How Ireland Got Its Name
Once, before Ireland had become the great country it is today, there were three princesses. Never were there more charming, gracious ladies in all the land before or since. Now at this time, Ireland had just gotten over being completely inhabited by barbarians. That kind of people didn't bother with trivial things such as names for their homes, they just burned, pillaged, and plundered. The King, realizing that they were becoming a civilized country, decided that said country needed a name. The occupants simply referred to it as "Our Land".
The King decided that he would name the country after one of his daughters-in-law, but which one? Bragda, the eldest, was no great beauty, but she was very wise. Shannon, the middle one, was beautiful, but temperamental. Eire, the youngest, was kind and gentle, extremely clever, and comely to boot, but she was, in fact, the youngest. If he chose one over the other, he would create bad feeling between them, which was the last thing he wanted to do. Finally, he had a stroke of brilliance: why not have several contests between them and the winner of at least three would achieve not only the entire country as her namesake, but her husband would be High King of the whole country after he died.
He was pleased that his bright idea was greeted with great enthusiasm when he told his sons and their wives about it. The date of the first of four contests soon arrived. This was the beauty contest. At dawn that morning, the three women rose and donned their most lavish gowns and had their handmaidens coif, powder, and pomade their hair so heavily; it was a marvel that they could even stand up straight! When they were finally done preparing (which took most of the morning), they glided into the throne room to prepare for judging. When the judges beheld them standing there together, all but one resigned on the spot because they were terrified that these women were really goddesses and if one was chosen above the others, the judges would bring misfortune upon themselves.
The only one who didn't quit was widely known to be a woman hater. Even he had great difficulty making a decision. He finally chose Eire because of her long, flaming hair. The other two were rather jealous, but while Bragda forgave and forgot, Shannon would always bear a grudge against her younger sister-in-law.
The second contest, the gentleness-of-speech contest, was within the next three days. For the entire day, not one unkind word could be spoken. This would prove especially difficult for Bragda, who had a very peppery disposition and usually spoke before she thought. That morning, around mid-morning, Shannon was preparing for her daily ride. As she swung into the saddle, her horse began bucking and rearing. She flew out of the saddle, all the while using terminology that would wither a whole garden full of roses: very unseemly for a young princess—or any princess, for that matter.
About two hours later, Eire was taking her daily stroll around the town when she came upon a man who was beating his donkey ruthlessly. The poor thing was balking and trying to run because a stray dog was worrying at it. Eire marched up to him, looked him straight in the eye, and…SLAP! smacked him right across the face! She then proceeded to rant at him about beating his donkey. She looked so fierce and was yelling so loudly, the man backed down! Unfortunately, that meant that she lost the contest, making Bragda winner by default.
The third contest, the compassion contest, was won by Eire because Shannon was downright cruel, and Bragda wasn't quite compassionate enough.
The final contest was to be a surprise because queens needed to be able to handle the unexpected gracefully. The night before the contest, it rained very heavily. The King called each woman in to see him separately and told them all, "You are my favorite and I want you to win, so I will tell you that the final contest is a race. You will walk around the outer wall and the first one back to the main gate wins the entire contest, regardless of how many of the others she has won. It's raining out there, so be careful not to slip tomorrow." The sly old fox had changed the rules so Shannon would have more of a chance of winning!
The next morning, Bragda, Shannon and Eire all woke at dawn to prepare for the race. Bragda and Shannon wore very lavish dresses with bustles and hoop skirts, and their best slippers, made out of silk and very delicate. Eire, on the other hand, wore a plain gown and plain, sensible shoes. The King announced the contest to the spectators and the women affected surprise so as not to let on that the King himself had cheated.
The King dropped his kerchief, and the race began. The women began by walking sedately, chatting gaily. When the gate came into sight, however, Bragda and Shannon started running as best they could in those flimsy scraps of cloth masquerading as shoes, both desperate to win. Eire walked on calmly, trying hard not to laugh aloud at the picture the other two made galumphing along clumsily. If they attempted to run normally, they would either trip and fall face-first into the mud or list sideways into the moat trying to keep those ridiculous excuses for shoes on their feet.
Bragda and Shannon's husbands were the first to laugh aloud at their wives' ungainly appearance. They knew that despite their efforts to maintain an air of dignity, both women were extremely clumsy. Once the princes started chuckling, the other spectators couldn't contain themselves any longer. If they thought that was amusing, they had only to wait to witness a sight funnier than any since Shannon's husband had pulled a prank involving frogs and a dressing chamber on his mother as a boy.
As the women came within two hundred yards of the gate, Shannon's delicately embroidered slipper came off and she landed face-first in a puddle large enough to be called a shallow pond. To make matters even funnier, while Bragda was looking over her shoulder and laughing at Shannon, she tripped over a rock and tumbled into the moat! By this time, the princes were roaring with laughter and having trouble remaining upright. Upright posture was given up as a lost cause as they watched both women trying to struggle out of the predicaments they'd gotten themselves into.
By this time, Eire had drawn level with Shannon, who was trying to pull herself from the muddy confines of the miniature lake, each time becoming wetter, muddier, and more discouraged. Of course, this sent the spectators into further waves of hilarity. While the princes and other spectators were recovering from this latest turn of events. Eire caught up with Bragda, who was struggling futilely with a very large, very cantankerous turtle, which had latched onto the toe of her slipper and was determined not to release its hold at any cost. Eire had to stifle the urge to fall down in the mud and whoop with laughter at the ridiculousness of it all.
She finally reached the gate to be greeted by a crowd so doubled over with laughter that they couldn't declare her the winner for at least ten minutes, until the other two came stomping through the gate, very frustrated and looking decidedly murderous. Even then, with Shannon and Bragda in such a towering rage, it was hard not to laugh at the picture they presented, with Shannon missing a shoe and her once pristinely white dress completely brown with mud and Bragda still wrestling vainly with the irritable turtle, which eventually took two guards to remove and grapple back into the moat.
As the contest dictated, Eire's husband became the High King of the land after his father died. The country was called Eire's Land for a few generations, and then was shortened to Eireland. Then, finally, as has endured down the centuries, Ireland.