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SELECTED AND EDITED BY
EDITOR OF FOLK-LORE"
JOHN D. BATTEN
DAVID NUTT, 270 STRAND
[Rights of translation and reproduction reserved]
AST year, in giving the young ones a
volume of English Fairy Tales, my
difficulty was one of collection. This
time, in offering them specimens of
the rich folk-fancy of the Celts of
these islands, my trouble has rather
been one of selection. Ireland began to collect her folk-
tales almost as early as any country in Europe, and
Croker has found a whole school of successors in Carleton,
Griffin, Kennedy, Curtin, and Douglas Hyde. Scotland
had the great name of Campbell, and has still efficient
followers in MacDougall, MacInnes, Carmichael, Macleod,
and Campbell of Tiree. Gallant little Wales has no name
to rank alongside these; in this department the Cymru
have shown less vigour than the Gaedhel. Perhaps the
Eisteddfod, by offering prizes for the collection of Welsh
folk-tales, may remove this inferiority. Meanwhile Wales
must be content to be somewhat scantily represented among
the Fairy Tales of the Celts, while the extinct Cornish
tongue has only contributed one tale.
In making my selection I have chiefly tried to make the
stories characteristic. It would have been easy, especially
from Kennedy, to have made up a volume entirely filled
with Grimm's Goblins a la Celtique. But one can have
too much even of that very good thing, and I have therefore
avoided as far as possible the more familiar formulae of
folk-tale literature. To do this I had to withdraw from
the English-speaking Pale both in Scotland and Ireland, and
I laid down the rule to include only tales that have been
taken down from Celtic peasants ignorant of English.
Having laid down the rule, I immediately proceeded to
break it. The success of a fairy book, I am convinced,
depends on the due admixture of the comic and the
romantic: Grimm and Asbj6rnsen knew this secret, and
they alone. But the Celtic peasant who speaks Gaelic
takes the pleasure of telling tales somewhat sadly: so far
as he has been printed and translated, I found him, to my
surprise, conspicuously lacking in humour. For the comic
relief of this volume I have therefore had to turn mainly to
the Irish peasant of the Pale; and what richer source could
I draw from ?
For the more romantic tales I have depended on the
Gaelic, and, as I know about as much of Gaelic as an Irish
Nationalist M.P., I have had to depend on translators.
But I have felt myself more at liberty than the translators
themselves, who have generally been over-literal, in changing,
excising, or modifying the original. I have even gone
further. In order that the tales should be characteristically
Celtic, I have paid more particular attention to tales that
are to be found on both sides of the North Channel.
In re-telling them I have had no scruple in interpolating
now and then a Scotch incident into an Irish variant of
the same story, or vice versd. Where the translators
appealed to English folk-lorists and scholars, I am trying
to attract English children. They translated I endeavoured
to transfer. In short, I have tried to put myself into the
position of an ollamh or sheenachie familiar with both forms
of Gaelic, and anxious to put his stories in the best way to
attract English children. I trust I shall be forgiven by
Celtic scholars for the changes I have had to make to
effect this end.
The stories collected in this volume are longer and more
detailed than the English ones I brought together last
Christmas. The romantic ones are certainly more romantic,
and the comic ones perhaps more comic, though there may
be room for a difference of opinion on this latter point.
This superiority of the Celtic folk-tales is due as much
to the conditions under which they have been collected, as
to any innate superiority of the folk-imagination. The
folk-tale in England is in the last stages of exhaus-
tion. The Celtic folk-tales have been collected while the
practice of story-telling is still in full vigour, though there
are every signs that its term of life is already numbered.
The more the reason why they should be collected and
put on record while there is yet time. On the whole,
the industry of the collectors of Celtic folk-lore is to be
commended, as may be seen from the survey of it I have
prefixed to the Notes and References at the end of the
volume. Among these, I would call attention to the study
of the legend of Beth Gellert, the origin of which, I believe,
I have settled.
While I have endeavoured to render the language of the
tales simple and free from bookish artifice, I have not felt
at liberty to retell the tales in the English way. I have
not scrupled to retain a Celtic turn of speech, and here and
there a Celtic word, which I have not explained within
brackets-a practice to be abhorred of all good men.
A few words unknown to the reader only add effective-
ness and local colour to a narrative, as Mr. Kipling well
One characteristic of the Celtic folk-lore I have en-
deavoured to represent in my selection, because it is nearly
unique at the present day in Europe. Nowhere else is
there so large and consistent a body of oral tradition about
the national and mythical heroes as amongst the Gaels.
Only the byline, or hero-songs of Russia, equal in extent
the amount of knowledge about the heroes of the past
that still exists among the Gaelic-speaking peasantry of
Scotland and Ireland. And the Irish tales and ballads
have this peculiarity, that some of them have been extant,
and can be traced for well nigh a thousand years. I have
selected as a specimen of this class the Story of Deirdre,
collected among the Scotch peasantry a few years ago, into
which I have been able to insert a passage taken from an
Irish vellum of the twelfth century. I could have more
than filled this volume with similar oral traditions about
Finn (the Fingal of Macpherson's Ossian "). But the
story of Finn, as told by the Gaelic peasantry of to-day,
deserves a volume by itself, while the adventures of the
Ultonian hero, Cuchulain, could easily fill another.
I have endeavoured to include in this volume the best
and most typical stories told by the chief masters of the
Celtic folk-tale, Campbell, Kennedy, Hyde, and Curtin, and
to these I have added the best tales scattered elsewhere.
By this means I hope I have put together a volume,
containing both the best, and the best known folk-tales of
the Celts. I have only been enabled to do this by the
courtesy of those who owned the copyright of these stories.
Lady Wilde has kindly granted me the use of her effective
version of "The Horned Women;" and I have specially
to thank Messrs. Macmillan for right to use Kennedy's
" Legendary Fictions," and Messrs. Sampson Low & Co.,
for the use of Mr. Curtin's Tales.
In making my selection, and in all doubtful points of
treatment, I have had resource to the wide knowledge of
my friend Mr. Alfred Nutt in all branches of Celtic folk-
lore. If this volume does anything to represent to English
children the vision and colour, the magic and charm, of the
Celtic folk-imagination, this is due in large measure to the
care with which Mr. Nutt has watched its inception and
progress. With him by my side I could venture into
regions where the non-Celt wanders at his own risk.
Lastly, I have again to rejoice in the co-operation of my
friend, Mr. J. D. Batten, in giving form to the creations of
the folk-fancy. He has endeavoured in his illustrations
to retain as much as possible of Celtic ornamentation; for
all details of Celtic archaeology he has authority. Yet
both he and I have striven to give Celtic things as they
appear to, and attract, the English mind, rather than
attempt the hopeless task of representing them as they
are to Celts. The fate of the Celt in the British Empire
bids fair to resemble that of the Greeks among the Romans.
They went forth to battle, but they always fell," yet the
captive Celt has enslaved his captor in the realm of imagi-
nation. The present volume attempts to begin the pleasant
captivity from the earliest years. If it could succeed in
giving a common fund of imaginative wealth to the Celtic
and the Saxon children of these isles, it might do more for
a true union of hearts than all your politics.
I. CONNLA AND THE FAIRY MAIDEN. I
II. GULEESH 5
III. THE FIELD OF BOLIAUNS 26
IV. THE HORNED WOMEN O30
V. CONAL YELLOWCLAW 34
VI, HUDDEN AND DUDDEN AND DONALD O'NEARY 47
VII. THE SHEPHERD OF MYDDVAI 57
VIII. THE SPRIGHTLY TAILOR 61
IX. THE STORY OF DEIRDRE 65
X. MUNACHAR AND MANACHAR 83
XI. GOID-TREE AND SILVER-TREE 88
XII. KING O'TOOLE AND HIS GOOSE 93
XIII. THE WOOING OF OLWEN 99
XIV. JACK AND HIS COMRADES 112
XV. THE SHEE AN GANNON AND THE GRUAGACH GAIRE 121
XVI. THE STORY-TELLER AT FAULT .131
XVII. THE SEA-MAIDEN .. 144
XVIII. A LEGEND OF KNOCKMANY 1. 56
XIX. FAIR, BROWN, AND TREMBLING 169
XX. JACK AND HIS MASTER 182
XXI. BETH GELLERT 192
XXII. THE TALE OF IVAN 195
XXIII. ANDREW COFFEY 200
XXIV. THE BATTLE OF THE BIRDS .206
XXV. BREWERY OF EGGSHELLS ... 223
XXVI. THE LAD WITH THE GOAT-SKIN 226
NOTES AND REFERENCES.
CONNLA AND THE FAIRY MAIDEN
THE EAGLE OF EBBW ABWY
"TREMBLING AT THE CHURCH DOOR
THATCHING WITH BIRDS' FEATHERS
CAUTION TO READERS
To face page 2
S ,, 42
* ,, lo9
S ,, Iog
S ,, 236
[Full-page illustrations, initials, and cuts from blocks supplied by
Messrs. J. C. Drummond & Co.]
Connla and the Fairy Maiden
ONNLA of the Fiery Hair was son of
Conn of the Hundred Fights. One
day as he stood by the side of his
father on the height of Usna, he saw
a maiden clad in strange attire coming
Whence comest thou, maiden ? said, Connla.
I come from the Plains of the Ever Living," she said,
"there where there is neither death nor sin. There we
keep holiday always, nor need we help from any in our joy.
And in all our pleasure we have no strife. And because
we have our homes in the round green hills, men call us
the Hill Folk."
The king and all with him wondered much to hear a
voice when they saw no one. For save Connla alone, none
saw the Fairy Maiden.
To whom art thou talking, my son ? said Conn the king.
Then the maiden answered, Connla speaks to a young,
fair maid, whom neither death nor old age awaits. I love
Connla, and now I call him away to the Plain of Pleasure,
2 Celtic Fairy Tales
Moy Mell, where Boadag is king for aye, nor has there
been complaint or sorrow in that land since he has held
the kingship. Oh, come with me, Connla of the Fiery
Hair, ruddy as the dawn with thy tawny skin. A fairy
crown awaits thee to grace thy comely face and royal form.
Come, and never shall thy comeliness fade, nor thy youth,
till the last awful day of judgment."
The king in fear at what the maiden said, which he
heard though he could not see her, called aloud to his
Druid, Coran by name.
Oh, Coran of the many spells," he said, and of the
cunning magic, I call upon thy aid. A task is upon me
too great for all my skill and wit, greater than any laid
upon me since I seized the kingship. A maiden unseen
has met us, and by her power would take from me my
dear, my comely son. If thou help not, he will be taken
from thy king by woman's wiles and witchery."
Then Coran the Druid stood forth and chanted his spells
towards the spot where the maiden's voice had been heard.
And none heard her voice again, nor could Connla see her
longer. Only as she vanished before the Druid's mighty
spell, she threw an apple to Connla.
For a whole month from that day Connla would take
nothing, either to eat or to drink, save only from that apple.
But as he ate it grew again and always kept whole. And
all the while there grew within him a mighty yearning and
longing after the maiden he had seen.
But when the last day of the month of waiting came,
Connla stood by the side of the king his father on the
Plain of Arcomin, and again he saw the maiden come
towards him, and again she spoke to him.
CconnLa oan .e .Ftaiq. matoen T(
~... ..~/~:~1~3-~/~p~i~W~g"i. la~c~rpl,
CconnLa fano Le ramRIr. maloen
r .: i
Connla and the Fairy Maiden 3
'Tis a glorious place, forsooth, that Connla holds among
shortlived mortals awaiting the day of death. But now the
folk of life, the ever-living ones, beg and bid thee come to
Moy Mell, the Plain of Pleasure, for they have learnt to know
thee, seeing thee in thy home among thy dear ones."
When Conn the king heard the maiden's voice he called
to his men aloud and said :
"Summon swift my Druid Coran, for I see she has
again this day the power of speech."
Then the maiden said : Oh, mighty Conn, fighter of a
hundred fights, the Druid's power is little loved ; it has little
honour in the mighty land, peopled with so many of the
upright. When the Law will come, it will do away with
the Druid's magic spells that come from the lips of the false
Then Conn the king observed that since the maiden
came Connla his son spoke to none that spake to him. So
Conn of the hundred fights said to him, Is it to thy mind
what the woman says, my son ? "
"'Tis hard upon me," then said Connla; "I love my own
folk above all things ; but yet, but yet a longing seizes me
for the maiden."
When the maiden heard this, she answered and said:
"The ocean is not so strong as the waves of thy longing.
Come with me in my curragh, the gleaming, straight-gliding
crystal canoe. Soon we can reach Boadag's realm. I see
the bright sun sink, yet far as it is, we can reach it
before dark. There is, too, another land worthy of thy
journey, a land joyous to all that seek it. Only wives and
maidens dwell there. If thou wilt, we can seek it and live
there alone together in joy."
4 Celtic Fairy Tales
When the maiden ceased to speak, Connla of the Fiery
Hair rushed away from them and sprang into the curragh,
the gleaming, straight-gliding crystal canoe. And then
they all, king and court, saw it glide away over the bright
sea towards the setting sun. Away and away, till eye could
see it no longer, and Connla and the Fairy Maiden went
their way on the sea, and were no more seen, nor did any
know where they came.
HERE was once a boy in the County Mayo;
Guleesh was his name. There was the
finest rath a little way off from the
gable of the house, and he was often in the
habit of seating himself on the fine grass
bank that was running round it. One night he stood, half
leaning against the gable of the house, and looking up into
the sky, and watching the beautiful white moon over his
head. After he had been standing that way for a couple of
hours, he said to himself: My bitter grief that I am not
gone away out of this place altogether. I'd sooner be any
place in the world than here. Och, it's well for you, white
moon," says he, "that's turning round, turning round, as
you please yourself, and no man can put you back. I wish
I was the same as you."
Hardly was the word out of his mouth when he heard
a great noise coming like the sound of many people running
together, and talking, and laughing, and making sport, and
the sound went by him like a whirl of wind, and he was
listening to it going into the rath. Musha, by my soul,"
says he, but ye're merry enough, and I'll follow ye."
6 Celtic Fairy Tales
What was in it but the fairy host, though he did not
know at first that it was they who were in it, but he
followed them into the rath. It's there he heard the
fulparnee, and the folpornee, the rap-lay-hoota, and the roolya-
boolya, that they had there, and every man of them crying
out as loud as he could : My horse, and bridle, and saddle !
My horse, and bridle, and saddle "
By my hand," said Guleesh, my boy, that's not bad.
I'll imitate ye," and he cried out as well as they : My horse,
and bridle, and saddle My horse, and bridle, and saddle "
And on the moment there was a fine horse with a bridle of
gold, and a saddle of silver, standing before him. He leaped
up on it, and the moment he was on its back he saw clearly
that the rath was full of horses, and of little people going
riding on them.
Said a man of them to him: "Are you coming with us
to-night, Guleesh ? "
I am surely," said Guleesh.
If you are, come along," said the little man, and out
they went all together, riding like the wind, faster than the
fastest horse ever you saw a-hunting, and faster than the
fox and the hounds at his tail.
The cold winter's wind that was before them, they over-
took her, and the cold winter's wind that was behind them,
she did not overtake them. And stop nor stay of that full
race, did they make none, until they came to the brink of
Then every one of them said: Hie over cap Hie
over cap! and that moment they were up in the air, and
before Guleesh had time to remember where he was, they
were down on dry land again, and were going like the wind.
At last they stood still, and a man of them said to Guleesh :
" Guleesh, do you know where you are now ? "
Not a know," says Guleesh.
"You're in France, Guleesh," said he. "The daughter
of the king of France is to be married to-night, the hand-
somest woman that the sun ever saw, and we must do our
best to bring her with us, if we're only able to carry her
off; and you must come with us that we may be able to
put the young girl up behind you on the horse, when we'll
be bringing her away, for it's not lawful for us to put her
sitting behind ourselves. But you're flesh and blood, and
she can take a good grip of you, so that she won't fall off
the horse. Are you satisfied, Guleesh, and will you do
what we're telling you ? "
Why shouldn't I be satisfied ? said Guleesh. I'm
satisfied, surely, and anything that ye will tell me to do I'll
do it without doubt."
They got off their horses there, and a man of them said
a word that Guleesh did not understand, and on the
moment they were lifted up, and Guleesh found himself and
his companions in the palace. There was a great feast
going on there, and there was not a nobleman or a gentle-
man in the kingdom but was gathered there, dressed in silk
and satin, and gold and silver, and the night was as bright
as the day with all the lamps and candles that were lit, and
Guleesh had to shut his two eyes at the brightness. When
he opened them again and looked from him, he thought he
never saw anything as fine as all he saw there. There
were a hundred tables spread out, and their full of meat and
drink on each table of them, flesh-meat, and cakes and
sweetmeats, and wine and ale, and every drink that ever a
8 Celtic Fairy Tales
man saw. The musicians were at the two ends of the hall,
and they were playing the sweetest music that ever a man's
ear heard, and there were young women and fine youths in
the middle of the hall, dancing and turning, and going round
so quickly and so lightly, that it put a soorawn in Guleesh's
head to be looking at them. There were more there
playing tricks, and more making fun and laughing, for such
a feast as there was that day had not been in France for
twenty years, because the old king had no children alive
but only the one daughter, and she was to be married to
the son of another king that night. Three days the feast
was going on, and the third night she was to be married,
and that was the night that Guleesh and the sheehogues
came, hoping, if they could, to carry off with them the king's
Guleesh and his companions were standing together at
the head of the hall, where there was a fine altar dressed up,
and two bishops behind it waiting to marry the girl, as soon as
the right time should come. Now nobody could see the
sheehogues, for they said a word as they came in, that made
them all invisible, as if they had not been in it at all.
Tell me which of them is the king's daughter," said
Guleesh, when he was becoming a little used to the noise
and the light.
Don't you see her there away from you?" said the little
man that he was talking to.
Guleesh looked where the little man was pointing with
his finger, and there he saw the loveliest woman that was,
he thought, upon the ridge of the world. The rose and the
lily were fighting together in her face, and one could not tell
which of them got the victory. Her arms and hands were
like the lime, her mouth as red as a strawberry when it is
ripe, her foot was as small and as light as another one's
hand, her form was smooth and slender, and her hair was
falling down from her head in buckles of gold. Her gar-
ments and dress were woven with gold and silver, and the
bright stone that was in the ring on her hand was as shining
as the sun.
Guleesh was nearly blinded with all the loveliness and
beauty that was in her; but when he looked again, he saw
that she was crying, and that there was the trace of tears
in her eyes. It can't be," said Guleesh, that there's
grief on her, when everybody round her is so full of sport
Musha, then, she is grieved," said the little man;" for
it's against her own will she's marrying, and she has no
love for the husband she is to marry. The king was going
to give her to him three years ago, when she was only
fifteen, but she said she was too young, and requested him
to leave her as she was yet. The king gave her a year's
grace, and when that year was up he gave her another
year's grace, and then another; but a week or a day he
would not give her longer, and she is eighteen years old to-
night, and it's time for her to marry ; but, indeed," says he,
and he crooked his mouth in an ugly way-" indeed, it's
no king's son she'll marry, if I can help it."
Guleesh pitied the handsome young lady greatly when
he heard that, and he was heart-broken to think that it
would be necessary for her to marry a man she did not
like, or, what was worse, to take a nasty sheehogue for
a husband. However, he did not say a word, though
he could not help giving many a curse to the ill-luck
So Celtic Fairy Tales
that was laid out for himself, to be helping the people
that were to snatch her away from her home and from .her
He began thinking, then, what it was he ought to do to
save her, but he could think of nothing. Oh if I could
only give her some help and relief," said he, I wouldn't
care whether I were alive or dead; but I see nothing that
I can do for her."
He was looking on when the king's son came up to her
and asked her for a kiss, but she turned her head away
from him. Guleesh had double pity for her then, when
he saw the lad taking her by the soft white hand, and
drawing her out to dance. They went round in the dance
near where Guleesh was, and he could plainly see that
there were tears in her eyes.
When the dancing was over, the old king, her father,
and her mother the queen, came up and said that this was
the right time to marry her, that the bishop was ready, and
it was time to put the wedding-ring on her and give her to
The king took the youth by the hand, and the queen took
her daughter, and they went up together to the altar, with
the lords and great people following them.
When they came near the altar, and were no more than
about four yards from it, the little sheehogue stretched out
his foot before the girl, and she fell. Before she was able
to rise again he threw something that was in his hand upon
her, said a couple of words, and upon the moment the
maiden was gone from amongst them. Nobody could see
her, for that word made her invisible. The little maneen
seized her and raised her up behind Guleesh, and the king
nor no one else saw them, but out with them through the
hall till they came to the door.
Oro! dear Mary! it's there the pity was, and the
trouble, and the crying, and the wonder, and the searching,
and the rookawn, when that lady disappeared from their
eyes, and without their seeing what did it. Out of the
. ... .
door of the palace they went, without being stopped or
hindered, for nobody saw them, and, "My horse, my
bridle, and saddle says every man of them. My horse,
my bridle, and saddle says Guleesh; and on the moment
the horse was standing ready caparisoned before him.
"Now, jump up, Guleesh," said the little man, "and put
the lady behind you, and we will be going; the morning is
not far off from us now."
Guleesh raised her up on the horse's back, and leaped up
12 Celtic Fairy Tales
himself before her, and, Rise, horse," said he; and his
horse, and the other horses with him, went in a full race
until they came to the sea.
Hie over cap !" said every man of them.
"Hie over cap!" said Guleesh; and on the moment
the horse rose under him, and cut a leap in the clouds, and
came down in Erin.
They did not stop there, but went of a race to the place
where was Guleesh's house and the rath. And when they
came as far as that, Guleesh turned and caught the young
girl in his two arms, and leaped off the horse.
I call and cross you to myself, in the name of God !"
said he ; and on the spot, before the word was out of his
mouth, the horse fell down, and what was in it but the
beam of a plough, of which they had made a horse; and
every other horse they had, it was that way they made
it. Some of them were riding on an old besom, and some
on a broken stick, and more on a bohalawn or a hemlock-
The good people called out together when they heard
what Guleesh said:
"Oh Guleesh, you clown, you thief, that no good may
happen you, why did you play that trick on us ? "
But they had no power at all to carry off the girl, after
Guleesh had consecrated her to himself.
Oh Guleesh, isn't that a nice turn you did us, and we
so kind to you? What good have we now out of our
journey to France. Never mind yet, you clown, but you'll
pay us another time for this. Believe us, you'll repent it."
He'll have no good to get out of the young girl," said
the little man that was talking to him in the palace before
that, and as he said the word he moved over to her and
struck her a slap on the side of the head. Now," says
he, "she'll be without talk any more; now, Guleesh, what
good will she be to you when she'll be dumb ? It's time
for us to go-but you'll remember us, Guleesh "
When he said that he stretched out his two hands, and
before Guleesh was able to give an answer, he and the rest
of them were gone into the rath out of his sight, and he
saw them no more.
He turned to the young woman and said to her:
" Thanks be to God, they're gone. Would you not sooner
stay with me than with them ?" She gave him no answer.
" There's trouble and grief on her yet," said Guleesh in his
own mind, and he spoke to her again : I am afraid that
you must spend this night in my father's house, lady, and
if there is anything that I can do for you, tell me, and I'll
be your servant."
The beautiful girl remained silent, but there were
tears in her eyes, and her face was white and red after
Lady," said Guleesh, "tell me what you would like
me to do now. I never belonged at all to that lot of shee-
hogues who carried you away with them. I am the son
of an honest farmer, and I went with them without knowing
it. If I'll be able to send you back to your father I'll do
it, and I pray you make any use of me now that you may
He looked into her face, and he saw the mouth moving
as if she was going to speak, but there came no word
It cannot be," said Guleesh, "that you are dumb.
14 Celtic Fairy Tales
Did I not hear you speaking to the king's son in the palace
to-night ? Or has that devil made you really dumb, when
he struck his nasty hand on your jaw ?"
The girl raised her white smooth hand, and laid her
finger on her tongue, to show him that she had lost her voice
and power of speech, and the tears ran out of her two eyes
like streams, and Guleesh's own eyes were not dry, for as
rough as he was on the outside he had a soft heart, and
could not stand the sight of the young girl, and she in that
He began thinking with himself what he ought to do,
and he did not like to bring her home with himself to his
father's house, for he knew well that they would not be-
lieve him, that he had been in France and brought back
with him the king of France's daughter, and he was afraid
they might make a mock of the young lady or insult her.
As he was doubting what he ought to do, and hesitating, he
chanced to remember the priest. Glory be to God," said
he, I know now what I'll do ; I'll bring her to the priest's
house, and he won't refuse me to keep the lady and care
her." He turned to the lady again and told her that he was
loth to take her to his father's house, but that there was an
excellent priest very friendly to himself, who would take
good care of her, if she wished to remain in his house ; but
that if there was any other place she would rather go, he
said he would bring her to it.
She bent her head, to show him she was obliged, and
gave him to understand that she was ready to follow him
any place he was going. We will go to the priest's
house, then," said he; he is under an obligation to me,
and will do anything I ask him."
They went together accordingly to the priest's house,
and the sun was just rising when they came to the door.
Guleesh beat it hard, and as early as it was the priest was
up, and opened the door himself. He wondered when he
saw Guleesh and the girl, for he was certain that it was
coming wanting to be married they were.
Guleesh, Guleesh, isn't it the nice boy you are
that you can't wait till ten o'clock or till twelve, but that
you must be coming to me at this hour, looking for
marriage, you and your sweetheart ? You ought to know
that I can't marry you at such a time, or, at all events, can't
marry you lawfully. But ubbubboo! said he, suddenly,
as he looked again at the young girl, in the name of God,
who have you here? Who is she, or how did you get
her ? "
Father," said Guleesh, "you can marry me, or any-
body else, if you wish ; but it's not looking for marriage I
came to you now, but to ask you, if you please, to give a
lodging in your house to this young lady."
The priest looked at him as though he had ten heads on
him ; but without putting any other question to him, he
desired him to come in, himself and the maiden, and when
they came in, he shut the door, brought them into the
parlour, and put them sitting.
Now, Guleesh," said he, "tell me truly who is this
young lady, and whether you're out of your senses really,
or are only making a joke of me."
I'm not telling a word of lie, nor making a joke of
you," said Guleesh; "but it was from the palace of the
king of France I carried off this lady, and she is the daughter
of the king of France."
16 Celtic Fairy Tales
He began his story then, and told the whole to the
priest, and the priest was so much surprised that he
could not help calling out at times, or clapping his hands
When Guleesh said from what he saw he thought the
girl was not satisfied with the marriage that was going to
take place in the palace before he and the sheehogues
broke it up, there came a red blush into the girl's cheek,
and he was more certain than ever that she had sooner be
as she was-badly as she was-than be the married wife
of the man she hated. When Guleesh said that he would
be very thankful to the priest if he would keep her in his
own house, the kind man said he would do that as long as
Guleesh pleased, but that he did not know what they ought
to do with her, because they had no means of sending her
back to her father again.
Guleesh answered that he was uneasy about the same
thing, and that he saw nothing to do but to keep quiet
until they should find some opportunity of doing something
better. They made it up then between themselves that
the priest should let on that it was his brother's daughter
he had, who was come on a visit to him from another
county, and that he should tell everybody that she was dumb,
and do his best to keep every one away from her. They
told the young girl what it was they intended to do, and
she showed by her eyes that she was obliged to them.
Guleesh went home then, and when his people asked
him where he had been, he said that he had been asleep
at the foot of the ditch, and had passed the night there.
There was great wonderment on the priest's neighbours
at the girl who came so suddenly to his house without any
one knowing where she was from, or what business she
had there. Some of the people said that everything was
not as it ought to be, and others, that Guleesh was not like
the same man that was in it before, and that it was a great
story, how he was drawing every day to the priest's house,
and that the priest had a wish and a respect for him, a
thing they could not clear up at all.
That was true for them, indeed, for it was seldom the
day went by but Guleesh would go to the priest's house,
and have a talk with him, and as often as he would come
he used to hope to find the young lady well again, and
with leave to speak; but, alas! she remained dumb and
silent, without relief or cure. Since she had no other
means of talking, she carried on a sort of conversation
between herself and himself, by moving her hand and
fingers, winking her eyes, opening and shutting her mouth,
laughing or smiling, and a thousand other signs, so that it
was not long until they understood each other very well.
Guleesh was always thinking how he should send her back
to her father; but there was no one to go with her, and he
himself did not know what road to go, for he had never
been out of his own country before the night he brought
her away with him. Nor had the priest any better know-
ledge than he; but when Guleesh asked him, he wrote
three or four letters to the king of France, and gave them
to buyers and sellers of wares, who used to be going from
place to place across the sea; but they all went astray, and
never a one came to the king's hand.
This was the -way they were for many months, and
Guleesh was falling deeper and deeper in love with her
every day, and it was plain to himself and the priest that
18 Celtic Fairy Tales
she liked him. The boy feared greatly at last, lest the
king should really hear where his daughter was, and take
her back from himself, and he besought the priest to write
no more, but to leave the matter to God.
So they passed the time for a year, until there came a
day when Guleesh was lying by himself on the grass, on
the last day of the last month in autumn, and he was thinking
over again in his own mind of everything that happened to
him from the day that he went with the sheehogues across
the sea. He remembered then, suddenly, that it was one
November night that he was standing at the gable of the
house, when the whirlwind came, and the sheehogues in it,
and he said to himself: "We have November night again
to-day, and I'll stand in the same place I was last year,
until I see if the good people come again. Perhaps I
might see or hear something that would be useful to me,
and might bring back her talk again to Mary"-that was
the name himself and the priest called the king's daughter,
for neither of them knew her right name. He told his
intention to the priest, and the priest gave him his
Guleesh accordingly went to the old rath when the night
was darkening, and he stood with his bent elbow leaning on
a grey old flag, waiting till the middle of the night should
come. The moon rose slowly, and it was like a knob of
fire behind him; and there was a white fog which was
raised up over the fields of grass and all damp places,
through the coolness of the night after a great heat in the
day. The night was calm as is a lake when there is not a
breath of wind to move a wave on it, and there was no
sound to be heard but the cronawn of the insects that would
go by from time to time, or the hoarse sudden scream of
the wild-geese, as they passed from lake to lake, half a
mile up in the air over his head ; or the sharp whistle
of the golden and green plover, rising and lying, lying and
rising, as they do on a calm night. There were a
thousand thousand bright stars shining over his head, and
there was a little frost out, which left the grass under his
foot white and crisp.
He stood there for an hour, for two hours, for three
hours, and the frost increased greatly, so that he heard the
breaking of the traneens under his foot as often as he
moved. He was thinking, in his own mind, at last, that
the sheehogues would not come that night, and that it was
as good for him to return back again, when he heard a
sound far away from him, coming towards him, and he
recognized what it was at the first moment. The sound
increased, and at first it was like the beating of waves on
a stony shore, and then it was like the falling of a great
waterfall, and at last it was like a loud storm in the tops of
the trees, and then the whirlwind burst into the rath of one
rout, and the sheehogues were in it.
It all went by him so suddenly that he lost his breath
with it, but he came to himself on the spot, and put an ear
on himself, listening to what they would say.
Scarcely had they gathered into the rath till they all
began shouting, and screaming, and talking amongst them-
selves; and then each one of them cried out: My horse,
and bridle, and saddle My horse, and bridle, and saddle "
and Guleesh took courage, and called out as loudly as any
of them : My horse, and bridle, and saddle My horse,
and bridle, and saddle But before the word was well out
20 Celtic Fairy Tales
of his mouth, another man cried out: Ora! Guleesh, my
boy, are you here with us again ? How are you getting
on with your woman ? There's no use in your calling for
your horse to-night. I'll go bail you won't play such a trick
on us again. It was a good trick you played on us last
It was," said another man; "he won't do it again."
"Isn't he a prime lad, the same lad! to take a woman
with him that never said as much to him as, How do you
do ?' since this time last year! says the third man.
Perhaps he likes to be looking at her," said another
"And if the omadawn only knew that there's an herb
growing up by his own door, and if he were to boil it and
give it to her, she'd be well," said another voice.
That's true for you."
He is an omadawn."
Don't bother your head with him'; we'll be going."
"We'll leave the bodach as he is."
And with that they rose up into the air, and out with
them with one roolya-boolya the way they came; and they
left poor Guleesh standing where they found him, and the
two eyes going out of his head, looking after them and
He did not stand long till he returned back, and he
thinking in his own mind on all he saw and heard, and
wondering whether there was really an herb at his own
door that would bring back the talk to the king's daugh-
ter. It can't be," says he to himself, that they would
tell it to me, if there was any virtue in it ; but perhaps the
sheehogue didn't observe himself when he let the word slip
out of his mouth. I'll search well as soon as the sun rises,
whether there's any plant growing beside the house except
thistles and dockings."
He went home, and as tired as he was he did not sleep
a wink until the sun rose on the morrow. He got up
then, and it was the first thing he did to go out and search
well through the grass round about the house, trying
could he get any herb that he did not recognize. And,
indeed, he was not long searching till he observed a large
strange herb that was growing up just by the gable of the
He went over to it, and observed it closely, and saw
22 Celtic Fairy Tales
that there were seven little branches coming out of the
stalk, and seven leaves growing on every brancheen of them ;
and that there was a white sap in the leaves. It's very
wonderful," said he to himself, "that I never noticed this
herb before. If there's any virtue in an herb at all, it
ought to be in such a strange one as this."
He drew out his knife, cut the plant, and carried it into
his own house ; stripped the leaves off it and cut up the
stalk ; and there came a thick, white juice out of it, as there
comes out of the sow-thistle when it is bruised, except that
the juice was more like oil.
He put it in a little pot and a little water in it, and laid
it on the fire until the water was boiling, and then he took
a cup, filled it half up with the juice, and put it to his own
mouth. It came into his head then that perhaps it was
poison that was in it, and that the good people were only
tempting him that he might kill himself with that trick, or
put the girl to death without meaning it. He put down
the cup again, raised a couple of drops on the top of his
finger, and put it to his mouth. It was not bitter, and,
indeed, had a sweet, agreeable taste. He grew bolder then,
and drank the full of a thimble of it, and then as much
again, and he never stopped till he had half the cup drunk.
He fell asleep after that, and did not wake till it was night,
and there was great hunger and great thirst on him.
He had to wait, then, till the day rose ; but he deter-
mined, as soon as he should wake in the morning, that he
would go to the king's daughter and give her a drink of the
juice of the herb.
As soon as he got up in the morning, he went over to
the priest's house with the drink in his hand, and he never
felt himself so bold and valiant, and spirited and light, as he
was that day, and he was quite certain that it was the
drink he drank which made him so hearty.
When he came to the house, he found the priest and the
young lady within, and they were wondering greatly why
he had not visited them for two days.
He told them all his news, and said that he was certain
that there was great power in that herb, and that it would
do the lady no hurt, for he tried it himself and got good
from it, and then he made her taste it, for he vowed and
swore that there was no harm in it.
Guleesh handed her the cup, and she drank half of it,
and then fell back on her bed and a heavy sleep came on
24 Celtic Fairy Tales
her, and she never woke out of that sleep till the day on
Guleesh and the priest sat up the entire night with her,
waiting till she should awake, and they between hope and
unhope, between expectation of saving her and fear of
She awoke at last when the sun had gone half its way
through the heavens. She rubbed her eyes and looked like
a person who did not know where she was. She was like
one astonished when she saw Guleesh and the priest in the
same room with her, and she sat up doing her best to
collect her thoughts.
The two men were in great anxiety waiting to see would
she speak, or would she not speak, and when they remained
silent for a couple of minutes, the priest said to her: Did
you sleep well, Mary ? "
And she answered him: I slept, thank you."
No sooner did Guleesh hear her talking than he put a shout
of joy out of him, and ran over to her and fell on his two
knees, and said: "A thousand thanks to God, who has given
you back the talk; lady of my heart, speak again to me."
The lady answered him that she understood it was he
who boiled that drink for her, and gave it to her; that she
was obliged to him from her heart for all the kindness he
showed her since the day she first came to Ireland, and
that he might be certain that she never would forget it.
Guleesh was ready to die with satisfaction and delight.
Then they brought her food, and she ate with a good
appetite, and was merry and joyous, and never left off
talking with the priest while she was eating.
After that Guleesh went home to his house, and stretched
himself on the bed and fell asleep again, for the force of the
herb was not all spent, and he passed another day and a
night sleeping. When he woke up he went back to the
priest's house, and found that the young lady was in the
same state, and that she was asleep almost since the time
that he left the house.
He went into her chamber with the priest, and they
remained watching beside her till she awoke the second
time, and she had her talk as well as ever, and Guleesh
was greatly rejoiced. The priest put food on the table
again, and they ate together, and Guleesh used after that
to come to the house from day to day, and the friendship
that was between him and the king's daughter increased,
because she had no one to speak to except Guleesh and the
priest, and she liked Guleesh best.
So they married one another, and that was the fine
wedding they had, and if I were to be there then, I would
not be here now; but I heard it from a birdeen that there
was neither cark nor care, sickness nor sorrow, mishap nor
misfortune on them till the hour of their death, and may
the same be with me, and with us all!
^ ^ <^> sin
The Field of Boliauns
NE fine day in harvest-it was indeed Lady-
day in harvest, that everybody knows to be
one of the greatest holidays in the year-
Tom Fitzpatrick was taking a ramble through
the ground, and went along the sunny side
of a hedge; when all of a sudden he heard a clacking sort
of noise a little before him in the hedge. Dear me," said
Tom, but isn't it surprising to hear the stonechatters
singing so late in the season ? So Tom stole on, going on
the tops of his toes to try if he could get a sight of what
was making the noise, to see if he was right in his guess.
The noise stopped; but as Tom looked sharply through the
bushes, what should he see in a nook of the hedge but a
brown pitcher, that might hold about a gallon and a half of
liquor; and by-and-by a little wee teeny tiny bit of an old
man, with a little motty of a cocked hat stuck upon the top
The Field of Boliauns
of his head, a deeshy daushy leather apron hanging before
him, pulled out a little wooden stool, and stood up upon it,
and dipped a little piggin into the pitcher, and took out the
full of it, and put it beside the stool, and then sat down
under the pitcher, and began to work at putting a heel-piece
on a bit of a brogue just fit for himself. Well, by the
powers," said Tom to himself, I often heard tell of the
Lepracauns, and, to tell God's truth, I never rightly believed
in them-but here's one of them in real earnest. If I go
knowingly to work, I'm a made man. They say a body
must never take their eyes off them, or they'll escape."
Tom now stole on a little further, with his eye fixed
on the little man just as a cat does with a mouse. So
when he got up quite close to him, God bless your work,
neighbour," said Tom.
The little man raised up his head, and "Thank you
kindly," said he.
I wonder you'd be working on the holiday said Tom.
"That's my own business, not yours," was the reply.
"Well, may be you'd be civil enough to tell us what
you've got in the pitcher there ? said Tom.
"That I will, with pleasure," said he; it's good beer."
Beer! said Tom. "Thunder and fire where did you
get it ? "
Where did I get it, is it? Why, I made it. And
what do you think I made it of ? "
Devil a one of me knows," said Tom; but of malt, I
suppose, what else ? "
There you're out. I made it of heath."
"Of heath! said Tom, bursting out laughing; "sure
you don't think me to be such a fool as to believe that ? "
28 Celtic Fairy Tales
Do as you please," said he, but what I tell you is the
truth. Did you never hear tell of the Danes."
Well, what about them ?" said Tom.
"Why, all the about them there is, is that when they
were here they taught us to make beer out of the heath, and
the secret's in my family ever since."
"Will you give a body a taste of your beer ? said Tom.
I'll tell you what it is, young man, it would be fitter
for you to be looking after your father's property than to be
bothering decent quiet people with your foolish questions.
There now, while you're idling away your time here, there's
the cows have broke into the oats, and are knocking the
corn all about."
Tom was taken so by surprise with this that he was just on
the very point of turning round when he recollected himself;
so, afraid that the like might happen again, he made a grab
at the Lepracaun, and caught him up in his hand ; but in his
hurry he overset the pitcher, and spilt all the beer, so that
he could not get a taste of it to tell what sort it was. He
then swore that he would kill him if he did not show him
where his money was. Tom looked so wicked and so bloody-
minded that the little man was quite frightened; so says
he, "Come along with me a couple of fields off, and I'll
show you a crock of gold."
So they went, and Tom held the Lepracaun fast in his
hand, and never took his eyes from off him, though they had
to cross hedges and ditches, and a crooked bit of bog, till at
last they came to a great field all full of boliauns, and the
Lepracaun pointed to a big boliaun, and says he, "Dig
under that boliaun, and you'll get the great crock all
full of guineas."
The Field of Boliauns 29
Tom in his hurry had never thought of bringing a spade
with him, so he made up his mind to run home and fetch
one; and that he might know the place again he took off
one of his red garters, and tied it round the boliaun.
Then he said to the Lepracaun, Swear ye'll not take
that garter away from that boliaun." And the Lepracaun
swore right away not to touch it.
I suppose," said the Lepracaun, very civilly, you have
no further occasion for me ? "
"No," says Tom; "you may go away now, if you
please, and God speed you, and may good luck attend you
wherever you go."
"Well, good-bye to you, Tom Fitzpatrick," said the
Lepracaun; "and much good may it do you when you
So Tom ran for dear life, till he came home and got a
spade, and then away with him, as hard as he could go,
back to the field of boliauns; but when he got there, lo
and behold! not a boliaun in the field but had a red garter,
the very model of his own, tied about it; and as to digging
up the whole field, that was all nonsense, for there were
more than forty good Irish acres in it. So Tom came
home again with his spade on his shoulder, a little cooler
than he went, and many's the hearty curse he gave the
Lepracaun every time he thought of the neat turn he had
The Horned Women
RICH woman sat up late one night carding
and preparing wool, while all the family
and servants were asleep. Suddenly a
knock was given at the door, and a voice
called, Open! open!"
Who is there ?" said the woman of the house.
I am the Witch of one Horn," was answered.
The mistress, supposing that one of her neighbours had
called and required assistance, opened the door, and a
woman entered, having in her hand a pair of wool-carders,
and bearing a horn on her forehead, as if growing there.
She sat down by the fire in silence, and began to card
The Horned Women
the wool with violent haste. Suddenly she paused, and
said aloud: "Where are the women? they delay too
Then a second knock came to the door, and a voice
called as before, Open open !"
The mistress felt herself obliged to rise and open to
the call, and immediately a second witch entered, having
two horns on her forehead, and in her hand a wheel for
Give me place," she said; I am the Witch of the two
Horns," and she began to spin as quick as lightning.
And so the knocks went on, and the call was heard,
and the witches entered, until at last twelve women sat
round the fire-the first with one horn, the last with twelve
And they carded the thread, and turned their spinning-
wheels, and wound and wove, all singing together an ancient
rhyme, but no word did they speak to the mistress of the
house. Strange to hear, and frightful to look upon, were
these twelve women, with their horns and their wheels;
and the mistress felt near to death, and she tried to rise
that she might call for help, but she could not move, nor
could she utter a word or a cry, for the spell of the witches
was upon her.
Then one of them called to her in Irish, and said, Rise,
woman, and make us a cake."
Then the mistress searched for a vessel to bring water
from the well that she might mix the meal and make the
cake, but she could find none.
And they said to her, "Take a sieve and bring water
32 Celtic Fairy Tales
And she took the sieve and went to the well; but the
water poured from it, and she could fetch none for the cake,
and she sat down by the well and wept.
Then a voice came by her and said, Take yellow clay
and moss, and bind them together, and plaster the sieve so
that it will hold."
This she did, and the sieve held the water for the cake;
and the voice said again:
"Return, and when thou comest to the north angle of
the house, cry aloud three times and say, 'The mountain
of the Fenian women and the sky over it is all on fire.'"
And she did so.
When the witches inside heard the call, a great and
terrible cry broke from their lips, and they rushed forth
with wild lamentations and shrieks, and fled away to
Slievenamon, where was their chief abode. But the
Spirit of the Well bade the mistress of the house to enter
and prepare her home against the enchantments of the
witches if they returned again.
And first, to break their spells, she sprinkled the water
in which she had washed her child's feet, the feet-water,
outside the door on the threshold; secondly, she took the
cake which in her absence the witches had made of meal
mixed with the blood drawn from the sleeping family, and
she broke the cake in bits, and placed a bit in the mouth
of each sleeper, and they were restored; and she took the
cloth they had woven, and placed it half in and half out
of the chest with the padlock; and lastly, she secured
the door with a great crossbeam fastened in the jambs, so
that the witches could not enter, and having done these
things she waited.
The Horned Women 33
Not long were the witches in coming back, and they
raged and called for vengeance.
"Open open !" they screamed; "open, feet-water!"
I cannot," said the feet-water ; I am scattered on the
ground, and my path is down to the Lough."
Open, open, wood and trees and beam 1" they cried to
I cannot," said the door, "for the beam is fixed in the
jambs and I have no power to move."
Open, open, cake that we have made and mingled with
blood !" they cried again.
"I cannot," said the cake, for I am broken and
bruised, and my blood is on the lips of the sleeping
Then the witches rushed through the air with great
cries, and fled back to Slievenamon, uttering strange curses
on the Spirit of the Well, who had wished their ruin; but
the woman and the house were left in peace, and a mantle
dropped by one of the witches in her flight was kept hung
up by the mistress in memory of that night; and this
mantle was kept by the same family from generation to
generation for five hundred years after.
ONALL YELLOWCLAW was a sturdy
tenant in Erin: he had three sons. There
was at that time a king over every fifth of
Erin. It fell out for the children of the
king that was near Conall, that they them-
selves and the children of Conall came to blows. The
children of Conall got the upper hand, and they killed the
king's big son. The king sent a message for Conall, and
he said to him-" Oh, Conall! what made your sons go to
spring on my sons till my big son was killed by your children ?
but I see that though I follow you revengefully, I shall not
be much better for it, and I will now set a thing before
you, and if you will do it, I will not follow you with
revenge. If you and your sons will get me the brown
horse of the king of Lochlann, you shall get the souls of
Why," said Conall, should not I do the pleasure of
Ihe king, though there should be no souls of my sons in
dread at all. Hard is the matter you require of me, but I
will lose my own life, and the life of my sons, or else I will
do the pleasure of the king."
After these words Conall left the king, and he went home :
when he got home he was under much trouble and per-
plexity. When he went to lie down he told his wife the
thing the king had set before him. His wife took much
sorrow that he was obliged to part from herself, while she
knew not if she should see him more.
"Oh, Conall," said she, "why didst not thou let the
king do his own pleasure to thy sons, rather than be going
now, while I know not if ever I shall see thee more ? "
When he rose on the morrow, he set himself and his
three sons in order, and they took their journey towards
Lochlann, and they made no stop but tore through ocean
till they reached it. When they reached Lochlann they did
not know what they should do. Said the old man to his
sons, "Stop ye, and we will seek out the house of the
When they went into the house of the king's miller, the
man asked them to stop there for the night. Conall told
the miller that his own children and the children of his
king had fallen out, and that his children had killed the
king's son, and there was nothing that would please the
king but that he should get the brown horse of the king of
If you will do me a kindness, and will put me in a
way to get him, for certain I will pay ye for it."
The thing is silly that you are come to seek," said the
miller; "for the king has laid his mind on him so greatly
that you will not get him in any way unless you steal
him; but if you can make out a way, I will keep it
"This is what I am thinking," said Conall, since you
36 Celtic Fairy Tales
are working every day for the king, you and your gillies
could put myself and my sons into five sacks of bran."
The plan that has come into your head is not bad,"
said the miller.
The miller spoke to his gillies, and he said to them to do
this, and they put them in five sacks. The king's gillies
came to seek the bran, and they took the five sacks with
them, and they emptied them before the horses. The ser-
vants locked the door, and they went away.
When they rose to lay hand on the brown horse, said
Conall, "You shall not do that. It is hard to get out of
this; let us make for ourselves five hiding holes, so that if
they hear us we may go and hide." They made the holes,
then they laid hands on the horse. The horse was pretty
well unbroken, and he set to making a terrible noise through
the stable. The king heard the noise. It must be my
brown horse," said he to his gillies ; find out what is
wrong with him."
The servants went out, and when Conall and his sons
saw them coming they went into the hiding holes. The
servants looked amongst the horses, and they did not find
anything wrong; and they returned and they told this to
the king, and the king said to them that if nothing was
wrong they should go to their places of rest. When the
gillies had time to be gone, Conall and his sons laid their
hands again on the horse. If the noise was great that he
made before, the noise he made now was seven times greater.
The king sent a message for his gillies again, and said for
certain there was something troubling the brown horse.
" Go and look well about him." The servants went out,
and they went to their hiding holes. The servants rum-
maged well, and did not find a thing. They returned and
they told this.
That is marvellous for me," said the king: "go you to
lie down again, and if I notice it again I will go out my-
When Conall and his sons perceived that the gillies were
gone, they laid hands again on the horse, and one of them
caught him, and if the noise that the horse made on the
two former times was great, he made more this time.
Be this from me," said the king; "it must be that
some one is troubling my brown horse." He sounded the
bell hastily, and when his waiting-man came to him, he
said to him to let the stable gillies know that something
was wrong with the horse. The gillies came, and the king
went with them. When Conall and his sons perceived the
company coming they went to the hiding holes.
The king was a wary man, and he saw where the horses
were making a noise.
Be wary," said the king, there are men within the
stable, let us get at them somehow."
The king followed the tracks of the men, and he found
them. Every one knew Conall, for he was a valued tenant
of the king of Erin, and when the king brought them up out
of the holes he said, Oh, Conall, is it you that are here ? "
I am, O king, without question, and necessity made me
come. I am under thy pardon, and under thine honour,
and under thy grace." He told how it happened to him,
and that he had to get the brown horse for the king of
Erin, or that his sons were to be put to death. I knew
that I should not get him by asking, and I was going to
38 Celtic Fairy Tales
"Yes, Conall, it is well enough, but come in," said the
king. He desired his look-out men to set a watch on the
sons of Conall, and to give them meat. And a double
watch was set that night on the sons of Conall.
Now, 0 Conall," said the king, "were you ever in a
harder place than to be seeing your lot of sons hanged to-
morrow ? But you set it to my goodness and to my grace,
and say that it was necessity brought it on you, so I must
not hang you. Tell me any case in which you were as hard
as this, and if you tell that, you shall get the soul of your
I will tell a case as hard in which I was," said Conall.
" I was once a young lad, and my father had much land, and
he had parks of year-old cows, and one of them had just
calved, and my father told me to bring her home. I found
the cow, and took her with us. There fell a shower of
snow. We went into the herd's bothy, and we took
the cow and the calf in with us, and we were letting
the shower pass from us. Who should come in but one
cat and ten, and one great one-eyed fox-coloured cat as head
bard over them. When they came in, in very deed I my-
self had no liking for their company. Strike up with you,'
said the head bard, 'why should we be still ? and sing a
cronan to Conall Yellowclaw.' I was amazed that my name
was known to the cats themselves. When they had sung
the cronan, said the head bard, 'Now, 0 Conall, pay the
reward of the cronan that the cats have sung to thee.'
' Well then,' said I myself, I have no reward whatsoever
for you, unless you should go down and take that calf.'
No sooner said I the word than the two cats and ten went
down to attack the calf, and in very deed, he did not last
them long. Play up with you, why should you be silent ?
Make a cronan to Conall Yellow,' said the head bard. Cer-
tainly I had no liking at all for the cronan, but up came the
one cat and ten, and if they did not sing me a cronan then
and there 'Pay them now their reward,' said the great
fox-coloured cat. 'I am tired myself of yourselves and
your rewards,' said I. 'I have no reward for you unless
you take that cow down there." They betook themselves
to the cow, and indeed she did not last them long.
"'Why will you be silent ? Go up and sing a cronan
to Conall Yellowclaw,' said the head bard. And surely, oh,
king, I had no care for them or for their cronan, for I began
to see that they were not good comrades. When they had
sung me the cronan they betook themselves down where the
head bard was. 'Pay now their reward, said the head
bard; and for sure, oh king, I had no reward for them;
and I said to them, 'I have no reward for you.' And
surely, oh king, there was catterwauling between them.
So I leapt out at a turf window that was at the back of the
house. I took myself off as hard as I might into the wood.
I was swift enough and strong at that time; and when I
felt the rustling toirm of the cats after me I climbed into
as high a tree as I saw in the place, and one that was close
in the top; and I hid myself as well as I might. The
cats began to search for me through the wood, and they
could not find me; and when they were tired, each one said
to the other that they would turn back. 'But,' said the
one-eyed fox-coloured cat that was commander-in-chief over
them, 'you saw him not with your two eyes, and though
I have but one eye, there's the rascal up in the tree.' When
he had said that, one of them went up in the tree, and as
40 Celtic Fairy Tales
he was coming where I was, I drew a weapon that I had
and I killed him. 'Be this from me said the one-eyed
one-' I must not be losing my
company thus ; gather round the
/ root of the tree and dig about it,
"' I .' and let down that villain to earth.'
On this they gathered about the
tree, and they dug about the root,
and the first branching root that
they cut, she gave a shiver to fall,
and I myself gave a shout, and
it was not to be wondered at.
There was in the neighbourhood
of the wood a priest, and he had ten men with him delving,
and he said, There is a shout of a man in extremity and I
must not be without replying to it.' And the wisest of the
men said, Let it alone till we hear it again.' The cats
began again digging wildly, and they broke the next root;
and I myself gave the next shout, and in very deed it was
not a weak one. Certainly,' said the priest, 'it is a man
in extremity-let us move.' They set themselves in order
for moving. And the cats arose on the tree, and they
broke the third root, and the tree fell on her elbow. Then I
gave the third shout. The stalwart men hastened, and when
they saw how the cats served the tree, they began at them
with the spades; and they themselves and the cats began
at each other, till the cats ran away. And surely, oh king,
I did not move till I saw the last one of them off. And then
I came home. And there's the hardest case in which I
ever was; and it seems to me that tearing by the cats were
harder than hanging to-morrow by the king of Lochlann."
Och Conall," said the king, "you are full of words.
You have freed the soul of your son with your tale ; and if
you tell me a harder case than that you will get your second
youngest son, and then you will have two sons."
"Well then," said Conall, on condition that thou dost
that, I will tell thee how I was once in a harder case than
to be in thy power in prison to-night."
Let's hear," said the king.
I was then," said Conall, quite a young lad, and I went
out hunting, and my father's land was beside the sea, and
it was rough with rocks, caves, and rifts. When I was
going on the top of the shore, I saw as if there were a
smoke coming up between two rocks, and I began to look
what might be the meaning of the smoke coming up there.
When I was looking, what should I do but fall; and the place
was so full of heather, that neither bone nor skin was broken.
I knew not how I should get out of this. I was not looking
before me, but I kept looking overhead the way I came-and
thinking that the day would never come that I could get up
there. It was terrible for me to be there till I should die.
I heard a great clattering coming, and what was there but
a great giant and two dozen of goats with him, and a
buck at their head. And when the giant had tied the goats,
he came up and he said to me, Hao 0 Conall, it's long
since my knife has been rusting in my pouch waiting for thy
tender flesh.' Och !' said I, 'it's not much you will be
bettered by me, though you should tear me asunder; I will
make but one meal for you. But I see that you are one-
eyed. I am a good leech, and I will give you the sight of
the other eye.' The giant went and he drew the great cal-
dron on the site of the fire. I myself was telling him how
42 Celtic Fairy Tales
he should heat the water, so that I should give its sight to
the other eye. I got heather and I made a rubber of it, and
I set him upright in the caldron. I began at the eye that
was well, pretending to him that I would give its sight to
the other one, till I left them as bad as each other; and
surely it was easier to spoil the one that was well than to
give sight to the other.
When he saw that he could not see a glimpse, and when
I myself said to him that I would get out in spite of him,
he gave a spring out of the water, and he stood in the
mouth of the cave, and he said that he would have revenge
for the sight of his eye. I had but to stay there crouched
the length of the night, holding in my breath in such a way
that he might not find out where I was.
"When he felt the birds calling in the morning, and
knew that the day was, he said-' Art thou sleeping?
Awake and let out my lot of goats.' I killed the buck.
He cried, I do believe that thou art killing my buck.'
I am not,' said I,' but the ropes are so tight that I take
long to loose them.' I let out one of the goats, and there he
was caressing her, and he said to her, 'There thou art thou
shaggy, hairy white goat, and thou seest me, but I see thee
not.' I kept letting them out by the way of one and one,
as I flayed the buck, and before the last one was out I had
him flayed bag-wise. Then I went and I put my legs in
place of his legs, and my hands in place of his forelegs, and
my head in place of his head, and the horns on top of my
head, so that the brute might think that it was the buck. I
went out. When I was going out the giant laid his hand
on me, and he said, 'There thou art, thou pretty buck;
thou seest me, but I see thee not.' When I myself got out,
- ~y~ -
~E*~`-1+3~B~-V~~--~ -C -----~ -
Conall Yellowclaw 43
and I saw the world about me, surely, oh, king! joy was
on me. When I was out and had shaken the skin off me,
I said to the brute, I am out now in spite of you.'
Aha !' said he, hast thou done this to me. Since thou
wert so stalwart that thou hast got out, I will give thee a
ring that I have here; keep the ring, and it will do thee
I will not take the ring from you,' said I,' but throw it,
and I will take it with me.' He threw the ring on the flat
ground, I went myself and I lifted the ring, and I put it on
my finger. When he said me then, Is the ring fitting
thee ? I said to him, It is.' Then he said, 'Where art thou,
ring?' And the ring said, I am here.' The brute went
and went towards where the ring was speaking, and now I
saw that I was in a harder case than ever I was. I drew
a dirk. I cut the finger from off me, and I threw it from me as
far as I could out on the loch, and there was a great
depth in the place. He shouted, Where art thou, ring?'
And the ring said,' I am here,' though it was on the bed of
ocean. He gave a spring after the ring, and out he went
in the sea. And I was as pleased then when I saw him
drowning, as though you should grant my own life and the
life of my two sons with me, and not lay any more trouble
"When the giant was drowned I went in, and I took
with me all he had of gold and silver, and I went home, and
surely great joy was on my people when I arrived. And
as a sign now look, the finger is off me."
Yes, indeed, Conall, you are wordy and wise," said
the king. I see the finger is off you. You have freed your
two sons, but tell me a case in which you ever were that is
44 Celtic Fairy Tales
harder than to be looking on your son being hanged to-
morrow, and you shall get the soul of your eldest son."
"Then went my father," said Conall, and he got me a
wife, and I was married. I went to hunt. I was going
beside the sea, and I saw an island over in the midst of the
loch, and I came there where a boat was with a rope before
her, and a rope behind her, and many precious things within
her. I looked myself on the boat to see how I might get part of
them. I put in the one foot, and the other foot was on the
ground, and when I raised my head what was it but the boat
over in the middle of the loch, and she never stopped till she
reached the island. When I went out of the boat the boat
returned where she was before. I did not know now what I
should do. The place was without meat or clothing, without
the appearance of a house on it. I came out on the top of a
hill. Then I came to a glen; I saw in it, at the bottom of a
hollow, a woman with a child, and the child was naked on
her knee, and she had a knife in her hand. She tried to
put the knife to the throat of the babe, and the babe began
to laugh in her face, and she began to cry, and she threw
the knife behind her. I thought to myself that I was near
my foe and far from my friends, and I called to the woman,
What are you doing here ?' And she said to me, What
brought you here?' I told her myself word upon word
how I came. 'Well then,' said she, 'it was so I came
also.' She showed me to the place where I should come
in where she was. I went in, and I said to her, 'What
was the matter that you were putting the knife on the neck
of the child ?' It is that he must be cooked for the giant
who is here, or else no more of my world will be before
me.' Just then we could be hearing the footsteps of the
giant, 'What shall I do? what shall I do?' cried the
woman. I went to the caldron, and by luck it was not
hot, so in it I got just as the brute came in. Hast thou
boiled that youngster for me ?' he cried. He's not done
yet,' said she, and I cried out from the caldron, 'Mammy,
mammy, it's boiling I am.' Then the giant laughed out
HAI, HAW, HOGARAICH, and heaped on wood under
"And now I was sure I would scald before I could
get out of that. As fortune favoured me, the brute slept
beside the caldron. There I was scalded by the bottom of
the caldron. When she perceived that he was asleep, she
set her mouth quietly to the hole that was in the lid, and
she said to me 'was I alive?' I said I was. I put up my
head, and the hole in the lid was so large, that my head
went through easily. Everything was coming easily with
me till I began to bring up my hips. I left the skin of my
hips behind me, but I came out. When I got out of the
caldron I knew not what to do; and she said to me that
there was no weapon that would kill him but his own
weapon. I began to draw his spear and every breath that
he drew I thought I would be down his throat, and when
his breath came out I was back again just as far. But with
every ill that befell me I got the spear loosed from him.
Then I was as one under a bundle of straw in a great wind
for I could not manage the spear. And it was fearful to
look on the brute, who had but one eye in the midst of his
face; and it was not agreeable for the like of me to attack
him. I drew the dart as best I could, and I set it in his
eye. When he felt this he gave his head a lift, and he
struck the other end of the dart on the top of the cave, and
46 Celtic Fairy Tales
it went through to the back of his head. And he fell cold
dead where he was; and you may be sure, oh king, that
joy was on me. I myself and the woman went out on
clear ground, and we passed the night there. I went and
got the boat with which I came, and she was no way
lightened, and took the woman and the child over on dry
land; and I returned home."
The king of Lochlann's mother was putting on a fire at
this time, and listening to Conall telling the tale about the
Is it you," said she, "that were there? "
Well then," said he, 'twas I."
Och! och!" said she, "'twas I that was there, and
the king is the child whose life you saved ; and it is
to you that life thanks should be given." Then they took
The king said, Oh, Conall, you came through great
hardships. And now the brown horse is yours, and his
sack full of the most precious things that are in my
They lay down that night, and if it was early that Conall
rose, it was earlier than that that the queen was on foot
making ready. He got the brown horse and his sack full
of gold and silver and stones of great price, and then Conall
and his three sons went away, and they returned home to
the Erin realm of gladness. He left the gold and silver in
his house, and he went with the horse to the king. They
were good friends evermore. He returned home to his
wife, and they set in order a feast ; and that was a feast if
ever there was one, oh son and brother.
Hudden and Dudden and
HERE was once upon a time two farmers, and
their names were Hudden and Dudden.
S They had poultry in their yards, sheep on
the uplands, and scores of cattle in the
meadow-land alongside the river. But for
all that they weren't happy. For just between their two
farms there lived a poor man by the name of Donald
O'Neary. He had a hovel over his head and a strip of
grass that was barely enough to keep his one cow, Daisy,
from starving, and, though she did her best, it was but
seldom that Donald got a drink of milk or a roll of butter
from Daisy. You would think there was little here to make
48 Celtic Fairy Tales
Hudden and Dudden jealous, but so it is, the more one has
the more one wants, and Donald's neighbours lay awake of
nights scheming how they might get hold of his little strip
of grass-land. Daisy, poor thing, they never thought of;
she was just a bag of bones.
One day Hudden met Dudden, and they were soon grum-
bling as usual, and all to-the tune of If only we could get
that vagabond Donald O'Neary out of the country."
Let's kill Daisy," said Hudden at last; "if that doesn't
make him clear out, nothing will."
No sooner said than agreed, and it wasn't dark before
Hudden and Dudden crept up to the little shed where lay
poor Daisy trying her best to chew the cud, though she
hadn't had as much grass in the day as would cover your
hand. And when Donald came to see if Daisy was all snug
for the night, the poor beast had only time to lick his hand
once before she died.
Well, Donald was a shrewd fellow, and downhearted
though he was, began to think if he could get any good out
of Daisy's death. He thought and he thought, and the
next day you could have seen him trudging off early to the
fair, Daisy's hide over his shoulder, every penny he had
jingling in his pockets. Just before he got to the fair, he
made several slits in the hide, put a penny in each slit,
walked into the best inn of the town as bold as if it belonged
to him, and, hanging the hide up to a nail in the wall, sat
Some of your best whisky," says he to the landlord.
But the landlord didn't like his looks. "Is it fearing I
won't pay you, you are?" says Donald; "why I have a
hide here that gives me all the money I want." And with
Hudden and Dudden 49
that he hit it a whack with his stick and out hopped a
penny. The landlord opened his eyes, as you may fancy.
"What'll you take for that hide? "
It's not for sale, my good man."
"Will you take a gold piece?"
It's not for sale, I tell you. Hasn't it kept me and
mine for years?" and with that Donald hit the hide
another whack and out jumped a second penny.
Well, the long and the short of it was that Donald let the
hide go, and, that very evening, who but he should walk
up to Hudden's door?
Good-evening, Hudden. Will you lend me your best
pair of scales ? "
Hudden stared and Hudden scratched his head, but he
lent the scales.
When Donald was safe at home, he pulled out his
pocketful of bright gold and began to weigh each piece in
the scales. But Hudden had put a lump of butter at the
bottom, and so the last piece of gold stuck fast to the
scales when he took them back to Hudden.
If Hudden had stared before, he stared ten times more
now, and no sooner was Donald's back turned, than he
was off as hard as he could pelt to Dudden's.
Good-evening, Dudden. That vagabond, bad luck to
"You mean Donald O'Neary ?"
And who else should I mean ? He's back here weighing
out sackfuls of gold."
How do you know that ?"
Here are my scales that he borrowed, and here's a gold
piece still sticking to them."
50 Celtic Fairy Tales
Off they went together, and they came to Donald's door.
Donald had finished making the last pile of ten gold pieces.
And he couldn't finish because a piece had stuck to the
In they walked without an If you please or By your
"Well, I never !" that was all they could say.
Good-evening, Hudden; good-evening, Dudden. Ah !
you thought you had played me a fine trick, but you never
did me a better turn in all your lives. When I found poor
Daisy dead, I thought to myself, Well, her hide may fetch
something;' and it did. Hides are worth their weight in
gold in the market just now."
Hudden nudged Dudden, and Dudden winked at Hudden.
Hudden and Dudden 51
"Good-evening, Donald O'Neary."
"Good-evening, kind friends."
The next day there wasn't a cow or a calf that belonged
to Hudden or Dudden but her hide was going to the fair
in Hudden's biggest cart drawn by Dudden's strongest pair
When they came to the fair, each one took a hide over
his arm, and there they were walking through the fair,
bawling out at the top of their voices : 'Hides to sell! hides
to sell! "
Out came the tanner:
How much for your hides, my good men ?"
Their weight in gold."
It's early in the day to come out of the tavern." That
was all the tanner said, and back he went to his yard.
Hides to sell! Fine fresh hides to sell!"
Out came the cobbler.
How much for your hides, my men ? "
"Their weight in gold."
"Is it making game of me you are Take that for your
pains," and the cobbler dealt Hudden a blow that made him
Up the people came running from one end of the fair to
the other. "What's the matter? What's the matter ?"
Here are a couple of vagabonds selling hides at their
weight in gold," said the cobbler.
Hold 'em fast ; hold 'em fast! bawled the innkeeper,
who was the last to come up, he was so fat. I'll wager
it's one of the rogues who tricked me out of thirty gold
pieces yesterday for a wretched hide."
52 Celtic Fairy Tales
It was more kicks than halfpence that Hudden and
Dudden got before they were well on their way home again,
and they didn't run the slower because all the dogs of the
town were at their heels.
Well, as you may fancy, if they loved Donald little
before, they loved him less now.
"What's the matter, friends ?" said he,- as he saw them
tearing along, their hats knocked in, and their coats torn
off, and their faces black and blue. Is it fighting you've
been ? or mayhap you met the police, ill luck to them ?"
We'll police you, you vagabond. It's mighty smart
you thought yourself, deluding us with your lying tales."
"Who deluded you? Didn't you see the gold with
your own two eyes ?"
But it was no use talking. Pay for it he must, and
should. There was a meal-sack handy, and into it Hudden
and Dudden popped Donald O'Neary, tied him up tight,
ran a pole through the knot, and off they started for the
Brown Lake of the Bog, each with a pole-end on his
shoulder, and Donald O'Neary between.
But the Brown Lake was far, the road was dusty,
Hudden and Dudden were sore and weary, and parched
with thirst. There was an inn by the roadside.
"Let's go in," said Hudden ; "I'm dead beat. It's
heavy he is for the little he had to eat."
If Hudden was willing, so was Dudden. As for Donald,
you may be sure his leave wasn't asked, but he was lumped
down at the inn door for all the world as if he had been
a sack of potatoes.
Sit still, you vagabond," said Dudden; if we don't
mind waiting, you needn't."
Hudden and Dudden 53
Donald held his peace, but after a while he heard the
glasses clink, and Hudden singing away at the top of his
I won't have her, I tell you; I won't have her!" said
Donald. But nobody heeded what he said.
I won't have her, I tell you; I won't have her!" said
Donald, and this time he said it louder; but nobody
heeded what he said.
I won't have her, I tell you; I won't have her!" said
Donald; and this time he said it as loud as he could.
And who won't you have, may I be so bold as to
ask ?" said a farmer, who had just come up with a drove of
cattle, and was turning in for a glass.
It's the king's daughter. They are bothering the.life
out of me to marry her."
You're the lucky fellow. I'd give something to be in
"Do you see that now! Wouldn't it be a fine thing
for a farmer to be marrying a princess, all dressed in gold
and jewels ?"
"Jewels, do you say ? Ah, now, couldn't you take me
with you ?"
Well, you're an honest fellow, and as I don't care for
the king's daughter, though she's as beautiful as the day,
and is covered with jewels from top to toe, you shall have
her. Just undo the cord, and let me out; they tied me up
tight, as they knew I'd run away from her."
Out crawled Donald; in crept the farmer.
"Now lie still, and don't mind the shaking; it's only
rumbling over the palace steps you'll be. And maybe
they'll abuse you for a vagabond, who won't have the
54 Celtic Fairy Tales
king's daughter; but you needn't mind that. Ah! it's a
deal I'm giving up for you, sure as it is that I don't care
for the princess."
Take my cattle in exchange," said the farmer; and you
may guess it wasn't long before Donald was at their tails
driving them homewards.
Out came Hudden and Dudden, and the one took one
end of the pole, and the other the other.
I'm thinking he's heavier," said Hudden.
"Ah, never mind," said Dudden; "it's only a step now
to the Brown Lake."
"I'll have her now! I'll have her now!" bawled the
farmer, from inside the sack.
"By my faith, and you shall though," said Hudden, and
he laid his stick across the sack.
I'll have her! I'll have her !" bawled the farmer, louder
"Well, here you are," said Dudden, for they were now
come to the Brown Lake, and, unslinging the sack, they
pitched it plump into the lake.
You'll not be playing your tricks on us any longer,"
True for you," said Dudden. "Ah, Donald, my boy,
it was an ill day when you borrowed my scales."
Off they went, with a light step and an easy heart, but
when they were near home, who should they see but
Donald O'Neary, and all around him the cows were
grazing, and the calves were kicking up their heels and
butting their heads together.
Is it you, Donald?" said Dudden. "Faith, you've
been quicker than we have."
Hudden and Dudden 55
"True for you, Dudden, and let me thank you kindly;
the turn was good, if the will was ill. You'll have heard,
like me, that the Brown Lake leads to the Land of Promise.
I always put it down as lies, but it is just as true as my
word. Look at the cattle."
Hudden stared, and Dudden gaped; but they couldn't
get over the cattle; fine fat cattle they were too.
It's only the worst I could bring up with me," said
Donald O'Neary; the others were so fat, there was no
driving them. Faith, too, it's little wonder they didn't
care to leave, with grass as far as you could see, and as
sweet and juicy as fresh butter."
"Ah, now, Donald, we haven't always been friends,"
said Dudden, but, as I was just saying, you were ever
a decent lad, and you'll show us the way, won't you ?"
I don't see that I'm called upon to do that; there is
a power more cattle down there. Why shouldn't I have
them all to myself?"
Faith, they may well say, the richer you get, the harder
the heart. You always were a neighbourly lad, Donald.
You wouldn't wish to keep the luck all to yourself?"
True for you, Hudden, though 'tis a bad example you
set me. But I'll not be thinking of old times. There is
plenty for all there, so come along with me."
Off they trudged, with a light heart and an eager step.
When they came to the Brown Lake, the sky was full
of little white clouds, and, if the sky was full, the lake
was as full.
Ah! now, look, there they are," cried Donald, as he
pointed to the clouds in the lake.
"Where? where?" cried Hudden, and "Don't be greedy!"
56 Celtic Fairy Tales
cried Dudden, as he jumped his hardest to be up first with
the fat cattle. But if he jumped first, Hudden wasn't long
They never came back. Maybe they got too fat, like
the cattle. As for Donald O'Neary, he had cattle and sheep
all his days to his heart's content.
The Shepherd of Myddvai
P in the Black Mountains in Caermarthen-
shire lies the lake known as Lyn y Van
Vach. To the margin of this lake the
shepherd of Myddvai once led his lambs,
and lay there whilst they sought pasture.
Suddenly, from the dark waters of the lake, he saw three
maidens rise. Shaking the bright drops from their hair- and
gliding to the shore, they wandered about amongst his flock.
They had more than mortal beauty, and he was filled with
love for her that came nearest to him. He offered her the
58 Celtic Fairy Tales
bread he had with him, and she took it and tried it, but
then sang to him:
Hard-baked is thy bread,
'Tis not easy to catch me,
and then ran off laughing to the lake.
Next day he took with him bread not so well done, and
watched for the maidens. When they came ashore he
offered his bread as before, and the maiden tasted it and
Unbaked is thy bread,
I will not have thee,
and again disappeared in the waves.
A third time did the shepherd of Myddvai try to attract
the maiden, and this time he offered her bread that he had
found floating about near the shore. This pleased her,
and she promised to become his wife if he were able
to pick her out from among her sisters on the following day.
When the time came the shepherd knew his love by the
strap of her sandal. Then she told him she would be as
good a wife to him as any earthly maiden could be unless
he should strike her three times without cause. Of course
he deemed that this could never be; and she, sum-
moning from the lake three cows, two oxen, and a bull, as
her marriage portion, was led homeward by him as his
The years passed happily, and three children were born
to the shepherd and the lake-maiden. But one day
here were going to a christening, and she said to her
husband it was far to walk, so he told her to go for the
The Shepherd of Myddvai 59
"I will," said she, if you bring me my gloves which
I've left in the house."
But when he came back with the gloves, he found she
had not gone for the horses; so he tapped her lightly on
the shoulder with the gloves, and said, "Go, go."
That's one," said she.
Another time they were at a wedding, when suddenly
the lake-maiden fell a-sobbing and a-weeping, amid the joy
and mirth of all around her.
Her husband tapped her on the shoulder, and asked her,
Why do you weep ?"
Because they are entering into trouble; and trouble is
upon you; for that is the second causeless blow you have
given me. Be careful; the third is the last."
The husband was careful never to strike her again. But
one day at a funeral she suddenly burst out into fits of
laughter. Her husband forgot, and touched her rather
roughly on the shoulder, saying, "Is this a time for
I laugh," she said, because those that die go out of
trouble, but your trouble has come. The last blow has
been struck; our marriage is at an end, and-so farewell."
And with that she rose up and left the house and went to
Then she, looking round upon her home, called to the
cattle she had brought with her:
Brindle cow, white speckled,
Spotted cow, bold freckled,
Old white face, and gray Geringer,
And the white bull from the king's coast,
Grey ox, and black calf,
All, all, follow me home,
60 Celtic Fairy Tales
Now the black calf had just been slaughtered, and was
hanging on the hook; but it got off the hook alive and well
and followed her; and the oxen, though they were ploughing,
trailed the plough with them and did her bidding. So she
fled to the lake again, they following her, and with them
plunged into the dark waters. And to this day is the
furrow seen which the plough left as it was dragged across
the mountains to the tarn.
Only once did she come again, when her sons were
grown to manhood, and then she gave them gifts of healing
by which they won the name of Meddygon Myddvai, the
physicians of Myddvai.
The Sprightly Tailor
SPRIGHTLY tailor was employed by the
great Macdonald, in his castle at Saddell,
in order to make the laird a pair of trews,
used in olden time. And trews being the
vest and breeches united in one piece, and
ornamented with fringes, were very comfortable, and suit-
able to be worn in walking or dancing. And Macdonald
had said to the tailor, that if he would make the trews by
night in the church, he would get a handsome reward.
For it was thought that the old ruined church was haunted,
and that fearsome things were to be seen there at night.
The tailor was well aware of this ; but he was a sprightly
man, and when the laird dared him to make the trews by
62 Celtic Fairy Tales
night in the church, the tailor was not to be daunted, but
took it in hand to gain the prize. So, when night came,
away he went up the glen, about half a mile distance from
the castle, till he came to the old church. Then he chose
him a nice gravestone for a seat and he lighted his candle,
and put on his thimble, and set to work at the trews;
plying his needle nimbly, and thinking about the hire that
the laird would have to give him.
For some time he got on pretty well, until he felt the
floor all of a tremble under his feet; and looking about
him, but keeping his fingers at work, he saw the appearance
of a great human head rising up through the stone pave-
ment of the church. And when the head had risen above
the surface, there came from it a great, great voice.
And the voice said: "Do you see this great head of
I see that, but I'll sew this!" replied the sprightly
tailor ; and he stitched away at the trews.
Then the head rose higher up through the pavement,
until its neck appeared. And when its neck was shown,
the thundering voice came again and said : Do you see
this great neck of mine ? "
I see that, but I'll sew this said the sprightly tailor;
and he stitched away at his trewsl
Then the head and neck rose higher still, until the great
shoulders and chest were shown above the ground. And
again the mighty voice thundered : "Do you see this great
chest of mine ?"
And again the sprightly tailor replied : I see that, but
I'll sew this !" and stitched away at his trews.
And still it kept rising through the pavement, until it
The Sprightly Tailor 63
shook a great pair of arms in the tailor's face, and said:
" Do you see these great arms of mine ? "
I see those, but I'll sew this! answered the tailor;
and he stitched hard at his trews, for he knew that he had
no time to lose.
The sprightly tailor was taking the long stitches, when he
saw it gradually rising and rising through the floor, until it
lifted out a great leg, and stamping with it upon the pave-
ment, said in a roaring voice: "Do you see this great leg
of mine ? "
"Aye, aye: I see that, but I'll sew this!" cried the
tailor; and his fingers flew with the needle, and he took
such long stitches, that he was just come to the end of the
trews, when it was taking up its other leg. But before it
could pull it out of the pavement, the sprightly tailor had
finished his task ; and, blowing out his candle, and springing
from off his gravestone, he buckled up, and ran out of the
church with the trews under his arm. Then the fearsome
thing gave a loud roar, and stamped with both his feet upon
the pavement, and out of the church he went after the
Down the glen they ran, faster than the stream when the
flood rides it; but the tailor had got the start and a nimble
pair of legs, and he did not choose to lose the laird's reward.
And though the thing roared to him to stop, yet the
sprightly tailor was not the man to be beholden to a
monster. So he held his trews tight, and let no darkness
grow under his feet, until he had reached Saddell Castle.
He had no sooner got inside the gate, and shut it, than the
apparition came up to it; and, enraged at losing his prize,
struck the wall above the gate, and left there the mark of
64 Celtic Fairy Tales
his five great fingers. Ye may see them plainly to this day,
if ye'll only peer close enough.
But the sprightly tailor gained his reward : for Macdonald
paid him handsomely for the trews, and never discovered
that a few of the stitches were somewhat long.
Story of Deirdre
HERE was a man in Ireland once
who was called Malcolm Harper.
The man was a right good man,
and he had a goodly share of this
world's goods. He had a wife,
but no family. What did Malcolm
hear but that a soothsayer had come home to the place,
and as the man was a right good man, he wished that the
soothsayer might come near them. Whether it was that he
was invited or that he came of himself, the soothsayer
came to the house of Malcolm.
66 Celtic Fairy Tales
Are you doing any soothsaying ? says Malcolm.
"Yes, I am doing a little. Are you in need of sooth-
saying ? "
"Well, I do not mind taking soothsaying from you, if
you had soothsaying for me, and you would be willing to
"Well, I will do soothsaying for you. What kind of
soothsaying do you want ? "
Well, the soothsaying I wanted was that you would
tell me my lot or what will happen to me, if you can give
me knowledge of it."
Well, I am going out, and when I return, I will tell
And the soothsayer went forth out of the house and he
was not long outside when he returned.
"Well," said the soothsayer, I saw in my second sight
that it is on account of a daughter of yours that the greatest
amount of blood shall be shed that has ever been shed in
Erin since time and race began. And the three most famous
heroes that ever were found will lose their heads on her
After a time a daughter was born to Malcolm, he did not
allow a living being to come to his house, only himself and
the nurse. He asked this woman, "Will you yourself
bring up the child to keep her in hiding far away where eye
will not see a sight of her nor ear hear a word about her?"
The woman said she would, so Malcolm got three men,
and he took them away to a large mountain, distant and far
from reach, without the knowledge or notice of any one.
He caused there a hillock, round and green, to be dug out
of the middle, and the hole thus made to be covered care-
The Story of Deirdre 67
fully over so that a little company could dwell there together.
This was done.
Deirdre and her foster-mother dwelt in the bothy mid
the hills without the knowledge or the suspicion of any living
person about them and without anything occurring, until
Deirdre was sixteen years of age. Deirdre grew like the
white sapling, straight and trim as the rash on the moss.
She was the creature of fairest form, of loveliest aspect, and
of gentlest nature that existed between earth and heaven in
all Ireland-whatever colour of hue she had before, there
was nobody that looked into her face but she would blush
fiery red over it.
The woman that had charge of her, gave Deirdre every
information and skill of which she herself had knowledge
and skill. There was not a blade of grass growing from
root, nor a bird singing in the wood, nor a star shining from
heaven but Deirdre had a name for it. But one thing, she
did not wish her to have either part or parley with any
single living man of the rest of the world. But on a gloomy
winter night, with black, scowling clouds, a hunter of game
was wearily travelling the hills, and what happened but
that he missed the trail of the hunt, and lost his course and
companions. A drowsiness came upon the man as he
wearily wandered over the hills, and he lay down by the
side of the beautiful green knoll in which Deirdre lived, and
he slept. The man was faint from hunger and wandering,
and benumbed with cold, and a deep sleep fell upon him.
When he lay down beside the green hill where Deirdre was,
a troubled dream came to the man, and he thought that he
enjoyed the warmth of a fairy broch, the fairies being inside
playing music. The hunter shouted out in his dream, if there
68 Celtic Fairy Tales
was any one in the broch, to let him in for the Holy One's
sake. Deirdre heard the voice and said to her foster-
mother: "0 foster-mother, what cry is that ?" "It is nothing
at all, Deirdre-merely the birds of the air astray and
seeking each other. But let them go past to the bosky glade.
There is no shelter or house for them here." Oh, foster-
mother, the bird asked to get inside for the sake of the God
of the Elements, and you yourself tell me that anything that
is asked in His name we ought to do. If you will not
allow the bird that is being benumbed with cold, and done
to death with hunger, to be let in, I do not think much of
your language or your faith. But since I give credence to
your language and to your faith, which you taught me, I
will myself let in the bird." And Deirdre arose and drew
the bolt from the leaf of the door, and she let in the hunter.
She placed a seat in the place for sitting, food in the place
for eating, and drink in the place for drinking for the man who
came to the house. Oh, for this life and raiment, you man
that came in, keep restraint on your tongue said the old
woman. "It is not a great thing for you to keep your
mouth shut and your tongue quiet when you get a home
and shelter of a hearth on a gloomy winter's night."
"Well," said the hunter, I may do that-keep my mouth
shut and my tongue quiet, since I came to the house and
received hospitality from you ; but by the hand of thy father
and grandfather, and by your own two hands, if some other
of the people of the world saw this beauteous creature you
have here hid away, they would not long leave her with
you, I swear."
"What men are these you refer to ?" said Deirdre.
Well, I will tell you, young woman," said the hunter.
ONLY THE BIRDS OF THE AIR
CALL.INq ONE TO THE OTHER..-
THERE IS NO HOME FOR THEM HER.
LET THEM QO BY TO THE THICKET.
ONLY THE BIRDS OF THE A R
CALLING ONE TO THE OTHER.-
THERE IS NO HOME FOR THEM IHERE
LET THEM QO BY TO THE TrICKET.
The Story of Deirdre 69
"They are Naois, son of Uisnech, and Allen and Arden
his two brothers."
"What like are these men when seen, if we were to see
them?" said Deirdre.
Why, the aspect and form of the men when seen are
these," said the hunter: "they have the colour of the
raven on their hair, their skin like swan on the wave in
whiteness, and their cheeks as the blood of the brindled red
calf, and their speed and their leap are those of the salmon
of the torrent and the deer of the grey mountain side. And
Naois is head and shoulders over the rest of the people of
However they are," said the nurse, "be you off
from here and take another road. And, King of Light and
Sun in good sooth and certainty, little are my thanks for
yourself or for her that let you in !"
The hunter went away, and went straight to the palace
of King Connachar. He sent word in to the king that he
wished to speak to him if he pleased. The king answered
the message and came out to speak to the man. What
is the reason of your journey ? said the king to the hunter.
I have only to tell you, O king," said the hunter, that I
saw the fairest creature that ever was born in Erin, and I
came to tell you of it."
Who is this beauty and where is she to be seen, when
she was not seen before till you saw her, if you did see
her ? "
Well, I did see her," said the hunter. But, if I did,
no man else can see her unless he get directions from me
as to where she is dwelling."
And will you direct me to where she dwells ? and the
70 Celtic Fairy Tales
reward of your directing me will be as good as the reward
of your message," said the king.
"Well, I will direct you, O king, although it is likely
that this will not be what they want," said the hunter.
Connachar, King of Ulster, sent for his nearest kinsmen,
and he told them of his intent. Though early rose the
song of the birds mid the rocky caves and the music of the
birds in the grove, earlier than that did Connachar, King of
Ulster, arise, with his little troop of dear friends, in the
delightful twilight of the fresh and gentle May; the dew
was heavy on each bush and flower and stem, as they went
to bring Deirdre forth from the green knoll where she
stayed. Many a youth was there who had a lithe leaping
and lissom step when they started whose step was faint,
failing, and faltering when they reached the bothy on account
of the length of the way and roughness of the road.
Yonder, now, down in the bottom of the glen is the bothy
where the woman dwells, but I will not go nearer than this
to the old woman," said the hunter.
Connachar with his band of kinsfolk went down to the
green knoll where Deirdre dwelt and he knocked at the
door of the bothy. The nurse replied, "No less than a
king's command and a king's army could put me out of my
bothy to-night. And I should be obliged to you, were you
to tell who it is that wants me to open my bothy door."
" It is I, Connachar, King of Ulster." When the poor
woman heard who was at the door, she rose with haste and
let in the king and all that could get in of his retinue.
When the king saw the woman that was before him that
he had been in quest of, he thought he never saw in the
course of the day nor in the dream of night a creature so
The Story of Deirdre 71
fair as Deirdre and he gave his full heart's weight of love
to her. Deirdre was raised on the topmost of the heroes'
shoulders and she and her foster-mother were brought to
the Court of King Connachar of Ulster.
With the love that Connachar had for her, he wanted to
marry Deirdre right off there and then, will she nill she
marry him. But she said to him, I would be obliged to
you if you will give me the respite of a year and a day."
He said I will grant you that, hard though it is, if you
will give me your unfailing promise that you will marry me
at the year's end." And she gave the promise. Connachar
got for her a woman-teacher and merry modest maidens fair
that would lie down and rise with her, that would play and
speak with her. Deirdre was clever in maidenly duties and
wifely understanding, and Connachar thought he never saw
with bodily eye a creature that pleased him more.
Deirdre and her women companions were one day out on
the hillock behind the house enjoying the scene, and drinking
in the sun's heat. What did they see coming but three
men a-journeying. Deirdre was looking at the men that
were coming, and wondering at them. When the men
neared them, Deirdre remembered the language of the
huntsman, and she said to herself that these were the three
sons of Uisnech, and that this was Naois, he having what
was above the bend of the two shoulders above the men of
Erin all. The three brothers went past without taking any
notice of them, without even glancing at the young girls on
the hillock. What happened but that love for Naois struck
the heart of Deirdre, so that she could not but follow after
him. She girded up her raiment and went after the men
that went past the base of the knoll, leaving her women
72 Celtic Fairy Tales
attendants there. Allen and Arden had heard of the woman
that Connachar, King of Ulster, had with him, and they
thought that, if Naois, their brother, saw her, he would
have her himself, more especially as she was not married to
the King. They perceived the woman coming, and called
on one another to hasten their step as they had a long dis-
tance to travel, and the dusk of night was coming on.
They did so. She cried: "Naois, son of Uisnech, will
you leave me ?" What piercing, shrill cry is that-the
most melodious my ear ever heard, and the shrillest that
ever struck my heart of all the cries I ever heard ? It is
anything else but the wail of the wave-swans of Connachar,"
said his brothers. "No! yonder is a woman's cry of distress,"
said Naois, and he swore he would not go further until he
saw from whom the cry came, and Naois turned back.
Naois and Deirdre met, and Deirdre kissed Naois three
times, and a kiss each to his brothers. With the confusion
that she was in, Deirdre went into a crimson blaze of fire,
and her colour came and went as rapidly as the movement
of the aspen by the stream side. Naois thought he never
saw a fairer creature, and Naois gave Deirdre the love
that he never gave to thing, to vision, or to creature but to
Then Naois placed Deirdre on the topmost height of his
shoulder, and told his brothers to keep up their pace, and
they kept up their pace. Naois thought that it would
not be well for him to remain in Erin on account of the
way in which Connachar, King of Ulster, his uncle's son,
had gone against him because of the woman, though he
had not married her ; and he turned back to Alba, that is,
Scotland. He reached the side of Loch-Ness and made
The Story of Deirdre 73
his habitation there. He could kill the salmon of the
torrent from out his own door, and the deer of the grey
gorge from out his window. Naois and Deirdre and Allen
and Arden dwelt in a tower, and they were happy so long
a time as they were there.
By this time the end of the period came at which Deirdre
had to marry Connachar, King of Ulster. Connachar made
up his mind to take Deirdre away by the sword whether
she was married to Naois or not. So he prepared a great
and gleeful feast. He sent word far and wide through
Erin all to his kinspeople to come to the feast. Connachar
thought to himself that Naois would not come though he
should bid him; and the scheme that arose in his mind
was to send for his father's brother, Ferchar Mac Ro, and
to send him on an embassy to Naois. He did so; and
Connachar said to Ferchar, Tell Naois, son of Uisnech,
that I am setting forth a great and gleeful feast to my
friends and kinspeople throughout the wide extent of Erin
all, and that I shall not have rest by day nor sleep by night
if he and Allen and Arden be not partakers of the feast."
Ferchar Mac Ro and his three sons went on their journey,
and reached the tower where Naois was dwelling by the
side of Loch Etive. The sons of Uisnech gave a cordial
kindly welcome to Ferchar Mac Ro and his three sons, and
asked of him the news of Erin. "The best news that I
have for you," said the hardy hero, is that Connachar,
King of Ulster, is setting forth a great sumptuous feast to
his friends and kinspeople throughout the wide extent .of
Erin all, and he has vowed by the earth beneath him, by
the high heaven above him, and by the sun that wends to
the west, that he will have no rest by day nor sleep by
74 Celtic Fairy Tales
night if the sons of Uisnech, the sons of his own father's
brother, will not come back to the land of their home and
the soil of their nativity, and to the feast likewise, and he
has sent us on embassy to invite you."
We will go with you," said Naois.
We will," said his brothers.
But Deirdre did not wish to go with Ferchar Mac Ro,
and she tried every prayer to turn Naois from going with
I saw a vision, Naois, and do you interpret it to me,"
said Deirdre-then she sang :
O Naois, son of Uisnech, hear
What was shown in a dream to me.
There came three white doves out of the South
Flying over the sea,
And drops of honey were in their mouth
From the hive of the honey-bee.
O Naois, son of Uisnech, hear,
What was shown in a dream to me.
I saw three grey hawks out of the south
Come flying over the sea,
And the red red drops they bare in their mouth
They were dearer than life to me.
It is nought but the fear of woman's heart,
And a dream of the night, Deirdre.
"The day that Connachar sent the invitation to his feast
will be unlucky for us if we don't go, O Deirdre."
"You will go there," said Ferchar Mac Ro; "and if
Connachar show kindness to you, show ye kindness to
him; and if he will display wrath towards you display ye