Étaín is a character from Irish mythology with an extraordinary life story. Her immense physical and spiritual beauty enthralled a member of the fairy folk and made her the heroine of the tale ‘The Wooing of Etain’.
Étaín’s Unrivalled Beauty
Daughter of King Ailill of the Ulaid, later of Ulster chieftain King Etar, and future wife of both Midir of the elfmounds and the mortal Eochaid Feidlech, Étaín is often described in literature, particularly the Middle Irish text Togail Bruidna Da Derga,‘The Destruction of Da Derga’s Hostel’, as having shimmering waves of fire-gold hair, skin as white as snow, and blushing cheeks red as foxgloves. Her eyes are recorded to be a vibrant, unnatural blue, and her shape is considered as wavy as sea foam.
She is, quite literally, the standard of beauty to which all Irish women are held. Because of this beauty, she finds herself in a difficult way—loved by two men a thousand years apart. The chronological tale of Étaín is as follows, beginning with her otherworldly life with Midir of the Tuatha de Danann (‘tribes of the goddess Danu’), and ending with her mortal life with Eochaid.