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[b. 1835, d. 1906]
Boston, Little, Brown
[1890, copyright 1899]
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Abela Publishing, London
Myths and Folk-Lore of Ireland
Typographical arrangement of this edition
© Abela Publishing 2009
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Myths and Folk-Lore of Ireland
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THE SON of the KING of ERIN and the GIANT of LOCH LEIN
THE THREE DAUGHTERS of KING O'HARA
THE WEAVER'S SON and the GIANT of the WHITE HILL
FAIR, BROWN and TREMBLING
THE KING of ERIN and the QUEEN of the LONESOME ISLAND
THE SHEE an GANNON and the GRUGACH GAIRE
THE THREE DAUGHTERS of the KING of the EAST and the SON of a KING in ERIN
THE FISHERMAN'S SON and the GRUGACH of TRICKS
THE THIRTEENTH SON of the KING of ERIN
BIRTH OF FIN MacCUMHAIL
FIN MacCUMHAIL and the FENIANS of ERIN in the CASTLE of FEAR DUBH
FIN MacCUMHAIL and the KNIGHT of the FULL AXE
GILLA na GRAKIN and FIN MacCUMHAIL
FIN MacCUMHAIL, the SEVEN BROTHERS and the KING of FRANCE
BLACK, BROWN and GRAY
FIN MacCUMHAIL and the SON of the KING of ALBA
OISIN IN TIR na N-OG
[Loch Léin, former name of one of the Lakes of Killarney]
on a time there lived a king and a queen in Erin, and they had an only son. They were very careful and fond of this son; whatever he asked for was granted, and what he wanted he had.
When grown to be almost a young man the son went away one day to the hills to hunt. He could find no game, - saw nothing all day. Towards evening he sat down on a hillside to rest, but soon stood up again and started to go home empty-handed. Then he heard a whistle behind him, and turning, saw a giant hurrying down the hill.
The giant came to him, took his hand, and said:
"Can you play cards?"
"I can indeed,” said the king's son.
"Well, if you can,” said the giant, " we'll have a game here on this hillside."
So the two sat down, and the giant had out a pack of cards in a twinkling. "What shall we play for?” asked the giant.
"For two estates,” answered the king's son.
They played: the young man won, and went home the better for two estates. He was very glad, and hurried to tell his father the luck he had.
Next day he went to the same place, and didn't wait long till the giant came again.
"Welcome, king's son,” said the giant. "What shall we play for to-day?"
"I’ll leave that to yourself,” answered the young man.
"Well,” said the giant, "I have five hundred bullocks with golden horns and silver hoofs, and I'll play them against as many cattle belonging to you."
"Agreed,” said the king's son.
They played. The giant lost again. He had the cattle brought to the place; and the king's son went home with the five hundred bullocks. The king his father was outside watching, and was more delighted than the day before when he saw the drove of beautiful cattle with horns of gold and hoofs of silver.
When the bullocks were driven in, the king sent for the old blind sage (Sean dall Glic), to know what he would say of the young man's luck.
"My advice,” said the old blind sage, "is not to let your son go the way of the giant again, for if he plays with him a third time he'll rue it."
But nothing could keep the king's son from playing the third time. Away he went, in spite of every advice and warning, and sat on the same hillside.
He waited long, but no one came. At last he rose to go home. That moment he heard a whistle behind him, and turning, saw the giant coming.
"Well, will you play with me to-day?” asked the giant.
"I would,” said the king's son, "but I have nothing to bet."
"You have indeed."
"I have not,” said the king's son.
"Haven't you your head?” asked the giant of Loch Léin, for it was he that was in it.
"I have,” answered the king's son.
"So have I my head,” said the giant; "and we’ll play for each other's heads."
This third time the giant won the game; and the king's son was to give himself up in a year and a day to the giant in his castle.
The young man went home sad and weary. The king and queen were outside watching, and when they saw him approaching, they knew great trouble was on him. When he came to where they were, he wouldn't speak, but went straight into the castle, and wouldn't eat or drink.
He was sad and lamenting for a good while, till at last he disappeared one day, the king and queen knew not whither. After that they didn't hear of him, - didn't know was he dead or alive.
The young man after he left home was walking along over the kingdom for a long time. One day he saw no house, big or little, till after dark he came in front of a hill, and at the foot of the hill saw a small light. He went to the light, found a small house, and inside an old woman sitting at a warm fire, and every tooth in her head as long as a staff.
She stood up when he entered, took him by the hand, and said, "You are welcome to my house, son of the king of Erin." Then she brought warm water, washed his feet and legs from the knees down, gave him supper, and put him to bed.
When he rose next morning he found breakfast ready before him. The old woman said: "You were with me last night; you‘ll be with my sister to-night, and what she tells you to do, do, or your head’ll be in danger. Now take the gift I give you. Here is a ball of thread: do you throw it in front of you before you start, and all day the ball will be rolling ahead of you, and you‘ll be following behind winding the thread into another ball."
He obeyed the old woman, threw the ball down, and followed. All the day he was going up hill and down, across valleys and open places, keeping the ball in sight and winding the thread as he went, till evening, when he saw a hill in front, and a small light at the foot of it.
He went to the light and found a house, which he entered. There was no one inside but an old woman with teeth as long as a crutch.
"Oh! then you are welcome to my house, king's son of Erin “said she. "You were with my sister last night; you are with me to-night; and it's glad I am to see you."
She gave him meat and drink and a good bed to lie on.
When he rose next morning breakfast was there before him, and when he had eaten and was ready for the journey, the old woman gave him a ball of thread, saying: ' You were with my younger sister the night before last; you were with me last night; and you'll be with my elder sister to-night. You must do what she tells you, or you'll lose your head. You must throw this ball before you, and follow the clew till evening."
He threw down the ball: it rolled on, showing the way up and down mountains and hills, across valleys and braes. All day he wound the ball; unceasingly it went till nightfall, when he came to a light, found a little house, and went in. Inside was an old woman, the eldest sister, who said: "You are welcome, and glad am I to see you, king's son."
She treated him as well as the other two had done. After he had eaten breakfast next morning, she said: - "I know well the journey you are on. You have lost your head to the Giant of Loch Léin, and you are going to give yourself up. This giant has a great castle. Around the castle are seven hundred iron spikes, and on every spike of them but one is the head of a king, a queen, or a king's son. The seven hundredth spike is empty, and nothing can save your head from that spike if you don't take my advice.
"Here is a ball for you: walk behind it till you come to a lake near the giant's castle. When you come to that lake at midday the ball will be unwound.
"The giant has three young daughters, and they come at noon every day of the year to bathe in the lake. You must watch them well, for each will have a lily on her breast, - one a blue, another a white, and the third a yellow lily. You mustn't let your eyes off the one with the yellow lily. Watch her well: when she undresses to go into the water, see where she puts her clothes; when the three are out in the lake swimming, do you slip away with the clothes of Yellow Lily.
When the sisters come out from bathing, and find that the one with the yellow lily has lost her clothes, the other two will laugh and make game of her, and she will crouch down crying on the shore, with nothing to cover her, and say, ' How can I go home now, and everybody making sport of me? Whoever took my clothes, if he'll give them back to me, I'll save him from the danger he is in, if I have the power.' "
The king's son followed the ball till nearly noon, when it stopped at a lake not far from the giant's castle. Then he hid behind a rock at the water's edge, and waited.
At midday the three sisters came to the lake, and, leaving their clothes on the strand, went into the water. When all three were in the lake swimming and playing with great pleasure and sport, the king's son slipped out and took the clothes of the sister with the yellow lily.
After they had bathed in the lake to their hearts' content, the three sisters came out. When the two with the blue and the white lilies saw their sister on the shore and her clothes gone, they began to laugh and make sport of her. Then, cowering and crouching down, she began to cry and lament, saying: "How can I go home now, with my own sisters laughing at me? If I stir from this, everybody will see me and make sport of me."
The sisters went home and left her there. When they were gone, and she was alone at the water crying and sobbing, all at once she came to herself and called out: " Whoever took my clothes, I'll forgive him if he brings them to me now, and I'll save him from the danger he is in if I can."
When he heard this, the king's son put the clothes out to her, and stayed behind himself till she told him to come forth.
Then she said: "I know well where you are going. My father, the Giant of Loch Léin, has a soft bed waiting for you, - a deep tank of water for your death. But don't be uneasy; go into the water, and wait till I come to save you. Be at that castle above before my father. When he comes home to-night and asks for you, take no meat from him, but go to rest in the tank when he tells you."
The giant's daughter left the king's son, who went his way to the castle alone at a fair and easy gait, for he had time enough on his hands and to spare.
When the Giant of Loch Léin came home that night, the first question he asked was, “Is the son of the king of Erin here?"
"I am,” said the king's son.
"Come,” said the giant, “and get your evening's meat."
"I'll take no meat now, for I don't need it,” said the king's son.
"Well, come with me then, and I'll show you your bed." He went, and the giant put the king's son into the deep tank of water to drown, and being tired himself from hunting all day over the mountains and hills of Erin, he went to sleep.
That minute his youngest daughter came, took the king's son out of the tank, placed plenty to eat and to drink before him, and gave him a good bed to sleep on that night.
The giant's daughter watched till she heard her father stirring before daybreak; then she roused the king's son, and put him in the tank again.
Soon the giant came to the tank and called out:"Are you here, son of the king of Erin?"
"I am,” said the king's son.
"Well, come out now. There is a great work for you to-day. I have a stable outside, in which I keep five hundred horses, and that stable has not been cleaned these seven hundred years. My great-grandmother when a girl lost a slumber-pin (bar an suan) somewhere in that stable, and never could find it. You must have that pin for me when I come home to-night; if you don't, your head will be on the seven hundredth spike tomorrow."
Then two shovels were brought for him to choose from to clean out the stable, an old and a new one. He chose the new shovel, and went to work.
For every shovelful he threw out, two came in; and soon the door of the stable was closed on him. When the stable-door was closed, the giant's daughter called from outside: "How are you thriving now, king's son?"
"I'm not thriving at all,” said the king's son for as much as I throw out, twice as much comes in, and the door is closed against me."
"You must make a way for me to come in, and I'll help you,” said she.
"How can I do that?“ asked the king's son.
"However, she did it. The giant's daughter made her way into the stable, and she wasn't long inside till the stable was cleared, and she saw the bar an suan.
"There is the pin over there in the corner,” said she to the king's son, who put it in his bosom to give to the giant.
Now he was happy, and the giant's daughter had good meat and drink put before him.
When the giant himself came home, he asked:"How did you do your work to-day?"
"I did it well; I thought nothing of it."
"Did you find the bar an suan?"
"I did indeed; here 't is for you."
"Oh! then,” said the giant, "it is either the devil or my daughter that helped you to do that work, for I know you never did it alone."
"It's neither the devil nor your daughter, but my own strength that did the work,” said the son of the king of Erin.
"You have done the work; now you must have your meat."
"I want no meat to-day; I am well satisfied as I am", said the king's son.
"Well,” said the giant, “since you'll have no meat, you must go to sleep in the tank."
He went into the tank. The giant himself was soon snoring, for he was tired from hunting over Erin all day.
The moment her father was away, Yellow Lily came, took the king's son out of the tank, gave him a good supper and bed, and watched till the giant was stirring before daybreak. Then she roused the king's son and put him in the tank.
"Are you alive in the tank?” asked the giant at daybreak.
"I am,” said the king's son.
"Well, you have a great work before you to-day. That stable you cleaned yesterday hasn't been thatched these seven hundred years, and if you don't have it thatched for me when I come home to-night, with birds' feathers, and not two feathers of one colour or kind, I'll have your head on the seven hundredth spike tomorrow."
"Here are two whistles, - an old, and a new one; take your choice of them to call the birds."
The king's son took the new whistle, and set out over the hills and valleys, whistling as he went. But no matter how he whistled, not a bird came near him. At last, tired and worn out with travelling and whistling, he sat down on a hillock and began to cry.
That moment Yellow Lily was at his side with a cloth, which she spread out, and there was a grand meal before him. He hadn't finished eating and drinking, before the stable was thatched with birds' feathers, and no two of them of one colour or kind.
When he came home that evening the giant called out: "Have you the stable thatched for me to-night?"
"I have indeed,” said the king's son; "and small trouble I had with it."
"If that's true,” said the giant, "either the devil or my daughter helped you."
"It was my own strength, and not the devil or your daughter that helped me,” said the king's son.
He spent that night as he had the two nights before.
Next morning, when the giant found him alive in the
tank, he said:
"There is great work before you to-day, which you must do, or your head'll be on the spike to-morrow. Below here, under my castle, is a tree nine hundred feet high, and there isn't a limb on that tree, from the roots up, except one small limb at the very top, where there is a crow's nest. The tree is covered with glass from the ground to the crow's nest. In the nest is one egg: you must have that egg before me here for my supper to-night, or I‘ll have your head on the seven hundredth spike to-morrow."
The giant went hunting, and the king's son went down to the tree, tried to shake it, but could not make it stir. Then he tried to climb; but no use, it was all slippery glass. Then he thought, “sure I'm done for now; I must lose my head this time."
He stood there in sadness, when Yellow Lily came, and said: "How are you thriving in your work?"
"I can do nothing,” said the king's son.
"Well, all that we have done up to this time is nothing to climbing this tree. But first of all let us sit down together and eat, and then we'll talk,” said Yellow Lily.
They sat down, she spread the cloth again, and they had a splendid feast. When the feast was over she took out a knife from her pocket and said: -"Now you must kill me, strip the flesh from my bones, take all the bones apart, and use them as steps for climbing the tree. When you are climbing the tree, they will stick to the glass as if they had grown out of it; but when you are coming down, and have put your foot on each one, they will drop into your hand when you touch them. Be sure and stand on each bone, leave none untouched. If you do it will stay behind. Put all my flesh into this clean cloth by the side of the spring at the roots of the tree. When you come to the earth, arrange my bones together, put the flesh over them, sprinkle it with water from the spring, and I shall be alive and well before you. But don't forget a bone of me on the tree."
"How could I kill you,” asked the king's son, after what you have done for me?"
"If you won't obey, you and I are done for,” said
Yellow Lily. " You must climb the tree, or we are lost; and to climb the tree you must do as I say."
The king's son obeyed. He killed Yellow Lily, cut the flesh from her body, and unjointed the bones, as she had told him.
As he went up, the king's son put the bones of Yellow Lily's body against the side of the tree, using them as steps, till he came under the nest and stood on the last bone.
Then he took the crow's egg; and coming down, put his foot on every bone, then took it with him, till he came to the last bone, which was so near the ground that he failed to touch it with his foot.
He now placed all the bones of Yellow Lily in order again at the side of the spring, put the flesh on them, sprinkled it with water from the spring. She rose up before him, and said: "Didn't I tell you not to leave a bone of my body without stepping on it? Now I am lame for life! You left my little toe on the tree without touching it, and I have but nine toes."
When the giant came home that night, the first words
he had were, "Have you the crow's egg for my supper?"
"I have,” said the king's son.
"If you have, then either the devil or my daughter is helping you.
"It is my own strength that's helping me,” said the king's son.
"Well, whoever it is, I must forgive you now, and your head is your own.”
So the king's son was free to go his own road, and away he went, and never stopped till he came home to his own father and mother, who had a great welcome before him; and why not? for they thought he was dead.
When the son was at home a time, the king called up the old blind sage, and asked, "What must I do with my son now?"
"If you follow my advice,” said the old blind sage,"
you‘ll find a wife for him; and then he'll not go roaming away again, and leave you as he did before."
The king was pleased with the advice, and he sent a message to the king of Lochlin [Denmark] to ask his daughter in marriage.
The king of Lochlin came with the daughter and a ship full of attendants, and there was to be a grand wedding at the castle of the king of Erin.
Now, the king's son asked his father to invite the Giant of Loch Léin and Yellow Lily to the wedding. The king sent messages for them to come.
The day before the marriage there was a great feast at the castle. As the feast went on, and all were merry, the Giant of Loch Léin said: “I never was at a place like this but one man sang a song. a second told a story, and the third played a trick.''
Then the king of Erin sang a song, the king of Lochlin told a story, and when the turn came to the giant, he asked Yellow Lily to take his place.
She threw two grains of wheat in the air, and there came down on the table two pigeons. The cock pigeon pecked at the hen and pushed her off the table. Then the hen called out to him in a human voice, You wouldn't do that to me the day I cleaned the stable for you."
Next time Yellow Lily put two grains of wheat on the table. The cock ate the wheat, pecked the hen, and pushed her off the table to the floor. The hen said: "You would not do that to me the day I thatched the stable for you with birds' feathers, and not two of one colour or kind."
The third time Yellow Lily put two more grains of wheat on the table. The cock ate both, and pushed the hen off to the floor. Then the hen called out: You wouldn't do that to me the day you killed me and took my bones to make steps up the glass tree nine hundred feet high to get the crow's egg for the supper of the Giant of Loch Léin, and forget my little toe when you were coming down, and left me lame for life."
"Well,” said the king's son to the guests at the feast, "when I was a little younger than I am now, I used to be everywhere in the world sporting and gaming; and once when I was away, I lost the key of a casket that I had. I had a new key made, and after it was brought to me I found the old one. Now, I'll leave it to any one here to tell what am I to do, - which of the keys should I keep?"
"My advice to you,” said the king of Lochlin, is to keep the old key, for it fits the lock better, and you’re more used to it."
Then the king's son stood up and said: "I thank you, king of Lochlin, for a wise advice and an honest word. This is my bride, the daughter of the Giant of Loch Léin. I'll have her, and no other woman. Your daughter is my father's guest, and no worse, but better, for having come to a wedding in Erin."
The king's son married Yellow Lily, daughter of the Giant of Loch Léin, the wedding lasted long, and all were happy.
there was a kingin Desmond whose name was Coluath O'Hara, and he had three daughters. On a time when the king was away from home, the eldest daughter took a thought that she’d like to be married. So she went up in the castle, put on the cloak of darkness which her father had, and wished for the most beautiful man under the sun as a husband for herself.
She got her wish; for scarcely had she put off the cloak of darkness, when there came, in a golden coach with four horses, two black and two white, the finest man she had ever laid eyes on, and took her away.
When the second daughter saw what had happened to her sister, she put on the cloak of darkness, and wished for the next best man in the world as a husband.
She put off the cloak; and straightway there came, in a golden coach with four black horses, a man nearly as good as the first, and took her away.
The third sister put on the cloak, and wished for the best white dog in the world.
Presently he came, with one man attending, in a golden coach and four snow-white horses, and took the youngest sister away.
When the king came home, the stable-boy told him what had happened while he was gone. He was enraged beyond measure when he heard that his youngest daughter had wished for a white dog, and gone off with him.
When the first man brought his wife home he asked: "In what form will you have me in the daytime, - as I am now in the daytime, or as I am now at night?"
"As you are now in the daytime."
So the first sister had her husband as a man in the daytime; but at night he was a seal.
The second man put the same question to the middle
sister, and got the same answer; so the second sister had her husband in the same form as the first.
When the third sister came to where the white dog lived, he asked her: " How will you have me to be in the daytime, as I am now in the day, or as I am now at night?"
"As you are now in the day."
So the white dog was a dog in the daytime, but the most beautiful of men at night.
After a time the third sister had a son; and one day, when her husband was going out to hunt, he warned her that if anything should happen the child, not to shed a tear on that account.
While he was gone, a great gray crow that used to haunt the place came and carried the child away when it was a week old.
Remembering the warning, she shed not a tear for the loss.
All went on as before till another son was born. The husband used to go hunting every day, and again he
said she must not shed a tear if anything happened.
When the child was a week old a great gray crow came and bore him away; but the mother did not cry or drop a tear.
All went well till a daughter was born. When she was a week old a great gray crow came and swept her away. This time the mother dropped one tear on a handkerchief, which she took out of her pocket, and then put back again.
When the husband came home from hunting and heard what the crow had done, he asked the wife, "Have you shed tears this time?"
"I have dropped one tear,” said she.
Then he was very angry; for he knew what harm she had done by dropping that one tear.
Soon after their father invited the three sisters to visit him and be present at a great feast in their honour. They sent messages, each from her own place, that they would come.
The king was very glad at the prospect of seeing his children; but the queen was grieved, and thought it a great disgrace that her youngest daughter had no one to come home with her but a white dog.
The white dog was in dread that the king wouldn't leave him inside with the company, but would drive him from the castle to the yard, and that the dogs outside wouldn't leave a patch of skin on his back, but would tear the life out of him.
The youngest daughter comforted him. "There is no danger to you,” said she, "for wherever I am, you'll be, and wherever you go, I'll follow and take care of you."
When all was ready for the feast at the castle, and the company were assembled, the king was for banishing the white dog; but the youngest daughter would not listen to her father, - would not let the white dog out of her sight, but kept him near her at the feast, and divided with him the food that came to herself.
When the feast was over, and all the guests had gone, the three sisters went to their own rooms in the castle.
Late in the evening the queen took the cook with her, and stole in to see what was in her daughters' rooms. They were all asleep at the time. What should she see by the side of her youngest daughter but the most beautiful man she had ever laid eyes on.
Then she went to where the other two daughters were sleeping; and there, instead of the two men who brought them to the feast, were two seals, fast asleep.
The queen was greatly troubled at the sight of the seals. When she and the cook were returning, they came upon the skin of the white dog. She caught it up as she went, and threw it into the kitchen fire.
The skin was not five minutes in the fire when it gave a crack that woke not only all in the castle, but all in the country for miles around.
The husband of the youngest daughter sprang up. He was very angry and very sorry, and said:
"If I had been able to spend three nights with you under your father's roof, I should have got back my own form again for good, and could have been a man both in the day and the night; but now I must go.
He rose from the bed, ran out of the castle, and away he went as fast as ever his two legs could carry him, overtaking the one before him, and leaving the one behind. He was this way all that night and the next day; but he couldn't leave the wife, for she followed from the castle, was after him in the night and the day too, and never lost sight of him.
In the afternoon he turned, and told her to go back to her father; but she would not listen to him. At nightfall they came to the first house they had seen since leaving the castle. He turned and said:
"Do you go inside and stay in this house till morning; I'll pass the night outside where I am."
The wife went in. The woman of the house rose up, gave her a pleasant welcome, and put a good supper before her. She was not long in the house when a little boy came to her knee and called her "mother."
The woman of the house told the child to go back to his place, and not to come out again.
Here are a pair of scissors,” said the woman of the house to the king's daughter, “and they will serve you well. Whatever ragged people you see, if you cut a piece off their rags, that moment they will have new clothes of cloth of gold."
She stayed that night, for she had good welcome. Next morning when she went out, her husband said: " You'd better go home now to your father."
"I'll not go to my father if I have to leave you,” said she.
So he went on, and she followed. It was that way all the day till night came; and at nightfall they saw another house at the foot of a hill, and again the husband stopped and said: "You go in; I'll stop outside till morning."
The woman of the house gave her a good welcome. After she had eaten and drunk, a little boy came out of another room, ran to her knee, and said," Mother." The woman of the house sent the boy back to where he had come from, and told him to stay there.
Next morning, when the princess was going out to her husband, the woman of the house gave her a comb, and said: "If you meet any person with a diseased and a sore head, and draw this comb over it three times, the head will be well, and covered with the most beautiful golden hair ever seen."
She took the comb, and went out to her husband.
"Leave me now,” said he, "and go back to your own father."
"I will not,” said she, " but I will follow you while I have the power.” So they went forward that day, as on the other two.
At nightfall they came to a third house, at the foot of a hill, where the princess received a good welcome. After she had eaten supper, a little girl with only one eye came to her knee and said, "Mother."
The princess began to cry at sight of the child, thinking that she herself was the cause that it had but one eye. Then she put her hand into her pocket where she kept the handkerchief on which she had dropped the tear when the gray crow carried her infant away. She had never used the handkerchief since that day, for there was an eye on it.
She opened the handkerchief, and put the eye in the girl's head. It grew into the socket that minute, and the child saw out of it as well as out of the other eye; and then the woman of the house sent the little one to bed.
Next morning, as the king's daughter was going out, the woman of the house gave her a whistle, and said: "Whenever you put this whistle to your mouth and blow on it, all the birds of the air will come to you from every quarter under the sun. Be careful of the whistle, as it may serve you greatly."
Go back to your father's castle,” said the husband when she came to him, "for I must leave you to-day."
They went on together a few hundred yards, and then sat on a green hillock, and he told the wife:
"Your mother has come between us; but for her we might have lived together all our days. If I had been allowed to pass three nights with you in your father's house, I should have got back my form of a man both in the daytime and the night. The Queen of Tir na n-Og [the land of youth] enchanted and put on me a spell, that unless I could spend three nights with a wife under her father's roof in Erin, I should bear the form of a white dog one half of my time; but if the skin of the dog should be burned before the three nights were over, I must go down to her kingdom and marry the queen herself. And 't is to her I am going to-day. I have no power to stay, and I must leave you; so farewell, you'll never see me again on the upper earth."
He left her sitting on the mound, went a few steps forward to some bulrushes, pulled up one, and disappeared in the opening where the rush had been.
She stopped there, sitting on the mound lamenting, till evening, not knowing what to do. At last she bethought herself, and going to the rushes, pulled up a stalk, went down, followed her husband, and never stopped till she came to the lower land.
After a while she reached a small house near a splendid castle. She went into the house and asked, could she stay there till morning. "You can,” said the woman of the house, “and welcome."
Next day the woman of the house was washing clothes, for that was how she made a living. The princess fell to and helped her with the work. In the course of that day the Queen of Tir na n-Og and the
husband of the princess were married.
Near the castle, and not far from the washer-woman's, lived a henwife with two ragged little daughters. One of them came around the washer-woman's house to play. The child looked so poor and her clothes were so torn and dirty that the princess took pity on her, and cut the clothes with the scissors which she had.
That moment the most beautiful dress of cloth of gold ever seen on woman or child in that kingdom was on the henwife's daughter.
When she saw what she had on, the child ran home to her mother as fast as ever she could go.
"Who gave you that dress?” asked the henwife.
"A strange woman that is in that house beyond,” said the little girl, pointing to the washer-woman's house.
The henwife went straight to the Queen of Tir na n-Og and said: "There is a strange woman in the place, who will be likely to take your husband from you, unless you banish her away or do something to her; for she has a pair of scissors different from anything ever seen or heard of in this country."
When the queen heard this she sent word to the princess that, unless the scissors were given up to her without delay, she would have the head off her.
The princess said she would give up the scissors if the queen would let her pass one night with her husband.
The queen answered that she was willing to give her the one night. The princess came and gave up the scissors, and went to her own husband; but the queen had given him a drink, and he fell asleep, and never woke till after the princess had gone in the morning.
Next day another daughter of the henwife went to the washer-woman's house to play. She was wretched-looking, her head being covered with scabs and sores.
The princess drew the comb three times over the child's head, cured it, and covered it with beautiful golden hair. The little girl ran home and told her mother how the strange woman had drawn the comb over her head, cured it, and given her beautiful golden hair.
The henwife hurried off to the queen and said: "That strange woman has a comb with wonderful power to cure, and give golden hair; and she'll take your husband from you unless you banish her or take her life."
The queen sent word to the princess that unless she gave up the comb, she would have her life.
The princess returned as answer that she would give up the comb if she might pass one night with the queen's husband.
The queen was willing, and gave her husband a draught as before. When the princess came, he was fast asleep, and did not waken till after she had gone in the morning.
On the third day the washerwoman and the princess went out to walk, and the first daughter of the henwife with them. When they were outside the town, the princess put the whistle to her mouth and blew. That moment the birds of the air flew to her from every direction in flocks. Among them was a bird of song and new tales.
The princess went to one side with the bird. " What means can I take,” asked she, “against the queen to get back my husband? Is it best to kill her, and can I do it?
"It is very hard,” said the bird, "to kill her. There is no one in all Tir na n-Og who is able to take her life but her own husband. Inside a holly-tree in front of the castle is a wether1, in the wether a duck, in the duck an egg. and in that egg is her heart and life. No man in Tir na n-Og can cut that holly-tree but her husband."
The princess blew the whistle again. A fox and a hawk came to her. She caught and put them into two boxes, which the washerwoman had with her, and took them to her new home.
When the henwife's daughter went home, she told her mother about the whistle. Away ran the henwife to the queen, and said: "That strange woman has a whistle that brings together all the birds of the air, and she'll have your husband yet, unless you take her head."
"I'll take the whistle from her, anyhow,'' said the queen. So she sent for the whistle.
The princess gave answer that she would give up the whistle if she might pass one night with the queen's husband.
The queen agreed, and gave him a draught as on the other nights. He was asleep when the princess came and when she went away.
Before going, the princess left a letter with his servant for the queen's husband, in which she told how she had followed him to Tir na n-Og, and had given the scissors, the comb, and the whistle, to pass three nights in his company, but had not spoken to him because the queen had given him sleeping draughts; that the life of the queen was in an egg, the egg in a duck, the duck in a wether, the wether in a holly-tree in front of the castle, and that no man could split the tree but himself
As soon as he got the letter the husband took an axe, and went to the holly-tree. When he came to the tree he found the princess there before him, having the two boxes with the fox and the hawk in them.
He struck the tree a few blows; it split open, and out sprang the wether. He ran scarce twenty perches before the fox caught him. The fox tore him open; then the duck flew out. The duck had not flown fifteen perches when the hawk caught and killed her, smashing the egg. That instant the Queen of Tir na n-Og died.