By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII | HTML | PDF ]

Look for this book on Amazon

We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: The King of Ireland's Son
Author: Colum, Padraic
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The King of Ireland's Son" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.


by Padraic Colum











Connal was the name of the King who ruled over Ireland at that time.
He had three sons, and, as the fir-trees grow, some crooked and some
straight, one of them grew up so wild that in the end the King and the
King’s Councillor had to let him have his own way in everything. This
youth was the King’s eldest son and his mother had died before she could
be a guide to him.

Now after the King and the King’s Councillor left him to his own way the
youth I’m telling you about did nothing but ride and hunt all day. Well,
one morning he rode abroad--

    His hound at his heel,
    His hawk on his wrist;
    A brave steed to carry him whither he list,
    And the blue sky over him,

and he rode on until he came to a turn in the road. There he saw a gray
old man seated on a heap of stones playing a game of cards with himself.
First he had one hand winning and then he had the other. Now he would
say “That’s my good right,” and then he would say “Play and beat that,
my gallant left.” The King of Ireland’s Son sat on his horse to watch
the strange old man, and as he watched him he sang a song to himself

    I put the fastenings on my boat
    For a year and for a day,
    And I went where the rowans grow,
    And where the moorhens lay;

    And I went over the stepping-stones
    And dipped my feet in the ford,
    And came at last to the Swineherd’s house,--
    The Youth without a Sword.

    A swallow sang upon his porch
    “Glu-ee, glu-ee, glu-ee,”
     “The wonder of all wandering,
    The wonder of the sea;”
     A swallow soon to leave ground sang
    “Glu-ee, glu-ee, glu-ee.”

“Prince,” said the old fellow looking up at him, “if you can play a game
as well as you can sing a song, I’d like if you would sit down beside

“I can play any game,” said the King of Ireland’s Son. He fastened his
horse to the branch of a tree and sat down on the heap of stones beside
the old man.

“What shall we play for?” said the gray old fellow.

“Whatever you like,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“If I win you must give me anything I ask, and if you win I shall give
you anything you ask. Will you agree to that?”

“If it is agreeable to you it is agreeable to me,” said the King of
Ireland’s Son.

They played, and the King of Ireland’s Son won the game. “Now what do
you desire me to give, King’s Son?” said the gray old fellow.

“I shan’t ask you for anything,” said the King of Ireland’s Son, “for I
think you haven’t much to give.”

“Never mind that,” said the gray old fellow. “I mustn’t break my
promise, and so you must ask me for something.”

“Very well,” said the King’s Son. “Then there’s a field at the back of
my father’s Castle and I want to see it filled with cattle to-morrow
morning. Can you do that for me?”

“I can,” said the gray old fellow.

“Then I want fifty cows, each one white with a red ear, and a white calf
going beside each cow.”

“The cattle shall be as you wish.”

“Well, when that’s done I shall think the wager has been paid,” said the
King of Ireland’s son. He mounted his horse, smiling at the foolish
old man who played cards with himself and who thought he could bring
together fifty white kine, each with a red ear, and a white calf by the
side of each cow. He rode away

   His hound at his heel,
   His hawk on his wrist;
   A brave steed to carry him whither he list,
   And the green ground under him,

and he thought no more of the gray old fellow.

But in the morning, when he was taking his horse out of the stable,
he heard the grooms talking about a strange happening. Art, the King’s
Steward, had gone out and had found the field at the back of the Castle
filled with cattle. There were fifty white red-eared kine there and each
cow had a white calf at her side. The King had ordered Art, his Steward,
to drive them away. The King of Ireland’s Son watched Art and his men
trying to do it. But no sooner were the strange cattle put out at one
side of the field than they came back on the other. Then down came
Maravaun, the King’s Councillor. He declared they were enchanted cattle,
and that no one on Ireland’s ground could put them away. So in the
seven-acre field the cattle stayed.

When the King of Ireland’s Son saw what his companion of yesterday could
do he rode straight to the glen to try if he could have another game
with him. There at the turn of the road, on a heap of stones, the gray
old fellow was sitting playing a game of cards, the right hand against
the left. The King of Ireland’s Son fastened his horse to the branch of
a tree and dismounted.

“Did you find yesterday’s wager settled?” said the gray old fellow.

“I did,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“Then shall we have another game of cards on the same understanding?”
 said the gray old fellow.

“I agree, if you agree,” said the King of Ireland’s son. He sat under
the bush beside him and they played again. The King of Ireland’s Son

“What would you like me to do for you this time?” said the gray old

Now the King’s Son had a step-mother, and she was often cross-tempered,
and that very morning he and she had vexed each other. So he said, “Let
a brown bear, holding a burning coal in his mouth, put Caintigern the
Queen from her chair in the supper-room to-night.”

“It shall be done,” said the gray old fellow.

Then the King of Ireland’s Son mounted his horse and rode away

  His hound at his heel,
  His hawk on his wrist;
  A brave steed to carry him whither he list,
  And the green ground under him,

and he went back to the Castle. That night a brown bear, holding a
burning coal in his mouth, came into the supper-room and stood between
Caintigern the Queen and the chair that belonged to her. None of the
servants could drive it away, and when Maravaun, the King’s Councillor,
came he said, “This is an enchanted creature also, and it is best for us
to leave it alone.” So the whole company went and left the brown bear in
the supper-room seated ‘in the Queen’s chair.


The next morning when he wakened the King’s Son said, “That was a
wonderful thing that happened last night in the supper-room. I must go
off and play a third game with the gray old fellow who sits on a heap of
stones at the turn of the road.” So, in the morning early he mounted and
rode away

  His hound at his heel,
  His hawk on his wrist;
  A brave steed to carry him whither he list,
  And the green ground under him,

and he rode on until he came to the turn in the road. Sure enough the
old gray fellow was there. “So you’ve come to me again, King’s Son,”
 said he. “I have,” said the King of Ireland’s Son, “and I’ll play a last
game with you on the same understanding as before.” He tied his horse to
the branch and sat down on the heap of stones. They played. The King of
Ireland’s Son lost the game. Immediately the gray old fellow threw
the cards down on the stones and a wind came up and carried them away.
Standing up he was terribly tall.

“King’s Son,” said he, “I am your father’s enemy and I have done him an
injury. And to the Queen who is your father’s wife I have done an injury
too. You have lost the game and now you must take the penalty I put upon
you. You must find out my dwelling-place and take three hairs out of my
beard within a year and a day, or else lose your head.”

With that he took the King of Ireland’s Son by the shoulders and lifted
him on his horse, turning the horse in the direction of the King’s
Castle. The King’s Son rode on

  His hound at his heel,
  His hawk on his wrist;
  A brave steed to carry him whither he list,
  And the blue sky over him.

That evening the King noticed that his son was greatly troubled. And
when he lay down to sleep everyone in the Castle heard his groans and
his moans. The next day he told his father the story from beginning to
end. The King sent for Maravaun his Councillor and asked him if he knew
who the Enchanter was and where his son would be likely to find him.

“From what he said,” said Maravaun, “we may guess who he is. He is the
Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands and his dwelling-place is hard to
find. Nevertheless your son must seek for him and take the three hairs
out of his beard or else lose his head. For if the heir to your kingdom
does not honorably pay his forfeit, the ground of Ireland won’t give
crops and the cattle won’t give milk.” “And,” said the Councillor, “as a
year is little for his search, he should start off at once, although I’m
bound to say, that I don’t know what direction he should go in.”

The next day the King’s Son said good-by to his father and his
foster-brothers and started off on his journey. His step-mother would
not give him her blessing on account of his having brought in the brown
bear that turned her from her chair in the supper-room. Nor would she
let him have the good horse he always rode. Instead the Prince was given
a horse that was lame in a leg and short in the tail. And neither hawk
nor hound went with him this time.

All day the King’s Son was going, traveling through wood and waste until
the coming on of night. The little fluttering birds were going from the
bush tops, from tuft to tuft, and to the briar-roots, going to rest; but
if they were, he was not, till the night came on, blind and dark. Then
the King’s Son ate his bread and meat, put his satchel under his head
and lay down to take his rest on the edge of a great waste.

In the morning he mounted his horse and rode on. And as he went across
the waste he saw an extraordinary sight--everywhere were the bodies of
dead creatures--a cock, a wren, a mouse, a weasel, a fox, a badger, a
raven---all the birds and beasts that the King’s Son had ever known. He
went on, but he saw no living creature before him. And then, at the end
of the waste he came upon two living creatures struggling. One was an
eagle and the other was an eel. And the eel had twisted itself round the
eagle, and the eagle had covered her eyes with the black films of death.
The King’s Son jumped off his horse and cut the eel in two with a sharp
stroke of his sword.

The eagle drew the films from her eyes and looked full at the King’s
Son. “I am Laheen the Eagle,” she said, “and I will pay you for this
service, Son of King Connal. Know that there has been a battle of the
creatures--a battle to decide which of the creatures will make laws for
a year. All were killed except the eel and myself, and if you had not
come I would have been killed and the eel would have made the laws. I am
Laheen the Eagle and always I will be your friend. And now you must tell
me how I can serve you.”

“You can serve me,” said the King’s Son, “by showing me how I may come
to the dominion of the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands.”

“I am the only creature who can show you, King’s Son. And if I were not
old now I would carry you there on my back. But I can tell you how you
can get there. Ride forward for a day, first with the sun before you and
then with the sun at your back, until you come to the shore of a lake.
Stay there until you see three swans flying down. They are the three
daughters of the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands. Mark the one who
carries a green scarf in her mouth. She is the youngest daughter and
the one who can help you. When the swans come to the ground they will
transform themselves into maidens and bathe in the lake. Two will come
out, put on their swanskins and transform themselves and fly away. But
you must hide the swanskin that belongs to the youngest maiden. She will
search and search and when she cannot find it she will cry out, ‘I would
do anything in the world for the creature who would find my swanskin for
me.’ Give the swanskin to her then, and tell her that the only thing she
can do for you is to show you the way to her father’s dominion. She will
do that, and so you will come to the House of the Enchanter of the Black
Back-Lands. And now farewell to you, Son of King Connal.”

Laheen the Eagle spread out her wings and flew away, and the King’s Son
journeyed on, first with the sun before him and then with the sun at
his back, until he came to the shore of a wide lake. He turned his horse
away, rested himself on the ground, and as soon as the clear day came he
began to watch for the three swans.


They came, they flew down, and when they touched the ground they
transformed themselves into three maidens and went to bathe in the lake.
The one who carried the green scarf left her swanskin under a bush. The
King’s Son took it and hid it in a hollow tree.

Two of the maidens soon came out of the water, put on their swanskins
and flew away as swans. The younger maiden stayed for a while in the
lake. Then she came out and began to search for her swanskin. She
searched and searched, and at last the King’s Son heard her say, “I
would do anything in the world for the creature who would find my
swanskin for me.” Then he came from where he was hiding and gave her the
swanskin. “I am the Son of the King of Ireland,” he said, “and I want
you to show me the way to your father’s dominion.”

“I would prefer to do anything else for you,” said the maiden. “I do not
want anything else,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“If I show you how to get there will you be content?”

“I shall be content.”

“You must never let my father know that I showed you the way. And he
must not know when you come that you are the King of Ireland’s Son.”

“I will not tell him you showed me the way and I will not let him know
who I am.”

Now that she had the swanskin she was able to transform herself. She
whistled and a blue falcon came down and perched on a tree. “That falcon
is my own bird,” said she. “Follow where it flies and you will come to
my father’s house. And now good-by to you. You will be in danger, but
I will try to help you. Fedelma is my name.” She rose up as a swan and
flew away.

The blue falcon went flying from bush to bush and from rock to rock.
The night came, but in the morning the blue falcon was seen again. The
King’s Son followed, and at last he saw a house before him. He went in,
and there, seated on a chair of gold was the man who seemed so tall when
he threw down the cards upon the heap of stones. The Enchanter did not
recognize the King’s Son without his hawk and his hound and the fine
clothes he used to wear. He asked who he was and the King’s Son said he
was a youth who had just finished an apprenticeship to a wizard. “And,”
 said he, “I have heard that you have three fair daughters, and I came to
strive to gain one of them for a wife.”

“In that case,” said the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands, “you will
have to do three tasks for me. If you are able to do them I will give
you one of my three daughters in marriage. If you fail to do any one of
them you will lose your head. Are you willing to make the trial?”

“I am willing,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“Then I shall give you your first task to-morrow. It is unlucky that you
came to-day. In this country we eat a meal only once a week, and we have
had our meal this morning.”

“It is all the same to me,” said the King’s Son, “I can do without food
or drink for a month without any hardship.”

“I suppose you can do without sleep too?” said the Enchanter of the
Black Back-Lands.

“Easily,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“That is good. Come outside now, and I’ll show you your bed.” He took
the King’s Son outside and showed him a dry narrow water-tank at the
gable end of the house. “There is where you are to sleep” said the
Enchanter. “Tuck yourself into it now and be ready for your first task
at the rising of the sun.”

The King of Ireland’s Son went into the little tank. He was
uncomfortable there you may be sure. But in the middle of the night
Fedelma came and brought him into a fine room where he ate and then
slept until the sun was about to rise in the morning. She called him and
he went outside and laid himself down in the water-tank.

As soon as the sun rose the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands came out
of the house and stood beside the water-tank. “Come now,” said he, “and
I will show you the first task you have to perform.” He took him to
where a herd of goats was grazing. Away from the goats was a fawn with
white feet and little bright horns. The fawn saw them, bounded into the
air, and raced away to the wood as quickly as any arrow that a man ever
shot from a bow.

“That is Whitefoot the Fawn,” said the Enchanter of the Black
Back-Lands. “She grazes with my goats but none of my gillies can bring
her into my goat-house. Here is your first task--run down Whitefoot the
Fawn and bring her with my goats into the goat-shelter this evening.”
 When he said that the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands went away
laughing to himself.

“Good-by, my life,” said the King of Ireland’s Son, “I might as well try
to catch an eagle on the wing as to run down the deer that has gone out
of sight already.” He sat down on the ground and his despair was great.
Then his name was called and he saw Fedelma coming towards him. She
looked at him as though she were in dread, and said, “What task has my
father set you?” He told her and then she smiled. “I was in dread it
would be a more terrible task,” she said. “This one is easy. I can help
you to catch Whitefoot the Fawn. But first eat what I have brought you.”

She put down bread and meat and wine, and they sat down and he ate
and drank. “I thought he might set you this task,” she said, “and so I
brought you something from my father’s store of enchanted things. Here
are the Shoes of Swiftness. With these on your feet you can run down
Whitefoot the Fawn. But you must catch her before she has gone very far
away. Remember that she must be brought in when the goats are going into
their shelter at sunset. You will have to walk back for all the time you
must keep hold of her silver horns. Hasten now. Run her down with the
Shoes of Swiftness and then lay hold of her horns. Above all things
Whitefoot dreads the loss of her silver horns.”

He thanked Fedelma. He put on the Shoes of Swiftness and went into the
wood. Now he could go as the eagle flies. He found Whitefoot the Fawn
drinking at the Raven’s pool.

When she saw him she went from thicket to thicket. The Shoes of
Swiftness were hardly any use to him in these shut-in places. At last he
beat her from the last thicket. It was the hour of noon-tide then. There
was a clear plain before them and with the Shoes of Swiftness he ran her
down. There were tears in the Fawn’s eyes and he knew she was troubled
with the dread of losing her silver horns.

He kept his hands on the horns and they went back over miles of plain
and pasture, bog and wood. The hours were going quicker than they were
going. When ‘he came within the domain of the Enchanter of the Black
Back-Lands he saw the goats going quickly before him. They were hurrying
from their pastures to the goat-shelter, one stopping, maybe, to bite
the top of a hedge and another giving this one a blow with her horns to
hurry her on. “By your silver horns, we must go faster,” said the King
of Ireland’s Son to the Fawn. They went more quickly then.

He saw the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands waiting at the goat-house,
now counting the goats that came along and now looking at the sun. When
he saw the King of Ireland’s Son coming with his capture he was so angry
that he struck an old full-bearded goat that had stopped to rub itself.
The goat reared up and struck him with his horns. “Well,” said the
Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands, “you have performed your first task,
I see. You are a greater enchanter than I thought you were.
Whitefoot the Fawn can go in with my goats. Go back now to your own
sleeping-place. To-morrow I’ll come to you early and give you your
second task.”

The King of Ireland’s Son went back and into the dry water-tank. He was
tired with his day’s journey after Whitefoot the Fawn. It was his hope
that Fedelma would come to him and give him shelter for that night.


Until the white moon rose above the trees; until the hounds went out
hunting for themselves; until the foxes came down and hid in the hedges,
waiting for the cocks and hens to stir out at the first light--so long
did the King of Ireland’s Son stay huddled in the dry water-tank.

By that time he was stiff and sore and hungry. He saw a great white owl
flying towards the tank. The owl perched on the edge and stared at the
King’s Son. “Have you a message for me?” he asked. The owl shrugged with
its wings three times. He thought that meant a message. He got out of
the tank and prepared to follow the owl. It flew slowly and near the
ground, so he was able to follow it along a path through the wood.

The King’s Son thought the owl was bringing him to a place where Fedelma
was, and that he would get food there, and shelter for the rest of the
night. And sure enough the owl flew to a little house in the wood. The
King’s Son looked through the window and he saw a room lighted with
candles and a table with plates and dishes and cups, with bread and meat
and wine. And he saw at the fire a young woman spinning at a spinning
wheel, and her back was towards him, and her hair was the same as
Fedelma’s. Then he lifted the latch of the door and went very joyfully
into the little house.

But when the young woman at the spinning wheel turned round he saw that
she was not Fedelma at all. She had a little mouth, a long and a hooked
nose, and her eyes looked cross-ways at a person. The thread she was
spinning she bit with her long teeth, and she said, “You are welcome
here, Prince.”

“And who are you?” said the King of Ireland’s Son. “Aefa is my name,”
 said she, “I am the eldest and the wisest daughter of the Enchanter of
the Black Back-lands. My father is preparing a task for you,” said she,
“and it will be a terrible task, and there will be no one to help you
with it, so you will lose your head surely. And what I would advise you
to do is to escape out of this country at once.”

“And how can I escape?” said the King of Ireland’s Son, “There’s only
one way to escape,” said she, “and that is for you to take the Slight
Red Steed that my father has secured under nine locks. That steed is the
only creature that can bring you to your own country. I will show you
how to get it and then I will ride to your home with you.”

“And why should you do that?” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“Because I would marry you,” said Aefa.

“But,” said he, “if I live at all Fedelma is the one I will marry.”

No sooner did he say the words than Aefa screamed out, “Seize him,
my cat-o’-the-mountain. Seize him and hold him.” Then the
cat-o’-the-mountain that was under the table sprang across the room and
fixed himself on his shoulder. He ran out of the house. All the time he
was running the cat-o’-the-mountain was trying to tear his eyes out. He
made his way through woods and thickets, and mighty glad he was when
he saw the tank at the gable-end of the house. The cat-’o-the-mountain
dropped from his back then. He got into the tank and waited and waited.
No message came from Fedelma. He was a long time there, stiff and
sore and hungry, before the sun rose and the Enchanter of the Black
Back-Lands came out of the house.


“I hope you had a good night’s rest,” said the Enchanter of the Black
Back-Lands, when he came to where the King of Ireland’s Son was
crouched, just at the rising of the sun. “I had indeed,” said the King’s
Son. “And I suppose you feel fit for another task,” said the Enchanter
of the Black Back-Lands. “More fit than ever in my life before,” said
the King of Ireland’s Son.

The Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands took him past the goat-house
and to where there was an open shelter for his bee-hives. “I want this
shelter thatched,” said he, “and I want to have it thatched with the
feathers of birds. Go,” said he, “and get enough feathers of wild birds
and come back and thatch the bee-hive shelter for me, and let it be done
before the set of sun.” He gave the King’s Son arrows and a bow and
a bag to put the feathers in, and advised him to search the moor for
birds. Then he went back to the house.

The King of Ireland’s Son ran to the moor and watched for birds to fly
across. At last one came. He shot at it with an arrow but did not bring
it down. He hunted the moor all over but found no other bird. He hoped
that he would see Fedelma before his head was taken off.

Then he heard his name called and he saw Fedelma coming towards him. She
looked at him as before with dread in thier eyes and asked him what task
her father had set him. “A terrible task,” he said, and he told her
what it was. Fedelma laughed. “I was in dread he would give you another
task,” she said. “I can help you with this one. Sit down now and eat and
drink from what I have brought you.”

He sat down and ate and drank and he felt hopeful seeing Fedelma beside
him. When he had eaten Fedelma said, “My blue falcon will gather the
birds and pull the feathers off for you. Still, unless you gather them
quickly there is danger, for the roof must be thatched with feathers at
the set of sun.” She whistled and her blue falcon came. He followed
it across the moor. The blue falcon flew up in the air and gave a
bird-call. Birds gathered and she swooped amongst them pulling feathers
off their backs and out of their wings. Soon there was a heap of
feathers on the ground--pigeons’ feathers and pie’s feathers, crane’s
and crow’s, blackbird’s and starling’s. The King of Ireland’s Son
quickly gathered them into his bag. The falcon flew to another place and
gave her bird-call again. The birds gathered, and she went amongst
them, plucking their feathers. The King’s Son gathered them and the blue
falcon flew to another place. Over and over again the blue falcon called
to the birds and plucked out their feathers, and over and over again the
King’s Son gathered them into his bag. When he thought he had feathers
enough to thatch the roof he ran back to the shelter. He began the
thatching, binding the feathers down with little willow rods. He had
just finished when the sun went down. The old Enchanter came up and
when he saw what the King’s Son had done he was greatly surprised. “You
surely learned from the wizard you were apprenticed to,” said he.. “But
to-morrow I will try you with another task. Go now and sleep in the
place where you were last night.” The King’s Son, glad that the head was
still on his shoulders, went and lay down in the water-tank.


Until the white moon went out in the sky; until the Secret People began
to whisper in the woods--so long did the King of Ireland’s Son remain in
the dry water-tank that night.

And then, when it was neither dark nor light, he saw a crane flying
towards him. It lighted on the edge of the tank. “Have you a message for
me?” said the King of Ireland’s Son. The crane tapped three times with
its beak. Then the King’s Son got out of the tank and prepared to follow
the bird-messenger.

This was the way the crane went. It would fly a little way and then
light on the ground until the Prince came up to it. Then it would fly
again. Over marshes and across little streams the crane led him. And all
the time the King of Ireland’s Son thought he was being brought to the
place where Fedelma was--to the place where he would get food and where
he could rest until just before the sun rose.

They went on and on till they came to an old tower. The crane lighted
upon it. The King’s Son saw there was an iron door in the tower and he
pulled a chain until it opened. Then he saw a little room lighted with
candles, and he saw a young woman looking at herself in the glass. Her
back was towards him and her hair was the same as Fedelma’s.

But when the young woman turned round he saw she was not Fedelma. She
was little, and she had a face that was brown and tight like a nut. She
made herself very friendly to the King of Ireland’s Son and went to him
and took his hands and smiled into his face.

“You are welcome here,” said she.

“Who are you?” he asked. “I am Gilveen,” said she, “the second and
the most loving of the three daughters of the Enchanter of the Black
Back-Lands.” She stroked his face and his hands when she spoke to him.

“And why did you send for me?”

“Because I know what great trouble you are in. My father is preparing a
task for you, and it will be a terrible one. You will never be able to
carry it out.”

“And what should you advise me to do, King’s daughter?”

“Let me help you. In this tower,” said she, “there are the wisest books
in the world. We’ll surely find in one of them a way for you to get from
this country. And then I’ll go back with you to your own land.”

“Why would you do that?” asked the King of Ire-land’s Son.

“Because I wish to be your wife,” Gilveen said.

“But,” said he, “if I live at all Fedelma is the one I’ll marry.”

When he said that Gilveen drew her lips together and her chin became
like a horn. Then she whistled through her teeth, and instantly
everything in the room began to attack the King’s Son. The looking glass
on the wall flung itself at him and hit him on the back of the head. The
leg of the table gave him a terrible blow at the back of the knees. He
saw the two candles hopping across the floor to burn his legs. He ran
out of the room, and when he got to the door it swung around and gave
him a blow that flung him away from the tower. The crane that was
waiting on the tower flew down, its neck and beak outstretched, and gave
him a blow on the back.

So the King of Ireland’s Son went back over the marshes and across the
little streams, and he was glad when he saw the gable-end of the house
again. Je went into the tank. He knew that he had not long to wait
before the sun would rise and the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands
would come to him and give him the third and the most difficult of the
three tasks. And he thought that Fedelma was surely shut away from him
and that she would not be able to help him that day.


At the rising of the sun the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands came to
where the King of Ireland’s Son was huddled and said, “I am now going to
set you the third and last task. Rise up now and come with me.”

The King’s Son came out of the water-tank and fol-lowed the Enchanter.
They went to where there was a well. The King’s Son looked down and he
could not see the bottom, so deep the well was. “At the bottom,” said
the Enchanter “is the Ring of Youth. You must get it and bring it to me,
or else you must lose your head at the setting of that sun.” That was
all he said. He turned then and went away.

The King’s Son looked into the well and he saw no way of getting down
its deep smooth sides. He walked back towards the Castle. On his way he
met Fedelma, and she looked at him with deep dread in her eyes. “What
task did my father set you to-day?” said she. “He bids me go down into
a well,” said the King’s Son. “A well!” said Fedelma, and she became all
dread. “I have to take the Ring of Youth from the bot-tom and bring it
to him,” said the King’s Son. “Oh,” said Fedelma,’”he has set you the
task I dreaded.”

Then she said, “You will lose your life if the Ring of Youth is not
taken out of the well. And if you lose yours I shall lose my life too.
There is one way to get down the sides of the well. You must kill me.
Take my bones and make them as steps while you go down the sides. Then,
when you have taken the Ring of Youth out of the water, put my bones
as they were before, and put the Ring above my heart. I shall be alive
again. But you must be careful that you leave every bone as it was.”

The King’s Son fell into a deeper dread than Fedelma when he heard what
she said. “This can never be,” he cried. “It must be,” said she, “and by
all your vows and promises I command that you do it. Kill me now and do
as I have bidden you. If it be done I shall live. If it be not done you
will lose your life and I will never regain mine.”

He killed her. He took the bones as she had bidden him, and he made
steps down the sides of the well. He searched at the bottom, and he
found the Ring of Youth. He brought the bones together again. Down on
his knees he went, and his heart did not beat nor did his breath come or
go until he had fixed them in their places. Over the heart he placed the
Ring. Life came back to Fedelma.

“You have done well,” she said. “One thing only is not in its place--the
joint of my little finger.” She held up her hand and he saw that her
little finger was bent.

“I have helped you in everything,” said Fedelma, “and in the last task
I could not have helped you if you had not been true to me when Aefa and
Gilveen brought you to them. Now the three tasks are done, and you can
ask my father for one of his daughters in marriage. When you bring him
the Ring of Youth he will ask you to make a choice. I pray that the one
chosen will be myself.”

“None other will I have but you, Fedelma, love of my heart,” said the
King of Ireland’s Son.


The King of Ireland’s Son went into the house before the setting of the
sun. The Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands was seated on his chair of
gold. “Have you brought me the Ring of Youth?” he asked.

“I have brought it,” said the King’s Son.

“Give it to me then,” said the Enchanter.

“I will not,” said the King’s Son, “until you give what you promised me
at the end of my tasks--one of your three daughters for my wife.”

The Enchanter brought him to a closed door. “My three daughters are
within that room,” said he. “Put your hand through the hole in the door,
and the one whose hand you hold when I open it--it is she you will have
to marry.”

Then wasn’t the mind of the King’s Son greatly troubled? If he held the
hand of Aefa or Gilveen he would lose his love Fedelma. He stood without
putting out his hand. “Put your hand through the hole of the door or
go away from my house altogether,” said the Enchanter of the Black

The King of Ireland’s Son ventured to put his hand through the hole in
the door. The hands of the maidens inside were all held in a bunch. But
no sooner did he touch them than he found that one had a broken finger.
This he knew was Fedelma’s hand, and this was the hand he held.

“You may open the door now,” said he to the Enchanter. He opened the
door and the King of Ireland’s Son drew Fedelma to him. “This is the
maiden I choose,” said he, “and now give her her dowry.”

“The dowry that should go with me,” said Fedelma, “is the Slight
Red Steed.” “What dowry do you want with her, young man?” said the

“No other dowry but the Slight Red Steed.”

“Go round to the stable then and get it. And I hope no well-trained
wizard like you will come this way again.”

“No well-trained wizard am I, but the King of Ire-land’s Son. And I have
found your dwelling-place within a year and a day. And now I pluck the
three hairs out of your heard, Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands.”

The beard of the Enchanter bristled like spikes on a hedgehog, and the
balls of his eyes stuck out of his head. The King’s Son plucked the
three hairs of his beard before he could lift a hand or say a word.
“Mount the Slight Red Steed and be off, the two of you,” said the

The King of Ireland’s Son and Fedelma mounted the Slight Red Steed
and rode off, and the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands, and his two
daughters, Aefa and Gilveen, in a rage watched them ride away.


They crossed the River of the Ox, and went over the Mountain of the Fox
and were in the Glen of the Badger before the sun rose. And there, at
the foot of the Hill of Horns, they found an old man gathering dew from
the grass.

“Could you tell us where we might find the Little Sage of the Mountain?”
 Fedelma asked the old man.

“I am the Little Sage of the Mountain,” said he, “and what is it you
want of me?”

“To betroth us for marriage,” said Fedelma.

“I will do that. Come to my house, the pair of you. And as you are both
young and better able to walk than I am it would be fitting to let me
ride on your horse.”

The King’s Son and Fedelma got off and the Little Sage of the Mountain
got on the Slight Red Steed. They took the path that went round the Hill
of Horns. And at the other side of the hill they found a hut thatched
with one great wing of a bird. The Little Sage got off the Slight Red
Steed. “Now,” said he, “you’re both young, and I’m an old man and it
would be fitting for you to do my day’s work before you call upon me to
do anything for you. Now would you,” said he to the King of Ireland’s
Son, “take this spade in your hand and go into the garden and dig my
potatoes for me? And would you,” said he to Fedelma, “sit down at the
quern-stone and grind the wheat for me?”

The King of Ireland’s Son went into the garden and Fedelma sat at the
quern-stone that was just outside the door; he dug and she ground
while the Little Sage sat at the fire looking into a big book. And when
Fedelma and the King’s Son were tired with their labor he gave them a
drink of buttermilk.

She made cakes out of the wheat she had ground and the King’s Son washed
the potatoes and the Little Sage boiled them and so they made their
supper. Then the Little Sage of the Mountain melted lead and made two
rings; and one ring he gave to Fedelma to give to the King’s Son and one
he gave to the King’s Son to give to Fedelma. And when the rings were
given he said, “You are betrothed for your marriage now.”

They stayed with the Little Sage of the Mountain that night, and when
the sun rose they left the house that was thatched with the great wing
of a bird and they turned towards the Meadow of Brightness and the Wood
of Shadows that were between them and the King of Ireland’s domain. They
rode on the Slight Red Steed, and the Little Sage of the Mountain went
with them a part of the way. He seemed downcast and when they asked him
the reason he said, “I see dividing ways and far journeys for you both.”
 “But how can that be,” said the King’s Son, “when, in a little while we
will win to my father’s domain?” “It may be I am wrong,” said the Little
Sage, “and if I am not, remember that devotion brings together dividing
ways and that high hearts win to the end of every journey.” He bade
them good-by then, and turned back to his hut that was thatched with the
great wing of a bird.

They rode across the Meadow of Brightness and Fedelma’s blue falcon
sailed above them. “Yonder is a field of white flowers,” said she, “and
while we are crossing it you must tell me a story.”

“I know by heart,” said the King’s Son, “only the stories that Maravaun,
my father’s Councillor, has put into the book he is composing--the book
that is called ‘The Breastplate of Instruction.’”

“Then,” said Fedelma, “tell me a story from ‘The Breastplate of
Instruction,’ while we are crossing this field of white flowers.”

“I will tell you the first story that is in it,” said the King’s Son.
Then while they were crossing the field of white flowers the King’s Son
told Fedelma the story of

The Ass and the Seal


A seal that had spent a curious fore-noon paddling around the island
of Ilaun-Beg drew itself up on a rock the better to carry on its
investigations. It was now within five yards of the actual island. On
the little beach there were three curraghs in which the island-men went
over the sea; they were turned bottom up and heavy stones were placed
upon them to prevent their being carried away by the high winds. The
seal noted them as he rested upon the flat rock. He noted too a little
ass that was standing beyond the curraghs, sheltering himself where the
cliffs hollowed in.

Now this ass was as curious as the seal, and when he saw the smooth
creature that was moving its head about with such intelligence he came
down to the water’s edge. Two of his legs were spancelled with a piece
of straw rope, but being used to such impediment he came over without
any awkwardness. He looked inquiringly at the seal.

The gray-headed crow of the cliff lighted on a spar of rock and made
herself an interpreter between the two. “Shaggy beast of the Island,”
 said the seal, “friend and follower of men, tell me about their fabulous

“Do you mean the hay-getters?” said the ass.

“You know well whom he means,” said the gray-headed crow viciously.
“Answer him now.”

“You gravell me entirely when you ask about men,” said the ass. “I don’t
know much about them. They live to themselves and I live to myself.
Their houses are full of smoke and it blinds my eyes to go in. There
used to be green fields here and high grass that became hay, but there’s
nothing like that now. I think men have given up eating what grows out
of the ground. I see nothing, I smell nothing, but fish, fish, fish.”

The gray-headed crow had a vicious eye fixed on the ass all the time he
was speaking. “You’re saying all that,” said she, “because they let the
little horse stay all night in the house and beat you out of it.”

“My friend,” said the seal, “it is evident that men deceive you by
appearances. I know men. I have followed their boats and have
listened to the wonderful sounds they make with their voices and with
instruments. Do they not draw fish out of the depths by enchantments? Do
they not build their habitations with music? Do they not draw the moon
out of the sea and set it for a light in their houses? And is it not
known that the fairest daughters of the sea have loved men?”

“When I’m awake long o’ moonlit nights I feel like that myself,” said
the ass. Then the recollections of these long, frosty nights made him
yawn. Then he brayed.

“What it is to live near men,” said the seal in admiration. “What
wonderful sounds!”

“I’d cross the water and rub noses with you,” said the ass, “only I’m
afraid of crocodiles.”

“Crocodiles?” said the gray-headed crow.

“Yes,” said the ass. “It’s because I’m of a very old family, you know.
They were Egyptians. My people never liked to cross water in their own
country. There were crocodiles there.”

“I don’t want to waste any more time listening to nonsense,” said the
gray-headed crow. She flew to the ass’s back and plucked out some of the
felt. “I’ll take this for my own habitation,” she said, and flew back to
the cliff.

The ass would have kicked up his heels only two of his legs were
fastened with the straw rope. He turned away, and without a word of
farewell to the seal went scrambling up the bank of the island.

The seal stayed for a while moving his head about intelligently. Then
he slipped into the water and paddled off. “One feels their lives in
music,” he said; “great tones vibrate round the island where men live.
It is very wonderful.”

“That,” said the King’s Son, “is the first story in ‘The Breastplate of
Instruction,’--‘The Ass and the Seal.’ And now you must tell me a story
while we are crossing the field of blue flowers.”

“Then it will be a very little story,” said Fedelma. They crossed a
little field of blue flowers, and Fedelma told

The Sending of the Crystal Egg


The Kings of Murias heard that King Atlas had to bear The world upon his
back, so they sent him then and there The Crystal Egg that would be
the Swan of Endless Tales That his burthen for a while might lie on his
shoulder-scales Fair-balanced while he heard the Tales the Swan poured
forth--North-world Tales for the while he watched the Star of the North;
And East-world Tales he would hear in the morning swart and cool, When
the Lions Nimrod had spared came up from the drinking pool; West-world
Tales for the King when he turned him with the sun; Then whispers of
magic Tales from Africa, his own.

But the Kings of Murias made the Crane their messenger--The fitful Crane
whose thoughts are always frightening her She slipped from Islet to
Isle, she sloped from Foreland to Coast; She passed through cracks in
the mountains and came over trees like a ghost; And then fled back in
dismay when she saw on the hollow plains The final battle between the
Pigmies and the Cranes.

Where is the Crystal Egg that was sent King Atlas then? Hatched it will
be one day and the Tales will be told to men: That is if it be not laid
in some King’s old Treasury: That is if the fitful Crane did not lose it
threading the Sea!

They were not long going through the little field of blue flowers, and
when they went through it they came to another field of white flowers.
Fedelma asked the King’s Son to tell her another story, and thereupon he
told her the second story in “The Breastplate of Instruction.”

The Story of the Young Cuckoo


The young cuckoo made desperate attempts to get himself through the
narrow opening in the hollow tree. He screamed when he failed to get

His foster-parents had remained so long beside him that they were wasted
and sad while the other birds, their broods reared, were vigorous and
joyful. They heard the one that had been reared in their nest, the young
cuckoo, scream, but this time they did not fly towards him. The young
cuckoo screamed again, but there was something in that scream that
reminded the foster-parents of hawks. They flew away. They were
miserable in their flight, these birds, for they knew they were
committing a treason.

They had built their nest in a hollow tree that had a little opening.
A cuckoo laid her egg on the ground and, carrying it in her beak, had
placed it in the nest. Their own young had been pushed out. They had
worn themselves to get provision for the terrible and fascinating
creature who had remained in their nest.

When the time came for him to make his flight he could not get his
body through the little opening. Yesterday he had begun to try. The two
foster-parents flew to him again and again with food. But now their own
nesting place had become strange to them. They would never go near it
again. The young cuckoo was forsaken.

A woodpecker ran round the tree. He looked into the hollow and saw the
big bird crumpled up.

“Hello,” said the woodpecker. “How did you get here?”

“Born here,” said the young cuckoo sulkily.

“Oh, were you?” said the woodpecker and he ran round the tree again.

When he came back to the opening the young cuckoo was standing up with
his mouth open.

“Feed me,” said he.

“I’ve to rush round frightfully to get something for myself,” said the

“At least, someone ought to bring me food,” said the young cuckoo.

“How is that?” said the woodpecker.

“Well, oughtn’t they to?” said the young cuckoo.

“I wouldn’t say so,” said the woodpecker, “you have the use of your
wits, haven’t you?” He ran round the trunk of the tree again and
devoured a lean grub. The young cuckoo struggled at the opening and
screamed again.

“Don’t be drawing too much attention to yourself,” advised the
woodpecker when he came to the opening again. “They might take you for a
young hawk, you know.”

“Who might?” said the cuckoo. “The neighbors. They would pull a young
hawk to pieces.”

“What am I to do?” said the young cuckoo.

“What’s in your nature to do?”

“My nature?” said the young cuckoo. “It’s my nature to swing myself on
branches high up in a tree. It’s my nature to spread out my wings and
fly over pleasant places. It is my nature to be alone. But not alone as
here. Alone with the sound of my own voice.” Suddenly he cried, “Cuckoo,
cuckoo, cuckoo!”

“I know you now,” said the woodpecker. “There’s going to be a storm,” he
said; “trust a woodpecker to know that.”

The young cuckoo strove towards the big sky again, and he screamed so
viciously that a rat that had just come out of the ditch fastened his
eyes on him. That creature looked bad to the young cuckoo. Rain plopped
on the leaves. Thunder crashed. A bolt struck the tree, and the part
above the opening was torn away.

The young cuckoo flung himself out on the grass and went awkwardly
amongst the blue bells. “What a world,” said he. “All this wet and fire
and noise to get me out of the nest. What a world!” The young cuckoo
was free, and these were the first words he said when he went into the

That was the last story the King’s Son told from Maravaun’s book, “The
Breastplate of Instruction.” They had another little field of blue
flowers to cross, and as they went across it Fedelma told the King’s Son



     The Cloud-woman, Mor, was the daughter
     Of Griann, the Sun,--well, and she
     Made a marriage to equal that grandeur,
     For her Goodman was Lir, the Sea.

     The Cloud-woman Mor, she had seven
     Strong sons, and the story-books say
     Their inches grew in the night-time,
     And grew over again in the day.

     The Cloud-woman Mor,--as they grew in
     Their bone, she grew in her pride,
     Till her haughtiness turned away, men say,
     Her goodman Lir from her side;

     Then she lived in Mor’s Home and she watched
     With pride her sons and her crop,
     Till one day the wish in her grew
     To view from the mountain-top
     All, all that she owned, so she
     Traveled without any stop.

     And what did she see? A thousand

     Fields and her own fields small, small!
     “What a fine and wide place is Eirinn,” said she,
     “I am Mor, but not great after all.”

     Then a herdsman came, and he told her
     That her sons had stolen away:
     They had left the calves in the hollow,
     With the goose-flock they would not stay:

     They had seen three ships on the sea
     And nothing would do them but go:
     Mor wept and wept when she heard it,
     And her tears made runnels below.

     Then her shining splendor departed:
     She went, and she left no trace,
     And the Cloud-woman, Mor, was never
     Beheld again in that place.

     The proud woman, Mor, who was daughter
     Of Griann, the Sun, and who made
     A marriage to equal that grandeur,
     Passed away as a shade.


And that was the last story that Fedelma told, for they had crossed the
Meadows of Brightness and had come to a nameless place--a stretch of
broken ground where there were black rocks and dead grass and bare roots
of trees with here and there a hawthorn tree in blossom. “I fear this
place. We must not halt here,” Fedelma said.

And then a flock of ravens came from the rocks, and flying straight
at them attacked Fedelma and the King of Ireland’s Son. The King’s Son
sprang from the steed and taking his sword in his hand he fought the
ravens until he drove them away. They rode on again. But now the ravens
flew back and attacked them again and the King of Ireland’s Son fought
them until his hands were wearied. He mounted the steed again, and they
rode swiftly on. And the ravens came the third time and attacked them
more fiercely than before. The King’s Son fought them until he had
killed all but three and until he was covered with their blood and

The three that had escaped flew away. “Oh, mount the Slight Red Steed
and let us ride fast,” said Fedelma to the King’s Son.

“I am filled with weariness,” he said. “Bid the steed stay by the rock,
lay my sword at my side, and let me sleep with my head on your lap.”

“I fear for us both if you slumber here,” said Fedelma.

“I must sleep, and I pray that you let me lay my head on your lap.”

“I know not what would awaken you if you slumber here.”

“I will awaken,” said the King’s Son, “but now I must sleep, and I would
slumber with my head on your lap.”

She got down from the Slight Red Steed and she bade it stay by a rock;
she put his sword by the place he would sleep and she took his head upon
her lap. The King’s Son slept.

As she watched over him a great fear grew in Fedelma. Every hour she
would say to him, “Are you near waking, my dear, my dear?” But no flush
of waking appeared on the face of the King of Ireland’s Son.

Then she saw a man coming across the nameless place, across the broken
ground, with its dead grass and black rocks and with its roots and
stumps of trees. The man who came near them was taller than any man she
had seen before--he was tall as a tree. Fedelma knew him from what she
had heard told about him--she knew him to be the King of the Land of

The King of the Land of Mist came straight to them. He stood before
Fedelma and he said, “I seek Fedelma, the daughter of the Enchanter of
the Black Back-Lands and the fairest woman within the seas of Eirinn.”

“Then go to her father’s house and seek Fedelma there,” said she to him.

“I have sought her there,” said the King of the Land of Mist, “but she
left her father’s house to go with the King of Ireland’s Son.”

“Then seek her in the Castle of the King of Ireland,” said Fedelma.

“That I will not. Fedelma is here, and Fedelma will come with me,” said
the King of the Land of Mist.

“I will not leave him with whom I am plighted,” said Fedelma.

Then the King of the Land of Mist took up the King of Ireland’s Son.
High he held him--higher than a tree grows. “I will dash him down on the
rocks and break the life within him,” said he.

“Do not so,” said Fedelma. “Tell me. If I go with you what would win me

“Nothing but the sword whose stroke would slay me--the Sword of Light,”
 said the King of the Land of Mist. He held up the King of Ireland’s Son
again, and again he was about to dash him against the rocks. The blue
falcon that was overhead flew down and settled on the rock behind her.
Fedelma knew that what she and the King of the Land of Mist would say
now would be carried some place and told to someone. “Leave my love, the
King’s Son, to his rest,” she said.

“If I do not break the life in him will you come with me, Fedelma?”

“I will go with you if you tell again what will win me back from you.”

“The Sword of Light whose stroke will slay me.”

“I will go with you if you swear by all your vows and promises not to
make me your wife nor your sweetheart for a year and a day.”

“I swear by all my vows and promises not to make you my wife nor my
sweetheart for a year and a day.”

“I will go with you if you let it be that I fall into a slumber that
will last for a year and a day.”

“I will let that be, fairest maid within the seas of Eirinn.”

“I will go with you if you will tell me what will take me out of that

“If one cuts a tress of your hair with a stroke of the Sword of Light it
will take you out of that slumber.”

The blue falcon that was behind heard what the King of the Land of
Mist said. She rose up and remained overhead with her wings outspread.
Fedelma took the ring off her own finger and put it on the finger of the
King of Ireland’s Son, and she wrote upon the ground in Ogham letters,
“The King of the Land of Mist.”

“If it be not you who wakens me, love,” she said, “may it be that I
never waken.”

“Come, daughter of the Enchanter,” said the King of the Land of Mist.

“Pluck the branch of hawthorn and give it to me that I may fall into my
slumber here,” said Fedelma.

The King of the Land of Mist plucked a flowering branch of hawthorn
and gave it to her. She held the flowers against her face and fell into
slumber. For a while she and the King of Ireland’s Son were side by side
in sleep.

Then the King of the Land of Mist took Fedelma in his arms and strode
along that nameless place, over the broken ground with its dead grass
and its black rocks and its stumps and roots of trees and the three
ravens that had escaped the sword of the King of Ire-land’s Son followed
where he went.


Long, long after Fedelma had been taken by the King of the Land of Mist
the King of Ireland’s Son came out of his slumber. He saw around him
that nameless place with its black rocks and bare roots of trees. He
remembered he had come to it with Fedelma. He sprang up and looked for
her, but no one was near him. “Fedelma, Fedelma!” He searched and he
called, but it was as if no one had ever been with him. He found his
sword; be searched for his steed, but the Slight Red Steed was gone too.

He thought that the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands had followed them
and had taken Fedelma from him. He turned to go towards the Enchanter’s
country and then he found what Fedelma had written upon the ground in
Ogham letters

____II_____________\/______//___        IIII       /\

“The King of the Land of Mist”

He did not know what direction to take to get to the dominion of the
King of the Land of Mist. He crossed the broken ground and he found no
trace of Fedelma nor of him who had taken her. He found himself close to
the Wood of Shadows. He went through it. As he went on he saw scores and
scores of shadows. Nothing else was in the wood--no bird, no squirrel,
no cricket. The shadows had the whole wood to themselves. They ran
swiftly from tree to tree, and now and then one would stop at a tree and
wait. Often the King of Ireland’s Son came close to a waiting shadow.
One became like a small old man with a beard. The King’s Son saw this
shadow again and again. What were they, the shadows, he asked himself?
Maybe they were wise creatures and could tell him what he wanted to

He thought he heard them whispering together. Then one little shadow
with trailing legs went slowly from tree to tree. The King of Ireland’s
Son thought he would catch and hold a shadow and make it tell him where
he should go to find the dominion of the King of the Land of Mist.

He went after one shadow and another and waited beside a tree for one to
come. Often he thought he saw the small old man with the beard and
the little creature with trailing legs. And then he began to see other
shadows--men with the heads of rooks and men with queer heavy swords
upon their shoulders. He followed them on and on through the wood and he
heard their whispering becoming louder and louder, and then he thought
that as he went on the shadows, instead of slipping before him, began to
turn back and go past and surround him. Then he heard a voice just under
the ground at his feet say, “Shout--shout out your own name, Son of King
Connal!” Then the King’s Son shouted out his own name and the whispers
ceased in the wood and the shadows went backward and forward no more.

He went on and came to a stream within the wood and he went against its
flow all night as well as all day, hoping to meet some living thing that
would tell him how he might come to the dominion of the King of the Land
of Mist. In the forenoon of another day he came to where the wood grew
thin and then he went past the last trees.

He saw a horse grazing: he ran up to it and found that it was the Slight
Red Steed that had carried Fedelma and himself from the house of the
Enchanter. Then as he laid hold of the steed a hound ran up to him and
a hawk flew down and he saw that they were the hawk and the hound that
used to be with him when he rode abroad from his father’s Castle.

He mounted and seeing his hound at his heel and his hawk circling above
he felt a longing to go back to his father’s Castle which he knew to be
near and where he might find out where the King of the Land of Mist had
his dominion.

So the King of Ireland’s Son rode back to his father’s Castle--

   His hound at his heel,
   His hawk on his wrist.



The King of Ireland’s Son was home again, but as he kept asking about a
King and a Kingdom no one had ever heard of, people thought he had lost
his wits in his search for the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands. He
rode abroad every day to ask strangers if they knew where the King of
the Land of Mist had his dominion and he came back to his father’s every
night in the hope that one would be at the Castle who could tell him
where the place that he sought was. Maravaun wanted to relate to him
fables from “The Breastplate of Instruction” but the King’s Son did not
hear a word that Maravaun said. After a while he listened to the things
that Art, the King’s Steward, related to him, for it was Art who had
shown the King’s Son the leaden ring that was on his finger. He took it
off, remembering the betrothal ring that the Little Sage had made, and
then he saw that it was not his, but Fedelma’s ring that he wore. Then
he felt as if Fedelma had sent a message to him, and he was less wild in
his thoughts.

Afterwards, in the evenings, when he came back from his ridings, he
would cross the meadows with Art, the King’s Steward, or would stand
with him while the herdsmen drove the cattle into the byres. Then he
would listen to what Art related to him. And one evening he heard Art
say, “The most remarkable event that happened was the coming into this
land of the King of the Cats.”

“I will listen to what you tell me about it,” said the King’s Son.
“Then,” said Art, the King’s Steward, “to your father’s Son in all truth
be it told”--

The King of the Cats stood up. He was a grand creature. His body was
brown and striped across as if one had burned on wood with a hot poker.
Like all the race of the Royal Cats of the Isle of Man he was without a
tail. But he had extraordinarily fine whiskers. They went each side of
his face to the length of a dinner-dish. He had such eyes that when he
turned one of them upward the bird that was flying across dropped from
the sky. And when he turned the other one down he could make a hole in
the floor.

He lived in the Isle of Man. Once he had been King of the Cats of
Ireland and Britain, of Norway and Denmark, and the whole Northern and
Western World. But after the Norsemen won in the wars the Cats of Norway
and Britain swore by Thor and Odin that they would give him no more
allegiance. So for a hundred years and a day he had got allegiance
only from the Cats of the Western World; that is, from Ireland and the
Islands beyond.

The tribute he received was still worth having. In May he was sent a
boatful of herring. In August he was let have two boatfuls of mackerel.
In November he was given five barrels of preserved mice. At other
seasons he had for his tribute one out of every hundred birds that flew
across the Island on their way to Ireland--tomtits, pee-wits, linnets,
siskins, starlings, martins, wrens and tender young barn owls. He was
also sent the following as marks of allegiance and respect: a salmon,
to show his dominion over the rivers; the skin of a marten to show his
dominion in the woods; a live cricket to show his dominion in the houses
of men; the horn of a cow, to show his right to a portion of the milk
produced in the Western World.

But the tribute from the Western World became smaller and smaller. One
year the boat did not come with the herring. Mackerel was sent to him
afterwards but he knew it was sent to him because so much was
being taken out of the sea that the farmer-men were plowing their
mackerel-catches into the land to make their crops grow. Then a year
came when he got neither the salmon nor the marten skin, neither the
live cricket nor the cow’s horn. Then he got righteously and royally
indignant. He stood up on his four paws on the floor of his palace, and
declared to his wife that he himself was going to Ireland to know what
prevented the sending of his lawful tribute to him. He called for
his Prime Minister then and said, “Prepare for Us our Speech from the

The Prime Minister went to the Parliament House and wrote down “Oyez,
Oyez, Oyez!” But he could not remember any more of the ancient language
in which the speeches from the Throne were always written. He went home
and hanged himself with a measure of tape and his wife buried the body
under the hearth-stone.

“Speech or no speech,” said the King of the Cats, “I’m going to pay a
royal visit to my subjects in Ireland.”

He went to the top of the cliff and he made a spring. He landed on the
deck of a ship that was bringing the King of Norway’s daughter to be
married to the King of Scotland’s son. The ship nearly sank with the
crash of his body on it. He ran up the sails and placed himself on the
mast of the ship. There he gathered his feet together and made another
spring. This time he landed on a boat that was bringing oak-timber to
build a King’s Palace in London. He stood where the timber was highest
and made another spring. This time he landed on the Giant’s Causeway
that runs from Ireland out into the sea. He picked his steps from
boulder to boulder, and then walked royally and resolutely on the ground
of Ireland. A man was riding on horseback with a woman seated on the
saddle behind him. The King of the Cats waited until they came up.

“My good man,” said he very grandly, “when you go back to your house,
tell the ash-covered cat in the corner that the King of the Cats has come
to Ireland to see him.”

His manner was so grand that the man took off his hat and the woman made
a courtesy. Then the King of the Cats sprang into the branch of a tree
of the forest and slept till it was past the mid-day heat.

I nearly forgot to tell you that as he slept on the branch his whiskers
stood around his face the breadth of a dinner-dish either way.


The next day the King’s Son rode abroad and where he went that day he
saw no man nor woman nor living creature in the land around. But coming
back he saw a falcon sailing in the air above. He rode on and the falcon
sailed above, never rising high in the air, and never swooping down.
The King’s Son fitted an arrow to his bow and shot at the falcon.
Immediately it rose in the air and flew swiftly away, but a feather from
it fell before him. The King’s Son picked the feather up. It was a blue
feather. Then the King’s Son thought of Fedelma’s falcon--of the bird
that flew above them when they rode across the Meadows of Brightness.
It might be Fedelma’s falcon, the one he had shot at, and it might have
come to show him the way to the Land of Mist. But the falcon was not to
be seen now.

He did not go amongst the strangers in his father’s Castle that evening;
but he stood with Art who was watching the herdsmen drive the cattle
into the byres. And Art after a while said, “I will tell you more about
the coming of the King of the Cats into King Connal’s Dominion. And as
before I say

“To your father’s Son in all truth be it told “--

The King of the Cats waited on the branch of the tree until the moon
was in the sky like a roast duck on a dish of gold, and still neither
retainer, vassal nor subject came to do him service. He was vexed, I
tell you, at the want of respect shown him.

This was the reason why none of his subjects came to him for such a long
time: The man and woman he had spoken to went into their house and did
not say a word about the King of the Cats until they had eaten their
supper. Then when the man had smoked his second pipe, he said to the
woman: “That was a wonderful thing that happened to us to-day. A cat to
walk up to two Christians and say to them, ‘Tell the ashy pet in your
chimney corner at home that the King of the Cats has come to see him.’”

No sooner were the words said than the lean, gray, ash-covered cat that
lay on the hearthstone sprang on the back of the man’s chair.

“I will say this,” said the man; “it’s a bad time when two Christians
like ourselves are stopped on their way back from the market and
ordered--ordered, no less--to give a message to one’s own cat lying on
one’s own hearthstone.”

“By my fur and daws, you’re a long time coming to his message,” said the
cat on the back of the chair; “what was it, anyway?”

“The King of the Cats has come to Ireland to see you,” said the man,
very much surprised.

“It’s a wonder you told it at all,” said the cat, going to the door.
“And where did you see His Majesty?”

“You shouldn’t have spoken,” said the man’s wife.

“And how did I know a cat could understand?” said the man.

“When you have done talking amongst yourselves,” said the cat, “would
you tell me where you met His Majesty?”

“Nothing will I tell you,” said the man, “until I hear your own name
from you.”

“My name,” said the cat, “is Quick-to-Grab, and well you should know

“Not a word will we tell you,” said the woman, “until we hear what the
King of the Cats is doing in Ireland. Is he bringing wars and rebellions
into the country?”

“Wars and rebellions,--no, ma’am,” said Quick-to-Grab, “but deliverance
from oppression. Why are the cats of the country lean and lazy and
covered with ashes? It is because the cat that goes outside the house in
the sunlight, to hunt or to play, is made to suffer with the loss of an

“And who makes them suffer with the loss of an eye?” said the woman.
“One whose reign is nearly over now,” said Quick-to-Grab. “But tell me
where you saw His Majesty?”

“No,” said the man. “No,” said the woman, “for we don’t like your
impertinence. Back with you to the hearthstone, and watch the mouse-hole
for us.”

Quick-to-Grab walked straight out of the door.

“May no prosperity come to this house,” said he, “for denying me when I
asked where the King of the Cats was pleased to speak to you.”

But he put his ear to the door when he went outside and he heard the
woman say,--

“The horse will tell him that we saw the King of the Cats a mile this
side of the Giant’s Causeway.” (That was a mistake. The horse could
not have told it at all, because horses never know the language that is
spoken in houses--only cats know it fully and dogs know a little of it.)

Quick-to-Grab now knew where the King of the Cats might be found. He
went creeping by hedges, loping across fields, bounding through woods,
until he came under the branch in the forest where the King of the
Cats rested, his whiskers standing round his face the breadth of a

When he came-under the branch Quick-to-Grab mewed a little in Egyptian,
which is the ceremonial language of the Cats. The King of the Cats came
to the end of the branch.

“Who are you, vassal?” said he in Phoenician.

“A humble retainer of my lord,” said Quick-to-Grab in High-Pictish (this
is a language very suitable to cats but it is only their historians who
now use it).

They continued their conversation in Irish.

“What sign shall I show the others that will make them know you are the
King of the Cats?” said Quick-to-Grab.

The King of the Cats chased up the tree and pulled down heavy branches.
“There is a sign of my royal prowess,” said he.

“It’s a good sign,” said Quick-to-Grab. They were about to talk again
when Quick-to-Grab put down his tail and ran up another tree greatly

“What ails you?” said the King of the Cats. “Can you not stay still
while you are speaking to your lord and master?”

“Old-fellow Badger is coming this way,” said Quick-to-Grab, “and when he
puts his teeth in one he never lets go.”

Without saying a word the King of the Cats jumped down from the tree.
Old-fellow Badger was coming through the glade. When he saw the King of
the Cats crouching there he stopped and bared his terrible teeth. The
King of the Cats bent himself to spring. Then Old-fellow Badger turned
round and went lumbering back.

“Oh, by my claws and fur,” said Quick-to-Grab, “you are the real King of
the Cats. Let me be your Councillor. Let me advise your Majesty in the
times that will be so difficult for your subjects and yourself. Know
that the Cats of Ireland are impoverished and oppressed. They are under
a terrible tyranny.”

“Who oppresses my vassals, retainers and subjects?” said the King of the

“The Eagle-Emperor. He has made a law that no cat may leave a man’s
house as long as the birds (he makes an exception in the case of owls)
have any business abroad.”

“I will tear him to pieces,” said the King of the Cats. “How can I reach

“No cat has thought of reaching him,” said Quick-to-Grab, “they only
think of keeping out of his way. Now let me advise your Majesty. None
of our enemies must know that you have come into this country. You must
appear as a common cat.”

“What, me?” said the King of the Cats.

“Yes, your Majesty, for the sake of the deliverance of your subjects you
will have to appear as a common cat.”

“And be submissive and eat scraps?”

“That will be only in the daytime,” said Quick-to-Grab, “in the
night-time you will have your court and your feasts.”

“At least, let the place I stay in be no hovel,” said the King of
the Cats. “I shall refuse to go into a house where there are washing
days--damp clothes before a fire and all that.”

“I shall use my best diplomacy to safeguard your comfort and dignity,”
 said Quick-to-Grab, “please invest me as your Prime Minister.”

The King of the Cats invested Quick-to-Grab by biting the fur round his
neck. Then the King and his Prime Minister parted. The King of the Cats
took up quarters for a day or two in a round tower. Quick-to-Grab made a
journey through the country-side. He went into every house and whispered
a word to every cat that was there, and whether the cat was watching a
mouse-hole, or chasing crickets, or playing with kittens, when he or she
heard that word they sat up and considered.


Early, early, next day the King of Ireland’s Son rode out in search
of the blue falcon, but although he rode from the ring of day to the
gathering of the dark clouds he saw no sign of it on rock or tree or in
the air. Very wearily he rode back, and after his horse was stabled he
stood with Art in the meadows watching the cattle being driven by. And
Art, the King’s Steward, said: “The Coming of the King of the Cats into
King Connal’s dominion is a story still to be told. To your father’s
Son in all truth be it told”--

Quick-to-Grab, in consultation with the Seven Elders of the Cat-Kin
decided that the Blacksmith’s forge would be a fit residence for the
King of the Cats. It was clean and commodious. But the best reason of
all for his going there was this: people and beasts from all parts
came into the forge and the King of the Cats might learn from their
discussions where the Eagle-Emperor was and how he might be destroyed.

His Majesty found that the Forge was not a bad residence for a King
living unbeknownst. It was dry and warm. He liked the look of the flames
that mounted up with the blowing of the bellows. He used to sit on a
heap of old saddles on the floor and watch the horses being shod or
waiting to be shod. He listened to the talk of the men. The people in
the Forge treated him respectfully and often referred to his size, his
appearance and his fine manners.

Every night he went out to a feast that the cats had prepared for him.
Quick-to-Grab always walked back to the Forge with him to give a Prime
Minister’s advice. He warned His Majesty not to let the human beings
know that he understood and could converse in their language--(all cats
know men’s language, but men do not know that the cats know). He told
him not to be too haughty (as a King might be inclined to be) to any
creature in the Forge.

The King of the Cats took this advice. He used even to twitch his ears
as a mark of respect to Mahon, the hound whose kennel was just outside
the forge, and to the hounds that Mahon had to visit him. He even made
advances to the Cock who walked up and down outside.

This Cock made himself very annoying to the King of the Cats. He used
to strut up and down saying to himself over and over again, “I’m
Cock-o’-the-Walk, I’m Cock-o’-the-Walk.” Sometimes he would come into
the Forge and say it to the horses. The King of the Cats wondered how
the human beings could put up with a creature who was so stupid and so
vain. He had a red comb that fell over one eye. He had purple feathers
on his tail. He had great spurs on his heels. He used to put his head on
one side and yawn when the King of the Cats appeared.

Cock-o’-the-Walk used to come into the Forge at night and sleep on the
bellows. And when the King of the Cats came back from the feasts he
used to waken up and say to himself, “I’m Cock-o’-the-Walk, I’m
Cock-o’-the-Walk. The Cats are not a respectable people.”

One noonday there were men in the Forge. They were talking to the Smith.
Said one, “Could you tell us, Smith, where iron came from?” The King of
the Cats knew but he said nothing. Cock-o’-the-Walk came to the door and
held his head as if he were listening.

“I can’t tell where iron came from,” said the Smith, “but if that Cock
could talk he could tell you. The world knows that the Cock is the
wisest and the most ancient of creatures.”

“I’m Cock-o’-the-Walk,” said the Cock to a rusty ass’s shoe.

“Yes, the Cock is a wonderful creature,” said the man who had asked the

“Not wonderful at all,” said the King of the Cats, “and if you had asked
me I could have told you where iron came from.”

“And where did iron come from?” said the Smith.

“From the Mountains of the Moon,” said the King of the Cats.

The men in the Forge put their hands on their knees and looked down at
him. Mahon the hound came into the Forge with other hounds at his tail,
and seeing the men looking at the King of the Cats, Mahon put his nose
to him. Cock-o’-the-Walk flapped his wings insolently. The King of the
Cats struck at the red hanging comb with his paw. The Cock flew up in
the air. The King of the Cats sprang out of the window, and as he did,
Mahon and the other hounds sprang after him--


The King of Ireland’s Son rode towards the East the next day, and in the
first hour’s journey he saw the blue falcon sailing above. He followed
where it went and the falcon never lifted nor stooped, but sailed
steadily on, only now and again beating the air with its wings. Over
benns and through glens and across moors the blue falcon flew and the
King of Ireland’s Son followed. Then his horse stumbled; he could not go
any further, and he lost sight of the blue falcon.

Black night was falling down on the ground when he came back to the
King’s Castle. Art, the King’s Steward, was waiting for him and he
walked beside his limping horse. And Art said when they were a little
way together, “The Coming of the King of the Cats is a story still to be

“To your father’s Son in all truth be it told “--

By the magic powers they possessed it was made known to all the cats
in the country that their King was being pursued by the hounds. Then on
every hearthstone a cat howled. Cats sprang to the doors, overturning
cradles upon children. They stood upon the thresholds and they all made
the same curse--“That ye may break your backs, that ye may break your
backs before ye catch the King of the Cats.”

When he heard the howls of his vassals, retainers and subjects, the King
of the Cats turned over on his back and clawed at the first hound that
came after him. He stood up then. So firmly did he set himself on his
four legs that those that dashed at him did not overthrow him. He
humped up his body and lifted his forepaws. The hounds held back. A horn
sounded and that gave them an excuse to get away from the claws and the
teeth, the power and the animosity of the King of the Cats.

Then, even though it might cost each and every one of them the loss of
an eye, the cats that had sight of him came running up. “We will go with
you, my lord, we will help you, my lord,” they cried all together.

“Go back to the hearthstones,” said the King of the Cats. “Go back and
be civil and quiet again in the houses. You will hear of my deeds. I go
to find the tracks of our enemy, the Eagle-Emperor.”

When they heard that announcement the cats lamented, and the noise of
their lamentation was so dreadful that horses broke their harnesses
where they were yoked; men and women lost the color of their faces
thinking some dreadful visitation was coming on the land; every bag of
oats and rye turned five times to the right and five times to the left
with the fright it got; dishes were broken, knives were hurled round,
and the King’s Castle was shaken to the bottom stone.

“It is not the time to seek the tracks of the Eagle-Emperor,” said
Quick-to-Grab. “Stay for a while longer in men’s houses.”

“Never,” said the King of the Cats. “Never will I stay by the
hearthstone and submit to be abused by cocks and hounds and men. I will
range the world openly now and seek out the enemy of the Cat-Kind, the

Without once turning his back he went towards the wood that was filled
with his enemies, the birds. The cats, when they saw their petitions
were no use, went everyone back to the house where he or she stayed.
Each one sat before a mouse-hole and pretended to be watching. But
though mice stirred all round them the cats of Ireland never turned a
head that night.

It was the wren, the smallest of birds, that saw him and knew him for
the King of the Cats. The wren flew through the wood to summon the
Hawk-Clan. But it was towards sunset now and the hawks had taken up
their stations at the edge of the wood to watch that they might pick up
the farmers’ chickens. They wouldn’t turn an eye when the wren told
them that a cat was in the wood during the time forbidden to cats to be
outside the houses of men. “It is the King of the Cats,” said the wren.
None of the hawks lifted a wing. They were waiting for the chickens that
would stray about the moment after sunset.

But if the wren couldn’t rouse the Hawk-Clan she was able to rouse the
other bird-tribes. “A cat, a cat, on your lives a cat,” she called out
as she flew through the wood. The rooks that were going home now rose
above the trees, cawing threats. The blackbirds, thrushes and jays
screamed as they flew before the King of the Cats. The woodpeckers,
hedge-sparrows, tom-tits, robins and linnets chattered as they flew
behind him. Sometimes the young rooks made a great show of attacking
him. They flew down from the flock. “He is here, here, here,” they cawed
and flew up again. The rooks kept telling themselves and the other birds
in the wood what they were going to do with the King of the Cats. But a
single raven did more against him than the thousand rooks that made so
much noise. This raven was in a hole in the tree. She struck the King of
the Cats on the head with her beak as he went past.

The King of the Cats was annoyed by the uproar the birds were making and
he was angered by the raven’s stroke, but he did not want to enter into
a battle with the birds. He was on his way to the house of the Hag of
the Wood who was then known as the Hag of the Ashes. Now as this is the
first time you have heard of the Hag of the Ashes, I’ll have to tell
you how the King of the Cats had heard of her and how he knew where her
house was in the wood.


The next day the King’s Son put a bridle on the Slight Red Steed and
rode towards the East again. He saw the blue falcon and he followed
where it flew. Over benns, and through glens and across mountains and
moors the blue falcon went and the Slight Red Steed neither swerved nor
stumbled but went as the bird flew. The falcon lighted on a pine tree
that grew alone. The King’s Son rode up and put his hands to the tree
to climb and put his head against it, and as he did he heard speech from
the tree. “The stroke of the Sword of Light will slay the King of the
Land of Mist and the stroke of the Sword of Light that will cut a tress
of her hair will awaken Fedelma.” There was no more speech from the tree
and the falcon rose from its branches and flew high up in the air. Then
the King of Ireland’s Son rode back towards his father’s Castle.

He went to the meadow and stood with Art and listened to what Art had to
tell him. And as before the King’s Steward began--

“To your father’s Son in all truth be it told”--

Quick-to-Grab had said to the King of the Cats, “If ever you need the
counsel of a human being, go to no one else but the Hag of the Ashes who
was once called the Hag of the Wood. In the very centre of the wood four
ash trees are drawn together at the tops, wattles are woven round these
ash trees, and in the little house made in this way the Hag of the Ashes
lives, with no one near her since her nine daughters went away, but her
goat that’s her only friend.” The King of the Cats was now in the centre
of the wood. He saw four ash trees drawn together at the tops and he
jumped to them.

Now the Hag of the Ashes had a bad neighbor. This was a crane that had
built her nest across the roof of the little house. The nest prevented
the smoke from coming out at the top and the house below was filled
with it. The Hag could hardly keep alive on account of the smoke and she
could neither take away the nest nor banish the bird.

The crane was there when the King of the Cats sprang on the roof. She
was sitting with her two legs stretched out, and when the King of the
Cats came down beside her she slipped away and sailed over the trees.
“Time for me to be going,” said the crane. And from that day to this she
never came back to the house of the Hag of the Ashes.

“Oh, thanks to you, good creature,” said the Hag of the Ashes, coming
out of the house. “Tear down her nest now and let the smoke rise up
through the roof.”

The King of the Cats tore up the sticks and wool that the crane’s nest
was made of, and the smoke came up through the top of the house. “Oh,
thanks to you, good creature, that has destroyed the cross crane’s nest.
Come down on my floor now and I’ll do everything that will serve you.”

The King of the Cats jumped down on the floor of the Hag’s house and saw
the Hag of the Ashes sitting in a corner, She was a little, little woman
in a gray cloak. All over the floor there were ashes in heaps, for
she used to light a fire in one corner and when it was burnt out light
another beside the ashes of the first. The smoke had never gone through
the hole in the roof since the crane had built her nest on the top of
the house. Her face was yellow with the smoke and her eyes were half
closed on account of it.

“Do you know who I am, Hag of the Ashes?” said the King of the Cats when
he stood on the floor.

“You are a cat, honey,” said the Hag of the Ashes. “I am the King of the

“The King of the Cats you are indeed. And it was you who let the smoke
out of the top of my little house by destroying the nest the cross crane
had built on it.”

“It was I who did that.”

“Welcome to you then, King of the Cats. And what service can the Hag of
the Ashes do for you in return?”

“I would go to where the Eagle-Emperor is. You must show me the way.”

“By my cloak I will do that. The Eagle-Emperor lives on the top of the
Hill of Horns.”

“And how can I get to the top of the Hill of Horns?”

“I don’t know how you can get there at all. All over the Hill is bare
starvation. No four-footed thing can reach the top--no four-footed
thing, I mean, but my goat that’s tied to the hawthorn bush outside.”

“I will ride on the back of your goat to the top of the Hill of Horns.”

“No, no, good King of the Cats. I have only my goat for company and how
could I bear to be parted from him?”

“Lend me your goat, and when I come back from the Hill of Horns I will
plate his horns with gold and shoe his hooves with silver.”

“No, no, good King of the Cats. How could I bear my goat to be away from
me, and I having no other company?”

“If you do not let me ride on your goat to the top of the Hill of Horns
I will leave a sign on your house that will bring the cross crane to
build her nest on the top of it again.”

“Then take my goat, King of the Cats, take my goat but let him come back
to me soon.”

“I will. Come with me now and bid him take me to the top of the Hill of

The King of the Cats marched out of the house and the Hag of the Ashes
hobbled after him. The goat was lying under the hawthorn bush. He put
his horns to the ground when they came up to him.

“Will you go to the Hill of Horns?” said the Hag of the Ashes.

“Indeed, that I will not do,” said the goat.

“Oh, the soft tops of the hedges on the way to the Hill of Horns--sweet
in the mouth of a goat they should be,” said the Hag of the Ashes. “But
my own poor goat wants to stay here and eat the tops of the burnt-up

“Why didn’t you tell me of the hedges on the way to the Hill of Horns
before?” said the goat, rising to his feet. “To the Hill of Horns I’ll

“And will you let a cat ride on your back to the Hill of Horns?”

“Indeed, I will not do that.”

“Then, my poor goat, I’ll not untie the rope that’s round your neck, for
you can’t go to the Hill of Horns without this cat riding on your back.”

“Let him sit on my back then and hold my horns, and I’ll take no notice
of him.”

The Hag of the Ashes untied the rope that was round his neck, the King
of the Cats jumped up on the goat’s back, and they started off on the
path through the wood. “Oh, how I’ll miss my goat, until he comes back
to me with gold on his horns and silver on his hooves,” the Hag of the
Ashes cried after them.


The King of Ireland’s Son did not leave the Castle the next day, but
stayed to question those who came to it about the Sword of Light. And
some had heard of the Sword of Light and some had not heard of it. In
the afternoon he was in the chambers of the Castle and he watched his
two foster-brothers, Dermott and Downal, the sons of Caintigern, the
Queen, playing chess. They played the game upon his board and with his
figures. And when he went up to them and told them they had permission
to use the board and the figures, they said, “We had forgotten that you
owned these things.” The King’s Son saw that everything in the Castle
was coming into the possession of his foster-brothers.

He found another board with other chess-men and he played a game with
the King’s Steward. And Art said, “The coming of the King of the Cats
into King Connal’s Dominion is a story still to be told.

“To your father’s Son in all truth be it told “--

What should a goat do but ramble down laneways, wander across fields,
stray along hedges and stay to rest under shady trees? All this the
Hag’s goat did. But at last he brought the King of the Cats to the foot
of the Hill of Horns.

And what was the Hill of Horns like, asks my kind foster-child. It was
hills of stones on the top of a hill of stones. Only a goat could foot
it from pebble to stone, from stone to boulder, from boulder Ko crag,
and from crag to mountain-shoulder. It was well and not ill what the
Hag’s goat did. But then thunder sounded; lightning struck fire out of
the stones, the wind mixed itself with the rain and the tempest pelted
cat and goat. The goat stood on a mountain-shoulder. The wind rushed
up from the bottom and carried the companions to the top of the Hill of
Horns. Down sprang the cat. But the goat stood on his hind-legs to
butt back at the wind. The wind caught him between the beard and the
under-quarters and swept him from the top and down the other side of the
hill (and what happened to the Hag’s goat after this I never heard). The
King of the Cats put his claws into the crevices of a standing stone and
held to it with great tenacity. And then, when the wind abated and he
looked across his shoulder, he found that he was standing beside the
nest of the Eagle-Emperor.

It was a hollow edged with rocks, and round that hollow were scattered
the horns of the deer and goats that the Eagle-Emperor had carried off.
And in the hollow there was a calf and a hare and a salmon. The King of
the Cats sprang into the Eagle-Emperor’s nest. First he ate the salmon.
Then he stretched himself between the hare and the calf and waited for
the Eagle-Emperor.

At last he appeared. Down he came to the nest making circles in the air.
He lighted on the rocky rim. The King of the Cats rose with body bent
for the spring, and if the Eagle-Emperor was not astonished at his
appearance it was because an Eagle can never be astonished.

A brave man would be glad if he could have seen the Eagle-Emperor as
he crouched there on the rock rim of his nest. He spread down his wings
till they were great strong shields. He bent down his outspread tail.
He bent down his neck so that his eyes might look into the creature that
faced him. And his cruel, curved, heavy beak was ready for the stroke.

But the King of the Cats sprang into the air. The Eagle lifted himself
up but the Cat came down on his broad back. The Eagle-Emperor screamed
his war-scream and flew off the hill. He struck at the King of the Cats
with the backs of his broad wings. Then he plunged down. On the stones
below he would tear his enemy with beak and claws.

It was the Cat that reached the ground. As the Eagle went to strike at
him he sprang again and tore the Eagle’s breast. Then the Eagle-Emperor
caught the King of the Cats in his claws and flew up again, screaming
his battle-scream. Drops of blood from both fell on the ground. The
Eagle had not a conqueror’s grip on his enemy and the King of the Cats
was able to tear at him.

It happened that Curoi, King of the Munster Fairies, was marching at the
head of his troop to play a game of hurling with the Fianna of Ireland,
captained by Fergus, and for the hand of Aine’, the daughter of
Mananaun, the Lord of the Sea. Just when the ball was about to be thrown
in the air the Eagle-Emperor and the King of the Cats were seen mixed
together in their struggle. One troop took the side of the Eagle and the
other took the side of the Cat. The men of the country came up and took
sides too. Then the men began to fight amongst themselves and some were
left dead on the ground. And this went on until there were hosts of the
men of Ireland fighting each other on account of the Eagle-Emperor
and the King of the Cats. The King of the Fairies and the Chief of the
Fianna marched their men away to a hill top where they might watch the
battle in the air and the battles on the ground. “If this should go
on,” said Curoi, “our troops will join in and men and Fairies will be
slaughtered. We must end the combat in the air.” Saying this he took up
the hurling-ball and flung it at the Cat and Eagle. Both came down on
the ground. The Cat was about to spring, the Eagle was about to pounce,
when Curoi darted between them and struck both with his spear. Eagle and
Cat became figures of stone. And there they are now, a Stone Eagle with
his wings outspread and a Stone Cat with his teeth bared and his paws
raised. And the Eagle-Emperor and the King of the Cats will remain like
that until Curoi strikes them again with his fairy-spear.

When the Cat and the Eagle were turned into stone the men of the country
wondered for a while and then they went away. And the Fairies of Munster
and the Fianna of Ireland played the hurling match for the hand of Aine’
the daughter of Mananaun who is Lord of the Sea, and what the result of
that hurling match was is told in another book.

And that ends my history of the coming into Ire-land of the King of the

The King of Ireland’s Son left Art and went into an unused room in the
Castle to search for a little bell that he might put upon the Slight Red
Steed. He found the little bell, but it fell out of his hand and slipped
through a crack in the floor. He went and looked through the crack. He
saw below a room and in it was Caintigern, the Queen, and beside her
were two women in the cloaks of enchantresses. And when he looked again
he knew the two of them--they were Aefa and Gilveen, the daughters of
the enchanter of the Black Back-Lands and Fedelma’s sisters. “And
will my two sons come to rule over their father’s dominion?” he heard
Caintigern ask.

“The Prince who gains the Sword of Light will rule over his father’s
dominion,” Aefa said.

“Then one of my sons must get the Sword of Light,” Caintigern said.
“Tell me where they must go to get knowledge of where it is.”

“Only the Gobaun Saor knows where the Sword of Light is,” said Aefa.

“The Gobaun Saor! Can he be seen by men?” said Caintigern.

“He can be seen,” said Aefa. “And there is one--the Little Sage of the
Mountain--who can tell what road to go to find the Gobaun Saor.”

“Then,” said Caintigern, “my two sons, Dermott and Downal, will ride out
to-morrow to find the Little Sage of the Mountain, and the Gobaun Saor,
so that one of them may find the Sword of Light and come to rule over
his father’s dominion.”

When the King of Ireland’s Son heard that, he went to the stable where
the Slight Red Steed was, and put the bridle upon him and rode towards
the Hill of Horns, on one side of which was the house thatched with the
one great wing of a bird, where the Little Sage of the Mountain lived.




He came to the house that was thatched with the one great wing of a
bird, and, as before, the Little Sage of the Mountain asked him to do a
day’s work. The King’s Son reaped the corn for the Little Sage, and as
he was reaping it his two foster-brothers, Dermott and Downal, rode by
on their fine horses. They did not know who the young fellow was who
was reaping in the field and they shouted for the Little Sage of the
Mountain to come out of the house and speak to them. “We want to know
where to find the Gobaun Saor who is to give us the Sword of Light,”
 said Dermott.

“Come in,” said the Sage, “and help me with my day’s work, and I’ll
search in my book for some direction.”

“We can’t do such an unprincely thing as take service with you,” said
Downal. “Tell us now where we must go to find the Gobaun Saor.”

“I think you have made a mistake,” said the Little Sage. “I’m an
ignorant man, and I can’t answer such a question without study.”

“Ride on, brother,” said Downal, “he can tell us nothing.” Dermott and
Downal rode off on their fine horses, the silver bells on their bridles

That night, when he had eaten his supper, the Little Sage told the
King’s Son where to go. It is forbidden to tell where the King of
Ireland’s Son found the Builder and Shaper for the Gods. In a certain
place he came to where the Gobaun Saor had set up his forge and planted
his anvil, and he saw the Gobaun Saor beating on a shape of iron.

“You want to find the Sword of Light,” said the Gobaun, his eyes as
straight as the line of a sword-blade, “but show me first your will,
your mind and your purpose.”

“How can I do that?” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“Guard my anvil for a few nights,” said the Gobaun Saor. “A Fua comes
out of the river sometimes and tries to carry it off.”

The Gobaun Saor had to make a journey to look at trees that were growing
in the forest, and the King’s Son guarded his anvil. And at night a Fua
came out of the river and flung great stones, striving to drive him away
from the anvil. He ran down to the river bank to drive it away, but the
creature caught him in its long arms and tried to drown him in the deep
water. The King of Ireland’s Son was near his death, but he broke away
from the Fua, and when the creature caught him again, he dragged it up
the bank and held it against a tree. “I will give you the mastery of
all arts because you have mastered me,” said the Fua. “I do not want the
mastery of arts, but maybe you can tell me where to find the Sword
of Light.” “You want to know that--do you?” said the Fua, and then it
twisted from him and went into the river.

The Fua came the next night and flung stones as before, and the King’s
Son wrestled with it in the very middle of the river, and held him
so that he could not get to the other bank. “I will give you heaps of
wealth because you have mastered me,” said the creature with the big
eyes and the long arms. “Not wealth, but the knowledge of where to
come on the Sword of Light is what I want from you,” said the King of
Ireland’s Son. But the Fua twisted from him and ran away again.

The next night the Fua came again, and the King’s Son wrestled with him
in the middle of the river and followed him up the other bank, and held
him against a tree. “I will give you the craft that will make you
the greatest of Kings, because you have mastered me.” “Not craft, but
knowledge of where the Sword of Light is, I want from you,” said the
King’s Son. “Only one of the People of Light can tell you that,” said
the Fua. It became a small, empty sort of creature and lay on the ground
like a shadow.

The Gobaun Saor came back to his forge and his anvil. “You have guarded
my anvil for me,” he said, “and I will tell you where to go for the
Sword of Light. It is in the Palace of the Ancient Ones under the Lake.
You have an enchanted steed that can go to that Lake. I shall turn his
head, and he shall go straight to it. When you come to the edge of the
Lake pull the branches of the Fountain Tree and give the Slight Red
Steed the leaves to eat. Mount now and go.”

The King of Ireland’s Son mounted the Slight Red Steed and went
traveling again.


From all its branches, high and low, water was falling in little
streams. This was the Fountain Tree indeed. He did not dismount, the
King of Ireland’s Son, but pulled the branches and he gave them to the
Slight Red Steed to eat.

He ate no more than three mouthfuls. Then he stamped on the ground with
his hooves, lifted his head high and neighed three times. With that he
plunged into the water of the Lake and swam and swam as if he had the
strength of a dragon. He swam while there was light on the water and he
swam while there was night on the water, and when the sun of the next
day was a hand’s breadth above the lake he came to the Black Island.

All on that Island was black and burnt, and there were black ashes up to
the horse’s knees. And no sooner had the Slight Red Steed put his hooves
on the Island than he galloped straight to the middle of it. He
galloped through an opening in the black rock and went through a hundred
passages, each going lower than the other, and at last he came into the
wide space of a hall.

The hall was lighted. When the King’s Son looked to see where the light
came from he saw a sword hanging from the roof. And the brightness of
the Sword was such that the hall was well lighted. The King of Ireland’s
Son galloped the Slight Red Steed forward and made it rear up. His hand
grasped the hilt of the Sword. As he pulled it down the Sword screeched
in his hand.

He flashed it about and saw what other things were in the Cave. He saw
one woman, and two women and three women. He came to them and he saw
they were sleeping. And as he flashed the Sword about he saw other women
sleeping too. There were twelve women in the Cave where the Sword of
Light had been hanging and the women were sleeping.

And in the hands of each of the sleeping women was a great gemmed cup.
The spirit of the King’s Son had grown haughty since he felt the Sword
in his hands. “You have the sword, why should you not have the cup?”
 something within him said. He took a cup from the hands of one of the
sleeping women and drank the bubbling water that it held. His spirit
grew more haughty with that draught. From the hands of each of the
twelve sleeping women he took the cup and he drank the draught of
bubbling water that it held. And when he had drunk the twelve draughts
of bubbling water he felt that with the Sword of Light in his hands he
could cut his way through the earth.

He mounted the Slight Red Steed and rode it through the Cave and swam
it across the Lake with No Name. He held the Sword of Light across his
saddle. The Steed went as the current drew him, for it was long since he
had eaten the leaves of the Fountain Tree, and the spirit that had made
him vigorous coming was feeble now. The current brought them to the
shore below where the Fountain Tree grew.

And there on the shore he saw a bunch of little men, little women and
littler children, all with smoke-colored skins, all with but one eye in
their heads, all crying and screaming at each other like sea-birds, and
all sitting round a fire of dried water weeds, cooking and eating eels
and crab-apples.

The King of Ireland’s Son put his hands on the bridle-rein and drew the
Slight Red Steed out of the water. The women with one right eye and
the men with one left eye, and the children in their bare smoky skins
screamed at him, “What do you want, what do you want, man with the

“Feed and water my steed for me,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“We are the Swallow People, and no one commands us to do things,” said
an old fellow with a beard like knots of ropes.

“Feed my steed with red wheat and water it with pure spring water,” said
the King’s Son fiercely. “I am the King of Ireland’s Son and the Sword
of Light is in my hands, and what I command must be done.”

“We are the Swallow People and we are accounted a harmless people,” said
the old fellow.

“Why are ye harmless?” said the King’s Son, and he flourished the sword
at them.

“Come into our cave, King’s Son,” said the old fellow, “we will give you
refreshment there, and the children will attend to your steed.”

He went into the cave with certain of the Swallow People. They were all
unmannerly. They kept screaming and crying to each other; they pulled
at the clothes of the King’s Son and pinched him. One of them bit his
hands. When they came into the cave they all sat down on black stones.
One pulled in a black ass loaded with nets. They took the nets off its
back, and before the King’s Son knew that anything was about to happen
they threw the nets around him. The meshes of the nets were sticky. He
felt himself caught. He ran at the Swallow People and fell over a stone.
Then they drew more nets around his legs.

The old fellow whom he had commanded took up the Sword of Light. Then
the Swallow People pulled up the ass that had carried the nets and
rubbed its hard hoof on the Sword. The King’s Son did not know what
happened to it. Then he heard them cry, “The brightness is gone off the
thing now.” They left the Sword on a black rock, and now no light came
from it. Then all the Swallow People scrambled out of the cave.

They came back eating eels and crab-apples out of their hands. They paid
no attention to the King of Ireland’s Son, but climbed into a cave above
where he was lying.

He broke the nets that were round him. He found the Sword on the black
stones, with the brightness all gone from it because of the rubbing with
the ass’s hoof. He climbed up the wall of the other cave to punish the
Swallow People. They saw him before he could see them in the darkness,
and they all went into holes and hid themselves as if they were rats and

With the blackened sword in his hands the King of Ireland’s Son went out
of the Cave, and the horse he had left behind, the Slight Red Steed, was
not to be found.


Without a steed and with a blackened sword the King of Ireland’s Son
came to where the Gobaun Saor had set up his forge and planted his
anvil. No water nor sand would clean the Sword, but he left it down
before the Gobaun Saor, hoping that he would show him a way to dean it.
“The Sword must be bright that will kill the King of the Land of Mist
and cut the tress that will awaken the Enchanter’s daughter,” said the
Gobaun Saor. “You have let the Sword be blackened. Carry the blackened
Sword with you now.”

“Brighten it for me and I will serve you,” said the King of Ireland’s

“It is not easy for me to brighten the Sword now,” said the Gobaun Saor.
“But find me the Unique Tale and what went before its beginning and what
comes after its end, and I shall brighten the sword for you and show you
the way to the Land of Mist. Go now, and search for the Unique Tale.”

He went, and he had many far journeys, I can tell you, and he found no
person who had any knowledge of the Unique Tale or who knew any way of
coming to the Land of Mist. One twilight in a wood he saw a great bird
flying towards him. It lighted on an old tree, and the King of Ireland’s
Son saw it was Laheen the Eagle.

“Are you still a friend to me, Eagle?” said the King’s Son.

“I am still a friend to you, King’s Son,” said Laheen.

“Then tell me where I should go to get knowledge of the Unique Tale,”
 said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“The Unique Tale--I never heard of it at all,” said Laheen the Eagle,
changing from one leg to the other. “I am old,” she said, shaking her
wings, “and I never heard of the Unique Tale.”

The King’s Son looked and saw that Laheen was really old. Her neck was
bare of feathers and her wings were gray. “Oh, if you are so old,” said
the King’s Son, “and have gone to so many places, and do not know of the
Unique Tale, to whom can I go to get knowledge of it?”

“Listen,” said Laheen the Eagle, “there are five of us that are called
the Five Ancient Ones of Ireland, and it is not known which one of
the five is the oldest. There is myself, Laheen the Eagle; there is
Blackfoot the Elk of Ben Gulban, there is the Crow of Achill, the Salmon
of Assaroe and the Old Woman of Beare. We do not know ourselves which
of us is the oldest, but we know that we five are the most ancient of
living things. I have never heard of the Unique Tale,” said Laheen, “but
maybe one of the other Ancients has heard of it.”

“I will go to them,” said the King’s Son. “Tell me how I will find the
Crow of Achill, the Elk of Ben Gulban, the Salmon of Assaroe and the Old
Woman of Beare--tell me how to go to them, Laheen the Eagle.”

“You need not go to the Salmon of Assaroe,” said the Eagle, “for the
Salmon would not have heard any tale. I will get you means of finding
the other three. Follow the stream now until you come to the river. Wait
at the ford and I will fly to you there.” Laheen the Eagle then shook
her wings and flew slowly away. The King of Ireland’s Son followed the
stream until he came to the river--the River of the Ox it was.


And having come to the River of the Ox he sought the ford and waited
there for Laheen the Eagle. When it was high noon he saw the shadow of
the Eagle in the water of the ford. He looked up. Laheen let something
fall into the shallows. It was a wheel. Then Laheen lighted on the rocks
of a waterfall above the ford and spoke to the King of Ireland’s Son.

“Son of King Connal,” she said, “roll this wheel before you and follow
it where it goes. It will bring you first where Blackfoot the Elk
abides. Ask the Elk has he knowledge of the Unique Tale. If he has no
knowledge of it start the wheel rolling again. It will bring you then
where the Crow of Achill abides. If the Crow cannot tell you anything of
the Unique Tale, let the wheel bring you to where the Old Woman of Beare
lives. If she cannot tell you of the Unique Tale, I cannot give you any
further help.”

Laheen the Eagle then spread out her wings and rising above the mist of
the waterfall flew away.

The King of Ireland’s Son took the wheel out of the shallow water and
set it rolling before him. It went on without his touching it again.
Then he was going and ever going with the clear day going before him
and the dark night coming behind him, going through scrubby fields and
shaggy bog-lands, going up steep mountain sides and along bare mountain
ridges, until at last he came to a high mound on a lonesome mountain.
And as high as the mound and as lonesome as the mountain was the Elk
that was standing there with wide, wide horns. The wheel ceased rolling.

“I am from Laheen the Eagle,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

The Elk moved his wide-horned head and looked down at him. “And why have
you come to me, son?” said the Elk.

“I came to ask if you had knowledge of the Unique Tale,” said the King
of Ireland’s Son.

“I have no knowledge of the Unique Tale,” said the Elk in a deep voice.

“And are you not Blackfoot, the Elk of Ben Gulban, one of the five of
the oldest creatures in the world?” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“I am the Elk of Ben Gulban,” said Blackfoot, “and it may be that there
is no creature in the world more ancient than I am. The Fianna hunted me
with their hounds before the Sons of Mile’ came to the Island of Woods.
If it was a Tale of Finn or Caelta or Goll, of Oscar or Oisin or Conan,
I could tell it to you. But I know nothing of the Unique Tale.”

Then Blackfoot the Elk of Ben Gulban turned his wide-horned head away
and looked at the full old moon that was coming up in the sky. And the
King of Ireland’s Son took up the wheel and went to look for a shelter.
He found a sheep-cote on the side of the mountain and lay down and slept
between sheep.


When the sun rose he lifted up the wheel and set it going before him. He
was going and ever going down long hillsides and across spreading plains
till he came to where old trees and tree-stumps were standing hardly
close enough together to keep each other company. The wheel went through
this ancient wood and stopped before a fallen oak-tree. And sitting on a
branch of that oak, with a gray head bent and featherless wings gathered
up to her neck was a crow.

“I come from Laheen the Eagle,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“What did you say?” said the Crow, opening one eye.

“I come from Laheen the Eagle,” said the King of Ireland’s Son again.

“Oh, from Laheen,” said the Crow and dosed her eye again.

“And I came to ask for knowledge of the Unique Tale,” said the King of
Ireland’s Son.

“Laheen,” said the Crow, “I remember Laheen the Eagle.” Keeping her eyes
shut, she laughed and laughed until she was utterly hoarse. “I remember
Laheen the Eagle,” she said again. “Laheen never found out what I did
to her once. I stole the Crystal Egg out of her nest. Well, and how is
Laheen the Eagle?” she said sharply, opening one eye.

“Laheen is well,” said the King of Ireland’s Son. “She sent me to ask if
you had knowledge of the Unique Tale.”

“I am older than Laheen,” said the Crow. “I remember Paralon’s People.
The Salmon of Assaroe always said he was before Paralon’s People. But
never mind! Laheen can’t say that. If I could only get the feathers to
stay on my wings I’d pay Laheen a visit some day. How are Laheen and her

“O Crow of Achill,” said the King of Ireland’s Son, “I was sent to ask
if you had knowledge of the Unique Tale.”

“The Unique Tale! No, I never heard of it,” said the Crow. She gathered
her wings up to her neck again and bent her gray head.

“Think, O Crow of Achill,” said the King of Ireland’s Son. “I will bring
you the warmest wool for your nest.”

“I never heard of the Unique Tale,” said the Crow. “Tell Laheen I was
asking for her.” Nothing would rouse the Crow of Achill again. The King
of Ireland’s Son set the wheel rolling and followed it. Then he was
going and ever going with the clear day before him and the dark night
coming behind him. He came to a wide field where there were field-fares
or ground larks in companies. He crossed it. He came to a plain of tall
daisies where there were thousands of butterflies. He crossed it.
He came to a field of buttercups where blue pigeons were feeding. He
crossed it. He came to a field of flax in blue blossom. He crossed it
and came to a smoke-blackened stone house deep sunk in the ground. The
wheel stopped rolling before it and he went into the house.

An old woman was seated on the ground before the fire basting a goose. A
rabbit-skin cap was on her hairless head and there were no eye-brows on
her face. Three strange birds were eating out of the pot--a cuckoo, a
corncrake and a swallow. “Come to the fire, gilly,” said the old woman
when she looked round.

“I am not a gilly, but the King of Ireland’s Son,” said he.

“Well, let that be. What do you want of me?”

“Are you the Old Woman of Beare?”

“I have been called the Old Woman of Beare since your
fore-great-grandfather’s time.”

“How old are you, old mother?”

“I do not know. But do you see the three birds that are picking out
of my pot? For two score years the swallow was coming to my house and
building outside. Then he came and built inside. Then for three score
years he was coming into my house to build here. Now he never goes
across the sea at all, and do you see the corncrake? For five score
years she was coming to the meadow outside. Then she began to run into
the house to see what was happening here. For two score years she was
running in and out. Then she stayed here altogether. Now she never goes
across the sea at all. And do you see the cuckoo there? For seven score
years she used to come to a tree that was outside and sing over her
notes. Then when the tree was gone, she used to light on the roof of my
house. Then she used to come in to see herself in a looking glass. I
do not know how many score years the cuckoo was going and coming, but I
know it is many score years since she went across the sea.”

“I went from Laheen the Eagle to Blackfoot the Elk, and from the Elk of
Ben Gulban to the Crow of Achill, and from the Crow of Achill, I come to
you to ask if you have knowledge of the Unique Tale.”

“The Unique Tale, indeed,” said the Old Woman of Beare. “One came to me
only last night to tell me the Unique Tale. He is the young man who is
counting the horns.”

“What young man is he and what horns is he counting?”

“He is no King’s Son, but a gilly--Gilly of the Goat-skin he is called.
He is counting the horns that are in two pits outside. When the horns
are counted I will know the number of my half-years.”

“How is that, old mother?”

“My father used to kill an ox every year on my birthday, and after my
father’s death, my servants, one after the other, used to kill an ox for
me. The horns of the oxen were put into two pits, one on the right-hand
side of the house and one on the left-hand side. If one knew the number
of the horns one would know the number of, my half-years, for every
pair of horns goes to make a year of my life. Gilly of the Goatskin is
counting the horns for me now, and when he finishes counting them I will
let him tell the Unique Tale.”

“But you must let me listen to the tale too, Old Woman of Beare.”

“If you count the horns in one pit I will let you listen to the tale.”

“Then I will count the horns in one pit.”

“Go outside then and count them.”

The King of Ireland’s Son went outside. He found on the right-hand side
of the house a deep quarry-pit. Round the edge of it were horns of all
kinds, black horns and white horns, straight horns and crooked horns.
And below in the pit he saw a young man digging for horns that were sunk
in the ground. He had on a jacket made of the skin of a goat.

“Who are you?” said the young man in the quarry-pit. “I am the King of
Ireland’s Son. And who may you be?”

“Who I am I don’t know,” said the young man in the goatskin, “but they
call me Gilly of the Goatskin. What have you come here for?”

“To get knowledge of the Unique Tale.”

“And it was to tell the same Unique Tale that I came here myself. Why do
you want to know the Unique Tale?”

“That would make a long story. Why do you want to tell it?”

“That would make a longer story. There is a quarry-pit at the left-hand
side of the house filled with horns and it must be your task to count

“I will count them,” said the King of Ireland’s Son. “But you will be
finished before me. Do not tell the Old Woman of Beare the Tale until we
both sit down together.”

“If that suits you it will suit me,” said Gilly of the Goatskin, and he
began to dig again.

The King of Ireland’s Son went to the left-hand side of the house.
He found the quarry-pit and went into it to count the horns that were
there--black horns and white horns, straight horns and crooked horns.
And now, while the King of Ireland’s Son is in the quarry-pit, I
will tell you the adventures of Gilly--the Lad or the Servant--of the
Goatskin, which adventures are written in “The Craneskin Book.”


He never stirred out of the cradle till he was past twelve years of age,
but lay there night and day, long days and short days; the only garment
he ever put on was a goatskin; a hunter had once put it down on the
floor beside his cradle and he reached out with his two hands, drew it
in and put the goatskin on him. He got his name and his coat at the same
time, for he was called ever afterwards “Gilly of the Goatskin.”

But although he never stirred out of the cradle, Gilly of the Goatskin
had ways of diverting himself. He used to shoot arrows with a bow out
of the door of the house and hit a mark on a tree that was opposite him.
_And where did he get the bow and arrows?_ The bow fell down from the
roof of the house and into the cradle. And as for arrows he used to make
them out of the wands that the Hags brought in to make baskets with. But
the Hags never saw him using the bow and sending off the arrows. All day
they would be going along the streams gathering the willow wands for the
baskets they made.

He knew nobody except the three Hags of the Long Teeth, and he had never
heard the name of mother or father. Often, when she was peeling the
wands with a black-handled knife, the Hag of the House used to tell
Gilly of the Goatskin the troubles that were in store for him--danger
from the sword and the spear and the knife, from water and fire, from
the beasts of the earth and the birds of the air. She delighted to tell
him about the evils that would befall him. And she used to laugh when
she told him he was a hump-back and that people would throw stones at

One day when the Hags were away gathering willow wands, Gilly turned the
cradle over and lay under it. He wanted to see what they would do when
they did not see him sitting up in the cradle. They came in. Gilly
looked through a crack in the cradle and saw the Hags--they were old and
crooked and had long teeth that came down below their chins.

“He’s gone, he’s gone, he’s gone!” screamed the Hag of the House, when
she did not see Gilly in the cradle.

“He’s gone,” said one of the long-toothed Hags. “I told you he would go
away. Why didn’t you cut out his heart yesterday, or the day before?”

“Mind what I tell you,” said the other Hag of the Long Teeth. “Mind what
I tell you. His father’s son will grow into a powerful champion.”

“Not he,” said the Hag of the House, with great anger. “He’ll never
become a Champion. He’s only a little hump-backed fellow with no weapons
and with no garment but a goatskin.”

“It would be better to kill him when he comes back,” said the first of
the Hags with the Long Teeth.

“And if he doesn’t come back, tell the Giant Crom Duv,” said the second.

Gilly of the Goatskin crept from under the cradle, put his bow resting
on the bottom that was now turned uppermost, took up some of the rods
that were on the floor and then shouted at the Hags. “Oh, if that’s
a hazel rod he has at his bow he will kill us all,” they screamed out

He drew back the string, fired the willow rod and struck the middle Hag
full on the breast. The three Hags fell down on the ground. The pot that
was always hanging over the fire turned itself upside down and the
house was filled with smoke. Gilly of the Goatskin, the bow in his hand,
sprang across the cradle, over the threshold of the door, and out into
the width and the height, the length and the breadth, the gloom and the
gleam of the world.


He was out, as I have said, in the width and the height, the length and
the breadth, the gloom and the gleam of the world. He fired arrows into
the air. He leaped over ditches, he rolled down hillsides, he raced
over level places until he came to what surprised him more than all the
things in the world--a river. He had never seen such water before and
he wondered to see it moving with swiftness. “Where is it going?” said
Gilly of the Goatskin. “Does it go on like that in the night as well
as in the day?” He ran by its side and shouted to the river. He saw
a wide-winged bird flying across it. It was the bird that we call the
crane or the heron. And as Gilly watched the great winged thing he saw
that it held a little animal in its claws. Gilly fired an arrow and
the crane dropped towards the ground. The little animal that was in its
claws fell down. The crane rose up again and flew back across the river.

The little animal that had been in the claws of the crane came to Gilly
of the Goatskin. It was smaller than the one-eyed cat that used to sit
on the hearth of the Hag of the House. It kept its head up and was very
bold-looking. “Good morning, Lad in the Goatskin,” it said to Gilly,
“you saved my life and I’m very thankful to you.” “What are you?” said
Gilly of the Goat-skin. “I’m the Weasel. I’m the boldest and bravest
creature in this country. I’m the lion of these parts, I am. And,” said
the Weasel, “I never served anyone before, but I’ll be your servant
for a quarter of a year. Tell me what way you’re going and I’ll go with
you.” “I’m going the way he’s going,” said Gilly, nodding towards the
river, “and I’ll keep beside him till he wants to turn back.” “Oh, then
you’ll have to go a long way,” said the Weasel, “but I’ll go with you no
matter bow far you go.” The Weasel walked by Gilly’s side very bravely
and very independently.

“Oh, look,” said Gilly to the Weasel, “what is that that’s in the

The Weasel looked and saw a crystal egg in the shallows.

“It’s an egg,” said the Weasel, “I often eat one myself. I’ll bring it
up from the bottom to you. I’m good at carrying eggs.”

The Weasel went into the water and put his mouth to the egg and tried to
lift it. He could not move it. He tried to lift it with his paws as well
as with his mouth; but this did not do either. He came up the bank then,
and said to Gilly, “You’ll think I’m a poor sort of a servant because I
can’t take an egg out of the water. But if I can’t win one way I’ll win
another way.” He went into the reeds by the river and he said, “Hear me,
frogs! There’s a great army coming to take you out of the reeds and eat
you red and raw.” Then Gilly saw the queer frogs lifting up their
heads, “Oh, what will we do, what will we do?” they cried to the Weasel.
“There’s only one thing to be done,” said the Weasel. “You gather up
all the pebbles in the bed of the fiver and we’ll make a big wail on the
bank to defend you.” The frogs dived into the water at once and dragged
up pebbles. Gilly and the Weasel piled them on the bank. Then three
frogs carried up the Crystal Egg. The Weasel took it from them when they
left it on the bank. Then he climbed a tree and cried out to the frogs,
“The army is frightened and is running away.” “Oh, thank you, thank
you,” said the frogs, “we’ll never forget your goodness to us.” Then
they sat down in the marsh and told each other what a narrow escape they
all had.

The Weasel gave Gilly the Crystal Egg. It was heavy and he carried it
for a while in his hand. They went on. After a while said Gilly of the
Goatskin, “The night’s coming on and the fiver shows no sign of turning
back. I wish there was a nice place to shelter us.” No sooner did he say
the word than he and the Weasel found them-selves standing before the
open door of a nice little house. They went in. A clear fire was burning
on the hearth, an arm chair was before it, and a bed was made at the
other side of the fire. “This is good,” said Gilly, “and now I wish that
we had something to eat.” No sooner did he say the words than a table
appeared with bread and meat, fruit and wine on it. “Where do these
fine things come from, I wonder,” said Gilly of the Goatskin. “It’s my
belief,” said the Weasel, “that all these things come to us on account
of the egg you have in your hand. It’s a magic egg.” Gilly of the
Goatskin put the egg on the table and wished that he might see himself
as he had seen himself in the river. Nothing appeared. Then he took the
egg in his hand and wished again. And then there was a looking glass on
the wall before him, and he saw himself in it better than he had seen
himself in the river. Gilly of the Goatskin knew that he had only to
hold the Crystal Egg in his hand and wish, to get all he could think of.


Gilly of the Goatskin wished for wide windows in his house and he got
them. He wished for a light within when there was darkness without, and
he got a silver lamp that burned until he wished to sleep. He wished for
the songs of birds and he had a blackbird singing upon his half-door, a
lark over his chimney, a goldfinch and a green linnet within his window,
and a shy wren in the evening singing from the top of his dresser. Then
he wished to hear the conversation of the beasts and all the creatures
of the fields and the wood and the mountain top came into his house.

The hare used to come in early in the morning. He was always the first
visitor and he never remained long, and always while he was there he
kept running up and down the house, and he generally ended his visit by
jumping through the open window. The martens, the beautiful wild cats of
the wood, came in to see Gilly once; they were very proud and told
him nothing. The little black rabbits were very much impressed by the
martens, and all the time the martens were there they stayed under the
bed and the chairs. Two or three times the King of the Wood himself--the
Boar of the Bristles and the Long Tusks--came to see Gilly; he used to
push open the door and then stand in the middle of the floor grunting
and grunting. Once he brought his wife with him, and six or seven of
their little pigs that went running over the floor, with their ears
hanging over their eyes, came with them too. The hedgehogs used to come,
but they always made themselves disagreeable. They just lay down by
the fire and snored, and when they wakened up they quarrelled with
each other. Everybody said that the hedgehogs’ children were very badly
brought up and very badly provided for. The squirrels who were so clean
and careful, and so fond of their children, thought the hedgehogs were
very bad creatures indeed. “It is just like them to have dirty sticky
thorns around them instead of nice clean fur,” said the squirrel’s wife.
“But, my dear,” said the squirrel, “every animal can’t have fur.”
 “How well,” said she, “the rabbits have fur, though dear knows they’re
creatures of not much account. It’s all just to let us see that they’re
some relation of that horrible, horrible boar that goes crashing and
marching through the wood.”

The deer never came into the house, and Gilly had a shed made for them
outside. They would come into it and stay there for many nights and
days, and Gilly used to go out and talk with them. They knew about far
countries, and strange paths and passes, but they did not know so much
about men and about the doings of other creatures as the Fox did.

The Fox used to come in the evening and stay until nearly morning
whether Gilly fell asleep or kept awake. The Fox was a very good talker.
He used to lie down at the hearth with his paws stretched out, and tell
about this one and that one, and what she said and what he did. If the
Fox came to see you, and if he was in good humor for talking, you would
stay up all night to listen to him. I know I should. It was the Fox
who told Gilly what the Crow of Achill did to Laheen the Eagle. She had
stolen the Crystal Egg that Laheen was about to hatch--the Crystal Egg
that the Crane had left on a bare rock. It was the Fox who told Gilly
how the first cat came into the world. And it was the Fox who told Gilly
about the generations of the eel. All I say is that it is a pity the Fox
cannot be trusted, for a better one to talk and tell a story it would be
hard to find. He was always picking up and eating things that had been
left over--a potato roasting in the ashes, an apple left upon a plate,
a piece of meat under a cover. Gilly did not grudge these things to Rory
the Fox and he always left something in a bag for him to take home to
the young foxes.

I had nearly forgotten to tell you about Gilly’s friend, the brave
Weasel. He had made a home for himself under the roof. Sometimes he
would go away for a day or so and he would never tell Gilly where he
had been. When he was at home he made himself the door-keeper of
Gilly’s house. If any of the creatures made themselves disagreeable by
quarrelling amongst each other, or by being uncivil to Gilly, the
Weasel would just walk over to them and look them in the eyes. Then that
creature went away. Always he held his head up and if Gilly asked him
for advice he would say three words, “Have no fear; have no fear.”

One day Gilly wanted to have a bunch of cherries with his dinner, and he
went to find the Crystal Egg so that he might wish for it. The Crystal
Egg was not in the place he had left it. He called the Weasel and the
two of them searched the house. The Crystal Egg was nowhere to be found.
“One of the creatures has stolen the Egg,” said the Weasel, “but whoever
stole it I will make bring it back. I’ll soon find out who did it.” The
Weasel walked up to every creature that came in, looked him or her in
the eye and said, “Did you steal the Crystal Egg?” And every creature
that came in said, “No, Little Lion, I didn’t steal it.” Next day they
had examined every creature except the Fox. The Fox had not been in the
night before nor the night before that again. He did not come in the
evening they missed the Crystal Egg nor the evening after that evening.
That night the Weasel said, “As sure as there are teeth in my head the
Fox stole the Crystal Egg. As soon as there is light we’ll search for
him and make him give the Egg back to us.”


The Weasel was right; it was Rory the Fox who had stolen Gilly’s Crystal
Egg. One night, just as he was leaving Gilly’s house, the moon shone
full upon the Crystal Egg. In the turn of a hand Rory the Fox had made a
little spring and had taken the Egg in his mouth. Then he slipped out by
the door as quick and as quiet as a leaf blown in the wind.

He couldn’t help himself stealing the Egg, when the chance came. He had
had a dream about it. He dreamt that the Egg had been hatched and that
out of it had come the most toothsome bird that a Fox had ever taken by
the neck. He snapped his teeth in his sleep when he dreamt of it. The
Fox told his youngsters about the bird he had dreamt of--a bird as big
as a goose and so fat on the neck and the breast that it could hardly
stir from sitting. The youngsters had smacked their lips and
snapped their teeth. Every time he came home now they used to say to
him--“Father, have you brought us the Boobrie Bird?” No wonder that his
eyes used to turn to the Crystal Egg when he sat in Gilly’s house. And
then because the moon shone on it just as he was leaving, and because he
knew that Gilly’s back was turned, he could not keep himself from making
a little spring and taking the Crystal Egg softly in his mouth.

He went amongst the dark, dark trees with the soft and easy trot of a
Fox. He knew well what he should do with the Egg. He had dreamt that it
had been hatched by the Spae-Woman’s old rheumatic goose. This goose was
called Old Mother Hatchie and the Fox had never carried her off because
he knew she was always hatching out goslings for his table. He went
through the trees and across the fields towards the Spae-Woman’s house.

The Spae-Woman lived by telling people their fortunes and reading them
their dreams. That is why she was called the Spae-Woman. The people gave
her goods for telling them their dreams and fortunes and she left her
land and stock to whatever chanced. The fences of her fields were broken
and rotted. Her hens had been carried off by the Fox. Her goat had gone
wild. She had neither ox nor ass nor sheep nor pig. The Fox went through
her fence now as lightning would go through a gooseberry bush and he
came out before her barn. There was a hole in the barn-door and he went
through that. And in the north-west corner of the barn, he saw Old Mother
Hatchie sitting on a nest of straw and he knew that there was a clutch
of eggs under her. She cackled when she saw the Fox on the floor of the
barn but she never stirred off the nest. Rory left what was in his mouth
on the ground. Old Mother Hatchie put her head on one side and looked at
the Egg that was clear in the full moonlight.

“This egg, Mistress Hatchie,” said Rory the Fox, “is from the Hen-wife
of the Queen of Ireland. The Queen asked the Hen-wife to ask me to leave
it with you. She thinks there’s no bird in the world but yourself that
is worthy to hatch it and to rear the gosling that comes out of it.”

“That’s right, that’s right,” said Mother Hatchie. “Put it here, put
it here.” She lifted her wing and the Fox put the Crystal Egg into the

He went out of the barn, crossed the field again, and went amongst the
dark, dark trees. He went along slowly now for he began to think that
Gilly might find out who stole the Crystal Egg and be vexed with him.
Then he thought of the Weasel. The Fox began to think he might be sorry
for himself if the Weasel was set on his track.

Rory did not go to Gilly’s house the next night nor the night after. The
third night, as he was going home from a ramble, the Owl hooted at him.
“Why do you hoot at me, Big Moth?” said the Fox stopping in his trot.
(He always called the Owl “Big Moth” to pretend that he thought she
wasn’t a bird at all, but a moth. He made this pretence because he was
annoyed that he could never get an owl to eat). “Why do you hoot at
me, Big Moth?” said he. “The Weasel’s going to have your bones for
his stepping-stones and your blood for his morning dram,” said the Owl
balefully as she went amongst the dark, dark trees. The Fox stopped long
to consider. Then he went to his burrow and told his youngsters they
would have to move house. He had them stirring at the first light.
He gave them a frog each for their breakfast and took them across the
country. They came to a burrow that Old-Fellow Badger had just left and
Rory the Fox brought his youngsters into it and told them that it would
be their new house.


The evening after when Rory the Fox was taking his nap he heard one of
his youngsters give a sharp cry. They were playing outside the burrow,
lie looked out and he saw that his three youngsters were afraid of
something that was between them and the burrow. He looked again and saw
the Weasel.

“Ahem,” said Rory the Fox, “and how are we this morning?”

The Weasel had marked one of Rory’s youngsters for attack. Although Rory
spoke, he never took his eyes off the youngster he had marked.

“My dear friend,” said the Fox, “I was just going to say--if you are
looking for anything, perhaps I could tell you where it might be found.”

“Crystal Egg,” said the Weasel without ever taking away his
blood-thirsty gaze from Rory’s youngster.

“Oh, the Crystal Egg,” said Rory the Fox. “Yes, to be sure. I could
bring you at once to the place where the Crystal Egg is.” He came out of
the burrow and saw Gilly standing on the bank behind.

“I think it is time for my children to go back to their burrow,” said
Rory the Fox. “Please excuse them, my friends.” The Weasel took his eyes
off the youngster he had marked and the three little foxes scampered
into the burrow.

“This way, friends,” said the Fox, and he started off towards the
Spae-Woman’s house with the light and easy trot of a fox. Gilly and the
Weasel went behind him. They crossed a field of flax, a field of
hemp and a field of barley. They came to the broken fence before the
Spae-Woman’s house, and in front of the house they saw the Spae-Woman
herself and she was crying and crying.

The Fox hid behind the fence, the Weasel climbed up on the ditch and
Gilly himself went to the woman.

“What ails you at all?” said Gilly to her.

“My goose--the only fowl left to me has been taken by robbers.”

“Ask her where the clutch of eggs is that the goose was hatching,” said
Rory the Fox anxiously, putting his head over the fence.

“And where is the clutch of eggs, ma’am, that your goose was hatching?”

“The robbers took the nest with the goose and the eggs with the nest,”
 said the Spae-Woman.

“And the Crystal Egg was with the other eggs,” said the Fox to Gilly. He
said no more. He made a quick turn and got clear away before the Weasel
could spring on him. He ran back to his burrow. He told the little foxes
they must change houses again. That night they lay in a wood and at the
first light they crossed water and went to live on an island where the
Weasel never came.

“Where did the robbers go with the goose, the nest, and the eggs?” said
Gilly of the Goatskin.

“They went to the river,” said the Spae-Woman. “I followed them every
inch of the way. They got into a boat and they hoisted their sails. They
rowed and they rowed, so that the hard gravel of the bottom was brought
to the top, and the froth of the top was driven down to the bottom of
the river. And wherever they are,” said the Spae-Woman, “they are far
from us now.”

“Will you come with me?” said Gilly to the Weasel, “we will track them
down and take back the Crystal Egg.”

“I engaged myself to be with you for a quarter of a year,” said the
Weasel, “and the three months are up now, Gilly. Winter is coming on and
I must see to my own affairs.”

“Then good-by, Weasel,” said Gilly. “I will search for the Crystal Egg
myself. But first I must ask the woman to let me rest in the house and
to give me some provision for my journey.” The Weasel looked up into
Gilly’s face and said good-by to him. Then Gilly followed the Spae-Woman
into her house. “Ocone,” she was saying to herself, “my dream told me
I was to lose my poor goose, and still I never did anything to make it
hard for the robbers to take her from me.”


Well, in the Spae-Woman’s house he stayed for three-quarters of a year.
He often went in search of the robbers who had taken the Crystal Egg
with the Spae-Woman’s goose, but no trace of them nor their booty could
he ever find. He met birds and beasts who were his friends, but he could
not have speech with them without the Egg that let him have anything he
wished. He did work for the Spae-Woman--fixed her fences and repaired
her barn and brought _brosna_ for her fire every evening from the wood.
At night, before he went to sleep, the Spae-Woman used to tell him her
dreams of the night before and tell him about the people who had come to
her house to have their fortunes told.

One Monday morning she said to him, “I have had an inlook, son of
my heart, and I know that my gossip, the Churl of the Townland of
Mischance, is going to come and take you into his service.”

“And what sort of a man is your gossip, the Churl of the Townland of
Mischance?” Gilly asked.

“An unkind man. Two youths who served me he took away, one after the
other, and miserable are they made by what he did to them. I’m in dread
of your being brought to the Townland of Mischance.”

“Why are you in dread of it, Spae-Woman?” said Gilly. “Sure, I’ll be
glad enough to see the world.”

“That’s what the other two youths said,” said the Spae-Woman. “Now I’ll
tell you what my gossip the Churl of the Townland of Mischance does: he
makes a bargain with the youth that goes into his service, telling him
he will give him a guinea, a groat and a tester for his three months’
service. And he tells the youth that if he says he is sorry for the
bargain he must lose his wages and part with a strip of his skin, an
inch wide. He rode on a bob-tailed, big-headed, spavined and spotted
horse, from his neck to his heel. Oh, he is an unkind man, my gossip,
the Churl of the Townland of Mischance.”

“And is there no way to get the better of him?” asked Gilly.

“There is, but it is a hard way,” said the Spae-Woman. “If one could
make him say that he, the master, is sorry for the bargain, the Churl
himself would lose a strip of his skin an inch wide from his neck to his
heel, and would have to pay full wages no matter how short a time the
youth served him.”

“It’s a bargain anyway,” said Gilly, “and if he comes I’ll take service
with the Churl of the Townland of Mischance.”

The first wet day that came brought the Churl of the Townland of
Mischance. He rode on a bob-tailed, big-headed, spavined and spotted
horse. He carried an ash-plant in his hand to flog the horse and to
strike at the dogs that crossed his way. He had blue lips, eyes looking
crossways and eyebrows like a furze bush. He had a bag before him filled
with boiled pigs’ feet. Now when he rode up to the house, he had a
pig’s foot to his mouth and was eating. He got down off the bob-tailed,
big-headed, spavined and spotted horse, and came in.

“I heard there was a young fellow at your house and I want him to take
service with me,” said he to the Spae-Woman.

“If the bargain is a good one I’ll take service with you,” said Gilly.

“All right, my lad,” said the Churl. “Here is the bargain, and it’s as
fair as fair can be. I’ll give you a guinea, a groat and a tester for
your three months’ work with me.”

“I believe it’s good wages,” said Gilly.

“It is. Howsoever, if you ever say you are sorry you made the bargain
you will lose your wages, and besides that you will lose a strip of your
skin an inch wide from your neck to your heel. I have to put that in
or I’d never get work done for me at all. The serving boys are always
saying ‘I can’t do that,’ and ‘I’m sorry I made the bargain with you.’”

“And if you say you’re sorry you made the bargain?”

“Oh, then I’ll have to lose a strip of my skin an inch wide from my neck
to my heel, and besides that I’ll have to give you full wages no matter
how short a time you served me.”

“Well, if that suits you it will suit me,” said Gilly of the Goatskin.

“Then walk beside my horse and we’ll get back to the Townland of
Mischance to-night,” said the Churl. Then he swished his ash-plant
towards Gilly and ordered him to get ready. The Spae-Woman wiped the
tears from her face with her apron, gave Gilly a cake with her blessing,
and he started off with the Churl for the Townland of Mischance.


What did Gilly of the Goatskin do in the Townland of Mischance? He got
up early and went to bed late; he was kept digging, delving and ditching
until he was so tired that he could go to sleep in a furze bush; he ate
a breakfast that left him hungry five hours before dinner-time, and he
ate a dinner that made it seem long until supper-time. If he complained
the Churl would say, “Well, then you are sorry for your bargain,” and
Gilly would say “No,” rather than lose the wages he had earned and a
strip of his skin into the bargain.

One day the Churl said to him, “Go into the town for salt for my supper,
take the short way across the pasture-field, and be sure not to let the
grass grow under your feet.” “All right, master,” said Gilly. “Maybe
you would bring me my coat out of the house so that I needn’t make two
journeys.” The Churl went into the house for Gilly’s coat. When he came
back he found Gilly standing in the nice grass of the pasture-field
lighting a wisp of hay. “What are you doing that for?” said the Churl to
him. “To burn the grass on the pasture-field,” said Gilly. “To burn the
grass on my pasture-field, you villain--the grass that is for my good
race-horse’s feeding! What do you mean, at all?” “Sure, you told me not
to let the grass grow under my feet,” said Gilly. “Doesn’t the world
know that the grass is growing every minute, and how will I prevent it
from growing under my feet if I don’t burn it?” With that he stooped
down to put the lighted hay to the grass of the pasture-field. “Stop,
stop,” said the Churl, “I meant that you were to go to the town,
without loitering on the way.” “Well, it’s a pity you didn’t speak more
clearly,” said Gilly, “for now the grass is a-fire.” The Churl bad to
stamp on the grass to put the fire out. He burnt his shins, and that
made him very angry. “O you fool,” said he to Gilly, “I’m sorry--” “Are
you sorry for the bargain you made with me, Master?” “No. I was going
to say I was sorry I hadn’t made my meaning clear to you. Go now to the
town and bring me back salt for my supper as quickly as you can.”

After that the Churl was very careful when he gave Gilly an order to
speak to him very exactly. This became a great trouble to him, for the
people in the Townland of Mischance used always to say, “Don’t let the
grass grow under your feet,” when they meant “Make haste,” and “Don’t
be there until you’re back,” when they meant “Go quickly” and “Come with
horses’ legs” when they meant “come with great speed.” He became tired
of speaking to Gilly by the letter, so he made up his mind to give him
an order that could not be carried out, so that he might have a chance
of sending him away without the wages he had earned.

One Monday morning he called Gilly to the door of the house and said to
him, “Take this sheep-skin to the market and bring me back the price
of it and the skin.” “Very well, Master,” said Gilly. He put the skin
across his arm and went towards the town. The people on the road said
to him, “What do you want for the sheep-skin, young fellow?” “I want
the skin and the price of it,” Gilly said. The people laughed at him and
said, “You’re going to give yourself a long journey, young fellow.”

He went through the market asking for the skin and the price of it.
Everyone joked about him. He went into the market-house and came to a
woman who was buying things that no one else would buy. “What do you
want, youth?” said she. “The price of the skin and the skin itself,”
 said Gilly. She took the skin from him and plucked the wool out of it.
She put the wool in her bag and put the skin back on the board. “There’s
the skin,” said she, “and here’s the price of it.” She left three groats
and a tester on top of the skin.

The Churl had finished his supper when Gilly came into the house. “Well,
Master, I’ve come back to you,” said Gilly. “Did you bring me the price
of it and the skin itself?” said the Churl. “There is the skin,” said
Gilly, putting on the table the sheep-skin with the wool plucked out of
it. “And here’s the price of it--three groats and a tester,” said he,
leaving the money on top of the skin.

After that the Churl of the Townland of Mischance began to be afraid
that Gilly of the Goatskin would be too wise for him, and would get away
at the end of the three months with his wages, a guinea, a groat and a
tester, in his fist. This thought made the Churl very downcast, because,
for many months now, he had got hard labor out of his serving-boys,
without giving them a single cross for wages.


The day after Christmas the Churl said to Gilly, “This is Saint
Stephen’s Day. I’m going to such a man’s barn to see the mummers perform
a play. Foolish people give these idle fellows money for playing, but
I won’t do any such thing as that. I’ll see something of what they are
doing, drink a few glasses and get away before they start collecting
money from the people that are watching them. They call this collection
their dues, no less.”

“And what can I do for you, Master?” said Gilly. “Run into the barn at
midnight and shout out, ‘Master, Master, your mill is on fire.’ That
will give me an excuse for running out. Do you understand now what I
want you to do?”

“I understand, Master.”

The Churl put on his coat and took his stick in his hand. “Mind what
I’ve said to you,” said he. “Don’t be a minute later than midnight. Be
sure to come in with a great rash--come in with horse’s legs--do you
understand me?”

“I understand you, Master,” said Gilly.

The mummers were dancing before they began the play when the Churl came
into the barn. “That’s a rich man,” said one of them to another. “We
must see that he puts a good handful into our bag.” The Churl sat on the
bench with the farmer who had a score of cows, with the blacksmith who
shod the King’s horses, and with the merchant who had been in foreign
parts and who wore big silver rings in his ears. Half the people who
were there I could not tell you, but there were there--

   Biddie Early
   Tatter-Jack Walsh
   Aunt Jug
   Lundy Foot
   Matt the Thresher
   Nora Criona
   Conan Maol, and
   Shaun the Omadhaun.

Some said that the King of Ireland’s Son was there too. The play was
“The Unicorn from the Stars.” The mummers did it very well although they
had no one to take the part of the Unicorn.

They were in the middle of the play when Gilly of the Goatskin rushed
into the barn. “Master, master,” he shouted, “your mill--your mill is
on fire.” The Churl stood up, and then put his glass to his head and
drained what was in it. “Make way for me, good people,” said he. “Let
me out of this, good people.” Some people near the door began to talk
of what Gilly held in his hands. “What have you there, my servant?” said
the Churl. “A pair of horse’s legs, Master. I could only carry two of

The Churl caught Gilly by the throat. “A pair of horse’s legs,” said he.
“Where did you get a pair of horse’s legs?”

“Off a horse,” said Gilly. “I had trouble in cutting them off. Bad cess
to you for telling me to come here with horse’s legs.”

“And whose horse did you cut the legs off?” “Your own, Master. You
wouldn’t have liked me to cut the legs off any other person’s horse. And
I thought your race-horse’s legs would be the most suitable to cut off.”

The mummers and the people were gathered round them and they saw the
Churl’s face get black with vexation.

“O my misfortune, that ever I met with you,” said the Churl.

“Are you sorry for your bargain, Master?” said Gilly.

“Sorry--I’ll be sorry every day and night of my life for it,” said the

“You hear what my Master says, good people,” said Gilly.

“Aye, sure. He says he’s sorry for the bargain he made with you,” said
some of the people.

“Then,” said Gilly, “strip him and put him across the bench until I cut
a strip of his skin an inch wide from his neck to his heel.”

None of the people would consent to do that. “Well, I’ll tell you
something that will make you consent,” said Gilly. “This man made two
poor servant-boys work for him, paid them no wages, and took a strip of
their skin, so that they are sick and sore to this day. Will that make
you strip him and put him across the bench?”

“No,” said some of the people.

“He ordered me to come here to-night and to shout ‘Master, master, your
mill is on fire,’ so that he might be able to leave without paying the
mummers their dues. His mill is not on fire at all.”

“Strip him,” said the first mummer.

“Put him across the bench,” said another.

“Here’s a skinner’s knife for you,” said a third.

The mummers seized the Churl, stripped him and put him across the bench.
Gilly took the knife and began to sharpen it on the ground.

“Have mercy on me,” said the Churl.

“You did not have mercy on the other two poor servant-boys,” said Gilly.

“I’ll give you your wages in full.”

“That’s not enough.”

“I’ll give you double wages to give to the other servant-boys.”

“And will you pay the mummers’ dues for all the people here?”

“No, no, no. I can’t do that.”

“Stretch out your neck then until I mark the place where I shall begin
to cut the skin.”

“Don’t put the knife to me. I’ll pay the dues for all,” said the Churl.

“You heard what he said,” said Gilly to the people. “He will pay me
wages in full, give me double wages to hand to the servant-boys he has
injured, and pay the mummers’ dues for everyone.”

“We heard him say that,” said the people.

“Stand up and dress yourself,” said Gilly to the Churl. “What do I want
with a strip of your skin? But I hope all here will go home with you
and stand in your house until you have paid all the money that’s claimed
from you.”

“We’ll go home with him,” said the mummers.

“We’ll stand on his floor until he has paid all the money he has agreed
to pay,” said the others.

“And now I must tell you, neighbors,” said Gilly, “that I never cut the
legs of a living horse--neither his horse nor anyone else’s. This pair
was taken off a poor dead horse by the skinners that were cutting it

Well, they all went to the Churl’s house and there they stayed until
he opened his stone chest and took out his money-box and paid to the
mummers the dues of all the people with sixpence over, and paid Gilly
his wages in full, one guinea, one groat and a tester, and handed him
double wages to give to each of the servant-boys he had injured. Gilly
took the money and left the house of the Churl of the Townland of
Mischance, and the people and the mummers went to the road with him, and
cheered him as he went on his way.


So, without hap or mishap, Gilly came again to the house of the
Spae-Woman. She was sitting at her door-step grinding corn with a quern
when he came before her. She cried over him, not believing that he had
come safe from the Townland of Mischance. And as long as he was with her
she spoke to him of his “poor back.”

He stayed with her for two seasons. He mended her fences and he cleaned
her spring-well; he ground her corn and he brought back her swarm of
bees; he trained a dog to chase the crows out of her field; he had the
ass shod, the sheep washed and the goat spancelled. The Spae-Woman was
much beholden to him for all he did for her, and one day she said to
him, “Gilly of the Goat-skin you are called, but another name is due
to you now.” “And who will give me another name?” said Gilly of the
Goatskin. “Who’ll give it to you? Who but the Old Woman of Beare,” said
the Spae-Woman.

The next day she said to him, “I had a dream last night, and I know now
what you are to do. You must go now to the Old Woman of Beare for the
name that is due to you. And before she gives it to you, you must tell
her and whoever else is in her house as much as you know of the Unique

“But I know nothing at all of the Unique Tale,” said Gilly of the

“There is always a blank before a beginning,” said the Spae-Woman. “This
evening, when I am grinding the corn at the quern I shall tell you the
Unique Tale.”

That evening when she sat at the door-step of her house and when the sun
was setting behind the elder-bushes the Spae-Woman told Gilly the third
part of the Unique Tale. Then she baked a cake and killed a cock for him
and told him to start on the morrow’s morning for the house of the Old
Woman of Beare.

Well, he started off in the morning bright and early, leaving good
health with the Spae-Woman behind him, and away he went, crossing high
hills, passing low dales, and keeping on his way without halt or rest,
the clear day going and the dark night coming, taking lodgings each
evening wherever he found them, and at last he came to the house of the
Old Woman of Beare.

He went into the house and found her making marks in the ashes of her
fire while her cuckoo, her corncrake and her swallow were picking grains
off the table.

“And what can I do for you, good youth?” said the Old Woman of Beare.

“Give me a name,” said Gilly, “and listen to the story I have to tell

“That I will not,” said the Old Woman of Beare, “until you have done a
task for me.”

“What task can I do for you?” said Gilly of the Goatskin. “I would
know,” said she, “which of us four is the oldest creature in the
world--myself or Laheen the Eagle, Blackfoot the Elk or the Crow of
Achill--I leave the Salmon of Assaroe out of account altogether.”

“And how can a youth like me help you to know that?” said Gilly of the

“An ox was killed on the day I was born and on every one of my birthdays
afterwards. The horns of the oxen are in two quarries outside. You must
count them and tell me how much half of them amounts to and then I shall
know my age.”

“That I’ll do if you feed me and give me shelter,” said Gilly of the
Goatskin. “Eat as you like,” said the Old Woman of Beare. She pushed him
a loaf of bread and a bottle of water. When he cut a slice of the loaf
it was just as if nothing had been cut off, and when he took a cupful
out of the bottle it was as if no water had been taken out of it at
all. When he had drunk and eaten he left the complete loaf and the full
bottle of water on the shelf, went outside and began to count the horns
on the right-hand side.

On the second day a strange youth came to him and saluted him, and then
went to count the horns in the quarry on the left-hand side. This youth
was none other than the King of Ireland’s Son.

On the third day they had the horns all counted. Then Gilly of the
Goatskin and the King of Ireland’s Son met together under a bush. “How
many horns have you counted?” said the King of Ireland’s Son. “So many,”
 said Gilly of the Goatskin. “And how many horns have you counted?” “So
many,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

Just as they were adding the two numbers together they both heard sounds
in the air--they were like the sounds that Bards make chanting their
verses. And when they looked up they saw a swan flying round and
round above them. And the swan chanted the story of the coming of the
Milesians to Eirinn, and as the two youths listened they forgot the
number of horns they had counted. And when the swan had flown away they
looked at each other and as they were hungry they went into the house
and ate slices of the unwasted loaf and drank cupfuls out of the
inexhaustible bottle. Then the Old Woman of Beare wakened up and asked
them to tell her the number of her years.

“We cannot tell you although we counted all the horns,” said the King of
Ireland’s Son, “for just as we were putting the numbers together a swan
sang to us and we forgot the number we had counted.”

“You didn’t do your task rightly,” she said, “but as I promised to give
this youth a name and to listen to the story he had to tell, I shall
have to let it be. You may tell the story now, Gilly of the Goatskin.”

They sat at the fire, and while the Old Woman of Beare spun threads on
a very ancient spindle, and while the corncrake, the cuckoo and the
swallow picked up grains and murmured to themselves, Gilly of the
Goatskin told them the Unique Tale. And the story as Gilly of the
Goatskin told it follows this.--

A Unique Tale

A King and a Queen were walking one day by the blue pool in their
domain. The swan had come to the blue pool, and the bright yellow
flowers of the broom were above the water. “Och,” said the Queen, “if I
might have a daughter that would show such colors--the blue of the pool
in her eyes, the bright yellow of the broom in her hair, and the white
of the swan in her skin--I would let my seven sons go with the wild
geese.” “Hush,” said the King. “You ask for a doom, and it may be sent
you.” A shivering came upon the Queen. They went back to the Castle, and
that evening the nurse told them that a gray man had passed in a circle
round her seven sons saying, “If it be as your mother desired, let it be
as she has said.”

Well, before the broom blossomed again and before the swan came to the
blue pool, a child was born to the Queen. It was a girl. The King was
sitting with his seven sons when the women came to tell him of the new
birth. “O my sons,” said he, “may ye be with me all my life.” But his
sons moved from him as he said it. Out through the door they went, and
up the mound that was before the door. There they changed into gray wild
geese, and the seven flew towards the empty hills.

No councillor that the King consulted could help to win them back
again, and no hunter that he sent through the country could gain tale or
tidings of them. The King and Queen were left with one child only, the
girl just born. They called her “Sheen,” a word that means “Storm,”
 because her coming was a storm that swept away her seven brothers. The
Queen died, my hearers. Then little Sheen was forgotten by her father,
and she was reared and companioned by the servants of the house.

One day, when she was the age her eldest brother was when he was changed
from his human form, Sheen went with Mor, the Woodman’s daughter, and
Siav, the basket-maker’s foster-child, to gather berries in the wood.
Going here and there she got separated from Siav and Mor. She came to a
place where there were lots of berries and went step after step to pick
them. Her feet went down in a marsh. She cried to Mor and Siav, but no
answers came from them. She cried and cried again. Her cries startled
seven wild geese that rose up and flew round her. “Save me,” she cried
to them. Then one of the wild geese spoke to her. “Anyone but a girl we
would save from the marsh, but such a one we cannot save, because it was
a girl who lost us our human forms and the loving companionship of
our father.” Then Sheen knew--for the servants had often told her the
story--that it was one of her seven brothers who spoke. “Since ever I
knew of it,” said she, “the whole of my trouble has been that I was the
cause of your losing your human form and the companionship of our father
who is now called the Lonely King. Believe me,” said she, “that I would
have striven and striven to win you back.” There was so much feeling in
her voice that her seven brothers, although they had been hardened by
thinking about their misfortune, were touched at their hearts and
they flew down to help her. They bore up her arms, they caught at her
shoulders, they raised up her feet. They carried her beyond the marsh.
Then she knelt down and cried to them, “O my brothers dear, is there
anything I can do to restore you to your human forms?” “There is,” said
the first of the seven wild geese. She begged them to tell it to her.
“It’s a long and a tiresome labor we would put on you,” said one. “If
you would gather the light down that grows on the bogs with your own
hands,” said another, “and if you spun that down into threads, and wove
the threads into a cloth and sewed the cloth into a shirt, and did that
over and over again until you had made seven shirts for us, all that
time without laughing or crying or saying a word, you could save us. One
shirt you could weave and spin and sew in a year. And it would not be
until the seven shirts were put upon us that the human form would be
restored to each of us.” “I would be glad to do all that,” said Sheen,
“and I would cry no tear, laugh no laugh, and say no word all the time I
was doing this task.”

Then said the eldest brother, “The marsh is between you and our father’s
house, and between you and the companions who were with you to-day. If
you would do the task that would restore us to our human forms, it were
best you did not go back. Beyond the trees is the house of a lone woman,
and there you may live until your task is finished.” The seven wild
geese then flew back to the marsh, and Sheen went to the house beyond
the trees. The Spae-Woman lived there. She took Sheen to be a dumb girl,
and she gave her food and shelter for the services she did--bringing
water from the well in the daytime and grinding corn at the quern
at dusk. She had the rest of the day and night for her own task. She
gathered the bog-down between noon and sunset and spun the thread at
night. When she had lengths of thread spun she began to weave them on
the loom. At the end of a year she had the first shirt made. In another
year she made the second, then the third, then the fourth, the fifth and
the sixth. And all the time she said no word, laughed no laugh and cried
no tear.

She was gathering the bog-down for the seventh and last shirt. Once she
went abroad on a day when the snow was melted and she felt her footsteps
light. Hundreds of birds were on the ground eating plentifully and
calling to one another. Sheen could hardly keep from her mouth the song
that was in her mind. She would sing and laugh and talk when the last
thread was spun and woven, when the last stitch was sewn, and when the
shirts of bog-down she had made in silence would have brought back her
brothers to their own human forms. She gathered the scarce heads of the
cannavan or bog-down with one hand, while she held the other hand to her

Something dropped down at her feet. It was a white grouse and it
remained cowering on the ground. Sheen looked up and she saw a hawk
above. And when she looked round she saw a man coming across the bog.
The hawk flew towards him and lighted on his shoulder.

Sheen held the white grouse to her breast. The man came near to her
and spoke to her and his voice made her stand. He wore the dress of a
hunter. His face was brown and lean and his eyes were bright-blue like
gentian-flowers. No word did Sheen say to him and he passed on with the
hawk on his shoulder. Then with the grouse held at her breast she went
back to the Spae-Woman’s house.

That night when she spun her thread she thought of the blue-eyed,
brown-faced man. Would any of her brothers be like him, she wondered,
when they were restored to their human shapes. She fed the white grouse
with grains of corn and left it to rest in the window-niche above her
bed. And then she lay awake and tried to know the meaning in the song
the Spae-Woman sang when she sat spinning wool in the chimney Corner--

   You would not slumber
   If laid at my breast!
   Little sister,
   I’ll rock you to rest!

   The flood on the river beats
   The swan from its nest!
   You would not slumber
   If laid at my breast!

   The rain-drops encumber
   The hawthorn’s crest:
   My thoughts have no number:
   You would not slumber
   If laid at my breast,
   Little sister,
   I’ll rock you to rest.

She passed the night between sleeping and waking, and when the light
grew she saw the white grouse crouching against the window-opening.
She opened the door and stepped outside to let the grouse fly from her

And there, on the ground before her was a sword! Sheen knew it to be the
sword of the man she had seen yesterday, and she knew the man had been
before the door in the night-time. She knelt on the ground to look at
the bright blue blade. O my listeners, if I was there I was in the
crows that flew down heavily and cawed as they picked up something that
pleased them, in the wood-cushats that cooed in the trees, in the small
birds that quarreled in the thatch of the house, and in the breeze that
blew round--the first breeze of the day.

The Spae-Woman came outside and saw what Sheen was looking at--the sword
on the ground. “It is wrought with cunning that only the smiths of Kings
possess,” she said. She took the sword and hung it on the branch of a
tree so that the dews of the ground might not rust it. “I think the
one who owns it is the stranger who is seen in the wild places
hereabouts--the man whom the neighbors call the Hunter-King,” she said
to Sheen.

On another day Sheen went to gather bog-down. This time she crossed the
river by the stepping-stones and went into a country where there were
many cattle. She stood wondering at their numbers and wishing that such
a cow and such a calf might belong to the Spae-Woman. Then the next
thing she saw was two black horses striving with each other. They showed
their teeth at each other and bit and kicked. Then they came racing
towards her. “Oh,” said Sheen to herself, “they are Breogan’s wild
stallions.” She ran, but the horses were able to make circles round her.
“Breogan’s wild stallions,” said she, “they will rush in and trample me
to death.” Then she heard someone shouting commands to the horses. She
saw a man strike one of the stallions with a staff, making him rear
high. She saw him make the other stand with the command that was in his
voice. She ran to the river, but she slipped on the stepping-stones;
she fell down and she felt the water flowing upon her. The man came and
lifting her up carried her to her own side of the river. Across the bog
he carried her, and when she looked at him she saw the lean face and
eyes blue like gentian-flowers--she saw the face of the man who was
called the Hunter-King. He left her on the ground when they passed the
bog, and she went on her way without speaking.

Nothing of this no more than of anything else that happened to her, or
anything that she thought of, did Sheen tell the Spae-Woman. But she
wished and she wished that the Hunter-King might come past while there
was a light in the house and step within and talk to the Spae-Woman, so
that she herself, while spinning the thread, could hear his voice and
listen to the things he talked about. She often stood at the door and
watched across the bog to see if anything was coming to her.

A neighbor-woman came across the door-step one evening and Sheen went
into the house after her, for she felt that something was going to be
told. There was a dead man in a house. He had been found in the wood. He
was known as the Hunter-King. Sheen stood at her bed and heard what the
neighbor-woman said.

The Hunter-King was being waked in the neighbor-woman’s house, and her
eldest daughter had been the corpse-watcher the first night. In the
morning they found that the girl’s hand had been withered. The woman’s
second daughter was the corpse-watcher the second night and her right
hand had been left trembling. This was the third and last night that the
Hunter-King would be waked, and to-night there was no one to watch his

Sheen thought that nothing would ever happen in the world again, now
that the Hunter-King was dead. She thought that there was no loneliness
so great as that of his corpse with no one to watch it on the last
strange night it would be above ground. The neighbor-woman went from the
Spae-Woman and Sheen went after her. She was standing on the door-step
of her house. “Oh, colleen,” said the neighbor-woman, “I am wanting
a girl to watch a corpse in my house to-night--the third and the last
night for watching. Will you watch and I will give you a comb for your
hair?” Sheen showed that she would serve the woman and she went into the
wake-house. At first she was afraid to look at the bed. Then she went
over and saw the Hunter-King with his face still, his eyes closed down,
and the plate of salt on his breast. His gray gaunt hound was stretched
across his feet.

The woman and her daughters lighted candles and placed them in the
window recesses and at the head of the corpse. Then they went into their
dormer-room and left Sheen to her watching. She sat at the fire and made
one fagot after another blaze up. She had brought her basket of bog-down
and she began to spin a thread upon the neighbor-woman’s wheel.

She finished the thread and put it round her neck. Then she began to
search for more candles so that she might be able to light one, as
another went out. But as she rose up all the candles went out all at
once. The hound started from the foot of the bed. Then she saw the
corpse sitting up stiffly in the place where it had been laid.

Something in Sheen overcame her dread, and she went over to the corpse
and took the salt that was on its breast and put it on its lips. Then a
voice came from between the lips. “Fair Maid,” said the voice, “have
you the courage to follow me? The others failed me and they have been
stricken. Are you faithful?” “I will follow you,” said Sheen. “Then,”
 said the corpse, “put your hands on my shoulders and come with me. I
must go over the Quaking Bog, and through the Burning forest, and across
the Icy Sea.” Sheen put her hands on his shoulders. A storm came and
they were swept through the roof of the house. They were carried through
the night. Down they came on the ground and the dead man sprang away
from Sheen. She went to follow him and found her feet upon a shaking
sod. They were on the Quaking Bog, she knew. The corpse of the
Hunter-King went ahead and she knew that she must keep it in sight. He
went swiftly. The sod went under her feet and she was in the watery mud.
She struggled out and jumped over a pool that was hidden with heather.
All the time she was in dread that the figure that went before her so
quickly would be lost to her. She sank and she struggled and she sprang
across pools and morasses. All the time what had been the corpse of the
Hunter-King went before her.

Then she saw fires against the sky and she knew they were coming to the
Burning Forest. The figure before her sprang across a ditch and went
into the forest. Sheen sprang across it too. Burning branches fell
across her path as she went on. Hot winds burnt her face. Flames dazzled
and smoke dazed her. But the figure before her went straight on and
Sheen went straight on too.

The forest ended on a cliff. Below was the sea. The figure before her
dived down and Sheen dived too. The cold chilled her to the marrow. She
thought the chill would drive the life out of her. But she saw the head
of one swimming before her and she swam on.

And then they were on land again. “Fair Maid,” said the corpse of the
Hunter-King, “put your hands on my shoulders again.” She put her hands
on his shoulders. A storm came and swept them away. They were driven
through the roof of the neighbor-woman’s house. The candle-wicks
fluttered and light came on them again. She saw the hound standing in
the middle of the floor. She saw the corpse sitting where it had been
laid and the eyes were now open.

“Fair Maid,” said the voice of the Hunter-King, “you have brought me
back to life. I am a man under enchantment. There is a witch-woman in
the wood that I gave my love to. She enchanted me so that the soul was
out of my body, and wandering away. It was my soul you followed. And the
enchantment was to be broken when I found a heart so faithful that it
would follow my soul over the Quaking Bog, through the Burning Forest
and across the Icy Sea. You have brought my soul and my life back to

Then she ran out of the neighbor’s house. The night after, in the
Spae-Woman’s house she finished weaving the threads that were on the
loom. The next night she stitched the cloth and made the sixth shirt.
The day after she went into the bog to gather the bog-down for the
seventh shirt. She had gathered her basketful and was going through the
wood about the hour of sunset. At the edge of the thin wood she saw the
Hunter-King standing. He took her hands and his were warm hands. His
brown face and his gentian-blue eyes were high and noble. And Sheen
felt a joy like the sharpness of a sword when he sang to her about the
brightness of her hair and the blue of her eyes. “O Maid,” said he,
“is there anything that binds you to this place?” Sheen showed him the
bog-down in the basket and the woven thread that was round her neck.
“Come with me to my kingdom,” said he, “and you shall be my wife and the
love of my heart.” The next evening Sheen went with him. She took the
six shirts she had spun and woven and stitched. The Hunter-King lifted
her before him on a black horse and they rode into his Kingdom.

And now Sheen was the wife of the Hunter-King. She would have been happy
if her husband’s sisters had been kind. But they were jealous and they
made everything in the Castle unfriendly to her. And often they talked
before her brother saying that Sheen was not noble at all, and that the
reason she did not speak was because her language was a base one. They
watched her when she went out to gather bog-down in the daytime, and
they watched her when she spun by herself at night. Sheen longed for the
days and nights to pass so that the last threads might be spun and woven
and the last stitches put in the seventh shirt. Then her brothers would
be with her. She could tell the King about herself and silence the bad
talk of his sisters. But as she neared the end of her task she became
more and more in dread.

The threads were spun and woven for the seventh shirt. The cloth was
made and the first stitches were put in it. Then Sheen’s little son was
born. The King was away at the time, gathering his men together at far
parts of the Kingdom, and he sent a message saying that Sheen and her
baby were to be well-minded, and that his sisters were not to leave the
chamber where she was until he returned.

On the third night, while Sheen was in her bed with her baby beside her,
and while her sisters-in-law were in the room, a strange music was heard
outside. It was played all round the King’s house. Whoever heard it fell
into deep slumber. The kern that were on guard slept. The maids that
were whispering together fell into a slumber. And a deep sleep came upon
Sheen and her child and on her three sisters-in-law who watched in the

Then a gray wolf that had been seen outside sprang in through the window
opening. He took Sheen’s child in his mouth. He sprang back through the
window opening and was seen about the place no more. Her sisters-in-law
wakened while Sheen still slept. They went to tend it and found the
child was gone. Then they were afraid of what their brother would do to
them for letting this happen. They made a plot to clear themselves,
and before Sheen wakened they had killed a little beast and smeared its
blood upon the pillows of the bed.

When the King came into his wife’s chamber he saw his sisters on the
ground lamenting and tearing the hairs out of their heads. He went to
where his wife was sleeping and saw blood upon her hands and upon the
pillows. He turned on his sisters with his sword in his hand. They cried
out that they could not have prevented the thing that had happened--that
the Queen had laid hands on the child and having killed it had thrown
its body to the gray wolf that had been watching outside.

And while they were speaking Sheen awakened. She put out her arms but
her child was not beside her. She found blood upon the pillows. Then
she heard her sisters-in-law accuse her to the King of having killed her
child and flung its body to the gray wolf outside. She fell into a swoon
and when she came out of it her mind was lost to her.

The King knelt to her and begged her to tell him what had happened. But
she only knew she was to say no word. Then he used to watch her and he
wondered why she cried no tear. On the fourth day after she rose from
her bed and searched the Castle for the piece of cloth she had spun
and woven out of the bog-down. She found it and began to sew it for the
seventh shirt. The King’s sisters came to him and said, “The woman you
brought here is of another race from ours. She has forgotten that a
child was born to her, and that she killed it and flung its body to the
gray wolf. She sits there now just stitching a garment.” The King went
and saw her stitching and stitching as if her life depended on each
stitch she put into the cloth. He spoke to her and she looked up but did
not speak. Then the King’s heart was hardened. He took her and brought
her outside the gate of the Castle. “Go back to the people you came
from,” said he, “for I cannot bear that you should be here, and not
speak to me of what has happened.” Sheen knew she was being sent from
the house he had brought her to. A bitter cry came from her. Then the
stitched cloth that was in her hand became bog-down and was blown away
on the breeze. When she saw this happen she turned from the King’s
Castle and ran through the woods crying and crying.

She went through the woods for many days, living on berries and the
water of springs. At last she came to the Spae-Woman’s house. The
Spae-Woman was before the door and she welcomed Sheen back. She gave her
drinks she had made from strange herbs, and in a season Sheen’s mind and
health came back to her, and she knew all that had happened. She thought
she would win back her seven brothers, and then, with their help, win
back her child and her husband. But she knew she would have to gather
the bog-down, spin the threads and weave them all over again, as
her tears and cries had broken her task. She told her story to the
Spae-Woman. Then she went into silence again, gathering the bog-down and
spinning the thread.

But when the first thread was spun the memory of her child blew against
her heart and she cried tears down. The thread she had spun became
bog-down and was blown away. For days she wept and wept. Then
the Spae-Woman said to her, “Commit the child you have lost to
Diachbha--that is, to Destiny--and Diachbha may bring it about that
he shall be the one that will restore your seven brothers their human
forms. And when you have committed your lost little son to Diachbha go
back to your husband and tell him all you have lived through.”

Sheen, believing in the Spae-Woman’s wisdom, did what was told her. She
made an image of her lost little son with leaves and left it on the top
of the house where it was blown away by the winds. Then she was ready to
go back to her husband and tell him all that had happened in her life.
But on the day she was bringing the last pitcher of water from the well
she met him on the path before her. “Do you remember that I carried
you across the bog?” he said. “And do you remember that I followed your
soul?” said she.

These were the first words she ever spoke to him. They went back
together to the Spae-Woman’s and she told him all that had been in her
life. He told her how his sisters had acknowledged that they had spoken
falsely against her.

He took her back to his own Kingdom, and there, as King and Queen they
still live. But the name she bears is not Sheen or Storm now. Two sons
more were born to her. But her seven brothers are still seven wild
geese, and the Queen has found no trace of her first-born son. But the
Spae-Woman has had a dream, and the dream has revealed this to her: the
Son that Sheen lost is in the world, and if the maiden who will come to
love him, will give seven drops of her heart’s blood, the Queen’s seven
brothers will regain their human forms.

“So that is the Unique Tale,” said the Old Woman of Beare. “If you ever
find out what went before it and what comes after it come back here and
tell it to me. But I don’t think you’ll get the rest of it,” said she,
“seeing that the two of you weren’t able to count the horns outside.”
 She went on talking and talking, Gilly and the King’s Son hearing what
she said when she spoke in a sudden high voice, and not hearing when
she murmured on as if talking to the ashes or to the pot or to the
corncrake, the cuckoo or the swallow that were picking grains off the
floor. “If you see Laheen the Eagle again, or Blackfoot the Elk or the
Crow of Achill tell them to come and visit me sometime. I’m all alone
here except for my swallow and cuckoo and corncrake. And mind you, great
Kings and Princes used to come to see me.” So she went on talking in low
tones and in sudden high tones.

“You must come with me and help me to get the rest of the Unique Tale,”
 said the King of Ireland’s Son. “That I’ll do,” said Gilly of the
Goatskin. “But I must get a name first.

“Old Mother,” said he, to the Old Woman of Beare. “You must now give me
a name.”

“I’ll give you a name,” said the Old Woman of Beare, “but you must stand
before me and strip off the goatskin that covers you.”

Gilly pulled at the strings and the goatskin fell on the ground. The Old
Woman of Beare nodded her head. “You have the stars on your breast that
denote the Son of a King,” she said.

“The Son of a King--me!” said Gilly of the Goatskin. “You have the stars
on your breast,” said the Old Woman of Beare.

Gilly looked at himself and saw the three stars on his breast. “If I am
the Son of a King I never knew it until now,” he said.

“You are the son of a King,” said the Old Woman of Beare, “and I will
give you a name when you come back to me. But I want you, first of all,
to find out what happened to the Crystal Egg.”

“The Crystal Egg!” said Gilly in great surprise.

“The Crystal Egg indeed,” said the Old Woman of Beare. “You must know
that it was stolen out of the nest of Laheen the Eagle, and the creature
that stole it was the Crow of Achill. But what happened to the Crystal
Egg after that no one knows.”

“I myself had it after that,” said Gilly, “and it was stolen from me by
Rory the Fox. And then it was put under a goose to hatch.” “A goose to
hatch the Crystal Egg after an Eagle had half-hatched it! Aye, aye, to
be sure, that’s right,” said the Old Woman of Beare. “And now you must
go and find out what happened to it. Go now, and when you come back I
will give you your name.”

“I will do that,” said Gilly of the Goatskin. Then he turned to the
King’s Son. “Three days before Midsummer’s Day meet me on the road to
the Town of the Red Castle, and I will go with you to find out what went
before and what comes after the Unique Tale,” he said.

“I will meet you,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

The two youths went to the table and ate slices of the unwasted loaf
and drank draughts from the inexhaustible bottle. “I shall stay here to
practise sword-cuts and sword-thrusts,” said the King’s Son, “until four
days before Midsummer’s Day.” The two youths went to the door.

“Seven waves of good-luck to you, Old Woman of Beare,” said Gilly of the

“May your double be slain and yourself remain,” said the King’s Son.
Then they went out together, but not along the same path did the two
youths go.

Gilly slept as he traveled that night, for he fell in with a man who was
driving a load of hay to the fair, and when he got into the cart he lay
against the hay and slept. When he parted with the carter he cut a holly
stick and journeyed along the road by himself. At the fall of night he
came to a place that made him think he had been there before: he looked
around and then he knew that this was the place he had lived in when he
had the Crystal Egg. He looked to see if the house was there: it
was, and people were living in it, for he saw smoke coming out of the
chimney. It was dark now and Gilly thought he could not do better than
take shelter in that house.

He went to the door and knocked. There was a lot of rattling behind,
and then a crooked old woman opened the door to him. “What do you want?”
 said she.

“Can I have shelter here for to-night, ma’am?” said Gilly.

“You can get no shelter hem,” said the old woman, “and I’d advise you to

“May I ask who lives here?” said Gilly, putting his foot inside the

“Six very honest men whose business keeps them out until two and three
in the morning,” said the crooked old woman.

Gilly guessed that the honest men whose business kept them out until
two and three in the morning were the robbers he had heard about. And he
thought they might be the very men who had carried off the Spae-Woman’s
goose and the Crystal Egg along with it. “Would you tell me, good
woman,” said Gilly, “did your six honest men ever bring to this house an
old hatching goose?”

“They did indeed,” said the crooked woman, “and a heart-scald the same
old hatching goose is. It goes round the house and round the house,
trying to hatch the cups I leave out of my hands.”

Then Gilly pushed the door open wide and stepped into the house.

“Don’t stay in the house,” said the crooked old woman. “I’ll tell you
the truth now. My masters are robbers, and they’ll skin you alive if
they find you here when they come back in the morning.”

“It’s more likely I’ll skin them alive,” said Gilly, and he looked
so fierce that he fairly frightened the old woman. “And if you don’t
satisfy me with supper and a bed I’ll leave you to meet them hanging
from the door.”

The crooked old woman was so terrified that she gave him a supper of
porridge and showed him a bed to sleep in. He turned in and slept. He
was roused by a candle being held to his eyes. He wakened up and saw six
robbers standing round him with knives in their hands.

“What brings you under our roof?” said the Captain. “Answer me now
before we skin you as we would skin an eel.”

“Speak up and answer the Captain,” said the robbers.

“Why shouldn’t I be under this roof?” said Gilly. “I am the Master-Thief
of the World.”

The robbers put their hands on their knees and laughed at that. Gilly
jumped out of the bed. “I have come to show you the arts of thievery and
roguery,” said he. “I’ll show you some tricks that will let you hold up
your heads amongst the thieves and robbers of the world.”

He looked so bold and he spoke so bold that the robbers began to think
he might have some reason for talking as he did. They left him and went
off to their beds. Gilly slept again. At the broad noon they were all
sitting at breakfast--Gilly and the six robbers. A farmer went past
leading a goat to the fair.

“Could any of you steal that goat without doing any violence to the man
who is driving it?” said Gilly.

“I couldn’t,” said one robber, and “I couldn’t,” said another robber,
and “I’d be hardly able to do that myself,” said the Captain of the

“I can do it,” said Gilly. “I’ll be back with the goat before you are
through with your breakfast.” He went outside.

Gilly knew that country well and he ran through the wood until he was
a bend of the road ahead of the farmer who was leading his goat to the
fair. He took off one shoe and left it in the middle of the road. He
ran on then until he was round another bend of the road. He took off the
other shoe and left it down. Then he hid behind the hedge and waited.

The farmer came to where the first shoe was. “That’s not a bad shoe,”
 said he, “and if there was a comrade for it, it would be worth picking
up.” He went on then and came to where the other shoe was lying. “Here
is the comrade,” said he, “and it’s worth my while now to go back for
the first.”

He tied the goat to the mile-stone and went back. As soon as the farmer
had turned his back, Gilly took the collar off the goat, left it on the
milestone and took the goat through a gap in the hedge. He brought it
to the house before the robbers were through with their breakfast. They
were all terribly surprised. The Captain began to bite at his nails.

The farmer, with the two shoes under his arm, came to where he had left
the goat. The goat was gone and its collar was left on the milestone. He
knew that a robber had taken his goat. “And I had promised Ann, my
wife, to buy her a new shawl at the fair,” said he. “She’ll never stop
scolding me if I go back to her now with one hand as long as the other.
The best thing I can do is to take a sheep out of my field and sell
that. Then when she is in good humor on account of getting the shawl
I’ll tell her about the loss of my goat.” So the farmer went back to the

They were sitting down to a game of cards after breakfast--the six
robbers and Gilly--when they saw the farmer going past with the sheep.
“I’ll be bound that he’ll watch that sheep more closely than he watched
the goat,” said one of the robbers. “Could any of you steal that sheep
without doing him any violence?” said Gilly. “I couldn’t,” said one
robber, and “I couldn’t,” said another robber. “I could hardly do that
myself,” said the Captain of the Robbers. “I’ll bring the sheep here
before you’re through with the game of cards,” said Gilly.

The farmer was just past the milestone when he saw a man hanging on a
tree. “The saints between us and harm,” said he, “do they hang men along
this road?” Now the man hanging from the tree was Gilly. He had fastened
himself to a branch with his belt, putting it under his arm-pits. He
slipped down from the branch and ran till he was ahead of the farmer.
The farmer saw another man hanging from a tree. “The saints preserve
us,” said he, “sure; it’s not possible that they hanged two men along
this road?” Gilly slipped down from that tree too and ran on until he
was ahead of the farmer again. The farmer saw a third man hanging from
a tree. “Am I leaving my senses?” said he. “I’ll go back and see if the
other men are hanging there as I thought they were.” He tied the sheep
to a bush and went back. As soon as he turned, Gilly slipped down from
the tree, took the sheep through a gap, and got back to the robbers
before they were through with the game. All the robbers said it was
a wonderful thing he had done. The Captain of the Robbers was left
standing by himself scratching his head.

The farmer found no men hanging on trees and he thought he was out of
his mind. He came back and he found his sheep gone. “What will I do
now?” said he. “I daren’t let Ann know I lost a goat and a sheep until
I put her into good humor by showing the shawl I bought her at the fair.
There’s nothing to be done now, but take a bullock out of the field and
sell it at the fair.” He went to the field then, took a bullock out of
it, and passed the house just as the robbers were lighting their pipes.
“If he watched the goat and the sheep closely he’ll watch the bullock
nine times as closely,” said one of the robbers.

“Which of you could take the bullock without doing the man any
violence?” said Gilly. “I couldn’t,” said one robber, and “I couldn’t,”
 said another robber. “If you could do it,” said the Captain of the
Robbers to Gilly, “I’ll resign my command and give it to you.” “Done,”
 said Gilly, and he went out of the house again.

He went quickly through the wood, and when he came near where the farmer
was he began to bleat like a goat. The farmer stopped and listened. Then
Gilly began to baa like the sheep. “That sounds very like my goat and
sheep,” said the farmer. “Maybe they weren’t taken at all, but just
strayed off. If I can get them now, I needn’t make any excuses to Ann my
wife.” He tied the bullock to a tree and went into the wood. As soon as
he did, Gilly slipped out, took the bullock by the rope and hurried back
to the house. The robbers were gathered at the door to watch for his
coming back. When they saw him with the bullock they threw up their
hats. “This man must be our Captain,” they said. The Captain was biting
his lips and his nails. At last he took off his hat with the feathers in
it and gave it to Gilly. “You’re our Captain now,” said the robbers.

Gilly ordered that the goat, the sheep and the bullock be put into the
byre, that the door be locked and the key be given to him. All that was
done. Then said he to all the robbers, “I demand to know what became of
the Crystal Egg that was with the goose you stole from the Spae-Woman.”
 “The Crystal Egg,” said one of the robbers. “It hatched, and a queer
bird came out of it.” “Where is that bird now?” said Gilly. “On the
waves of the lake near at hand,” said the robbers. “We see it every
day.” “Take me to the lake till I see the Bird out of the Crystal Egg,”
 said Gilly. They locked the door of the house behind them, and the
seven, Gilly at their head, wearing the hat with feathers, marched down
to the lake.


Then they showed him the bird that was on the waves of the lake--a swan
she was and she floated proudly. The swan came towards them and as she
drew nearer they could hear her voice. The sounds she made were not
like any sound of birds, but like the sounds bards make chanting their
verses. Words came on high notes and low notes, but they were like words
in a strange language. And still the swan chanted as she drew near to
the shore where Gilly and the six robbers stood.

She spread out her wings, and, raising her neck she curved it, while
she stayed watching the men on the bank. “Hear the Swan of Endless
Tales--the Swan of Endless Tales” she sang in words they knew. Then she
raised herself out of the water, turned round in the air, and flew back
to the middle of the lake.

“Time for us to be leaving the place when there is a bird on the lake
that can speak like that,” said Mogue, who had been the Captain of the
Robbers. “To-night I’m leaving this townland.”

“And I am leaving too,” said another robber. “And I too,” said another.
“And I may be going away from this place,” said Gilly of the Goatskin.

The robbers went away from him and back to the house and Gilly sat by
the edge of the lake waiting to see if the Swan of Endless Tales would
come back and tell him something. She did not come. As Gilly sat there
the farmer who had lost his goat, his sheep and his bullock came by. He
was dragging one foot after the other and looking very downcast. “What
is the matter with you, honest man?” said Gilly.

The farmer told him how he had lost his goat, his sheep and his bullock.
He told him how he had thought he heard his goat bleating and his sheep
ba’ing, and how he went through the wood to search for them, and how his
bullock was gone when he came back to the road. “And what to say to
my wife Ann I don’t know,” said he, “particularly as I have brought no
shawl to put her in good humor. Heavy is the blame she’ll give me on
account of my losing a goat, a sheep and a bullock.”

Gilly took a key out of his pocket. “Do you see this key?” said he.
“Take it and open the byre door at such a place, and you’ll find in that
byre your goat, your sheep and your bullock. There are robbers in that
house, but if they try to prevent your taking your own tell them that
all the threshers of the country are coming to beat them with flails.”
 The farmer took the key and went away very thankful to Gilly. The story
says that he got back his goat, his sheep and his bullock and made it an
excuse that he had seen three magpies on the road for not going to the
fair to buy a shawl for his wife Ann. The robbers were very frightened
when he told them about the threshers coming and they went away from
that part of the country.

As for Gilly, he thought he would go back to the Old Woman of Beare for
his name. He took the path by the edge of the lake. And as he journeyed
along with his holly-stick in his hand he heard the Swan of Endless
Tales chanting.



Flann was the name that the Old Woman of Beare gave to Gilly of the
Goatskin when he came back to tell her that the Swan of Endless Tales
had been hatched out of the Crystal Egg. He went from her house then and
came to where the King of Ireland’s Son waited for him. The two comrades
went along a well-traveled road. As they went on they fell in with men
driving herds of ponies, men carrying packs on their backs, men with
tools for working gold and silver, bronze and iron. Every man whom they
asked said, “We are going to the Town of the Red Castle, and to the
great fair that will be held there.” The King’s Son and Flann thought
they should go to the Town of the Red Castle too, for where so many
people would be, there was a chance of hearing what went before and what
came after the Unique Tale. So they went on.

And when they had come to a well that was under a great rock those whom
they were with halted. They said it was the custom for the merchants
and sellers to wait there for a day and to go into the Town of the Red
Castle the day following. “On this day,” they said, “the people of the
Town celebrate the Festival of Midsummer, and they do not like a great
company of people to go into their Town until the Festival is over.”

The King of Ireland’s Son and Flann went on, and they were let into the
town. The people had lighted great fires in their market-place and they
were driving their cattle through the fires: “If there be evil on you,
may it burn, may it burn,” they were crying. They were afraid that
witches and enchanters might come into the town with the merchants and
the sellers, and that was the reason they did not permit a great company
to enter.

The fires in all their houses had been quenched that day, and they might
not be lighted except from the fires the cattle had gone through. The
fires were left blazing high and the King’s Son and Flann spent hours
watching them, and watching the crowds that were around.

Then the time came to take fire to the houses. They who came for fire
were all young maidens. Each came into the light of one of the great
fires, took coals from a fire that had burnt low, placed them in a new
earthen vessel and went away. Flann thought that all the maidens were
beautiful and wonderful, although the King’s Son told him that some were
black-faced, and some crop-headed and some hunchbacked. Then a maiden
came, who was so high above the rest that Flann had no words to speak of

She had silver on her head and silver on her arms, and the people around
the fires all bowed to her. She had black, black hair and she had a
smiling face--not happily smiling, but proudly smiling. Flann thought
that a star had bent down with her. And when she had taken the fire and
had gone away, Flann said, “She is surely the King’s daughter!”

“She is,” said the King of Ireland’s Son. “The people here have spoken
her name.” “What is her name?” asked Flann. “It is Lassarina,” said the
King’s Son, “Flame-of-Wine.”

“Shall we see her again?” said Flann.

“That I do not know,” said the King’s Son. “Come now, and let us ask the
people here if they have knowledge of the Unique Tale.”

“Wait,” said Flann, “they are talking about Princess Flame-of-Wine.” He
did not move, but listened to what was said. All said that the King’s
daughter was proud. Some said she was beautiful, but others answered
that her lips were thin, and her eyes were mocking. No other maidens
came for fire. Flann stood before the one that still blazed, and thought
and thought. The King’s Son asked many if they had knowledge of the
Unique Tale, but no one had heard of it. Some told him that there would
be merchants and sellers from many parts of the world at the fair that
would be held on the morrow, and that there would be a chance of meeting
one who had knowledge of it. Then the King’s Son went with one who
brought him to a Brufir’s--that is, to a House of Hospitality maintained
by the King for strangers. As for Flann, he sat looking into the fire
until it died down, and then he slept before it.


Flann was wakened by a gander and his flock of geese that stood round
him; shook their wings and set up their goose-gabble. It was day then,
although there was still a star in the sky. He threw furze-roots where
there was a glow, and made a fire blaze up again. Then the dogs of the
town came down to look at him, and then stole away.

Horns were blown outside, and the watchman opened the gates. Flann shook
himself and stood up to see the folk that were coming in. First came the
men who drove the mountain ponies that had lately fed with the deer
in wild places. Then came men in leathern jerkins who led wide-horned
bulls--a black bull and a white bull, and a white bull and a black bull,
one after the other. Then there were men who brought in high, swift
hounds, three to each leash they held. Women in brown cloaks carried
cages of birds. Men carried on their shoulders and in their belts tools
for working gold and silver, bronze and iron. And there were calves and
sheep, and great horses and weighty chariots, and colored cloths, and
things closed in packs that merchants carried on their shoulders.
The famous bards, and story-tellers and harpists would not come until
noon-time when the business of the fair would have abated, but with the
crowd of beggars came ballad-singers, and the tellers of the stories
that were called “Go-by-the-Market-Stake,” because they were told around
the stake in the market place and were very common.

And at the tail of the comers whom did Flann see but Mogue, the Captain
of the Robbers!

Mogue wore a hare-skin cap, his left eye protruded as usual, and he
walked limpingly. He had a pack on his back, and he led a small, swift
looking horse of a reddish color. Flann called to him as he passed and
Mogue gave a great start. He grinned when he saw it was Flann and walked
up to him.

“Mogue,” said Flann, “what are you doing in the Town of the Red Castle?”

“I’m here to sell a few things,” said Mogue, “this little horse,” said
he, “and a few things I have in my pack.”

“And where are your friends?” asked Flann. “My band, do you mean?”
 said Mogue. “Sure, they all left me when you proved you were the better
robber. What are you doing here?”

“I have no business at all,” said Flann.

“By the Hazel! that’s what I like to hear you say. Join me then. You and
me would do well together.”

“I won’t join you,” said Flann.

“I’d rather have you with me than the whole of the band. What were they
anyway? Cabbage-heads!” Mogue winked with his protruding eye. “Wait till
you see me again,” said he. “I’ve the grandest things in my pack.” He
went on leading the little horse. Then Flann set out to look for the
King’s Son.

He found him at the door of the Brufir’s, and they drank bowls of milk
and ate oaten bread together, and then went to the gate of the town to
watch the notable people who were coming in.

And with the bards and harpers and Kings’ envoys who came in, the King’s
Son saw his two half-brothers, Dermott and Downal. He hailed them and
they knew him and came up to him gladly. The King’s Son made Flann known
to them, saying that he too was the son of a King.

They looked fine youths, Downal and Dermott, in their red cloaks, with
their heads held high, and a brag in their walk and their words. They
left their horses with the grooms and walked with Flann and the King’s
Son. They were tall and ruddy; the King’s Son was more brown in the
hair and more hawk-like in the face: the three were different from the
dark-haired, dark-eyed, red-lipped lad to whom the Old Woman of Beare
had given the name of Flann.

No one had seen the King who lived in the Red Castle, Dermott and Downal
told the other two. He was called the Wry-faced King, and, on account of
his disfigurement, he let no one but his Councilors see him.

“We are to go to his Castle to-day,” said Dermott and Downal. “You come
too, brother,” said he to the King’s Son.

“And you too, comrade,” said Downal to Flann. “Why should we not all go?
By Ogma! Are we not all sons of Kings?”

Flann wondered if he would see the King’s daughter, Flame-of-Wine. He
would surely go to the Castle.

They drank ale, played chess and talked until it was afternoon. Then the
grooms who were with Downal and Dermott brought the four youths new red
cloaks. They put them on and went towards the King’s Castle.

“Brother,” said Dermott to the King’s Son, “I want to tell you that we
are not going back to our father’s Castle nor to his Kingdom. We have
taken the world for our pillow. We are going to leave the grooms asleep
one fine morning, and go as the salmon goes down the river.”

“Why do you want to leave our father’s Kingdom?”

“Because we don’t want to rule nor to learn to rule. We’ll let you,
brother, do all that. We’re going to learn the trade of a sword-smith.
We would make fine swords. And with the King of Senlabor there is a
famous sword-smith, and we are going to learn the trade from him.”

The four went to the Red Castle, and they were brought in and they went
and sat on the benches to wait for the King’s Steward who would receive
them. And while they waited they watched the play of a pet fox in
the courtyard. Flann was wondering all the time if the Princess
Flame-of-Wine would pass through the court-yard or come into the hall
where they waited.

Then he saw her come up the courtyard. She saw the youths in the hall
and she turned round to watch the pet fox for a while. Then she came
into the chamber and stood near the door.

She wore a mask across her face, but her brow and mouth and chin were
shown. The youths saluted her, and she bent her head to them. One of the
women who had brought birds to the Fair followed her, bringing a cage.
Flame-of-Wine talked to this woman in a strange language.

Although she talked to the woman, Flann saw that she watched his three
companions. Him she did not notice, because the bench on which he sat
was behind the others. Flame-of-Wine looked at the King’s Son first,
and then turned her eyes from him. She bent her head to listen to what
Downal and Dermott were saying. Flann she did not look at at all, and he
became sick at heart of the Red Castle.

The King’s Steward came into the Hall and when he announced who the
youths were--three sons of the King of Ireland traveling with their
foster-brother--Flame-of-Wine went over and spoke to them. “May we see
you to-morrow, Kings’ Sons,” she said. “To-morrow is our feast of the
Gathering of Apples. It might be pleasant for you to hear music in the
King’s garden.”

She smiled on Downal and Dermott and on the King’s Son and went out of
the Chamber. The King’s Steward feasted the four youths and afterwards
made them presents. But Flann did not heed what he ate nor what he heard
said, nor what present was given him.


The four youths left the Castle and Downal and Dermott took their own
way when they came to the foot-bridge that was across the river. Then
when they were crossing it the King’s Son and Flann saw two figures--a
middle-aged, sturdy man and an old, broken-looking woman--meet before
the Bull’s Field. “It is the Gobaun Saor,” said the King’s Son. “It is
the Spae-Woman,” said Flann. They went to them, each wishing to greet
his friend and helper.

There they saw a sturdy, middle-aged man and a broken-looking old woman.
But the woman looking on the man saw one who had full wisdom to plan and
full strength to build, whose wisdom and whose strength could neither
grow nor diminish. And the man looking on the woman saw one whose brow
had all quiet, whose heart had all benignity. “Hail, Gobaun, Builder for
the Gods,” said the woman. “Hail, Grania Oi, Reconciler for the Gods,”
 said the man.

Then the two youths came swiftly up to them, and the King’s Son greeted
the middle-aged man, and Flann kissed the hands of the old woman.

“What of your search, King’s Son?” said the Gobaun Saor.

“I have found the Unique Tale, but not what went before nor what comes
after it,” said the King’s Son.

“I will clear the Sword of Light of its stain when you bring me the
whole of the Unique Tale,” said the Gobaun Saor.

“I would search the whole world for it,” said the King’s Son. “But now
the time is becoming short for me.” “Be quick and active,” said the
Gobaun Saor. “I have set up my forge,” said he, “outside the town
between two high stones. When you bring the whole of the Tale to me I
shall clear your sword.”

“Will you not tell him, Gobaun Saor,” said the Spae-Woman, “where he may
find the one who will tell him the rest of the story?”

“If he sees one he knows in this town,” said the Gobaun Saor, “let him
mount a horse he has mounted before and pursue that one and force him to
tell what went before and what comes after the Unique Tale.”

Saying this the Gobaun Saor turned away and walked along the road that
went out of the town.

The Spae-Woman had brought besoms to the town to sell. She showed the
two youths the little house she lived in while she was there. It was
filled with the heather-stalks which she bound together for besoms.

They left the Spae-Woman and went through the town, the King of
Ireland’s Son searching every place for a man he knew or a horse he had
mounted before, while Flann thought about the Princess Flame-of-Wine,
and how little she considered him beside the King’s Son and Dermott
and Downal. They came to where a crowd was standing before a conjurer’s
booth. They halted and stood waiting for the conjurer to appear. He came
out and put a ladder standing upright with nothing to lean against and
began climbing up. Up, up, up, he went, and the ladder grew higher and
higher as he climbed. Flann thought he would climb into the sky. Then
the ladder got smaller and smaller and Flann saw the conjurer coming
down on the other side. “He has come here to take that horse,” said a
voice behind the King of Ireland’s Son.

The King’s Son looked round, and on the outskirts of the crowd he saw a
man with a hare-skin cap and a protruding eye who was holding a reddish
horse, while he watched the conjuror. The King of Ireland’s Son knew the
horse--it was the Slight Red Steed that had carried him and Fedelma from
the Enchanter’s house and had brought him to the Cave where he had found
the Sword of Light. He looked at the conjuror again and he saw he was
no other than the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands. Then it crossed his
mind what the Gobaun Saor had said to him.

He had seen a man he knew and a horse he had mounted before. He was to
mount that horse, follow the man, and force him to tell the rest of the
Unique Tale.

The King’s Son drew back to the outskirts of the crowd. He snatched the
bridle from the hands of Mogue, the man who held it, and jumped up on
the back of the Slight Red Steed.

As soon as he did this the ladder that was standing upright fell on the
ground. The people shouted and broke away. And then the King’s Son saw
the Enchanter jump across a house and make for the gate of the town.

But if he could jump across a house so could the Slight Red Steed. The
King’s Son turned its head, plucked at its rein, and over the same house
it sprang too. The more he ran the more swift the Enchanter became. He
jumped over the gate of the town, the Slight Red Steed after him. He
went swiftly across the country, making high springs over ditches and
hedges. No other steed but the Slight Red Steed could have kept its
rider in sight of him.


Up hill and down dale the Enchanter went, but, mounted on the Slight Red
Steed, the King of Ireland’s Son was in hot pursuit. The Enchanter raced
up the side of the seventh hill, and when the King’s Son came to the top
of it he found no one in sight.

He raced on, however, and he passed a dead man hanging from a tree. He
raced on and on, but still the Enchanter was not to be seen. Then the
thought came into his mind that the man who was hanging from the tree
and who he thought was dead was the crafty old Enchanter. He turned the
Slight Red Steed round and raced back. The man that had been hanging
from the tree was there no longer.

The King’s Son turned his horse amongst the trees and began to search
for the Enchanter. He found no trace of him. “I have lost again,” he
said. Then he threw the bridle on the neck of the horse and he said, “Go
your own way now, my Slight Red Steed.”

When he said that the Slight Red Steed twitched its ears and galloped
towards the West. It went through woods and across streams, and when the
crows were flying home and the kites were flying abroad it brought the
King’s Son to a stone house standing in the middle of a bog. “It may be
the Enchanter is in this house,” said the King’s Son. He jumped off the
Slight Red Steed, pushed the door of the house open, and there, seated
on a chair in the middle of the floor with a woman sitting beside him,
was the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands. “So,” said the Enchanter, “my
Slight Red Steed has brought you to me.”

“So,” said the King’s Son, “I have found you, my crafty old Enchanter.”

“And now that you have found me, what do you want of me?” said the

“Your head,” said the King’s Son, drawing the tarnished Sword of Light.

“Will nothing less than my head content you?” said the Enchanter.

“Nothing less--unless it be what went before, and what comes after the
Unique Tale.”

“The Unique Tale,” said the Enchanter. “I will tell you what I know of
it.” Thereupon he began

I was a Druid and the Son of a Druid, and I had learned the language of
the birds. And one morning, as I walked abroad, I heard a blackbird and
a robin talking, and when I heard what they said I smiled to myself.

“Now the woman I had just married noticed that I kept smiling, and she
questioned me. ‘Why do you keep smiling to yourself?’ I would not tell
her. ‘Is that not the truth? ‘“ said the Enchanter to a woman who sat
beside him. “It is the truth,” said she.

“On the third day I was still smiling to myself, and my wife questioned
me, and when I did not answer threw dish-water into my face. ‘May
blindness come upon you if you do not tell me why you are smiling,’ said
she. Then I told her why I smiled to myself. I had heard what the birds
said. The blackbird said to the robin, ‘Do you know that just under
where we are sitting are three rods of enchantment, and if one were to
take one of them and strike a man with it, he would be changed to any
creature one named?’ That is what I had heard the birds say and I smiled
because I was the only creature who knew about the rods of enchantment.

“My wife made me show her where the rods were. She cut one of them when
I went away. That evening she came behind me and struck me with a rod.
‘Go out now and roam as a wolf,’ she said, and there and then I was
changed into a wolf. ‘Is that not true?’” said he to the woman. “It is
true,” she said.

“And being changed into a wolf, I went through the woods seeking wolf’s
meat. And now you must ask my wife to tell you more of the story.” The
King of Ireland’s Son turned to the woman who sat on the seat next the
Enchanter, and asked her to tell him more of the story. And thereupon
she began

Before all that happened I was known as the Maid of the Green Mantle.
One day a King rode up a mountain with five score followers and a mist
came on them as they rode. The King saw his followers no more. He called
out after a while and four score answered him. And he called out again
after another while and two score answered him. And after another while
he called out again and only a score answered him through the mist, and
when he called out again no one answered him at all.

“The King went up the mountain until he came to the place where I lived
with the Druids who reared me. He stayed long in that place. The King
loved me for a while and I loved the King, and when he went away I
followed him.

“Because he would not come back to me I enchanted him so that there
were times when he was left between life and death. Once when he was
seemingly dead a girl watched by him, and she followed his spirit into
many terrible places and so broke my enchantment.”

“Sheen was the girl’s name,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“Sheen was her name,” said the woman. “He brought her to his Kingdom,
and made her his queen. After that I married the man who is here
now--the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands, the Son of the Druid of the
Gray Rock. Ask him now to tell you the rest of the story.”

When she changed me into a gray wolf,” said the Enchanter, “I went
through the woods searching for what a wolf might eat, but could find
nothing to stay my hunger. Then I came back and stood outside my house
and the woman who had been called the Maid of the Green Mantle came to
me. ‘I will give you back your human form,’ she said, ‘if you do as I
bid you.’

“I promised her I would do as she bade.

“She bade me go to a King’s house where a child had been born. She bade
me steal the child away. I went to the King’s house. I went into the
chamber and I stole the child from the mother’s side. Then I ran through
the woods. But in the end I fell into a trap that the Giant Crom Duv had
set for the wolves that chased his stray cattle.

“For a night I lay in the trap with the child beside me. Then Crom Duv
came and lifted out wolf and child. Three Hags with Long Teeth were
there when he took us out of the trap, and he gave the child to one of
them, telling her to rear it so that the child might be a servant for

“He put me into a sack, promising himself that he would give me a good
beating. He left me on the floor of his house. But while he was gone for
his club I bit my way out of the sack and made my escape. I came back
to my own house, and my wife struck me with the wand of enchantment, and
changed me from a wolf into a man again. ‘Is that not true?’” said he to
the woman.

“It is true,” said she.

“That is all of the Unique Tale that I know,” said the Enchanter of
the Black Back-Lands, “and now that I have told it to you, put up your

“I will put up no sword,” said the King of Ireland’s Son, “until you
tell me what King and Queen were the father and mother of the child that
was reared by the Hags of the Long Teeth.”

“I made no promise to tell you that,” said the En-chanter of the Black
Back-Lands. “You have got the story you asked for, and now let me see
your back going through my door.”

“Yes, you have got the story, and be off with you now,” said the woman
who sat by the fire.

He put up his sword; he went to the door; he left the house of the
Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands. He mounted the Slight Red Steed and
rode off. He knew now what went before and what came after the Unique
Tale. The Gobaun Saor would clean the blemish of the blade of the Sword
of Light and would show him how to come to the Land of Mist. Then he
would win back his love Fedelma.

He thought too on the tidings he had for his comrade Flann--Flann was
the Son of the King who was called the Hunter-King and of Sheen whose
brothers had been changed into seven wild geese. He shook his horse’s
reins and went back towards the Town of the Red Castle.


Flann thought upon the Princess Flame-of-Wine. He walked through the
town after the King’s Son had ridden after the Enchanter, without
noticing anyone until he heard a call and saw Mogue standing beside a
little tent that he had set up before the Bull’s Field.

Flann went to Mogue and found him very disconsolate on account of the
loss of the horse he had brought into the town. “This is a bad town to
be in,” said Mogue, “and unless I persuade yourself to become partners
with me I shall have done badly in it. Join with me now and we’ll do
some fine feats together.”

“It would not become a King’s Son to join with a robber-captain,” said

“Fine talk, fine talk,” said Mogue. He thought that Flann was jesting
with him when he spoke of himself as a King’s Son.

“I want to sell three treasures I have with me,” said Mogue. “I have the
most wonderful things that were ever brought into this town.”

“Show them to me,” said Flann.

Mogue opened one of his packs and took out a box. When he opened this
box a fragrance came such as Flann had never felt before. “What is that
that smells like a garden of sweet flowers?” said Flann.

“It is the Rose of Sweet Smells,” said Mogue, and he took a little rose
out of the box. “It never withers and its fragrance is never any less.
It is a treasure for a King’s daughter. But I will not show it in this

“And what is that shining thing in the box?”

“It is the Comb of Magnificence. That is another treasure for a King’s
daughter. The maiden who would wear it would look the most queenly woman
in the Kingdom. But I won’t show that either.”

“What else have you, Mogue?”

“A girdle. The woman who wears it would have to speak the truth.” The
Town of

Flann thought he would do much to get the Rose of Sweet Smells or
the Comb of Magnificence and bring them as presents to the Princess

He slept in Mogue’s tent, and at the peep of day, he rose up and went
to the House of Hospitality where Dermott and Downal were. With them he
would go to the King’s orchard, and he would see, and perhaps he
would speak to, Flame-of-Wine. But Dermott and Downal were not in the
Brufir’s. Flann wakened their grooms and he and they made search for the
two youths. But there was no trace of Dermott and Downal. It seemed they
had left before daybreak with their horses. Flann went with the grooms
to the gate of the town. There they heard from the watchman that the two
youths had gone through the gate and that they had told the watchman to
tell the grooms that they had gone to take the world for their pillow.

The grooms were dismayed to hear this, and so indeed was Flann. Without
the King’s Son and without Downal and Dermott how would he go to the
King’s Garden? He went back to Mogue’s tent to consider what he
should do. And first he thought he would not go to the Festival of the
Gathering of the Apples, as he knew that Flame-of-Wine had only asked
him with his comrades. And then he thought that whatever else happened
he would go to the King’s orchard and see Flame-of-Wine.

If he had one of the wonderful things that Mogue had shown him--the Rose
of Sweet Smells or the Comb of Magnificence! These would show her that
he was of some consequence. If he had either of these wonderful things
and offered it to her she might be pleased with him!

He sat outside the tent and waited for Mogue to return. When he came
Flann said to him, “I will go with you as a servant, and I will serve
you well although I am a King’s Son, if you will give me something now.”

“What do you want from me?” said Mogue.

“Give me the Rose of Sweet Smells,” said Flann.

“Sure that’s the finest thing I have. I couldn’t give you that.”

“I will serve you for two years if you will give it to me,” said Flann.

“No,” said Mogue.

“I will serve you for three years if you will give it to me,” said

“I will give it to you if you will serve me for three years.” Thereupon
Mogue opened his pack and took the box out. He opened it and put the
Rose of Sweet Smells into Flann’s hand.

At once Flann started off for the King’s orchard. The Steward who had
seen him the day before signed to the servants to let him pass through
the gate. He went into the King’s orchard.

Maidens were singing the “Song for the Time of the Blossoming of the
Apple-trees” and all that day and night Flann held their song in his

   The touch of hands that drew it down
   Kindled to blossom all the bough
   O breathe the wonder of the branch,
   And let it through the darkness go!

Youths were gathering apples, and the Princess Flame-of-Wine walked by
herself on the orchard paths.

At last she came to where Flann stood and lifting her eyes she looked at
him. “I had companions,” said Flann, “but they have gone away.”

“They are unmannerly,” said Flame-of-Wine with anger, and she turned

Flann took the rose from under his cloak. Its fragrance came to
Flame-of-Wine and she turned to him again.

“This is the Rose of Sweet Smells,” said Flann. “Will you take it from
me, Princess?”

She came back to him and took the rose in her hand, and there was wonder
in her face.

“It will never wither, and its fragrance will never fail,” said Flann.
“It is the Rose of Sweet Smells. A King’s daughter should have it.”

Flame-of-Wine held the rose in her hand, and smiled on Flann. “What is
your name, King’s Son?” said she, with bright and friendly eyes.

“Flann,” he said.

“Walk with me, Flann,” said she. They walked along the orchard paths,
and the youths and maidens turned towards the fragrance that the Rose of
Sweet Smells gave. Flame-of-Wine laughed, and said, “They all wonder at
the treasure you have brought me, Flann. If you could hear what I shall
tell them about you! I shall tell them that you are the son of a King of
Arabia--no less. They will believe me because you have brought me such a
treasure! I suppose there is nothing more wonderful than this rose!”

Then Flann told her about the other wonderful thing he had seen--the
Comb of Magnificence. “A King’s daughter should have such a treasure,”
 said Flame-of-Wine. “Oh, how jealous I should be if someone brought the
Comb of Magnificence to either of my two sisters--to Bloom-of-Youth
or Breast-of-Light. I should think then that this rose was not such a
treasure after all.”

When he was leaving the orchard she plucked a flower and gave it to him.
“Come and walk in the orchard with me to-morrow,” she said.

“Surely I will come,” said Flann.

“Bring the Comb of Magnificence to me too,” said she. “I could not be
proud of this rose, and I could not love you so well for bringing it
to me if I thought that any other maiden had the Comb of Magnificence.
Bring it to me, Flann.”

“I will bring it to you,” said Flann.


He was at the gate of the town when the King of Ireland’s Son rode back
on the Slight Red Steed. The King’s Son dismounted, put his arm about
Flann and told him that he now had the whole of the Unique Tale. They
sat before Mogue’s tent, and the King’s Son told Flann the whole of the
story he had searched for--how a King traveling through the mist had
come to where Druids and the Maid of the Green Mantle lived, how the
King was enchanted, and how the maiden Sheen released him from the
enchantment. He told him, too, how the Enchanter was changed into a
wolf, and how the wolf carried away Sheen’s child. “And the Unique Tale
is in part your own history, Flann,” said the King of Ireland’s Son,
“for the child that was left with the Hags of the Long Teeth was no one
else than yourself, for you, Flann, have on your breast the stars that
denote the Son of a King.”

“It is so, it is so,” said Flann, “and I will find out what King and
Queen were my father and my mother.”

“Go to the Hags of the Long Teeth and force them to tell you,” said the
King’s Son.

“I will do that,” said Flann, but in his own mind he said, “I will first
bring the Comb of Magnificence to Flame-of-Wine, and I will tell her
that I will have to be away for so many years with Mogue and I shall ask
her to remember me until I come back to her. Then I shall go to the Hags
of the Long Teeth and force them to tell me what King and Queen were my
father and mother.”

The King of Ireland’s Son left Flann to his thoughts and went to find
the Gobaun Saor who would clear for him the tarnished blade of the Sword
of Light and would show him the way to where the King of the Land of
Mist had his dominion.

Mogue spent his time with the ballad-singers and the story-tellers
around the market-stake, and when he came back to his tent he wanted
to drink ale and go to sleep, but Flann turned him from the ale-pot by
saying to him, “I want the Comb of Magnificence from you, Mogue.”

“By my skin,” said Mogue, “it’s my blood you’ll want next, my lad.”

“If you give me the Comb of Magnificence, Mogue, I shall serve you for
six years--three years more than I said yesterday. I shall serve you
well, even though I am the son of a King and can find out who my father
and mother are.”

“I won’t give you the Comb of Magnificence.”

“I’ll serve you seven years if you do, Mogue.”

Mogue drank and drank out of the ale-pot, frowning to himself. He put
the ale-pot away and said, “I suppose your life won’t be any good to you
unless I give you the Comb of Magnificence?”

“That is so, Mogue.”

Mogue sighed heavily, but he went to his pack and took out the box that
the treasures were in. He let Flann take out the Comb of Magnificence.

“Seven years you will have to serve me,” said Mogue, “and you will have
to begin your service now.”

“I will begin it now,” said Flann, but he stole out of the tent, put on
his red cloak and went to the King’s orchard.


“Oh, Flann, my treasure-bringer,” said Flame-of-Wine, when she came to
him. “I have brought you the Comb of Magnificence,” said he. Her hands
went out and her eyes became large and shining. He put the Comb of
Magnificence into her hands.

She put the comb into the back of her hair, and she became at once like
the tower that is builded--what broke its height and turned the full
sunlight from it has been taken away, and the tower stands, the pride
of a King and the delight of a people. When she put the Comb of
Magnificence into her hair she became of all Kings’ daughters the most

She walked with Flann along the paths of the orchard, but always she
was watching her shadow to see if it showed her added magnificence. Her
shadow showed nothing. She took Flann to the well in the orchard, and
looked down into it, but her image in the well did not show her added
magnificence either. Soon she became tired of walking on the orchard
paths, and when she came to the gate she walked no further but stood
with Flann at the gate. “A kiss for you, Flann, my treasure-bringer,”
 said she, and she kissed him and then went hurrying away. And as Flann
watched her he thought that although she had kissed him he was not now
in her mind.

He went out of the orchard disconsolate, thinking that when he was on
his seven years’ service with Mogue Princess Flame-of-Wine might forget
him. As he walked on he passed the little house where the Spae-Woman had
her besoms and heather-stalks. She ran to him when she saw him.

“Have you heard that the King’s Son has found what went before, and what
comes after the Unique Tale?” said she.

“That I have. And I have to go to the Hags of the Long Teeth to find out
who my father and mother were, for surely I am the child who was taken
from Sheen.”

“And do you remember that Sheen’s seven brothers were changed into seven
wild geese?” said she.

“I remember that, mother.”

“And seven wild geese they will be until a maiden who loves you will
give seven drops of her heart’s blood to bring them back to their human

“I remember that, mother.” “Whatever maid you love, her you must ask
if she would give seven drops of her heart’s blood. It may be that she
would. It may be that she would not and that you would still love her
without thought of her giving one drop of blood of her little finger.”

“I cannot ask the maiden I love to give seven drops of her heart’s

“Who is the maiden you love?”

“The King’s daughter, Flame-of-Wine.”

He told the Spae-Woman about the presents he had given her--he told
the Spae-Woman too that he had bound himself to seven years’ service
to Mogue on account of these presents. The Spae-Woman said, “What other
treasures are in Mogue’s pack?”

“One treasure more the Girdle of Truth. Whoever puts it on can speak
nothing but the truth.”

Said the Spae-Woman, “You are to take the Girdle of Truth and give it
to Flame-of-Wine. Tell Mogue that I said he is to give it to you without
adding one day to your years’ service. When Flame-of-Wine has put the
girdle around her waist ask her for the seven drops of heart’s blood
that will bring your mother’s seven brothers back to their human shapes.
She may love you and yet refuse to give you the seven drops from her
heart. But tell her of this, and hear what she will say.”

Flann left the Spae-Woman’s and went back to Mogue’s tent. The loss of
his treasures had overcome Mogue and he was drinking steadily and went
from one bad temper to another.

“Begin your service now by watching the tent while I sleep,” said he.

“There is one thing more I want from you, Mogue,” said Flann.

“By the Eye of Balor! you’re a cuckoo in my nest. What do you want now?”

“The Girdle of Truth.”

“Is it my last treasure you’d be taking on me?”

“The Spae-Woman bid me tell you that you’re to give me the Girdle of

“It’s a pity of me, it’s a pity of me,” said Mogue. But he took the box
out of his pack, and let Flann take the girdle.


Flame-of-Wine saw him. She walked slowly down the orchard path so that
all might notice the stateliness of her appearance.

“I am glad to see you again, Flann,” said she. “Have your comrades yet
come back to my father’s town?”

Flann told her that one of them had returned.

“Bid him come see me,” said Flame-of-Wine. Then she saw the girdle in
his hands.

“What is it you have?” said she.

“Something that went with the other treasures--a girdle.”

“Will you not let me have it, Flann?” She took the girdle in her hands.
“Tell me, youth,” she said, “how you got all these treasures?”

“I will have to give seven years’ service for them,” Flann said.

“Seven years,” said she, “but you will remember--will you not--that I
loved you for bringing them to me?”

“Will you remember me until I come back from my seven years’ service?”

“Oh, yes,” said Flame-of-Wine, and she put the girdle around her waist
as she spoke.

“Someone said to me,” said Flann, “that I should ask the maiden who
loved me for seven drops of her heart’s blood.” The girdle was now round
Flame-of-Wine’s waist. She laughed with mockery. “Seven drops of heart’s
blood,” said she. “I would not give this fellow seven eggs out of my
robin’s nest. I tell him I love him for bringing me the three treasures
for a King’s daughter. I tell him that, but I should be ashamed of
myself if I thought I could have any love for such a fellow.”

“Do you tell me the truth now,” said Flann.

“The truth, the truth,” said she, “of course I tell you the truth. Oh,
and there are other truths. I shall be ashamed forever if I tell them.
Oh, oh. They are rising to my tongue, and every time I press them back
this girdle tightens and tightens until I think it will kill me.”

“Farewell, then, Flame-of-Wine.”

“Take off the girdle, take off the girdle! What truths are in my mind!
I shall speak them and I shall be ashamed. But I shall die in pain if I
hold them back. Loosen the girdle, loosen the girdle! Take the rose you
gave me and loosen the girdle.” She let the rose fall on the ground.

“I will loosen the girdle for you,” said Flann.

“But loosen it now. How I have to strive to keep truths back, and
oh, what pain I am in! Take the Comb of Magnificence, and loosen the
girdle.” She threw the comb down on the ground.

He took up the Rose of Sweet Smells and the Comb of Magnificence and he
took the girdle off her waist. “Oh, what a terrible thing I put round my
waist,” said Flame-of-Wine. “Take it away, Flann, take it away. But give
me back the Rose of Sweet Smells and the Comb of Magnificence,--give
them back to me and I shall love you always.”

“You cannot love me. And why should I give seven years in service for
your sake? I will leave these treasures back in Mogue’s pack.”

“Oh, you are a peddler, a peddler. Go from me,” said Flame-of-Wine. “And
do not be in the Town of the Red Castle to-morrow, or I shall have my
father’s hunting dogs set upon you.” She turned away angrily and went
into the Castle.

Flann went back to Mogue’s tent and left the Rose of Sweet Smells, the
Comb of Magnificence and the Girdle of Truth upon Mogue’s pack. He sat
in the corner and cried bitterly. Then the King of Ireland’s Son came and
told him that his sword was bright once more--that the stains that had
blemished its blade had been cleared away by the Gobaun Saor who had
also shown him the way to the Land of the Mist. He put his arm about
Flann and told him that he was starting now to rescue his love Fedelma
from the Castle of the King of the Land of Mist.



The King of Ireland’s Son came to the place where the river that he
followed takes the name of the River of the Broken Towers. It is called
by that name because the men of the old days tried to build towers
across its course. The towers were built a little way across the river
that at this place was tremendously wide.

“The Glashan will carry you across the River of the Broken Towers to
the shore of the Land of Mist,” the Gobaun Saor had said to the King of
Ireland’s Son. And now he was at the River of the Broken Towers but the
Glashan-creature was not to be seen.

Then he saw the Glashan. He was leaning his back against one of the
Towers and smoking a short pipe. The water of the river was up to his
knees. He was covered with hair and had a big head with horse’s
ears. And the Glashan twitched his horse’s ears as he smoked in great

“Glashan, come here,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

But the Glashan gave him no heed at all.

“I want you to carry me across the River of the Broken Towers,” shouted
the King of Ireland’s Son. The Glashan went on smoking and twisting his

And the King of Ireland’s Son might have known that the whole clan
of the Gruagachs and Glashans are fond of their own ease and will do
nothing if they can help it. He twitched his ears more sharply when the
King’s Son threw a pebble at him. Then after about three hours he came
slowly across the river. From his big knees down he had horse’s feet.

“Take me on your big shoulders, Glashan,” said the King of Ireland’s
Son, “and carry me across to the shore of the Land of Mist.”

“Not carrying any more across,” said the Glashan. The King of Ireland’s
Son drew the Sword of Light and flashed it.

“Oh, if you have that, you’ll have to be carried across,” said the
Glashan. “But wait until I rest myself.”

“What did you do that you should rest?” said the King of Ireland’s Son.
“Take me on your shoulders and start off.”

“Musha,” said the Glashan, “aren’t you very anxious to lose your life?”

“Take me on your shoulders.” “Well, come then. You’re not the first
living dead man I carried across.” The Glashan put his pipe into his
ear. The King of Ireland’s Son mounted his shoulders and laid hold of
his thick mane. Then the Glashan put his horse’s legs into the water and
started to cross the River of the Broken Towers.

“The Land of Mist has a King,” said the Glashan, when they were in the
middle of the river.

“That, Glashan, I know,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“All right,” said the Glashan.

Then said he when they were three-quarters of the way across, “Maybe you
don’t know that the King of the Land of Mist will kill you?”

“Maybe ‘tis I who will kill him,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“You’d be a hardy little fellow if you did that,” said the Glashan. “But
you won’t do it.”

They went on. The water was up to the Glashan’s waist but that gave him
no trouble. So broad was the river that they were traveling across it
all day. The Glashan threw the King’s Son in once when he stooped to
pick up an eel. Said the King of Ireland’s Son, “What way is the Castle
of the King of the Land of Mist guarded, Glashan?”

“It has seven gates,” said the Glashan.

“And how are the gates guarded?”

“I’m tired,” said the Glashan, “and I can’t talk.”

“Tell me, or I’ll twist the horse’s ears off your head.”

“Well, the first gate is guarded by a plover only. It sits on the third
pinnacle over the gate, and when anyone comes near it rises up and flies
round the Castle crying until its sharp cries put the other guards on
the watch.”

“And what other guards are there?”

“Oh, I’m tired, and I can talk no more.”

The King of Ireland’s Son twisted his horse’s ears, and then the Glashan

“The second gate is guarded by five spear-men.”

“And how is the third gate guarded?”

“The third gate is guarded by seven swordsmen.”

“And how is the fourth gate guarded?”

“The fourth gate is guarded by the King of the Land of Mist himself.”

“And the fifth gate?”

“The fifth gate is guarded by the King of the Land of Mist himself.”

“And the sixth gate?”

“The sixth gate is guarded by the King of the Land of Mist.”

“And how is the seventh gate guarded?”

“The seventh gate is guarded by a Hag.”

“By a Hag only?” “By a Hag with poisoned nails. But I’m tired now, and
I’ll talk no more to you. If I could strike a light now I’d smoke a

Still they went on, and just at the screech of the day they came to the
other shore of the River of the Broken Towers. The King of Ireland’s Son
sprang from the shoulders of the Glashan and went into the mist.


He came to where turrets and pinnacles appeared above the mist. He
climbed the rock upon which the Castle was built. He came to the first
gate, and as he did the plover that was on the third pinnacle above rose
up and flew round the Castle with sharp cries.

He raised a fragment of the ground-rock and flung it against the gate.
He burst it open. He dashed in then and through the first courtyard of
the Castle.

As he went towards the second gate it was flung open, and the five
spear-men ran upon him. But they had not counted on what was to face
them--the Sword of Light in the bands of the King of Ireland’s Son.

Its stroke cut the spear heads from the spear-holds, and its quick
glancing dazzled the eyes of the spear-men. On each and every one of
them it inflicted the wound of death. He dashed through the second gate
and into the third courtyard.

But as he did the third gate was flung open and seven swordsmen came
forth. They made themselves like a half circle and came towards the King
of Ireland’s Son. He dazzled their eyes with a wide sweep of his sword.
He darted it swiftly at each of them and on the seven swordsmen too he
inflicted wounds of death.

He went through the third courtyard and towards the fourth gate. As he
did it opened slowly and a single champion came forth. He closed the
gate behind him and stood with a long gray sword in his hand. This was
the King of the Land of Mist. His shoulders were where a tall man’s
head would be. His face was like a stone, and his eyes had never looked
except with scorn upon a foe.

When his enemy began his attack the King of Ireland’s Son had power to
do nothing else but guard himself from that weighty sword. He had the
Sword of Light for a guard and well did that bright, swift blade guard
him. The two fought across the courtyard making hard places soft and
soft places hard with their trampling. They fought from when it was
early to when it was noon, and they fought from when it was noon until
it was long afternoon. And not a single wound did the King of Ireland’s
Son inflict upon the King of the Land of Mist, and not a single wound
did the King of the Land of Mist inflict upon him.

But the King of Ireland’s Son was growing faint and weary. His eyes
were worn with watching the strokes and thrusts of the sword that was
battling against him. His arms could hardly bear up his own sword. His
heart became a stream of blood that would have gushed from his breast.

And then, as he was about to fall down with his head under the sword
of the King of the Land of Mist a name rose above all his
thoughts--“Fedelma.” If he sank down and the sword of the King of the
Land of Mist fell on him, never would she be saved. The will became
strong again in the King of Ireland’s Son. His heart became a steady
beating thing. The weight that was upon his arms passed away. Strongly
he held the sword in his hand and he began to attack the King of the
Land of Mist.

And now he saw that the sword in the hand of his enemy was broken and
worn with the guard that the Sword of Light had put against it. And now
he made a strong attack. As the light was leaving the sky and as the
darkness was coming down he saw that the strength was waning in the
King of the Land of Mist. The sword in his hand was more worn and more
broken. At last the blade was only a span from the hilt. As he drew back
to the gate of the fourth courtyard the King of Ireland’s Son sprang at
him and thrust the Sword of Light through his breast. He stood with his
face becoming exceedingly terrible. He flung what remained of his sword,
and the broken blade struck the foot of the King of Ireland’s Son and
pierced it. Then the King of the Land of Mist fell down on the ground
before the fourth gate.

So weary from his battles, so pained with the wound of his foot was
the King of Ireland’s Son that he did not try to cross the body and go
towards the fifth gate. He turned back. He climbed down the rock and
went towards the River of the Broken Towers.

The Glashan was broiling on a hot stone the eel he had taken out of the
river. “Wash my wound and give me refreshment, Glashan,” said the King
of Ireland’s Son.

The Glashan washed the wound in his foot and gave him a portion of the
broiled eel with cresses and water.

“To-morrow’s dawn I shall go back,” said the King of Ireland’s Son, “and
go through the fifth and sixth and seventh gate and take away Fedelma.”

“If the King of the Land of Mist lets you,” said the Glashan.

“He is dead,” said the King of Ireland’s Son, “I thrust my sword through
his breast.”

“And where is his head?” said the Glashan.

“It is on his corpse,” said the King of Ireland’s Son.

“Then you will have another fight to-morrow. His life is in his head,
and his life will come back to him if you did not cut it off. It is he,
I tell you, who will guard the fourth and fifth and sixth gate.”

“That I do not believe, Glashan,” said the King of Ireland’s Son. “There
is no one to guard the gates now but the Hag you spoke of. To-morrow I
shall take Fedelma out of her captivity, and we will both leave the Land
of Mist. But I must sleep now.”

He laid the Sword of Light beside him, stretched himself on the ground
and went to sleep. The Glashan drew his horse’s legs under him, took the
pipe out of his ear, and smoked all through the night.


The King of Ireland’s Son rose in the morning but he was in pain and
weariness on account of his wounded foot. He ate the cresses and drank
the water that the Glashan gave him, and he started off for the Castle
of the King of the Mist. “‘Tis only an old woman I shall have to deal
with to-day,” he said, “and then I shall awaken Fedelma, my love.”

He passed through the first gate and the first court-yard, through the
second gate and the second court-yard, through the third gate and the
third courtyard. The fourth gate was closed, and as he went towards it,
it opened slowly, and the King of the Land of Mist stood there--as high,
as stone-faced, and as scornful as before, and in his hand he had a
weighty gray sword.

They fought as they fought the day before. But the guard the King of
Ireland’s Son made against the sword of the King of the Land of Mist was
weaker than before, because of the pain and weariness that came from his
wound. But still he kept the Sword of Light before him and the Sword of
the King of the Land of Mist could not pass it. They fought until it was
afternoon. The heart in his body seemed turned to a jet of blood that
would gush forth. His eyes were straining themselves out of their
sockets. His arms could hardly bear up his sword. He fell down upon one
knee, but he was able to hold the sword so that it guarded his head.

Then the image of Fedelma appeared before him. He sprang up and his arms
regained their power. His heart became steady in his breast. And as he
made an attack upon the King of the Land of Mist, he saw that the blade
in his hand was broken and worn because of its strokes against the Sword
of Light.

They fought with blades that seemed to kindle each other into sparks and
flashes of light. They fought until the blade in the hand of the King of
the Land of Mist was worn to a hand breadth above the hilt. He drew
back towards the gate of the fifth courtyard. The King of Ireland’s Son
sprang at him and thrust the Sword of Light through his breast. Down on
the stones before the fifth gate of his Castle fell the King of the Land
of Mist.

The King of Ireland’s Son stepped over the body and went towards the
fifth gate. Then he remembered what the Glashan had said, “His life is
in his head.” He went back to where the King of the Land of Mist had
fallen. With a clean sweep of his sword he cut the head off the body.

Then out of the mist that was all around three ravens came. With beak
and claws they laid hold of the head and lifted it up. They fluttered
heavily away, keeping near the ground.

With his sword in his hand the King of Ireland’s Son chased the ravens.
He followed them through the fourth courtyard, the third courtyard, the
second and the first. They flew off the rock on which the Castle was
built and disappeared in the mist.

He knew he would have to watch by the body of the King of the Land of
Mist, so that the head might not be placed upon it. He sat down before
the fifth gate. Pain and weariness, hunger and thirst oppressed him.

He longed for something that would allay his hunger and thirst. But he
knew that he could not go to the river to get refreshment of water and
cresses from the Glashan. Something fell beside him in the courtyard.
It was a beautiful, bright-colored apple. He went to pick it up, but
it rolled away towards the third courtyard. He followed it. Then, as he
looked back he saw that the ravens had lighted near the body of the King
of the Land of Mist, holding the head in their beaks and claws. He ran
back and the ravens lifted the head up again and flew away.

He watched for another long time, and his hunger and his thirst made him
long for the bright-colored apple he had seen.

Another apple fell down. He went to pick it up and it rolled away. But
now the King of Ireland’s Son thought of nothing hut that bright-colored
apple. He followed it as it rolled.

It roiled through the third courtyard, and the second and the first. It
rolled out of the first gate and on to the rock upon which the Castle
was built. It rolled off the rock. The King of Ireland’s Son sprang down
and he saw the apple become a raven’s head and beak.

He climbed up the rock and ran back. And when he came into the first
courtyard he saw that the three ravens had come back again. They had
brought the head to the body, and body and head were now joined. The
King of the Land of Mist stood up again, and his head was turned towards
his left shoulder. He went to the sixth gate and took up a sword that
was beside it.


They fought their last battle before the sixth gate. The guard that the
King of Ireland’s Son made was weak, and if the King of the Land of Mist
could have turned fully upon him, he could have disarmed and killed him.
But his head had been so placed upon his body that it looked The King
of the Land of Mist 237 over his left shoulder. He was able to draw his
sword down the breast of the King of Ireland’s Son, wounding him.
The King’s Son whirled his sword around his head and flung it at his
wry-headed enemy. It swept his head off, and the King of the Land of
Mist fell down.

The King of Ireland’s Son saw on the outstretched neck the mark of the
other beheading. He took up the Sword of Light again and prepared to
hold the head against all that might come for it.

But no creature came. And then the hair on the severed head became loose
and it was blown away by the wind. And the bones of the head became a
powder and the flesh became a froth, and all was blown away by the wind.

Then the King of Ireland’s Son went through the sixth courtyard and came
to the seventh gate. And before it he saw the last of the sentinels. A
Hag, she was seated on the top of a water-tank taking white doves out of
a basket and throwing them to ravens that flew down from the walls and
tore the doves to pieces.

When the Hag saw the King of Ireland’s Son she sprang down from the
water-tank and ran towards him with outstretched arms and long poisoned
nails. With a sweep of his sword he cut the nails from her hands. Ravens
picked up the nails, and then, as they tried to fly away, they fell

“The Sword of Light will take off your head if you do not take me on the
moment to where Fedelma is,” said the King of Ireland’s Son. “I am sorry
to do it,” said the Hag, “but come, since you are the conqueror.”

He followed the Hag into the Castle. In a net, hanging across a chamber,
he saw Fedelma. She was still, but she breathed. And the branch of
hawthorn that put her asleep was fresh beside her. Strands of her bright
hair came through the meshes of the net and were fastened to the wall.
With a sweep of the Sword of Light he cut the strands.

Her eyes opened. She saw the King of Ireland’s Son, and the full light
came back to her eyes, and the full life into her face.

He cut the net from where it hung and laid it on the ground. He cut open
the meshes. Fedelma rose out of it and went into his arms.

He lifted her up and carried her out into the seventh courtyard. Then
the Hag who had been one of the sentinels came out of the Castle, closed
the door behind her and ran away into the mist, three ravens flying
after her.

And as for Fedelma and the King of Ireland’s Son, they went through the
courtyards of the Castle and through the mists of the country and down
to the River of the Broken Towers. They found the Glashan broiling a
salmon upon hot stones. Salmon were coming from the sea and the Glashan
went in and caught more, The King of the Land of Mist 239 broiled and
gave them to the King of Ireland’s Son and Fedelma to eat. The little
black water-hen came out of the river and they fed it. The next day the
King of Ireland’s Son bade the Glashan take Fedelma on his shoulders and
carry her to the other shore of the River of the Broken Towers. And
he himself followed the little black water-hen who showed him all the
shallow places in the river so that he crossed with the water never
above his waist. But he was nearly dead from cold and weariness, and
from the wounds on breast and foot when he came to the other side and
found the Glashan and Fedelma waiting for him.

They ate salmon again and rested for a day. They bade good-by to the
Glashan, who went back to the river to hunt for salmon. Then they went
along the bank of the river hand in hand while the King of Ireland’s Son
told Fedelma of all the things that had happened to him in his search
for her.

They came to where the river became known as the River of the Morning
Star. And then, in the distance, they saw the Hill of Horns. Towards the
Hill of Horns they went, and, at the near side of it, they found a house
thatched with the wing of a bird. It was the house of the Little Sage
of the Mountain. To the house of the Little Sage of the Mountain Fedelma
and the King’s Son now went.




The story is now about Flann. He went through the East gate of the Town
of the Red Castle and his journey was to the house of the Hags of the
Long Teeth where he might learn what Queen and King were his mother and
his father. It is with the youth Flann, once called the Gilly of the
Goatskin, that we will go if it be pleasing to you, Son of my Heart. He
went his way in the evening, when, as the bard said:--

   The blackbird shakes his metal notes
   Against the edge of day,
   And I am left upon my road
   With one star on my way.

And he went his way in the night, when, as the same bard said:--

   The night has told it to the hills,
   And told the partridge in the nest,
   And left it on the long white roads,
   She will give light instead of rest.

And he went on between the dusk and the dawn, when, as the same bard
said again:--

   Behold the sky is covered,
   As with a mighty shroud:
   A forlorn light is lying
   Between the earth and cloud.

And he went on in the dawn, when as the bard said (and this is the
last stanza he made, for the King said there was nothing at all in his

   In the silence of the morning
   Myself, myself went by,
   Where lonely trees sway branches
   Against spaces of the sky.

And then, when the sun was looking over the first high hills he came to
a river. He knew it was the river he followed before, for no other river
in the country was so wide or held so much water. As he had gone with
the flow of the river then he thought he would go against the flow of
the river now, and so he might come back to the glens and ridges and
deep boggy places he had traveled from.

He met a Fisherman who was drying his nets and he asked him what name
the river had. The Fisherman said it had two names. The people on the
right bank called it the Day-break River and the people on the left bank
called it the River of the Morning Star. And the Fisherman told him he
was to be careful not to call it the River of the Morning Star when he
was on the right bank nor the Daybreak River when he was on the left, as
the people on either side wanted to keep to the name their fathers had
for it and were ill-mannered to the stranger who gave it a different
name. The Fisherman told Flann he was sorry he had told him the two
names for the River and that the best thing he could do was to forget
one of the names and call it just the River of the Morning Star as he
was on the left bank.

Flann went on with the day widening before him and when the height of
the noon was past he came to the glens and ridges and deep boggy places
he had traveled from. He went on with the bright day going before him
and the brown night coming behind him, and at dusk he came to the black
and burnt place where the Hags of the Long Teeth had their house of

He saw the house with a puff of smoke coming through every crevice
in the stones. He went to the shut door and knocked on it with the

“Who’s without?” said one of the Hags.

“Who’s within?” said Flann.

“The Three Hags of the Long Teeth,” said one of the Hags, “and if you
want to know it,” said she, “they are the runners and summoners, the
brewers and candle-makers for Crom Duv, the Giant.”

Flann struck a heavier blow with the knocking-stone and the door broke
in. He stepped into the smoke-filled house.

“No welcome to you, whoever you are,” said one of the three Hags who
were seated around the fire.

“I am the lad who was called Gilly of the Goatskin, and whom you reared
up here,” said he, “and I have come back to you.”

The three Hags turned from the fire then and screamed at him.

“And what brought you back to us, humpy fellow?” said the first Hag.

“I came back to make you tell me what Queen and King were my mother and

“Why should you think a King and Queen were your father and mother?”
 they said to him.

“Because I have on my breast the stars of a son of a King,” said Flann,
“and,” said he, “I have in my hand a sword that will make you tell me.”

He came towards them and they were afraid. Then the first Hag bent her
knee to him, and, said she, “Loosen the hearthstone with your sword and
you will find a token that will let you know who your father was.”

Flann put his sword under the hearthstone and pried it up. But if
it were a token, what was under the hearthstone was an evil thing--a
cockatrice. It had been hatched out of a serpent’s egg by a black cock
of nine years. It had the head and crest of a cock and the body of a
black serpent. The cockatrice lifted itself up on its tail and looked at
him with red eyes. The sight of that head made Flann dizzy and he fell
down on the floor. Then it went down and the Hags put the hearthstone
above it.

“What will we do with the fellow?” said one of the Hags, looking at
Flann who was in a swoon on the floor.

“Cut of his head with the sword that he threatened us with,” said

“No,” said the third Hag. “Crom Duv the Giant is in want of a servant.
Let him take this fellow. Then maybe the Giant will give us what he has
promised us for so long--a Berry to each of us from the Fairy Rowan Tree
that grows in his courtyard.”

“Let it be, let it be,” said the other Hags. They put green branches on
the fire so that Crom Duv would see the smoke and come to the house. In
the morning he came. He brought Flann outside, and after awhile Flann’s
senses came back to him. Then the Giant tied a rope round his arms and
drove him before him with a long iron spike that he had for a staff.


Crom Duv’s arms stretched down to his twisted knees; he had long,
yellow, overlapping horse’s teeth in his mouth, with a fall-down
under-lip and a drawn-back upper-lip; he had a matted rug of hair on his
head. He was as high as a haystack. He carried in his twisted hand an
iron spike pointed at the end. And wherever he was going he went as
quickly as a running mule.

He tied Flann’s hands behind his back and drew the rope round Flann’s
body. Then he started off. Flann was dragged on as if at the tail of
a cart. Over ditches and through streams; up hillsides and down into
hollows he was hauled. Then they came into a plain as round as the wheel
of a cart. Across the plain they went and into a mile-deep wood. Beyond
the wood there were buildings--such walls and such heaps of stones Flann
never saw before.

But before they had entered the wood they had come to a high grassy
mound. And standing on that grassy mound was the most tremendous bull
that Flann had ever seen.

“What bull is that, Giant?” said Flann.

 “My own bull,” said Crom Duv, “the Bull of the Mound. Look back at him,
little fellow. If ever you try to escape from my service my Bull of the
Mound will toss you into the air and trample you into the ground.” Crom
Duv blew on a horn that he had across his chest. The Bull of the Mound
rushed down the slope snorting. Crom Duv shouted and the bull stood
still with his tremendous head bent down.

Flann’s heart, I tell you, sank, when he saw the bull that guarded Crom
Duv’s house. They went through the deep wood then, and came to the gate
of the Giant’s Keep. Only a chain was across it, and Crom Duv lifted
up the chain. The courtyard was filled with cattle black and red and
striped. The Giant tied Flann to a stone pillar. “Are you there, Morag,
my byre-maid?” he shouted.

“I am here,” said a voice from the byre. More cattle were in the byre
and someone was milking them.

There was straw on the ground of the courtyard and Crom Duv lay down on
it and went to sleep with the cattle trampling around him. A great stone
wall was being built all round the Giant’s Keep--a wall six feet thick
and built as high as twenty feet in some places and in others as high
as twelve. The wall was still being built, for heaps of stones and great
mixing-pans were about. And just before the door of the Keep was a
Rowan Tree that grew to a great height. At the very top of the tree were
bunches of red berries. Cats were lying around the stems of the tree and
cats were in its branches--great yellow cats. More yellow cats stepped
out of the house and came over to him. They looked Flann all over and
went back, mewing to each other.

The cattle that were in the courtyard went into the byre one by one as
they were called by the voice of the byre-maid. Crom Duv still slept. By
and by a little red hen that was picking about the courtyard came near
him and holding up her head looked Flann all over.

When the last cow had gone in and the last stream of milk had sounded in
the milking-vessel the byre-maid came into the courtyard. Flann thought
he would see a long-armed creature like Crom Duv himself. Instead he saw
a girl with good and kind eyes, whose disfigurements were that her face
was pitted and her hair was bushy. “I am Morag, Crom Duv’s byre-maid,”
 said she.

“Will Crom Duv kill me?” said Flann.

“No. He’ll make you serve him,” said the byre-maid.

“And what will he make me do for him?”

“He will make you help to build his wall. Crom Duv goes out every
morning to bring his cattle to pasture on the plain. And when he comes
back he builds the wall round his house. He’ll make you mix mortar and
carry it to him, for I heard him say he wants a servant to do that.”

“I’ll escape from this,” said Flann, “and I’ll bring you with me.”

“Hush,” said Morag, and she pointed to seven yellow cats that were
standing at Crom Duv’s door, watching them. “The cats,” said she,
“are Crom Duv’s watchers here and the Bull of the Mound is his watcher

“And is this Little Red Hen a watcher too?” said Flann, for the Little
Red Hen was watching them sideways. “The Little Red Hen is my friend and
adviser,” Morag, and she went into the house with two vessels of milk.

Crom Duv wakened up. He untied Flann and left him free. “You must mix
mortar for me now,” he said. He went into the byre and came out with a
great vessel of milk. He left it down near the mixing-pan. He went to
the side of the house and came back with a trough of blood.

“What are these for, Crom Duv?” said Flann. “To mix the mortar with,
gilly,” said the Giant. “Bullock’s blood and new milk is what I mix my
mortar with, so that nothing can break down the walls that I’m building
round the Fairy Rowan Tree. Every day I kill a bullock and every day my
byre-maid fills a vessel of milk to mix with my mortar. Set to now, and
mix the mortar for me.”

Flann brought lime and sand to the mixing-pan and he mixed them in
bullock’s blood and new milk. He carried stones to Crom Duv. And so
he worked until it was dark. Then Crom Duv got down from where he was
building and told Flann to go into the house.

The yellow cats were there and Flann counted sixteen of them. Eight
more were outside, in the branches or around the stem of the Rowan Tree.
Morag came in, bringing a great dish of porridge. Crom Duv took up a
wooden spoon and ate porridge out of vessel after vessel of milk. Then
he shouted for his beer and Morag brought him vessel after vessel of
beer. Crom Duv emptied one after the other..Then he shouted for his
knife and when Morag brought it he began to sharpen it, singing a queer
song to himself.

“He’s sharpening a knife to kill a bullock in the morning,” said Morag.
“Come now, and I’ll give you your supper.”

She took him to the kitchen at the back of the house. She gave him
porridge and milk and he ate his supper. Then she showed him a ladder to
a room above, and he went up there and made a bed for himself. He slept
soundly, although he dreamed of the twenty-four yellow cats within, and
the tremendous Bull of the Mound outside Crom Duv’s Keep.


This is how the days were spent in the house of Crom Duv. The Giant and
his two servants, Flann and Morag, were out of their beds at the mouth
of the day. Crom Duv sounded his horn and the Bull of the Mound bellowed
an answer. Then he started work on his wall, making Flann carry mortar
to him. Morag put down the fire and boiled the pots. Pots of porridge,
plates of butter and pans of milk were on the table when’ Crom Duv and
Flann came in to their breakfasts. Then, when the Giant had driven out
his cattle to the pasture Flann cleaned the byre and made the mortar,
mixing lime and sand with bullock’s blood and new milk. In the afternoon
the Giant came back and he and Flann started work on the wall.

All the time the twenty-four yellow cats lay on the branches of the
Rowan Tree or walked about the court-yard or lapped up great crocks
of milk. Morag’s Little Red Hen went hopping round the courtyard. She
seemed to be sleepy or to be always considering something. If one of the
twenty-four yellow cats looked at her the Little Red Hen would waken up,
murmur something, and hop away.

One day the cattle came home without Crom Duv. “He has gone on one of
his journeys,” said Morag, “and will not be back for a night and a day.”

“Then it is time for me to make my escape,” said Flann.

“How can you make your escape, my dear, my dear?” said Morag. “If you
go by the front the Bull of the Mound will toss you in the air and then
trample you into the ground.”

“But I have strength and cunning and activity enough to climb the wall
at the back.”

“But if you climb the wall at the back,” said Morag, “you will only come
to the Moat of Poisoned Water.” “The Moat of Poisoned Water?” “The
Moat of Poisoned Water,” said Morag. “The water poisons the skin of any
creature that tries to swim across the Moat.”

Flann was downcast when he heard of the Moat of Poisoned Water. But his
mind was fixed on climbing the wall. “I may find some way of crossing
the poisoned water,” he said, “so bake my cake and give me provision for
my journey.”

Morag baked a cake and put it on the griddle. And when it was baked she
wrapped it in a napkin and gave it to him. “Take my blessing with it,”
 said she, “and if you escape, may you meet someone who will be a better
help to you than I was. I must keep the twenty-four cats from watching
you while you are climbing the wall.”

“And how will you do that?” said Flann.

She showed him what she would do. With a piece of glass she made on the
wall of the byre the shadows of flying birds. Birds never flew
across the House of Crom Duv and the cats were greatly taken with the
appearances that Morag made with the piece of glass. Six cats watched,
and then another six came, and after them six more, and after them the
six that watched in the Rowan Tree. And the twenty-four yellow cats sat
round and watched with burning eyes the appearances of birds that Morag
made on the byre-wall. Flann looked back and saw her seated on a stone,
and he thought the Byre-Maid looked lonesome.

He tried with all his activity, all his cunning and all his strength,
and at last he climbed the wall at the back of Crom Duv’s house. He gave
a whistle to let Morag know he was over. Then he went through a little
wood and came to the Moat of Poisoned Water.

Very ugly the dead water looked. Ugly stakes stuck up from the mud to
pierce any creature that tried to leap across. And here and there on the
water were patches of green poison as big as cabbage leaves. Flann drew
back from the Moat. Leap it he could not, and swim it he dare not. And
just as he drew back he saw a creature he knew come down to the bank
opposite to him. It was Rory the Fox. Rory carried in his mouth the skin
of a calf. He dropped the skin into the water and pushed it out before
him. Then he got into the water and swam very cautiously, always pushing
the calf’s skin before him. Then Rory climbed up on the bank where Flann
was, and the skin, all green and wrinkled, sank down into the water.

Rory was going to turn tail, but then he recognized Flann. “Master,”
 said he, and he licked the dust on the ground.

“What are you doing here, Rory?” said Flann.

“I won’t mind telling you if you promise to tell no other creature,”
 said Rory.

“I won’t tell,” said Flann.

“Well then,” said Rory, “I have moved my little family over here. I was
being chased about a good deal, and my little family wasn’t safe. So I
moved them over here.” The fox turned and looked round at the country
behind him. “It suits me very well,” said he; “no creature would think
of crossing this moat after me.”

“Well,” said Flann, “tell me how you are able to cross it.”

“I will,” said the fox, “if you promise never to hunt me nor any of my
little family.”

“I promise,” said Flann.

“Well,” said Rory, “the water poisons every skin. Now the reason that I
pushed the calf’s skin across was that it might take the poison out of
the water. The water poisons every skin. But where the skin goes the
poison is taken out of the water for a while, and a living creature can
cross behind it if he is cautious.”

“I thank you for showing me the way to cross the moat,” said Flann.

“I don’t mind showing you,” said Rory the Fox, and he went off to his

There were deer-skins and calf-skins both sides of the moat. Flann
took a calf’s skin. He pushed it into the water with a stick. He swam
cautiously behind it. When he reached the other side of the moat, the
skin, all green and wrinkled, sank in the water.

Flann jumped and laughed and shouted when he found himself in the forest
and clear of Crom Duv’s house. He went on. It was grand to see the
woodpecker hammering on the branch, and to see him stop, busy as he
was to say “Pass, friend.” Two young deer came out of the depths of the
wood. They were too young and too innocent to have anything to tell him,
but they bounded alongside of him as he raced along the Hunter’s Path.
He jumped and he shouted again when he saw the river before him--the
river that was called the Daybreak River on the right bank and the River
of the Morning Star on the left. He said to himself, “This time, in
troth, I will go the whole way with the river. A moving thing is my
delight. The river is the most wonderful of all the things I have seen
on my travels.”

Then he thought he would eat some of the cake that Morag had baked for
him. He sat down and broke it. Then as he ate it the thought of Morag
came into his mind. He thought he was looking at her putting the cake on
the griddle. He went a little way along the river and then he began to
feel lonesome. He turned back, “I’ll go to Crom Duv’s House,” said he,
“and show Morag the way to escape. And then she and I will follow the
river, and I won’t be lonesome while she’s with me.”

So back along the Hunter’s Path Flann went. He came to the Moat of
Poisoned Water. He found a deer-skin and pushed it into the water and
then swam cautiously across the moat. He climbed the wall then, and when
he put his head above it he saw Morag. She was watching for him.

“Crom Duv has not come back yet,” said she, “but oh, my dear, my dear, I
can’t prevent the yellow cats from watching you come over the wall.”

First six cats came and then another six and they sat round and watched
Flann come down the wall. They did nothing to him, but when he came down
on the ground they followed him wherever he went.

“You crossed the moat,” said Morag, “then why did you come back?”

“I came back,” said Flann, “to bring you with me.”

“But,” said she, “I cannot leave Crom Duv’s house.”

“I’ll show you how to cross the moat,” said he, “and we’ll both be glad
to be going by the moving river.”

Tears came into Morag’s eyes. “I’d go with you, my dear,” said she, “but
I cannot leave Crom Duv’s house until I get what I came for.”

“And what did you come for, Morag?” said he.

“I came,” said she, “for two of the rowan berries that grow on the
Fairy Rowan Tree in Crom Duv’s court-yard. I know now that to get these
berries is the hardest task in the world. Come within,” said she, “and
if we sit long enough at the supper-board I will tell you my story.”

They sat at the supper-board long, and Morag told

The Story of Morag


I was reared in the Spae-Woman’s house with two other girls, Baun and
Deelish, my foster-sisters. The Spae-Woman’s house is on the top of a
knowe, away from every place, and few ever came that way.

One morning I went to the well for water. When I looked into it I saw,
not my own image, but the image of a young man. I drew up my pitcher
filled with water, and went back to the Spae-Woman’s house. At noontide
Baun went to the well for water. She came back and her pitcher was only
half-filled. Before dark Deelish went to the well. She came back without
a pitcher, for it fell and broke on the flags of the well.

The next day Baun and Deelish each plaited their hair, and they said
to her who was foster-mother for the three of us: “No one will come to
marry us in this far-away place. We will go into the world to seek our
fortunes. So,” said they, “bake a cake for each of us before the fall of
the night.”

The Spae-Woman put three cakes on the griddle and baked them. And when
they were baked she said to Baun and Deelish: “Will you each take the
half of the cake and my blessing, or the whole of the cake without my
blessing?” And Baun and Deelish each said, “The whole of the cake will
be little enough for our journey.”

Each then took her cake under her arm and went the path down the knowe.
Then said I to myself, “It would be well to go after my foster-sisters
for they might meet misfortune on the road.” So I said to my
foster-mother, “Give me the third cake on the griddle until I go after
my foster-sisters.”

“Will you have half of the cake and my blessing or the whole of the cake
without my blessing?” said she to me.

“The half of the cake and your blessing, mother,” said I.

She cut the cake in two with a black-handled knife and gave me the even
half of it. Then said she:--

      May the old sea’s
      Seven Daughters
      They who spin
      Life’s longest threads,
      Protect and guard you!

She put salt in my hand then, and put the Little Red Hen under my arm,
and I went off.

I went on then till I came in sight of Baun and Deelish. Just as I
caught up on them I heard one say to the other, “This ugly, freckled
girl will disgrace us if she comes with us.” They tied my hands and feet
with a rope they found on the road and left me in a wood.

I got the rope off my hands and feet and ran and ran until I came in
sight of them again. And when I was coming on them I heard one say to
the other, “This ugly, freckled girl will claim relationship with us
wherever we go, and we will get no good man to marry us.” They laid hold
of me again and put me in a lime-kiln, and put beams across it, and put
heavy stones on the beams. But my Little Red Hen showed me how to get
out of the lime-kiln. Then I ran and I ran until I caught up with Baun
and Deelish again.

“Let her come with us this evening,” said one to the other, “and
to-morrow we’ll find some way of getting rid of her.”

The night was drawing down now, and we had to look for a house that
would give us shelter. We saw a hut far off the road and we went to the
broken door. It was the house of the Hags of the Long Teeth. We asked
for shelter. They showed us a big bed in the dormer-room, and they told
us we could have supper when the porridge was boiled.

The three Hags sat round the fire with their heads together. Baun and
Deelish were in a corner plaiting their hair, but the Little Red Hen
murmured that I was to listen to what the Hags said.

“We will give them to Crom Duv in the morning” one said. And another
said, “I have put a sleeping-pin in the pillow that will be under each,
and they will not waken.”

When I heard what they said I wanted to think of what we could do to
make our escape. I asked Baun to sing to me. She said she would if I
washed her feet. I got a basin of water and washed Baun’s feet, and
while she sang, and while the Hags thought we were not minding them, I
considered what we might do to escape. The Hags hung a pot over the fire
and the three of them sat around it once more.

When I had washed my foster-sister’s feet I took a besom and began to
sweep the floor of the house. One of the Hags was very pleased to see me
doing that. She said I would make a good servant, and after a while she
asked me to sit at the fire. I sat in the corner of the chimney. They
had put meal in the water, and I began to stir it with a pot-stick.
Then the Hag that had asked me to the fire said, “I will give you a good
share of milk with your porridge if you keep stirring the pot for us.”
 This was just what I wanted to be let do. I sat in the chimney-corner
and kept stirring the porridge while the Hags dozed before the fire.

First, I got a dish and ladle and took out of the pot some half-cooked
porridge. This I left one side. Then I took down the salt-box that was
on the chimney-shelf and mixed handfuls of salt in the porridge left in
the pot.

When it was all cooked I emptied it into another dish and brought the
two dishes to the table. Then I told the Hags that all was ready. They
came over to the table and they gave my foster-sisters and myself three
porringers of goat’s milk. We ate out of the first dish and they ate out
of the second. “By my sleep to-night,” said one Hag, “this porridge is
salty.” “Too little salt is in it for my taste,” said my foster-sister
Deelish. “It is as salt as the depths of the sea,” said another of the
Hags. “My respects to you, ma’am,” said Baun, “but I do not taste any
salt on it at all.” My foster-sisters were so earnest that the Hags
thought themselves mistaken, and they ate the whole dishful of porridge.

The bed was made for us, and the pillows were laid on the bed, and I
knew that the slumber-pin was in each of the pillows. I wanted to put
off the time for going to bed so I began to tell stories. Baun and
Deelish said it was still young in the night, and that I should tell no
short ones, but the long story of Eithne, Balor’s daughter. I had just
begun that story, when one of the Hags cried out that she was consumed
with thirst.

She ran to the pitcher, and there was no water in it. Then another Hag
shouted out that the thirst was strangling her. The third one said she
could not live another minute without a mouthful of water. She took the
pitcher and started for the well. No sooner was she gone than the
second Hag said she couldn’t wait for the first one to come back and she
started out after her. Then the third one thought that the pair
would stay too long talking at the well, and she started after them.
Immediately I took the pillows off our bed and put them on the Hags’
bed, taking their pillows instead.

The Hags came back with a half-filled pitcher, and they ordered us to
go to our bed. We went, and they sat for a while drinking porringers of
water. “Crom Duv will be here the first thing in the morning,” I heard
one of them say. They put their heads on the pillows and in the turn of
a hand they were dead-fast-sound asleep. I told my foster-sisters then
what I had done and why I had done it. They were very frightened, but
seeing the Hags so sound asleep they composed themselves and slept too.

Before the screech of day Crom Duv came to the house. I went outside and
saw the Giant. I said I was the servant of the Hags, and that they were
sleeping still. He said, “They are my runners and summoners, my brewers,
bakers and candle-makers, and they have no right to be sleeping so
late.” Then he went away.

I knew that the three Hags would slumber until we took the pillows from
under their heads. We left them sleeping while we put down a fire and
made our break-fast. Then, when we were ready for our journey, we took
the pillows from under their heads. The three Hags started up then,
but we were out on the door, and had taken the first three steps of our


Without hap or mishap we came at last to the domain of the King of
Senlabor. Baun went to sing for the King’s foster-daughters, and Deelish
went to work at the little loom in the King’s chamber. We were not long
at the court of the King of Senlabor when two youths came there from the
court of the King of Ireland--Dermott and Downal were their names. There
was a famous sword-smith with the King of Senlabor and these two came
to learn the trade from him. And my two foster-sisters fell so deeply in
love with the two youths that every night the pillow on each side of me
was wet with their tears.

I went to work in the King’s kitchen. Now the King had a dish of such
fine earthware and with such beautiful patterns upon it that he never
let it be carried from the Kitchen to the Feast-Hall, nor from the
Feast-Hall to the Kitchen without going himself behind the servant who
carried it. One day the servant brought it into the Kitchen to be washed
and the King came behind the servant. I took the dish and cleaned it
with thrice-boiled water and dried it with cloths of three different
kinds. Then I covered it with sweet-smelling herbs and left it in a bin
where it was sunk in soft bran. The King was pleased to see the good
care I took of his dish, and he said before his servant that he would
do me any favor I would ask. There and then I told him about my two
foster-sisters Baun and Deelish, and how they were in love with the two
youths Dermott and Downal who had come from the court of the King of
Ireland. I asked that when these two youths were being given wives, that
the King should remember my foster-sisters.

The King was greatly vexed at my request. He declared that the two
youths had on their breasts the stars that denoted the sons of Kings and
that he intended they should marry his own two foster-daughters when the
maidens were of age to wed. “It may be,” he said, “that these two youths
will bring what my Queen longs for--a berry from the Fairy Rowan Tree
that is guarded by the Giant Crom Duv.”

The next day the King’s Councillor was feeding the birds and I was
sifting the corn. I asked him what was the history of the Fairy Rowan
Tree that the Giant Crom Duv guarded and why it was that the Queen
longed for a berry of it. There and then he told me this story:--

The Story of the Fairy Rowan Tree

The history of the Fairy Rowan Tree (said the King’s Councillor) begins
with Aine’, the daughter of Mananaun who is Lord of the Sea. Curoi, the
King of the Munster Fairies loved Aine’ and sought her in marriage. But
the desire of the girl’s heart was set upon Fergus who was a mortal,
and one of the Fianna of Ireland. Now when Mananaun MacLir heard Curoi’s
proposals and learned how his daughter’s heart was inclined, he said,
“Let the matter be settled in this way: we will call a hurling-match
between the Fairies of Munster and the Fianna of Ireland with Curoi to
captain one side and Fergus to captain the other, and if the Fairies
win, Aine’ will marry Curoi and if the Fianna have the victory she will
have my leave to marry this mortal Fergus.”

So a hurling-match was called for the first day of Lunassa, and it
was to be played along the strand of the sea. Mananaun himself set the
goal-marks, and Aine’ was there to watch the game. It was played from
the rising of the sun until the high tide of noon, and neither side won
a goal. Then the players stopped to eat the refreshment that Mananaun
had provided.

This is what Mananaun had brought from his own country, Silver-Cloud
Plain: a branch of bright-red rowan berries. Whoever ate one of these
rowan berries his hunger and his weariness left him in a moment. The
berries were to be eaten by the players, Mananaun said, and not one of
them was to be taken into the world of the mortals or the world of the

When they stopped playing at the high tide of noon the mortal Fergus saw
Aine’ and saw her for the first time. A spirit that he had never felt
before flowed into him at the sight of Mananaun’s daughter. He forgot to
eat the berry he was given and held it in his mouth by the stalk.

He went into the hurling-match again and now he was like a hawk amongst
small birds. Curoi defended the goal and drove the ball back. Fergus
drove it to the goal again; the two champions met and Curoi’s hurl, made
out of rhinoceros’ horn, did not beat down Fergus’s hurl made out of the
ash of the wood. The hosts stood aside and left the game to Fergus and
Curoi. Curoi’s hurl jerked the ball upward; then Fergus gave it the
double stroke first with the handle and then with the weighted end
of the hurl and drove it, beautifully as a flying bird, between the
goal-marks that Mananaun had set up. The match was won by the goal that
Fergus had gained.

The Fianna then invited the Fairies of Munster to a feast that they were
giving to Fergus and his bride. The Fairies went, and Mananaun and Aine’
went before them all. Fergus marched at the head of his troop with the
rowan berry still hanging from his mouth. And as he went he bit the
stalk and the berry fell to the ground. Fergus never heeded that.

When the feast was over he went to where Mananaun stood with his
daughter. Aine’ gave him her hand. “And it is well,” said Conan, the
Fool of the Fianna, “that this thick-witted Fergus has at last dropped
the berry out of his mouth.” “What berry?” said Curoi, who was standing
by. “The rowan berry,” said Conan, “that he carried across two townlands
the same as if he were a bird.”

When Mananaun heard this he asked about the berry that Fergus had
carried. It was not to be found. Then the Fianna and the Fairies of
Munster started back to look for a trace of it. What they found was a
wonderful Rowan Tree. It had grown out of the berry that Fergus had let
fall, but as yet there were no berries on its branches.

Mananaun, when he saw the tree said, “No mortal may take a berry that
grows on it. Hear my sentence now. Fergus will have to guard this tree
until he gets one who will guard it for him. And he may not see nor keep
company with Aine’ his bride until he finds one who will guard it better
than he can guard it himself.” Then Mananaun wrapped his daughter in his
cloak and strode away in a mist. The Fairy Host went in one direction
and the Fianna in another, and Fergus was left standing sorrowfully by
the Fairy Rowan Tree.

Next day (said Morag), when the King’s Councillor was feeding the birds
and I was sifting the corn, he told me the rest of the history of the
Fairy Rowan Tree. Fergus thought and thought how he might leave off
watching it and be with Aine’, his bride. At last he bethought him of
a Giant who lived on a rocky island with only a flock of goats for his
possessions. This Giant had begged Finn, the Chief of the Fianna, for
a strip of the land of Ireland, even if it were only the breadth of a
bull’s hide. Finn had refused him. But now Fergus sent to Finn and asked
him to bring the Giant to be the guardian of the Fairy Rowan Tree and to
give him the land around it. “I mislike letting this giant Crom Duv have
any portion of the land of Ireland,” said Finn, “nevertheless we cannot
refuse Fergus.”

So Finn sent some of the Fianna to the Giant and they found him
living on a bare rock of an island with only a flock of goats for his
possessions. Crom Duv lay on his back and laughed when he heard what
message the men of the Fianna brought to him. Then he put them and his
flock of goats into his big boat and rowed them over to Ireland.

Crom Duv swore by his flock of goats he would guard the Fairy Rowan Tree
until the red berries ceased to come on its branches. Fergus left his
place at the tree then and went to Aine’, and it may be that she and he
are still together.

Well did Crom Duv guard the tree, never going far from it and sleeping
at night in its branches. And one year a heifer came and fed with his
flock of goats and another year a bullock came. And these were the
beginning of his great herd of cattle. He has become more and more
greedy for cattle, said the King’s Councillor, and now he takes them
away to far pastures. But still the Fairy Rowan Tree is well guarded.
The Bull that is called the Bull of the Mound is on guard near by, and
twenty-four fierce yellow cats watch the tree night and day.

The Queen of Senlabor and many another woman besides desires a berry
from the Fairy Rowan Tree that stands in Crom Duv’s courtyard. For
the woman who is old and who eats a berry from that tree becomes young
again, and the maid who is young and who eats a berry gets all the
beauty that should be hers of right. And now, my maid, said the King’s
Councillor to me, I have told you the history of the Fairy Rowan Tree.

When I heard all this (said Morag), I made up my mind to get a berry for
the Queen and maybe another berry besides from the Fairy Rowan Tree in
Crom Duv’s courtyard. When the King came into the kitchen again, I asked
him would he permit my foster-sisters to marry Downal and Dermott if I
brought to his Queen a berry from the Fairy Rowan Tree. He said he would
give permission heartily. That night when I felt the tears of Baun and
Deelish I told them I was going to search for such a dowry for them that
when they had it the King would let them marry the youths they had set
their hearts on. They did not believe I could do anything to help them,
but they gave me leave to go.

The next day I told the Queen I was going to seek for a berry from the
Fairy Rowan Tree. She told me that if I could bring back one berry to
her she would give me all the things she possessed. I said good-by to my
foster-sisters and with the Little Red Hen under my arm I went towards
the house of the Hags of the Long Teeth. I built a shelter and waited
till Crom Duv came that way. One early morning he came by. I stood
before him and I told him that I wanted to take service in his house.

Crom Duv had never had a servant in his house. But I told him that he
should have a byre-maid and that I was well fitted to look after his
cattle. He told me to follow him. I saw the Bull of the Mound and I was
made wonder how I could get away with the berry from the Fairy Rowan
Tree. Then I saw the twenty-four fierce yellow cats and I was made
wonder how I could get the berry from the tree. And after that I found
out about the Moat of Poisoned Water that is behind the high wall at the
back of Crom Duv’s house. And so now (said Morag), you know why I have
come here and how hard the task is I have taken on myself.


Now that he had heard the history of the Fairy Rowan Tree, Flann often
looked at the clusters of scarlet berries that were high up on its
branches. The Tree could be climbed, Flann knew. But on the top of the
tree and along its branches were the fierce yellow cats--the cats that
the Hags of the Long Teeth had reared for Crom Duv, thinking that he
would some time give each of them the berry that would make them young
again. And at the butt of the tree there were more cats. And all about
the courtyard the Hags’ fierce cats paraded themselves.

The walls round the Giant’s Keep were being built higher by Crom Duv,
helped by his servant Flann. The Giant’s herd was now increased by many
calves, and Morag the byre-maid had much to do to keep all the cows
milked. And day and night Morag and Flann heard the bellowing of the
Bull of the Mound.

Now one day while Crom Duv was away with his herd, Flann and Morag were
in the courtyard. They saw the Little Red Hen rouse herself up, shake
her wings and turn a bright eye on them. “What dost thou say, my Little
Red Hen?” said Morag.

“The Pooka,” murmured the Little Red Hen. “The Pooka rides a fierce
horse, but the Pooka himself is a timid little fellow.” Then the Little
Red Hen drooped her wings again, and went on picking in the courtyard.

“The Pooka rides a fierce horse,” said Morag, “if the Pooka rides a
fierce horse he might carry us past the Bull of the Mound.”

“And if the Pooka himself is a timid little fellow we might take the
fierce horse from him,” said Flann.

“But this does not tell us how to get the berries off the Fairy Rowan
Tree,” said Morag.

“No,” said Flann, “it does not tell us how to get the berries off the
tree the cats guard.”

The next day Morag gave grains to the Little Red Hen and begged for
words. After a while the Little Red Hen murmured, “There are things I
know, and things I don’t know, but I do know what grows near the ground,
and if you pull a certain herb, and put it round the necks of the cats
they will not be able to see in the light nor in the dark. And to-morrow
is the day of Sowain,” said the Little Red Hen. She said no more words.
She had become sleepy and now she flew down and roosted under the table.
There she went on murmuring to herself--as all hens murmur--where the
Children of Dana hid their treasures--they know, for it was the Children
of Dana who brought the hens to Ireland.

“To-morrow,” said Morag to Flann, “follow the Little Red Hen, and if
she makes any sign when she touches an herb that grows near the ground,
pluck that herb and bring it to me.”

That night Morag and Flann talked about the Pooka and his fierce horse.
On Sowain night--the night before the real short days begin--the Pooka
rides through the countryside touching any fruit that remains, so that
it may bring no taste into winter. The blackberries that were good
to eat the day before are no good on November day, because the Pooka
touched them the night before. What else the Pooka does no one really
knows. He is a timid fellow as the Little Red Hen said, and he hopes
that the sight of his big black horse and the sound of its trampling and
panting as he rides by will frighten people out of his way, for he has a
great fear of being seen.

The next day the Little Red Hen stayed in the courtyard until Crom Duv
left with his herd. Flann followed her. She went here and there between
the house and the wall at the back, now picking a grain of sand and
now an ant or spider or fly. And as she went about the Little Red Hen
murmured a song to herself:--

   When sleep would settle on me
   Like the wild bird down on the nest,
   The wind comes out of the West:
   It tears at the door, maybe,
   And frightens away my rest--
   When sleep would come upon me
   Like the wild bird down on the nest.

   The cock is aloft with his crest:
   The barn-owl comes from her quest
   She fixes an eye upon me
   And frightens away my rest
   When sleep would settle on me
   Like the wild bird down on its nest.

Flann watched all the Little Red Hen did. He saw her put her head on
one side and look down for a while at a certain herb that grew near the
ground. Flann plucked that herb and brought it to Morag.

The cattle had come home, but Crom Duv was not with them. Morag milked
the cows and brought all the milk within, leaving no milk for the cats
to drink outside. Six came into the kitchen to get their supper there.
One after another they sprang up on the table, one more proud and
overbearing than the other. Each cat ate without condescending to make
a single mew. “Cat of my heart,” said Morag to the first, when he had
finished drinking his milk. “Cat of my heart! How noble you would look
with this red around your neck.” She held out a little satchel in which
a bit of the herb was sewn. The first cat gave a look that said, “Well,
you may put it on me.” Morag put the red satchel around his neck and he
jumped off the table.

It was so with all the other cats. They finished lapping their milk and
Morag showed them the red ribbon satchel. They let her put it round each
of their necks and then they sprang off the table, and marched off more
scornful and overbearing than before.

Six of the fierce yellow cats climbed into the branches of the Fairy
Rowan Tree; six stayed in the kitchen; six went into Crom Duv’s chamber,
and six went to march round the house, three taking each side. No sound
came from the cats that were within or without. Morag drew a ball of
cotton across the floor, and the cats that were in the kitchen gave no
sign of seeing it. “The sight has left their eyes,” said Morag. “Then,”
 said Flann, “I will climb the Fairy Rowan Tree and bring down two
berries.” “Be sure you bring down two, my dear, my dear,” said Morag.

They went out to the courtyard and Flann began to climb the Fairy Rowan
Tree with all suppleness, strength and cunning. The cats that were
below felt him going up the tree and the cats that were above humped
themselves up. Flann passed the first branch on which a cat was
crouched. He went above where the rowan berries were, and bending down
he picked two of them and put them into his mouth.

He came down quickly with the cats tearing at him. Others had come out
of the house and were mewing and spitting in the courtyard. Only one had
fastened itself on Flann’s jerkin, and this one would not let go. “Come
into the wood, come into the wood,” said Morag. “Now we must stand
between the house and the mound, and wait till the Pooka rides by.”
 Flann put the two berries into her hand, they jumped across the chain,
and ran from the house of the Giant Crom Duv.


They went into the wood, Flann and Morag, and the Little Red Hen was
under Morag’s arm. They thought they would hide behind trees until they
heard the coming of the Pooka and his horse. But they were not far in
the wood when they heard Crom Duv coming towards his house. He came
towards them with the iron spike in his hand. Flann and Morag ran.
Then from tree to tree Crom Duv chased them, shouting and snorting and
smashing down branches with the iron spike in his hand. Morag and
Flann came to a stream, and as they ran along its bank they heard the
trampling and panting of a horse coming towards them. Up it came, a
great black horse with a sweeping mane. “Halt, Pooka,” said Flann in
a commanding voice. The black horse halted and the Pooka that was its
rider slipped down to its tail.

Flann held the snorting horse and Morag got on its back. Then Flann
sprang up between Morag and the horse’s head. Crom Duv was just beside
them. “Away, Pooka, away,” said Flann, and the horse started through the
wood like the wind of March.

And then Crom Duv blew on the horn that was across his breast and the
Bull of the Mound bellowed in answer. As they went by the mound the Bull
charged down and its horns tossed the tail of the Pooka’s horse. The
Bull turned and swept after them with his head down and hot breath
coming out of his nostrils. And when they were in the hollow he was on
the height, and when they were on the height he was in the hollow. And a
hollow or a height behind his Bull came Crom Duv himself.

Then the breath of the Bull became hot upon Morag and Flann and the
Pooka. “Oh, what shall we do now?” said Morag to the Pooka who was
hanging on to the horse’s tail, his little face all twisted up with

“Put your hand into my horse’s ear and fling behind what you will find
there,” said the Pooka, his teeth chattering. Flann put his hand into
the horse’s right ear and found a twig of ash. He flung it behind them.
Instantly a tangled wood sprang up. They heard the Bull driving through
the tangle of the wood and they heard Crom Duv shouting as he smashed
his way through the brakes and branches. But the Bull and the man got
through the wood and again they began to gain on the Pooka’s horse.
Again the breath of the Bull became hot upon them. “Oh, Pooka, what
shall we do now?” said Morag.

“Put your hand into my horse’s ear and fling behind what you will find
there,” said the Pooka, his teeth chattering with fear as he held on to
his horse’s tail. Flann put his hand into the horse’s left ear and he
found a bubble of water. He flung it behind them. Instantly it spread
out as a lake and as they rode on, the lake waters spread behind them.

Morag and Flann never knew whether the Giant and the Bull went into that
lake, or if they did, whether they ever came out of it. They crossed the
river that marked the bounds of Crom Duv’s domain and they were safe.
Flann pulled up the horse and jumped on to the ground. Morag sprang down
with the Little Red Hen. Then the Pooka swung forward and whispered into
his horse’s ear. Instantly it struck fire out of its hooves and sprang
down the side of a hill. From that day to this Morag nor Flann ever saw
sight of the Pooka and his big, black, snorting and foaming horse.

“Dost thou know where we are, my Little Red Hen?” said Morag when the
sun was in the sky again.

“There are things I know and things I don’t know,” said the Little Red
Hen, “but I know we are near the place we started from.”

“Which way do we go to come to that place, my Little Red Hen?” said
Morag. “The way of the sun,” said the Little Red Hen. So Morag and Flann
went the way of the sun and the Little Red Hen hopped beside them. Morag
had in a weasel-skin purse around her neck the two rowan berries that
Flann had given her.

They went towards the house of the Spae-Woman. And as they went Morag
told Flann of the life she had there when she and her foster-sisters
were growing up, and Flann told Morag of the things he did when he was
in the house of the Spae-Woman after she and her foster-sisters had left

They climbed the heather-covered knowe on which was the Spae-Woman’s
house and the Little Red Hen went flitting and fluttering towards the
gate. The Spae-Woman’s old goat was standing in the yard, and its horns
went down and its beard touched its knees and it looked at the Little
Red Hen. Then the Little Red Hen flew up on its back. “We’re here again,
here again,” said the Little Red Hen.

And then the Spae-Woman came to the door and saw who the comers were.
She covered them with kisses and watered them with tears, and dried them
with cloths silken and with the hair of her head.


Flann told the Spae-Woman all his adventures. And when he had told her
all he said--“What Queen is my mother, O my fosterer?” “Your mother,”
 said the Spae-Woman, “is Caintigern, the Queen of the King of Ireland.”

“And is my mother then not Sheen whose story has been told me?” “Her
name was changed to Caintigern when her husband who was called the
Hunter-King made himself King over Ireland and began to rule as King

“Then who is my comrade who is called the King of Ireland’s Son?”

“He too is King Connal’s son, born of a queen who died at his birth and
who was wife to King Connal before he went on his wanderings and met
Sheen your mother.”

And as the Spae-Woman said this someone came and stood at the doorway. A
girl she was and wherever the sun was it shone on her, and wherever the
breeze was it rippled over her. White as the snow upon a lake frozen
over was the girl, and as beautiful as flowers and as alive as birds
were her eyes, while her cheeks had the red of fox-gloves and her hair
was the blending of five bright soft colors. She looked at Flann happily
and her eyes had the kind look that was always in Morag’s eyes. And
she came and ‘knelt down, putting her hands on his knees. “I am Morag,
Flann,” she said.

“Morag indeed,” said he, “but how have you become so fair?”

“I have eaten the berry from the Fairy Rowan Tree,” said she, “and now I
am as fair as I should be.”

All day they were together and Flann was happy that his friend was so
beautiful and that so beautiful a being was his friend. And he told
her of his adventures in the Town of the Red Castle and of the Princess
Flame-of-Wine and his love for her. “And if you love her still I will
never see you again,” said Morag.

“But,” said Flann, “I could not love her after the way she mocked at

“When did she mock at you?”

“When I took her a message that the Spae-Woman told me to give her.”

“And what was that message?”

“‘Ask her,’ said the Spae-Woman, ‘for seven drops of her heart’s
blood--she can give them and live--so that the spell may be taken from
the seven wild geese and the mother who longs for you may be at
peace again.’ This was the message the Spae-Woman told me to give
Flame-of-Wine. And though I had given her wonderful gifts she laughed at
me when I took it to her. And by the way she laughed I knew she was hard
of heart.”

“Yet seven drops of heart’s blood are hard to give,” said Morag sadly.

“But the maiden who loves can give them,” said the Spae-Woman who was

“It is true, foster-mother,” said Morag.

That evening Morag said, “To-morrow I must pre-pare for my journey to
the Queen of Senlabor. You, Flann, may not come with me. The Spae-Woman
has sent a message to your mother, and you must be here to meet her when
she comes. A happy meeting to her and you, O Flann of my heart. And I
shall leave you a token to give to her. So to-morrow I go to the Queen
of Senlabor with the Rowan Berry and I shall bring my Little Red Hen
for company, and shall stay only until my sisters are wed to Dermott and
Downal, your brothers.”

The next day when he came into the house he saw Morag dressed for her
journey but seated at the fire. She was pale and ill-looking. “Do not
go to-day, Morag,” said he. “I shall go to-day,” said Morag. She put her
hand into the bosom of her dress and took out a newly-woven handkerchief
folded. “This is a token for your mother,” she said. “I have woven it
for her. Give her this gift from me when you have welcomed her.”

“That I will do, Morag, my heart,” said Flann.

The Spae-Woman came in and kissed Morag good-by and said the charm for a
journey over her.

   May my Silver-
   Shielded Magian
   Shed all lights
   Across your path.

Then Morag put the Little Red Hen under her arm and started out. “I
shall find you,” said she to Flann, “at the Castle of the King of
Ireland, for it is there I shall go when I part from my foster-sisters
and the Queen of Senlabor. Kiss me now. But if you kiss anyone until you
kiss me again you will forget me. Remember that.”

“I will remember,” said Flann, and he kissed Morag and said, “When you
come to the King of Ireland’s Castle we will be married.”

“You gave me the Rowan Berry,” said Morag, “and the Rowan Berry gave me
all the beauty that should be mine. But what good will my beauty be to
me if you forget me?”

“But, Morag,” said he, “how could I forget you?”

She said nothing but went down the side of the knowe and Flann watched
and watched until his eyes had no power to see any more.



There are many things to tell you still, my kind foster-child, but
little time have I to tell you them, for the barnacle-geese are flying
over the house, and when they have all flown by I shall have no more to
say. And I have to tell you yet how the King of Ireland’s Son won home
with Fedelma, the Enchanter’s daughter, and how it came to pass that the
Seven Wild Geese that were Caintigern’s brothers were disenchanted and
became men again. But above all I have to tell you the end of that story
that was begun in the house of the Giant Crom Duv--the story of Flann
and Morag.

The barnacle-geese are flying over the house as I said. And so they were
crossing and flying on the night the King of Ireland’s Son and Fedelma
whom he had brought from the Land of Mist stayed in the house of the
Little Sage of the Mountain. On that night the Little Sage told them
from what bird had come the wing that thatched his house. That was a
wonderful story. And he told them too about the next place they should
go to--the Spae-woman’s house. There, he said he would find people that
they knew--Flann, the King’s Son’s comrade, and Caintigern, the wife of
the King of Ireland, and Fedelma’s sister, Gilveen.

In the morning the Little Sage of the Mountain took them down the
hillside to the place where Fedelma and the King’s Son would get a horse
to ride to the Spae-Woman’s house. The Little Sage told them from
what people the Spae-Woman came and why she lived amongst the poor
and foolish without name or splendor or riches. And that, too, was a
wonderful story.

Now as the three went along the river-side they saw a girl on the other
side of the river and she was walking from the place towards which they
were going. The girl sang to herself as she went along, and the King’s
Son and Fedelma and the Little Sage of the Mountain heard what she

   A berry, a berry, a red rowan berry,
   A red rowan berry brought mc beauty and love.

   But drops of my heart’s blood, drops of my heart’s blood,
   Seven drops of my heart’s blood I have given away.

   Seven wild geese were men, seven wild geese were men,
   Seven drops of my heart’s blood are there for your spell.

   A kiss for my love, a kiss for my love,
   May his kiss go to none till he meet me again.

   If to one go his kiss, if to one go his kiss,
   He may meet, he may meet, and not know me again.

The girl on the other bank of the river passed on, and the King’s Son
and Fedelma with the Little Sage of the Mountain came to the meadow
where the horse was. A heavy, slow-moving horse he seemed. But when they
mounted him they found he had the three qualities of Finn’s steeds--a
quick rush against a hill, the gait of a fox, easy and proud, on the
level ground, and the jump of a deer over harriers. They left health and
good luck with the Little Sage of the Mountain, and on the horse he gave
them they rode on to the Spae-Woman’s house.


When Fedelma and the King of Ireland’s Son came to the Spae-Woman’s
house, who was the first person they saw there but Gilveen, Fedelma’s
sister! She came to where they reined their horse and smiled in the
faces of her sister and the King of Ireland’s Son. And she it was who
gave them their first welcome. “And you will be asking how I came here,”
 said Gilveen, “and I will tell you without wasting candle-light. Myself
and sister Aefa went to the court of the King of Ireland after you, my
sister, had gone from us with the lucky man of your choice. And as for
Aefa, she has been lucky too in finding a match and she is now married
to Maravaun the King’s Councillor. I have been with Caintigern the
Queen. And now the Queen is in the house of the Spae-Woman with the
youth Flann and she is longing to give the clasp of welcome to both of
you. And if you sit beside me on this grassy ditch I will tell you the
whole story from the first to the last syllable.”

They sat together, and Gilveen told Fedelma and the King’s Son the
story. The Spae-Woman had sent a message to Caintigern the Queen to tell
her she had tidings of her first-born son. Thereupon Caintigern went to
the Spae-Woman’s house and Gilveen, her attendant, went with her. She
found there Flann who had been known as Gilly of the Goatskin, and knew
him for the son who had been stolen from her when he was born. Flann
gave his mother a token which had been given him by a young woman. The
token was a handkerchief and it held seven drops of heart’s blood. The
Spae-Woman told the Queen that these seven drops would disenchant her
brothers who had been changed from their own forms into the forms of
seven wild geese.

And while Gilveen was telling them all this Flann came to see whose
horse was there, and great was his joy to find his comrade the King of
Ireland’s Son. They knew now that they were the sons of the one father,
and they embraced each other as brothers. And Flann took the hand of
Fedelma and he told her and the King’s Son of his love for Morag. But
when he was speaking of Morag, Gilveen went away.

Then Flann took them into the Spae-Woman’s house, and the Queen who was
seated at the fire rose up and gave them the clasp of welcome. The
face she turned to the King’s Son was kindly and she called him by his
child’s name. She said too that she was well pleased that he and Flann
her son were good comrades, and she prayed they would be good comrades

Fedelma and the King of Ireland’s Son rested themselves for a day. Then
the Spae-Woman said that the Queen would strive on the next night--it
was the night of the full moon--to bring back her seven brothers to
their own forms. The Spae-Woman said too that the Queen and herself
should be left alone in the house and that the King of Ireland’s
Son with Flann and Fedelma and Gilveen should go towards the King of
Ireland’s Castle with MacStairn the woodman, and wait for the Queen at a
place a day’s journey away.

So the King of Ireland’s Son and Flann, Fedelma and Gilveen bade good-by
to the Queen, to the Spae-Woman and to the Spae-Woman’s house, and
started their journey towards the King’s Castle with MacStairn the
Woodman who walked beside their horses, a big axe in his hands.

At night MacStairn built two bothies for them--one covered with green
boughs for Fedelma and Gilveen and one covered with cut sods for Flann
and the King of Ireland’s Son. Flann lay near the opening of this
bothie. And at night, when the only stir in the forest was that of the
leaves whispering to the Secret People, Gilveen arose from where she lay
and came to the other bothie and whispered Flann’s name. He awakened,
and thinking that Morag had come back to him (he had been dreaming of
her), he put out his arms, drew Gilveen to him and kissed her. Then
Gilveen ran back to her own bothie. And Flann did not know whether he
had awakened or whether he had remained in a dream.

But when he arose the next morning no thought of Morag was in his
mind. And when the King’s Son rode with Fedelma he rode with Gilveen.
Afterwards Gilveen gave him a drink that enchanted him, so that he
thought of her night and day.

Neither Fedelma nor the King’s Son knew what had come over Flann. They
mentioned the name he had spoken of so often--Morag’s name but it seemed
as if it had no meaning for him. At noon they halted to bide until the
Queen came with or without her seven brothers. Flann and Gilveen were
always together. And always Gilveen was smiling.


When Caintigern had come, when she knew her son Flann, and when it was
known to her and to the Spae-Woman that the token Morag had given him
held the seven drops of heart’s blood that would bring back to their
own forms the seven wild geese that were Caintigern’s brothers--when
all this was known the Spae-Woman sent her most secret messenger to the
marshes to give word to the seven wild geese that they were to fly to
her house on the night when the moon was full. Her messenger was the
corncrake. She traveled night and day, running swiftly through the
meadows. She hid on the edge of the marshes and craked out her message
to the seven wild geese. At last they heard what she said. On the day
before the night of the full moon they flew, the seven together, towards
the Spae-Woman’s house.

No one was in the house but Caintigern the Queen. The door was left
open to the light of the moon. The seven wild geese flew down and stayed
outside the door, moving their heads and wings in the full moonlight.

Then Caintigern arose and took bread that the Spae-Woman had made. She
moistened it in her mouth, and into each bit of moistened bread she put
a piece of the handkerchief that had a drop of blood. She held out
her hand, giving each the moistened bread. The first that ate it fell
forward on the floor of the Spae-Woman’s house, his head down on the
ground. His sister saw him then as a kneeling man with this arms held
behind him as if they were bound. And when she looked outside she saw
the others like kneeling men with their heads bent and their arms held
behind them. Then Caintigern said, giving the Spae-Woman her secret
name, “O Grania Oi, let it be that my brothers be changed back to men!”
 When she said this she saw the Spae-Woman coming across the court-yard.
The Spae-Woman waved her hands over the bent figures. They lifted
themselves up as men--as naked, gray men.

The Spae-Woman gave each a garment and the seven men came into the
house. They would stand and not sit, and for long they had no speech.
Their sister knelt before each and wet his hand with her tears. She
thought she should see them as youths or as young men, and they were
gray now and past the prime of their lives.

They stayed at the house and speech came back to them. Then they longed
to go back to their father’s, but Caintigern could not bear that they
should go from her sight. At last four of her brothers went and three
stayed with her. They would go to her husband’s Castle and the others
would go too after they had been at their father’s. Then one day
Caintigern said farewell. The thanks that was due to the Spae-Woman, she
said she would give by her treatment of the maid who had given the
token to her son Flann. And she prayed that Morag would soon come to the
King’s Castle.

She went with her three brothers to the place where Flann and the King
of Ireland’s Son, Fedelma and Gilveen waited for them. A smith groomed
and decked horses for all of them and they rode towards the King of
Ireland’s Castle, MacStairn, the Woodman, going before to announce their

The King of Ireland waited at the stone where the riders to his Castle
dismount, and his steward, his Councillor and his Druid were beside him.
He lifted his wife off her horse and she brought him to Flann. And when
the King looked into Flann’s eyes he knew he was his son and the son
of Sheen, now known as Caintigern. He gave Flann a father’s clasp of
welcome. And the queen brought him to her own three brothers who had
been estranged from human companionship from before he knew her. And she
brought him to the youth who was always known as the King of Ireland’s
Son, and him his father welcomed from the path of danger.

And then the King’s Son took Fedelma to his father and told him she
was his love and his wife to be. And the King welcomed Fedelma to the
Castle. Then said Gilveen, “There is a secret between this young man,
Flann, and myself.”

“What is the secret?” said the Queen, laying her hands suddenly upon
Gilveen’s shoulders.

“That I am his wife to be,” said Gilveen.

The Queen went to her son and said, “Dost thou not remember Morag,
Flann, who gave the token that thou gavest me?”

And Flann said, “Morag! I think the Spae-Woman spoke of her name in a

“I am Flann’s wife to be,” said Gilveen, smiling in his face.

“Yes, my wife to be,” said Flann. Then the King welcomed Gilveen too,
and they all went into the Castle. He told his wife he had messages from
the King of Senlabor about his other sons Dermott and Downal, saying
that they were making good names for themselves, and that everything
they did was becoming to sons of Kings. In the hall Fedelma saw Aefa her
other sister. Aefa was so proud of herself since she married Maravaun
the King’s Councillor that she would hardly speak to anyone. She gave
her sisters the tips of her fingers and she bowed very slightingly to
the two youths. The King questioned his druid as to when it would be
well to have marriages made in his Castle and the druid said it would be
well not to make them until the next appearance of the full moon.


As for Morag she went by track and path, by boher and bohereen, through
fords in rivers and over stepping-stones across them, until at last she
came to the country of Senlabor and to the Castle of the King.

No one of high degree was in the Castle, for all had gone to watch the
young horses being broken in the meadow by the river; the King and
Queen had gone, and the King’s foster-daughters; and of the maids in the
Castle, Baun and Deelish had gone too. The King’s Councillor also had
gone from the Castle. Morag went and stayed in the kitchen, and the
maids who were there did not know her, either because they were new and
had not heard her spoken of at all, or because she had changed to such
beauty through eating the berry of the Fairy Rowan Tree that no one
could know her now for Morag who had cleaned dishes in that kitchen

It was Breas the King’s Steward who came to her and asked her who she
was. She told him. Then Breas looked sharply at her and saw she was
indeed Morag who had been in the King’s kitchen. Then he said loudly,
“Before you left you broke the dish that the King looked on as his
especial treasure, and for this, you will be left in the Stone House. I
who have power in this matter order that it be so.” Then he said in her
ear, “But kisses and sweet words would make me willing to save you.”

Morag, in a voice raised, called him by that evil name that he was known
by to the servants and their gossips. But the servants, hearing that
name said in the hearing of Breas, pretended to be scandalized. They
went to Morag and struck her with the besoms they had for sweeping the

Just then her foster-sisters, Baun and Deelish, came into the kitchen.
Seeing her there they knew her. They spoke to her quietly, but with
anger, saying they had not wanted her to go on the journey she had
taken, but, as she had gone it was a pity she had come back, for now she
had behaved in an iii-mannered way, and they who were her foster-sisters
would be thought to be as ill-mannered; they told her too that before
she came back they were well-liked by all, and that Breas had even
ordered a shady place to be given them at the horse-breaking sports,
and they had been able to see the two youths who had broken the horses,
Dermott and Downal.

“It was for a benefit to you that I came back,” said Morag. “I shall
ask one of you to do a thing for me. You, Baun, sing for the
foster-daughters of the King. Before they sleep to-night ask them to
tell the Queen that Morag has returned, and has a thing to give her.”

“I shall try to remember that, Morag,” said Baun. Morag was taken to
the Stone House by strong-armed bondswomen, and Baun and Deelish sat in
corners and cried and did not go near her.

That night the King’s foster-daughters kept awake for long, and after
Baun had sung to them they asked her to tell them what had happened in
the Castle. Then Baun remembered the tumult in the kitchen that had come
from the name given to Breas. She told the King’s foster-daughters that
Morag had come back. “She was reared in the same house with us,” said
Baun, “but she is not of the same parents.” And then she said; “If your
Fair Finenesses can remember, tell the Queen that Morag has come back.”

The next day when they were walking with the Queen one of the King’s
foster-daughters said, “Did you know of a maid named Morag? I have heard
that she has been away and has come back.”

“How did she fare?” said the Queen.

“We have not heard that,” said the maiden who spoke.

The Queen went to where Baun and Deelish were and from them she heard
that Morag had been put into the Stone House on the charge that she had
broken the King’s dish when she had been in the Castle before. Now the
Queen knew that the dish had been safe after Morag had left. She went
to the King’s Steward and accused him of having broken it and Breas
admitted that it was so. Thereupon he lost his rank and became the
meanest and the most despised servant in the Castle.

The Queen went to the Stone House and took Morag out. She asked her how
she had fared and thereupon Morag put the Rowan Berry in the Queen’s
hand. She hastened to her own chamber and ate it, and her youth and
beauty came back to her, and the King who had grown solitary, loved the
Queen again.

Then Morag came to great honor in the Castle and the Queen asked her
to name the greatest favor she could think of. And the favor that Morag
named was marriages for her foster-sisters with the two youths they
loved, Downal and Dermott from the court of the King of Ireland.

The Queen, when she heard this, brought fine clothes out of her chests
and gave them to Baun and Deelish. When they had dressed in these
clothes the Queen made them known to the two youths. Downal and Dermott
fell in love with Morag’s foster-sisters, and the King named a day for
the pairs to marry.

Morag waited to see the marriages, and the King and Queen made it a
grand affair. There were seven hundred guests at the short table,
eight hundred at the long table, nine hundred at the round table, and
a thousand in the great hall. I was there, and I heard the whole story.
But I got no present save shoes of paper and stockings of butter-milk
and these a herdsman stole from me as I crossed the mountains.

But Morag got better presents, for the Queen gave her three gifts--a
scissors that cut cloth of itself, a ball of thread that went into the
needle of itself, and a needle that sewed of itself.


Morag, with the three gifts that the Queen of Senlabor gave her,
came again to the Spae-Woman’s house. Her Little Red Hen was in the
courtyard, and she fluttered up to meet her. But there was no sign of
any other life about the place. Then, below at the washing-stream
she found the Spae-Woman rinsing clothes. She was standing on the
middle-stones, clapping her hands as if in great trouble. “Oh, Morag,
my daughter Morag,” cried the Spae-Woman, “there are signs on the
clothes--there are signs on the clothes!”

After a while she ceased crying and clapping her hands and came up from
the stream. She showed Morag that in all the shifts and dimities she
washed for her, a hole came just above where her heart would be. Morag
grew pale when she saw that, but she stood steadily and she did not
wail. “Should I go to the King’s Castle, fosterer?” said she. “No,”
 said the Spae-Woman, “but to the woodman’s hut that is near the King’s
Castle. And take your Little Red Hen with you, my daughter,” said she,
“and do not forget the three presents that the Queen of Senlabor gave
you.” Then the Spae-Woman stood up and said the blessing of the journey
over Morag:--

   May the Olden
   One, whom Fairy
   Women nurtured
   Through seven ages,
   Bring you seven
   Waves of fortune.

Morag gave her the clasp of farewell then, and went on her way with the
Little Red Hen under her arm and the three presents that the Queen of
Senlabor gave her in her pouch.

Morag was going and ever going from the blink of day to the mouth of
dark and that for three crossings of the sun, and at last she came
within sight of the Castle of the King of Ireland. She asked a dog-boy
for the hut of MacStairn the Woodman and the hut was shown to her. She
went to it and saw the wife of MacStairn. She told her she was a girl
traveling alone and she asked for shelter. “I can give you shelter,”
 said MacStairn’s wife, “and I can get you earnings too, for there is
much sewing-work to be done at this time.” Morag asked her what reason
there was for that, and the woodman’s wife told her there were two
couples in the Castle to be married soon. “One is the youth whom we have
always called the King of Ireland’s Son. He is to be married to a maiden
called Fedelma. The other is a youth who is the King’s son too, hut
who has been away for a long time. Flann is his name. And he is to be
married to a damsel called Gilveen.”

When she heard that, it was as if a knife had been put into and turned
in her heart. She let the Little Red Hen drop from her arm. “I would sew
the garments that the damsel Gilveen is to wear,” said she, and she sat
down on the stone outside the woodman’s hut. MacStairn’s wife then sent
to the Castle to say that there was one in her hut who could sew all the
garments that Gilveen would send her.

The next day, with a servant walking behind, Gilveen came to the
woodman’s hut with a basket of cloths and patterns. The basket was left
down and Gilveen began to tell MacStairn’s wife how she wanted them cut,
stitched and embroidered. Morag took up the crimson doth and let her
scissors--the scissors that the Queen of Senlabor gave her--run through
it. It cut out the pattern exactly. “What a wonderful scissors,” said
Gilveen. She stooped down to where Morag was sitting on the stone
outside of the woodman’s house and took up the scissors in her hand. She
examined it. “I cannot give it back to you,” said she. “Give it to me,
and I will let you have any favor you ask.” “Since you want me to
ask you for a favor,” said Morag, “I ask that you let me sit at the
supper-table to-night alone with the youth you are to marry.” “That will
do me no harm,” said Gilveen. She went away, taking the scissors and
smiling to herself.

That night Morag went into the Castle and came to the supper-table where
Flann was seated alone. But Gilveen had put a sleeping-draught into
Flann’s cup and he neither saw nor knew Morag when she sat at the
table. “Do you remember, Flann,” said she, “how we used to sit at the
supper-board in the house of Crom Duv?” But Flann did not hear her, nor
see her, and then Morag had to go away.


The next day Gilveen came to where Morag sat on the stone outside the
woodman’s hut to watch her stitch the garment she had cut out. The
thread went into the needle of itself. “What a wonderful ball of
thread,” said Gilveen, taking it up. “I cannot give it back to you. Ask
me for a favor in place of it.” “Since you would have me ask a favor,”
 said Morag, “I ask that you let me sit at the supper-table alone with
the youth you are going to marry.” “That will do me no harm,” said
Gilveen. She took the ball of thread and went away smiling.

That night Morag went into the Castle and came to the supper-table where
Flann was seated alone. But Gilveen again had put a sleeping-draught
into his cup, and Flann did not see or know Morag. “Do you not remember,
Flann,” said she, “the story of Morag that I told you across the
supper-board in the House of Crom Duv?” But Flann gave no sign of
knowing her, and then Morag had to go away.

The next day Gilveen came to watch Morag make the red embroideries upon
the white garment. When she put the needle into the cloth it worked out
the pattern of itself. “This is the most wonderful thing of all,” said
Gilveen. She stooped down and took the needle in her hand. “I cannot
give this back to you,” she said, “and you will have to ask for a favor
that will recompense you.”

“If I must ask for a favor,” said Morag, “the only favor I would ask is
that you let me sit at the supper-table to-night alone with the youth
you are to marry.” “That will do me no harm,” said Gilveen, and she took
the needle and went away smiling. Morag went to the Castle again that
night, but this time she took the Little Red Hen with her. She scattered
grains on the table and the Little Red Hen picked them up. “Little Hen,
Little Red Hen,” said Morag, “he slept too when I gave the seven drops
of my heart’s blood for his mother’s sake.” The Little Red Hen flew
into Flann’s face. “Seven drops of heart’s blood, seven drops of heart’s
blood,” said the Little Red Hen, and Flann heard the words.

He opened his eyes and saw the Little Red Hen on the table and knew that
she belonged to one that he had known. Morag, at the other side of the
table, looked strange and shadowy to him. But he threw crumbs on the
table and fed the Little Red Hen, and as he watched her picking up the
crumbs the memory of Morag came back to him. Then he saw her. He knew
her for his sweetheart and his promised wife and he went to her and
asked her how it came that she had not been in his mind for so long. “I
will tell you how you came to forget me,” said she, “it was because of
the kiss you gave Gilveen, and the enchantment she was able to put on
you because of that kiss.”

There was sorrow on Morag’s face when she said that, but the sorrow went
as the thin clouds go from before the face of the high-hung moon, and
Flann saw her as his kind comrade of Crom Duv’s and as his beautiful
friend of the Spae-Woman’s house. They kissed each other then, and every
enchantment went but the lasting enchantment of love, and they sat with
hands joined until the log in the fire beside them had burnt itself down
into a brand and the brand had burnt itself into ashes, and all the time
that passed was, as they thought, only while the watching-gilly outside
walked from one side of the Castle Gate to the other.

Gilveen had come into the room and she saw Flann and Morag give each
other a true-lover’s kiss. She went away. But the next day she came to
the King’s Steward, Art, who at one time wanted to marry her, and whom
she had refused because Aefa, her sister, had married one of a higher
degree--she came to Art and she told him that she would not marry Flann
because she had found out that he had a low-born sweetheart. “And I am
ready to marry you, Art,” she said. And Art was well pleased, and he and
Gilveen left the Castle to be married.

Then the day came when Fedelma and the King of Ireland’s Son, and Morag
and Flann were married. They were plighted to each other in the Circle
of Stones by the Druids who invoked upon them the powers of the Sun, the
Moon, the Earth, and the Air. They were married at the height of the day
and they feasted at night when the wax candles were lighted round the
tables. They had Greek honey and Lochlinn beer; ducks from Achill,
apples from Emain and venison from the Hunting Hill; they had trout
and grouse and plovers’ eggs and a boar’s head for every King in the
company. And these were the Kings who sat down to table with the King of
Eirinn: the King of Sorcha, the King of Hispania, the King of Lochlinn
and the King of the Green Island who had Sunbeam for his daughter. And
they had there the best heroes of Lochlinn, the best story-tellers of
Alba, the best bards of Eirinn. They laid sorrow and they raised music,
and the harpers played until the great champion Split-the-Shields told a
tale of the realm of Greece and how he slew the three lions that guarded
the daughter of the King. They feasted for six days and the last day
was better than the first, and the laugh they laughed when Witless, the
Saxon fool, told how Split-the-Shield’s story should have ended, shook
the young jackdaws out of every chimney in the Castle and brought them
down fluttering on the floors.

The King of Ireland lived long, but he died while his sons were in their
strong manhood, and after he passed away the Island of Destiny came
under the equal rule of the two. And one had rule over the courts and
cities, the harbors and the military encampments. And the other had rule
over the waste places and the villages and the roads where masterless
men walked. And the deeds of one are in the histories the shanachies
have written in the language of the learned, and the deeds of the other
are in the stories the people tell to you and to me.

   When I crossed the Ford
   They were turning the Mountain Pass;
   When I stood on the Stepping-stones
   They were travelling the Road of Glass.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "The King of Ireland's Son" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.