one of his foster daughters to him in marriage. Lir chose Eve. They were happily married and had four children: one girl, Fionnuala, and three sons, Aodh and twins, Fiachra and Conn. Bobh had great love for his grandchildren and Lir’s happiness brought him great joy.
Tragically, Eve died from a mysterious illness and the family’s grief saddened Bobh. He sent another of his foster daughters, Aoife, to marry Lir as he felt she would take good care of the children. Unfortunately, he was wrong.
Aoife became jealous of the children and the affection given to them by Lir. After a year of planning and plotting, she cast a druid’s spell on them and turned them into swans. She cursed them to spend 900 years in swan form. Bobh Dearg was devastated when he heard what his daughter did. As punishment, he and Lir cast a powerful spell to transform her into an air demon and spend eternity in the darkest corners of Ireland.