Part 3 out of 4
asked many if they had knowledge of the Unique Tale, but no one had heard of
it. Some told him that there would be merchants and sellers from many parts of
the world at the fair that would be held on the morrow, and that there would
be a chance of meeting one who had knowledge of it. Then the King's Son went
with one who brought him to a Brufir's--that is, to a House of Hospitality
maintained by the King for strangers. As for Flann, he sat looking into the
fire until it died down, and then he slept before it.
Flann was wakened by a gander and his flock of geese that stood round him;
shook their wings and set up their goose-gabble. It was day then, although
there was still a star in the sky. He threw furze-roots where there was a
glow, and made a fire blaze up again. Then the dogs of the town came down to
look at him, and then stole away.
Horns were blown outside, and the watchman opened the gates. Flann shook
himself and stood up to see the folk that were coming in. First came the men
who drove the mountain ponies that had lately fed with the deer in wild
places. Then came men in leathern jerkins who led wide-horned bulls--a black
bull and a white bull, and a white bull and a black bull, one after the other.
Then there were men who brought in high, swift hounds, three to each leash
they held. Women in brown cloaks carried cages of birds. Men carried on their
shoulders and in their belts tools for working gold and silver, bronze and
iron. And there were calves and sheep, and great horses and weighty chariots,
and colored cloths, and things closed in packs that merchants carried on their
shoulders. The famous bards, and story-tellers and harpists would not come
until noon-time when the business of the fair would have abated, but with the
crowd of beggars came ballad-singers, and the tellers of the stories that were
called "Go-by-the-Market-Stake," because they were told around the stake in
the market place and were very common.
And at the tail of the comers whom did Flann see but Mogue, the Captain of the
Mogue wore a hare-skin cap, his left eye protruded as usual, and he walked
limpingly. He had a pack on his back, and he led a small, swift looking horse
of a reddish color. Flann called to him as he passed and Mogue gave a great
start. He grinned when he saw it was Flann and walked up to him.
"Mogue," said Flann, "what are you doing in the Town of the Red Castle?"
"I'm here to sell a few things," said Mogue, "this little horse," said he,
"and a few things I have in my pack."
"And where are your friends?" asked Flann. "My band, do you mean?" said Mogue.
"Sure, they all left me when you proved you were the better robber. What are
you doing here?"
"I have no business at all," said Flann.
"By the Hazel! that's what I like to hear you say. Join me then. You and me
would do well together."
"I won't join you," said Flann.
"I'd rather have you with me than the whole of the band. What were they
anyway? Cabbage-heads!" Mogue winked with his protruding eye. "Wait till you
see me again," said he. "I've the grandest things in my pack." He went on
leading the little horse. Then Flann set out to look for the King's Son.
He found him at the door of the Brufir's, and they drank bowls of milk and ate
oaten bread together, and then went to the gate of the town to watch the
notable people who were coming in.
And with the bards and harpers and Kings' envoys who came in, the King's Son
saw his two half-brothers, Dermott and Downal. He hailed them and they knew
him and came up to him gladly. The King's Son made Flann known to them, saying
that he too was the son of a King.
They looked fine youths, Downal and Dermott, in their red cloaks, with their
heads held high, and a brag in their walk and their words. They left their
horses with the grooms and walked with Flann and the King's Son. They were
tall and ruddy; the King's Son was more brown in the hair and more hawk-like
in the face: the three were different from the dark- The Town of the Red
Castle l93 haired, dark-eyed, red-lipped lad to whom the Old Woman of Beare
had given the name of Flann.
No one had seen the King who lived in the Red Castle, Dermott and Downal told
the other two. He was called the Wry-faced King, and, on account of his
disfigurement, he let no one but his Councilors see him.
"We are to go to his Castle to-day," said Dermott and Downal. "You come too,
brother," said he to the King's Son.
"And you too, comrade," said Downal to Flann. "Why should we not all go? By
Ogma! Are we not all sons of Kings?"
Flann wondered if he would see the King's daughter, Flame-of-Wine. He would
surely go to the Castle.
They drank ale, played chess and talked until it was afternoon. Then the
grooms who were with Downal and Dermott brought the four youths new red
cloaks. They put them on and went towards the King's Castle.
"Brother," said Dermott to the King's Son, "I want to tell you that we are not
going back to our father's Castle nor to his Kingdom. We have taken the world
for our pillow. We are going to leave the grooms asleep one fine morning, and
go as the salmon goes down the river."
"Why do you want to leave our father's Kingdom?"
"Because we don't want to rule nor to learn to rule. We'll let you, brother,
do all that. We're going to learn the trade of a sword-smith. We would make
fine swords. And with the King of Senlabor there is a famous sword-smith, and
we are going to learn the trade from him."
The four went to the Red Castle, and they were brought in and they went and
sat on the benches to wait for the King's Steward who would receive them. And
while they waited they watched the play of a pet fox in the courtyard. Flann
was wondering all the time if the Princess Flame-of-Wine would pass through
the court-yard or come into the hall where they waited.
Then he saw her come up the courtyard. She saw the youths in the hall and she
turned round to watch the pet fox for a while. Then she came into the chamber
and stood near the door.
She wore a mask across her face, but her brow and mouth and chin were shown.
The youths saluted her, and she bent her head to them. One of the women who
had brought birds to the Fair followed her, bringing a cage. Flame-of-Wine
talked to this woman in a strange language.
Although she talked to the woman, Flann saw that she watched his three
companions. Him she did not notice, because the bench on which he sat was
behind the others. Flame-of-Wine looked at the King's Son first, and then
turned her eyes from him. She bent her head to listen to what Downal and
Dermott were saying. Flann she did not look at at all, and he became sick at
heart of the Red Castle.
The King's Steward came into the Hall and when he announced who the youths
were--three sons of the King of Ireland traveling with their foster-brother--
Flame-of-Wine went over and spoke to them. "May we see you to-morrow, Kings'
Sons," she said. "To-morrow is our feast of the Gathering of Apples. It might
be pleasant for you to hear music in the King's garden."
She smiled on Downal and Dermott and on the King's Son and went out of the
Chamber. The King's Steward feasted the four youths and afterwards made them
presents. But Flann did not heed what he ate nor what he heard said, nor what
present was given him.
The four youths left the Castle and Downal and Dermott took their own way when
they came to the foot-bridge that was across the river. Then when they were
crossing it the King's Son and Flann saw two figures--a middle-aged, sturdy
man and an old, broken-looking woman--meet before the Bull's Field. "It is the
Gobaun Saor," said the King's Son. "It is the Spae-Woman," said Flann. They
went to them, each wishing to greet his friend and helper.
There they saw a sturdy, middle-aged man and a broken-looking old woman. But
the woman looking on the man saw one who had full wisdom to plan and full
strength to build, whose wisdom and whose strength could neither grow nor
diminish. And the man looking on the woman saw one whose brow had all quiet,
whose heart had all benignity. "Hail, Gobaun, Builder for the Gods," said the
woman. "Hail, Grania Oi, Reconciler for the Gods," said the man.
Then the two youths came swiftly up to them, and the King's Son greeted the
middle-aged man, and Flann kissed the hands of the old woman.
"What of your search, King's Son?" said the Gobaun Saor.
"I have found the Unique Tale, but not what went before nor what comes after
it," said the King's Son.
"I will clear the Sword of Light of its stain when you bring me the whole of
the Unique Tale," said the Gobaun Saor.
"I would search the whole world for it," said the King's Son. "But now the
time is becoming short for me." "Be quick and active," said the Gobaun Saor.
"I have set up my forge," said he, "outside the town between two high stones.
When you bring the whole of the Tale to me I shall clear your sword."
"Will you not tell him, Gobaun Saor," said the Spae-Woman, "where he may find
the one who will tell him the rest of the story?"
"If he sees one he knows in this town," said the Gobaun Saor, "let him mount a
horse he has mounted before and pursue that one and force him to tell what
went before and what comes after the Unique Tale."
Saying this the Gobaun Saor turned away and walked along the road that went
out of the town.
The Spae-Woman had brought besoms to the town to sell. She showed the two
youths the little house she lived in while she was there. It was filled with
the heather-stalks which she bound together for besoms.
They left the Spae-Woman and went through the town, the King of Ireland's Son
searching every place for a man he knew or a horse he had mounted before,
while Flann thought about the Princess Flame-of-Wine, and how little she
considered him beside the King's Son and Dermott and Downal. They came to
where a crowd was standing before a conjurer's booth. They halted and stood
waiting for the conjurer to appear. He came out and put a ladder standing
upright with nothing to lean against and began climbing up. Up, up, up, he
went, and the ladder grew higher and higher as he climbed. Flann thought he
would climb into the sky. Then the ladder got smaller and smaller and Flann
saw the conjurer coming down on the other side. "He has come here to take that
horse," said a voice behind the King of Ireland's Son.
The King's Son looked round, and on the outskirts of the crowd he saw a man
with a hare-skin cap and a protruding eye who was holding a reddish horse,
while he watched the conjuror. The King of Ireland's Son knew the horse--it
was the Slight Red Steed that had carried him and Fedelma from the Enchanter's
house and had brought him to the Cave where he had found the Sword of Light.
He looked at the conjuror again and he saw he was no other than the Enchanter
of the Black Back-Lands. Then it crossed his mind what the Gobaun Saor had
said to him.
He had seen a man he knew and a horse he had mounted before. He was to mount
that horse, follow the man, and force him to tell the rest of the Unique Tale.
The King's Son drew back to the outskirts of the crowd. He snatched the bridle
from the hands of Mogue, the man who held it, and jumped up on the back of the
Slight Red Steed.
As soon as he did this the ladder that was standing upright fell on the
ground. The people shouted and broke away. And then the King's Son saw the
Enchanter jump across a house and make for the gate of the town.
But if he could jump across a house so could the Slight Red Steed. The King's
Son turned its head, plucked at its rein, and over the same house it sprang
too. The more he ran the more swift the Enchanter The Town of the Red Castle
i99 became. He jumped over the gate of the town, the Slight Red Steed after
him. He went swiftly across the country, making high springs over ditches and
hedges. No other steed but the Slight Red Steed could have kept its rider in
sight of him.
Up hill and down dale the Enchanter went, but, mounted on the Slight Red
Steed, the King of Ireland's Son was in hot pursuit. The Enchanter raced up
the side of the seventh hill, and when the King's Son came to the top of it he
found no one in sight.
He raced on, however, and he passed a dead man hanging from a tree. He raced
on and on, but still the Enchanter was not to he seen. Then the thought came
into his mind that the man who was hanging from the tree and who he thought
was dead was the crafty old Enchanter. He turned the Slight Red Steed round
and raced back. The man that had been hanging from the tree was there no
The King's Son turned his horse amongst the trees and began to search for the
Enchanter. He found no trace of him. "I have lost again," he said. Then he
threw the bridle on the neck of the horse and he said, "Go your own way now,
my Slight Red Steed."
When he said that the Slight Red Steed twitched its ears and galloped towards
the West. It went through woods and across streams, and when the crows were
flying home and the kites were flying abroad it brought the King's Son to a
stone house standing in the middle of a bog. "It may be the Enchanter is in
this house," said the King's Son. He jumped off the Slight Red Steed, pushed
the door of the house open, and there, seated on a chair in the middle of the
floor with a woman sitting beside him, was the Enchanter of the Black Back-
Lands. "So," said the Enchanter, "my Slight Red Steed has brought you to me."
"So," said the King's Son, "I have found you, my crafty old Enchanter."
"And now that you have found me, what do you want of me?" said the Enchanter.
"Your head," said the King's Son, drawing the tarnished Sword of Light.
"Will nothing less than my head content you?" said the Enchanter.
"Nothing less--unless it be what went before, and what comes after the Unique
"The Unique Tale," said the Enchanter. "I will tell you what I know of it."
Thereupon he began
I was a Druid and the Son of a Druid, and I had learned the language of the
birds. And one morning, as I walked abroad, I heard a blackbird and a robin
talking, and when I heard what they said I smiled to myself.
"Now the woman I had just married noticed that I kept smiling, and she
questioned me. 'Why do you keep smiling to yourself?' I would not tell her.
'Is that not the truth? '" said the Enchanter to a woman who sat beside him.
"It is the truth," said she.
"On the third day I was still smiling to myself, and my wife questioned me,
and when I did not answer threw dish-water into my face. 'May blindness come
upon you if you do not tell me why you are smiling,' said she. Then I told her
why I smiled to myself. I had heard what the birds said. The blackbird said to
the robin, 'Do you know that just under where we are sitting are three rods of
enchantment, and if one were to take one of them and strike a man with it, he
would be changed to any creature one named?' That is what I had heard the
birds say and I smiled because I was the only creature who knew about the rods
"My wife made me show her where the rods were. She cut one of them when I went
away. That evening she came behind me and struck me with a rod. ' Go out now
and roam as a wolf,' she said, and there and then I was changed into a wolf.
'Is that not true?'" said he to the woman. "It is true," she said.
"And being changed into a wolf, I went through the woods seeking wolf's meat.
And now you must ask my wife to tell you more of the story." The King of
Ireland's Son turned to the woman who sat on the seat next the Enchanter, and
asked her to tell him more of the story. And thereupon she began
Before all that happened I was known as the Maid of the Green Mantle. One day
a King rode up a mountain with five score followers and a mist came on them as
they rode. The King saw his followers no more. He called out after a while and
four score answered him. And he called out again after another while and two
score answered him. And after another while he called out again and only a
score answered him through the mist, and when he called out again no one
answered him at all.
"The King went up the mountain until he came to the place where I lived with
the Druids who reared me. He stayed long in that place. The King loved me for
a while and I loved the King, and when he went away I followed him.
"Because he would not come back to me I enchanted him so that there were times
when he was left between life and death. Once when he was seemingly dead a
girl watched by him, and she followed his spirit into many terrible places and
so broke my enchantment."
"Sheen was the girl's name," said the King of Ireland's Son.
"Sheen was her name," said the woman. "He brought her to his Kingdom, and made
her his queen. After that I married the man who is here now--the Enchanter of
the Black Back-Lands, the Son of the Druid of the Gray Rock. Ask him now to
tell you the rest of the story."
When she changed me into a gray wolf," said the Enchanter, "I went through the
woods searching for what a wolf might eat, but could find nothing to stay my
hunger. Then I came back and stood outside my house and the woman who had been
called the Maid of the Green Mantle came to me. 'I will give you back your
human form,' she said, 'if you do as I bid you.'
"I promised her I would do as she bade.
"She bade me go to a King's house where a child had been born. She bade me
steal the child away. I went to the King's house. I went into the chamber and
I stole the child from the mother's side. Then I ran through the woods. But in
the end I fell into a trap that the Giant Crom Duv had set for the wolves that
chased his stray cattle.
"For a night I lay in the trap with the child beside me. Then Crom Duv came
and lifted out wolf and child. Three Hags with Long Teeth were there when he
took us out of the trap, and he gave the child to one of them, telling her to
rear it so that the child might be a servant for him.
"He put me into a sack, promising himself that he would give me a good
beating. He left me on the floor of his house. But while he was gone for his
club I bit my way out of the sack and made my escape. I came back to my own
house, and my wife struck me with the wand of enchantment, and changed me from
a wolf into a man again. 'Is that not true?'" said he to the woman.
"It is true," said she.
"That is all of the Unique Tale that I know," said the Enchanter of the Black
Back-Lands, "and now that I have told it to you, put up your sword."
"I will put up no sword," said the King of Ireland's Son, "until you tell me
what King and Queen were the father and mother of the child that was reared by
the Hags of the Long Teeth."
"I made no promise to tell you that," said the En-chanter of the Black Back-
Lands. "You have got the story you asked for, and now let me see your back
going through my door."
"Yes, you have got the story, and be off with you now," said the woman who sat
by the fire.
He put up his sword; he went to the door; he left the house of the Enchanter
of the Black Back-Lands. He mounted the Slight Red Steed and rode off. He knew
now what went before and what came after the Unique Tale. The Gobaun Saor
would clean the blemish of the blade of the Sword of Light and would show him
how to come to the Land of Mist. Then he would win back his love Fedelma.
He thought too on the tidings he had for his comrade Flann--Flann was the Son
of the King who was called the Hunter-King and of Sheen whose brothers had
been changed into seven wild geese. He shook his horse's reins and went back
towards the Town of the Red Castle.
Flann thought upon the Princess Flame-of-Wine. He walked through the town
after the King's Son had ridden after the Enchanter, without noticing anyone
until he heard a call and saw Mogue standing beside a little tent that he had
set up before the Bull's Field.
Flann went to Mogue and found him very disconsolate on account of the loss of
the horse he had brought into the town. "This is a bad town to be in," said
Mogue, "and unless I persuade yourself to become partners with me I shall have
done badly in it. Join with me now and we'll do some fine feats together."
"It would not become a King's Son to join with a robber-captain," said Flann.
"Fine talk, fine talk," said Mogue. He thought that Flann was jesting with him
when he spoke of himself as a King's Son.
"I want to sell three treasures I have with me," said Mogue. "I have the most
wonderful things that were ever brought into this town."
"Show them to me," said Flann.
Mogue opened one of his packs and took out a box. When he opened this box a
fragrance came such as Flann had never felt before. "What is that that smells
like a garden of sweet flowers?" said Flann.
"It is the Rose of Sweet Smells," said Mogue, and he took a little rose out of
the box. "It never withers and its fragrance is never any less. It is a
treasure for a King's daughter. But I will not show it in this town."
"And what is that shining thing in the box?"
"It is the Comb of Magnificence. That is another treasure for a King's
daughter. The maiden who would wear it would look the most queenly woman in
the Kingdom. But I won't show that either."
"What else have you, Mogue?"
"A girdle. The woman who wears it would have to speak the truth." The Town of
Flann thought he would do much to get the Rose of Sweet Smells or the Comb of
Magnificence and bring them as presents to the Princess Flame-of-Wine.
He slept in Mogue's tent, and at the peep of day, he rose up and went to the
House of Hospitality where Dermott and Downal were. With them he would go to
the King's orchard, and he would see, and perhaps he would speak to, Flame-of-
Wine. But Dermott and Downal were not in the Brufir's. Flann wakened their
grooms and he and they made search for the two youths. But there was no trace
of Dermott and Downal. It seemed they had left before daybreak with their
horses. Flann went with the grooms to the gate of the town. There they heard
from the watchman that the two youths had gone through the gate and that they
had told the watchman to tell the grooms that they had gone to take the world
for their pillow.
The grooms were dismayed to hear this, and so indeed was Flann. Without the
King's Son and without Downal and Dermott how would he go to the King's
Garden? He went back to Mogue's tent to consider what he should do. And first
he thought he would not go to the Festival of the Gathering of the Apples, as
he knew that Flame-of-Wine had only asked him with his comrades. And then he
thought that whatever else happened he would go to the King's orchard and see
If he had one of the wonderful things that Mogue had shown him--the Rose of
Sweet Smells or the Comb of Magnificence! These would show her that he was of
some consequence. If he had either of these wonderful things and offered it to
her she might be pleased with him!
He sat outside the tent and waited for Mogue to return. When he came Flann
said to him, "I will go with you as a servant, and I will serve you well
although I am a King's Son, if you will give me something now."
"What do you want from me?" said Mogue.
"Give me the Rose of Sweet Smells," said Flann.
"Sure that's the finest thing I have. I couldn't give you that."
"I will serve you for two years if you will give it to me," said Flann.
"No," said Mogue.
"I will serve you for three years if you will give it to me," said Flann.
"I will give it to you if you will serve me for three years." Thereupon Mogue
opened his pack and took the box out. He opened it and put the Rose of Sweet
Smells into Flann's hand.
At once Flann started off for the King's orchard. The Steward who had seen him
the day before signed to the servants to let him pass through the gate. He
went into the King's orchard.
Maidens were singing the "Song for the Time of the Blossoming of the Apple-
trees" and all that day and night Flann held their song in his mind
The touch of hands that drew it down
Kindled to blossom all the bough
O breathe the wonder of the branch,
And let it through the darkness go!
Youths were gathering apples, and the Princess Flame-of-Wine walked by herself
on the orchard paths.
At last she came to where Flann stood and lifting her eyes she looked at him.
"I had companions," said Flann, "but they have gone away."
"They are unmannerly," said Flame-of-Wine with anger, and she turned away.
Flann took the rose from under his cloak. Its fragrance came to Flame-of-Wine
and she turned to him again.
"This is the Rose of Sweet Smells," said Flann. "Will you take it from me,
She came back to him and took the rose in her hand, and there was wonder in
"It will never wither, and its fragrance will never fail," said Flann. "It is
the Rose of Sweet Smells. A King's daughter should have it."
Flame-of-Wine held the rose in her hand, and smiled on Flann. "What is your
name, King's Son?" said she, with bright and friendly eyes.
"Flann," he said.
"Walk with me, Flann," said she. They walked along the orchard paths, and the
youths and maidens turned towards the fragrance that the Rose of Sweet Smells
gave. Flame-of-Wine laughed, and said, "They all wonder at the treasure you
have brought me, Flann. If you could hear what I shall tell them about you! I
shall tell them that you are the son of a King of Arabia--no less. They will
believe me because you have brought me such a treasure! I suppose there is
nothing more wonderful than this rose!"
Then Flann told her about the other wonderful thing he had seen--the Comb of
Magnificence. "A King's daughter should have such a treasure," said Flame-of-
Wine. "Oh, how jealous I should be if someone brought the Comb of Magnificence
to either of my two sisters--to Bloom-of-Youth or Breast-of-Light. I should
think then that this rose was not such a treasure after all."
When he was leaving the orchard she plucked a flower and gave it to him. "Come
and walk in the orchard with me to-morrow," she said.
"Surely I will come," said Flann.
"Bring the Comb of Magnificence to me too," said she. "I could not be proud of
this rose, and I could not love you so well for bringing it to me if I thought
that any other maiden had the Comb of Magnificence. Bring it to me, Flann."
"I will bring it to you," said Flann.
He was at the gate of the town when the King of Ireland's Son rode back on the
Slight Red Steed. The King's Son dismounted, put his arm about Flann and told
him that he now had the whole of the Unique Tale. They sat before Mogue's
tent, and the King's Son told Flann the whole of the story he had searched
for--how a King traveling through the mist had come to where Druids and the
Maid of the Green Mantle lived, how the King was enchanted, and how the maiden
Sheen released him from the enchantment. He told him, too, how the Enchanter
was changed into a wolf, and how the wolf carried away Sheen's child. "And the
Unique Tale is in part your own history, Flann," said the King of Ireland's
Son, "for the child that was left with the Hags of the Long Teeth was no one
else than yourself, for you, Flann, have on your breast the stars that denote
the Son of a King."
"It is so, it is so," said Flann, "and I will find out what King and Queen
were my father and my mother."
"Go to the Hags of the Long Teeth and force them to tell you," said the King's
"I will do that," said Flann, but in his own mind he said, "I will first bring
the Comb of Magnificence to Flame-of-Wine, and I will tell her that I will
have to be away for so many years with Mogue and I shall ask her to remember
me until I come back to her. Then I shall go to the Hags of the Long Teeth and
force them to tell me what King and Queen were my father and mother."
The King of Ireland's Son left Flann to his thoughts and went to find the
Gobaun Saor who would clear for him the tarnished blade of the Sword of Light
and would show him the way to where the King of the Land of Mist had his
Mogue spent his time with the ballad-singers and the story-tellers around the
market-stake, and when he came back to his tent he wanted to drink ale and go
to sleep, but Flann turned him from the ale-pot by saying to him, "I want the
Comb of Magnificence from you, Mogue."
"By my skin," said Mogue, "it's my blood you'll want next, my lad."
"If you give me the Comb of Magnificence, Mogue, I shall serve you for six
years--three years more than I said yesterday. I shall serve you well, even
though I am the son of a King and can find out who my father and mother are."
"I won't give you the Comb of Magnificence."
"I'll serve you seven years if you do, Mogue."
Mogue drank and drank out of the ale-pot, frowning to himself. He put the ale-
pot away and said, "I suppose your life won't be any good to you unless I give
you the Comb of Magnificence?"
"That is so, Mogue."
Mogue sighed heavily, but he went to his pack and took out the box that the
treasures were in. He let Flann take out the Comb of Magnificence.
"Seven years you will have to serve me," said Mogue, "and you will have to
begin your service now."
"I will begin it now," said Flann, but he stole out of the tent, put on his
red cloak and went to the King's orchard.
Oh, Flann, my treasure-bringer," said Flame-of-Wine, when she came to him. "I
have brought you the Comb of Magnificence," said he. Her hands went out and
her eyes became large and shining. He put the Comb of Magnificence into her
She put the comb into the back of her hair, and she became at once like the
tower that is builded--what broke its height and turned the full sunlight from
it has been taken away, and the tower stands, the pride of a King and the
delight of a people. When she put the Comb of Magnificence into her hair she
became of all Kings' daughters the most stately.
She walked with Flann along the paths of the orchard, but always she was
watching her shadow to see if it showed her added magnificence. Her shadow
showed nothing. She took Flann to the well in the orchard, and looked down
into it, but her image in the well did not show her added magnificence either.
Soon she became tired of walking on the orchard paths, and when she came to
the gate she walked no further but stood with Flann at the gate. "A kiss for
you, Flann, my treasure-bringer," said she, and she kissed him and then went
hurrying away. And as Flann watched her he thought that although she had
kissed him he was not now in her mind.
He went out of the orchard disconsolate, thinking that when he was on his
seven years' service with Mogue Princess Flame-of-Wine might forget him. As he
walked on he passed the little house where the Spae-Woman had her besoms and
heather-stalks. She ran to him when she saw him.
"Have you heard that the King's Son has found what went before, and what comes
after the Unique Tale?" said she.
"That I have. And I have to go to the Hags of the Long Teeth to find out who
my father and mother were, for surely I am the child who was taken from
"And do you remember that Sheen's seven brothers were changed into seven wild
geese?" said she.
"I remember that, mother."
"And seven wild geese they will be until a maiden who loves you will give
seven drops of her heart's blood to bring them back to their human shapes."
"I remember that, mother." "Whatever maid you love, her you must ask if she
would give seven drops of her heart's blood. It may be that she would. It may
be that she would not and that you would still love her without thought of her
giving one drop of blood of her little finger."
"I cannot ask the maiden I love to give seven drops of her heart's blood."
"Who is the maiden you love?"
"The King's daughter, Flame-of-Wine."
He told the Spae-Woman about the presents he had given her--he told the Spae-
Woman too that he had bound himself to seven years' service to Mogue on
account of these presents. The Spae-Woman said, "What other treasures are in
"One treasure more the Girdle of Truth. Whoever puts it on can speak nothing
but the truth."
Said the Spae-Woman, "You are to take the Girdle of Truth and give it to
Flame-of-Wine. Tell Mogue that I said he is to give it to you without adding
one day to your years' service. When Flame-of-Wine has put the girdle around
her waist ask her for the seven drops of heart's blood that will bring your
mother's seven brothers back to their human shapes. She may love you and yet
refuse to give you the seven drops from her heart. But tell her of this, and
hear what she will say."
Flann left the Spae-Woman's and went back to Mogue's tent. The loss of his
treasures had overcome Mogue and he was drinking steadily and went from one
bad temper to another.
"Begin your service now by watching the tent while I sleep," said he.
"There is one thing more I want from you, Mogue," said Flann.
"By the Eye of Balor! you're a cuckoo in my nest. What do you want now?"
"The Girdle of Truth."
"Is it my last treasure you'd be taking on me?"
"The Spae-Woman bid me tell you that you're to give me the Girdle of Truth."
"It's a pity of me, it's a pity of me," said Mogue. But he took the box out of
his pack, and let Flann take the girdle.
Flame-of-Wine saw him. She walked slowly down the orchard path so that all
might notice the stateliness of her appearance.
"I am glad to see you again, Flann," said she. "Have your comrades yet come
back to my father's town?"
Flann told her that one of them had returned.
"Bid him come see me," said Flame-of-Wine. Then she saw the girdle in his
"What is it you have?" said she.
"Something that went with the other treasures--a girdle."
"Will you not let me have it, Flann?" She took the girdle in her hands. "Tell
me, youth," she said, "how you got all these treasures?"
"I will have to give seven years' service for them," Flann said.
"Seven years," said she, "but you will remember--will you not--that I loved
you for bringing them to me?"
"Will you remember me until I come back from my seven years' service?"
"Oh, yes," said Flame-of-Wine, and she put the girdle around her waist as she
"Someone said to me," said Flann, "that I should ask the maiden who loved me
for seven drops of her heart's blood." The girdle was now round Flame-of-
Wine's waist. She laughed with mockery. "Seven drops of heart's blood," said
she. "I would not give this fellow seven eggs out of my robin's nest. I tell
him I love him for bringing me the three treasures for a King's daughter. I
tell him that, but I should be ashamed of myself if I thought I could have any
love for such a fellow."
"Do you tell me the truth now," said Flann.
"The truth, the truth," said she, "of course I tell you the truth. Oh, and
there are other truths. I shall be ashamed forever if I tell them. Oh, oh.
They are rising to my tongue, and every time I press them back this girdle
tightens and tightens until I think it will kill me."
"Farewell, then, Flame-of-Wine."
"Take off the girdle, take off the girdle! What truths are in my mind! I shall
speak them and I shall be ashamed. But I shall die in pain if I hold them
back. Loosen the girdle, loosen the girdle! Take the rose you gave me and
loosen the girdle." She let the rose fall on the ground.
"I will loosen the girdle for you," said Flann.
"But loosen it now. How I have to strive to keep truths back, and oh, what
pain I am in! Take the Comb of Magnificence, and loosen the girdle." She threw
the comb down on the ground.
He took up the Rose of Sweet Smells and the Comb of Magnificence and he took
the girdle off her waist. "Oh, what a terrible thing I put round my waist,"
said Flame-of-Wine. "Take it away, Flann, take it away. But give me back the
Rose of Sweet Smells and the Comb of Magnificence,--give them back to me and I
shall love you always."
"You cannot love me. And why should I give seven years in service for your
sake? I will leave these treasures back in Mogue's pack."
"Oh, you are a peddler, a peddler. Go from me," said Flame-of-Wine. "And do
not be in the Town of the Red Castle to-morrow, or I shall have my father's
hunting dogs set upon you." She turned away angrily and went into the Castle.
Flann went back to Mogue's tent and left the Rose of Sweet Smells, the Comb of
Magnificence and the Girdle of Truth upon Mogue's pack. He sat in the comer
and cried bitterly. Then the King of Ireland's Son came and told him that his
sword was bright once more--that the stains that had blemished its blade had
been cleared away by the Gobaun Saor who had also shown him the way to the
Land of the Mist. He put his arm about Flann and told him that he was starting
now to rescue his love Fedelma from the Castle of the King of the Land of
The King of the Land of Mist
The King of Ireland's Son came to the place where the river that he followed
takes the name of the River of the Broken Towers. It is called by that name
because the men of the old days tried to build towers across its course. The
towers were built a little way across the river that at this place was
"The Glashan will carry you across the River of the Broken Towers to the shore
of the Land of Mist," the Gobaun Saor had said to the King of Ireland's Son.
And now he was at the River of the Broken Towers but the Glashan-creature was
not to be seen.
Then he saw the Glashan. He was leaning his back against one of the Towers and
smoking a short pipe. The water of the river was up to his knees. He was
covered with hair and had a big head with horse's ears. And the Glashan
twitched his horse's ears as he smoked in great contentment.
"Glashan, come here," said the King of Ireland's Son.
But the Glashan gave him no heed at all.
"I want you to carry me across the River of the Broken Towers," shouted the
King of Ireland's Son. The Glashan went on smoking and twisting his ears.
And the King of Ireland's Son might have known that the whole clan of the
Gruagachs and Glashans are fond of their own ease and will do nothing if they
can help it. He twitched his ears more sharply when the King's Son threw a
pebble at him. Then after about three hours he came slowly across the river.
From his big knees down he had horse's feet.
"Take me on your big shoulders, Glashan," said the King of Ireland's Son, "and
carry me across to the shore of the Land of Mist."
"Not carrying any more across," said the Glashan. The King of Ireland's Son
drew the Sword of Light and flashed it.
"Oh, if you have that, you'll have to be carried across," said the Glashan.
"But wait until I rest myself."
"What did you do that you should rest?" said the King of Ireland's Son. "Take
me on your shoulders and start off."
"Musha," said the Glashan, "aren't you very anxious to lose your life?"
"Take me on your shoulders." "Well, come then. You're not the first living
dead man I carried across." The Glashan put his pipe into his ear. The King of
Ireland's Son mounted his shoulders and laid hold of his thick mane. Then the
Glashan put his horse's legs into the water and started to cross the River of
the Broken Towers.
"The Land of Mist has a King," said the Glashan, when they were in the middle
of the river.
"That, Glashan, I know," said the King of Ireland's Son.
"All right," said the Glashan.
Then said he when they were three-quarters of the way across, "Maybe you don't
know that the King of the Land of Mist will kill you?"
"Maybe 'tis I who will kill him," said the King of Ireland's Son.
"You'd be a hardy little fellow if you did that," said the Glashan. "But you
won't do it."
They went on. The water was up to the Glashan's waist but that gave him no
trouble. So broad was the river that they were traveling across it all day.
The Glashan threw the King's Son in once when he stooped to pick up an eel.
Said the King of Ireland's Son, "What way is the Castle of the King of the
Land of Mist guarded, Glashan?"
"It has seven gates," said the Glashan.
"And how are the gates guarded?"
"I'm tired," said the Glashan, "and I can't talk."
"Tell me, or I'll twist the horse's ears off your head."
"Well, the first gate is guarded by a plover only. It sits on the third
pinnacle over the gate, and when anyone comes near it rises up and flies round
the Castle crying until its sharp cries put the other guards on the watch."
"And what other guards are there?"
"Oh, I'm tired, and I can talk no more."
The King of Ireland's Son twisted his horse's ears, and then the Glashan said
"The second gate is guarded by five spear-men."
"And how is the third gate guarded?"
"The third gate is guarded by seven swordsmen."
"And how is the fourth gate guarded?"
"The fourth gate is guarded by the King of the Land of Mist himself."
"And the fifth gate?"
"The fifth gate is guarded by the King of the Land of Mist himself."
"And the sixth gate?"
"The sixth gate is guarded by the King of the Land of Mist."
"And how is the seventh gate guarded?"
"The seventh gate is guarded by a Hag."
"By a Hag only?" "By a Hag with poisoned nails. But I'm tired now, and I'll
talk no more to you. If I could strike a light now I'd smoke a pipe."
Still they went on, and just at the screech of the day they came to the other
shore of the River of the Broken Towers. The King of Ireland's Son sprang from
the shoulders of the Glashan and went into the mist.
He came to where turrets and pinnacles appeared above the mist. He climbed the
rock upon which the Castle was built. He came to the first gate, and as he did
the plover that was on the third pinnacle above rose up and flew round the
Castle with sharp cries.
He raised a fragment of the ground-rock and flung it against the gate. He
burst it open. He dashed in then and through the first courtyard of the
As he went towards the second gate it was flung open, and the five spear-men
ran upon him. But they had not counted on what was to face them--the Sword of
Light in the bands of the King of Ireland's Son.
Its stroke cut the spear heads from the spear-holds, and its quick glancing
dazzled the eyes of the spear-men. On each and every one of them it inflicted
the wound of death. He dashed through the second gate and into the third
But as he did the third gate was flung open and seven swordsmen came forth.
They made themselves like a half circle and came towards the King of Ireland's
Son. He dazzled their eyes with a wide sweep of his sword. He darted it
swiftly at each of them and on the seven swordsmen too he inflicted wounds of
He went through the third courtyard and towards the fourth gate. As he did it
opened slowly and a single champion came forth. He closed the gate behind him
and stood with a long gray sword in his hand. This was the King of the Land of
Mist. His shoulders were where a tall man's head would be. His face was like a
stone, and his eyes had never looked except with scorn upon a foe.
When his enemy began his attack the King of Ireland's Son had power to do
nothing else but guard himself from that weighty sword. He had the Sword of
Light for a guard and well did that bright, swift blade guard him. The two
fought across the courtyard making hard places soft and soft places hard with
their trampling. They fought from when it was early to when it was noon, and
they fought from when it was noon until it was long afternoon. And not a
single wound did the King of Ireland's Son inflict upon the King of the Land
of Mist, and not a single wound did the King of the Land of Mist inflict upon
But the King of Ireland's Son was growing faint and weary. His eyes were worn
with watching the strokes and thrusts of the sword that was battling against
him. His arms could hardly bear up his own sword. His heart became a stream of
blood that would have gushed from his breast.
And then, as he was about to fall down with his head under the sword of the
King of the Land of Mist a name rose above all his thoughts--"Fedelma." If he
sank down and the sword of the King of the Land of Mist fell on him, never
would she be saved. The will became strong again in the King of Ireland's Son.
His heart became a steady beating thing. The weight that was upon his arms
passed away. Strongly he held the sword in his hand and he began to attack the
King of the Land of Mist.
And now he saw that the sword in the hand of his enemy was broken and worn
with the guard that the Sword of Light had put against it. And now he made a
strong attack. As the light was leaving the sky and as the darkness was coming
down he saw that the strength was waning in the King of the Land of Mist. The
sword in his hand was more worn and more broken. At last the blade was only a
span from the hilt. As he drew back to the gate of the fourth courtyard the
King of Ireland's Son sprang at him and thrust the Sword of Light through his
breast. He stood with his face becoming exceedingly terrible. He flung what
remained of his sword, and the broken blade struck the foot of the King of
Ireland's Son and pierced it. Then the King of the Land of Mist fell down on
the ground before the fourth gate.
So weary from his battles, so pained with the wound of his foot was the King
of Ireland's Son that he did not try to cross the body and go towards the
fifth gate. He turned back. He climbed down the rock and went towards the
River of the Broken Towers.
The Glashan was broiling on a hot stone the eel he had taken out of the river.
"Wash my wound and give me refreshment, Glashan," said the King of Ireland's
The Glashan washed the wound in his foot and gave him a portion of the broiled
eel with cresses and water.
"To-morrow's dawn I shall go back," said the King of Ireland's Son, "and go
through the fifth and sixth and seventh gate and take away Fedelma."
"If the King of the Land of Mist lets you," said the Glashan.
"He is dead," said the King of Ireland's Son, "I thrust my sword through his
"And where is his head?" said the Glashan.
"It is on his corpse," said the King of Ireland's Son.
"Then you will have another fight to-morrow. His life is in his head, and his
life will come back to him if you did not cut it off. It is he, I tell you,
who will guard the fourth and fifth and sixth gate."
"That I do not believe, Glashan," said the King of Ireland's Son. "There is no
one to guard the gates now but the Hag you spoke of. To-morrow I shall take
Fedelma out of her captivity, and we will both leave the Land of Mist. But I
must sleep now."
He laid the Sword of Light beside him, stretched himself on the ground and
went to sleep. The Glashan drew his horse's legs under him, took the pipe out
of his ear, and smoked all through the night.
The King of Ireland's Son rose in the morning but he was in pain and weariness
on account of his wounded foot. He ate the cresses and drank the water that
the Glashan gave him, and he started off for the Castle of the King of the
Mist. "'Tis only an old woman I shall have to deal with to-day," he said, "and
then I shall awaken Fedelma, my love."
He passed through the first gate and the first court-yard, through the second
gate and the second court-yard, through the third gate and the third
courtyard. The fourth gate was closed, and as he went towards it, it opened
slowly, and the King of the Land of Mist stood there--as high, as stone-faced,
and as scornful as before, and in his hand he had a weighty gray sword.
They fought as they fought the day before. But the guard the King of Ireland's
Son made against the sword of the King of the Land of Mist was weaker than
before, because of the pain and weariness that came from his wound. But still
he kept the Sword of Light before him and the Sword of the King of the Land of
Mist could not pass it. They fought until it was afternoon. The heart in his
body seemed turned to a jet of blood that would gush forth. His eyes were
straining themselves out of their sockets. His arms could hardly bear up his
sword. He fell down upon one knee, but he was able to hold the sword so that
it guarded his head.
Then the image of Fedelma appeared before him. He sprang up and his arms
regained their power. His heart became steady in his breast. And as he made an
attack upon the King of the Land of Mist, he saw that the blade in his hand
was broken and worn because of its strokes against the Sword of Light.
They fought with blades that seemed to kindle each other into sparks and
flashes of light. They fought until the blade in the hand of the King of the
Land of Mist was worn to a hand breadth above the hilt. He drew back towards
the gate of the fifth courtyard. The King of Ireland's Son sprang at him and
thrust the Sword of Light through his breast. Down on the stones before the
fifth gate of his Castle fell the King of the Land of Mist.
The King of Ireland's Son stepped over the body and went towards the fifth
gate. Then he remembered what the Glashan had said, "His life is in his head."
He went back to where the King of the Land of Mist had fallen. With a clean
sweep of his sword he cut the head off the body.
Then out of the mist that was all around three ravens came. With beak and
claws they laid hold of the head and lifted it up. They fluttered heavily
away, keeping near the ground.
With his sword in his hand the King of Ireland's Son chased the ravens. He
followed them through the fourth courtyard, the third courtyard, the second
and the first. They flew off the rock on which the Castle was built and
disappeared in the mist.
He knew he would have to watch by the body of the King of the Land of Mist, so
that the head might not be placed upon it. He sat down before the fifth gate.
Pain and weariness, hunger and thirst oppressed him.
He longed for something that would allay his hunger and thirst. But he knew
that he could not go to the river to get refreshment of water and cresses from
the Glashan. Something fell beside him in the courtyard. It was a beautiful,
bright-colored apple. He went to pick it up, but it rolled away towards the
third courtyard. He followed it. Then, as he looked back he saw that the
ravens had lighted near the body of the King of the Land of Mist, holding the
head in their beaks and claws. He ran back and the ravens lifted the head up
again and flew away.
He watched for another long time, and his hunger and his thirst made him long
for the bright-colored apple he had seen.
Another apple fell down. He went to pick it up and it rolled away. But now the
King of Ireland's Son thought of nothing hut that bright-colored apple. He
followed it as it rolled.
It roiled through the third courtyard, and the second and the first. It rolled
out of the first gate and on to the rock upon which the Castle was built. It
rolled off the rock. The King of Ireland's Son sprang down and he saw the
apple become a raven's head and beak.
He climbed up the rock and ran back. And when he came into the first courtyard
he saw that the three ravens had come back again. They had brought the head to
the body, and body and head were now joined. The King of the Land of Mist
stood up again, and his head was turned towards his left shoulder. He went to
the sixth gate and took up a sword that was beside it.
They fought their last battle before the sixth gate. The guard that the King
of Ireland's Son made was weak, and if the King of the Land of Mist could have
turned fully upon him, he could have disarmed and killed him. But his head had
been so placed upon his body that it looked The King of the Land of Mist 237
over his left shoulder. He was able to draw his sword down the breast of the
King of Ireland's Son, wounding him. The King's Son whirled his sword around
his head and flung it at his wry-headed enemy. It swept his head off, and the
King of the Land of Mist fell down.
The King of Ireland's Son saw on the outstretched neck the mark of the other
beheading. He took up the Sword of Light again and prepared to hold the head
against all that might come for it.
But no creature came. And then the hair on the severed head became loose and
it was blown away by the wind. And the bones of the head became a powder and
the flesh became a froth, and ail was blown away by the wind.
Then the King of Ireland's Son went through the sixth courtyard and came to
the seventh gate. And before it he saw the last of the sentinels. A Hag, she
was seated on the top of a water-tank taking white doves out of a basket and
throwing them to ravens that flew down from the walls and tore the doves to
When the Hag saw the King of Ireland's Son she sprang down from the water-tank
and ran towards him with outstretched arms and long poisoned nails. With a
sweep of his sword he cut the nails from her hands. Ravens picked up the
nails, and then, as they tried to fly away, they fell dead.
"The Sword of Light will take off your head if you do not take me on the
moment to where Fedelma is," said the King of Ireland's Son. "I am sorry to do
it," said the Hag, "but come, since you are the conqueror."
He followed the Hag into the Castle. In a net, hanging across a chamber, he
saw Fedelma. She was still, but she breathed. And the branch of hawthorn that
put her asleep was fresh beside her. Strands of her bright hair came through
the meshes of the net and were fastened to the wall. With a sweep of the Sword
of Light he cut the strands.
Her eyes opened. She saw the King of Ireland's Son, and the full light came
back to her eyes, and the full life into her face.
He cut the net from where it hung and laid it on the ground. He cut open the
meshes. Fedelma rose out of it and went into his arms.
He lifted her up and carried her out into the seventh courtyard. Then the Hag
who had been one of the sentinels came out of the Castle, closed the door
behind her and ran away into the mist, three ravens flying after her.
And as for Fedelma and the King of Ireland's Son, they went through the
courtyards of the Castle and through the mists of the country and down to the
River of the Broken Towers. They found the Glashan broiling a salmon upon hot
stones. Salmon were coming from the sea and the Glashan went in and caught
more, The King of the Land of Mist 239 broiled and gave them to the King of
Ireland's Son and Fedelma to eat. The little black water-hen came out of the
river and they fed it. The next day the King of Ireland's Son bade the Glashan
take Fedelma on his shoulders and carry her to the other shore of the River of
the Broken Towers. And he himself followed the little black water-hen who
showed him all the shallow places in the river so that he crossed with the
water never above his waist. But he was nearly dead from cold and weariness,
and from the wounds on breast and foot when he came to the other side and
found the Glashan and Fedelma waiting for him.
They ate salmon again and rested for a day. They bade good-by to the Glashan,
who went back to the river to hunt for salmon. Then they went along the bank
of the river hand in hand while the King of Ireland's Son told Fedelma of all
the things that had happened to him in his search for her.
They came to where the river became known as the River of the Morning Star.
And then, in the distance, they saw the Hill of Horns. Towards the Hill of
Horns they went, and, at the near side of it, they found a house thatched with
the wing of a bird. It was the house of the Little Sage of the Mountain. To
the house of the Little Sage of the Mountain Fedelma and the King's Son now
TO THE MEMORY OF BEATRICE CASSIDY COLUM
The House of Crom Duv
The story is now about Flann. He went through the East gate of the Town of the
Red Castle and his journey was to the house of the Hags of the Long Teeth
where he might learn what Queen and King were his mother and his father. It is
with the youth Flann, once called the Gilly of the Goatskin, that we will go
if it be pleasing to you, Son of my Heart. He went his way in the evening,
when, as the bard said:--
The blackbird shakes his metal notes
Against the edge of day,
And I am left upon my road
With one star on my way.
And he went his way in the night, when, as the same bard said:--
The night has told it to the hills,
And told the partridge in the nest,
And left it on the long white roads,
She will give light instead of rest.
And he went on between the dusk and the dawn, when, as the same bard said
Behold the sky is covered,
As with a mighty shroud:
A forlorn light is lying
Between the earth and cloud.
And he went on in the dawn, when as the bard said (and this is the last stanza
he made, for the King said there was nothing at all in his adventure):--
In the silence of the morning
Myself, myself went by,
Where lonely trees sway branches
Against spaces of the sky.
And then, when the sun was looking over the first high hills he came to a
river. He knew it was the river he followed before, for no other river in the
country was so wide or held so much water. As he had gone with the flow of the
river then he thought he would go against the flow of the river now, and so he
might come back to the glens and ridges and deep boggy places he had traveled
He met a Fisherman who was drying his nets and he asked him what name the
river had. The Fisherman said it had two names. The people on the right bank
called it the Day-break River and the people on the left bank called it the
River of the Morning Star. And the Fisherman told him he was to be careful not
to call it the River of the Morning Star when he was on the right bank nor the
Daybreak River when he was on the left, as the people on either side wanted to
keep to the name their fathers had for it and were ill-mannered to the
stranger who gave it a different name. The Fisherman told Flann he was sorry
he had told him the two names for the River and that the best thing he could
do was to forget one of the names and call it just the River of the Morning
Star as he was on the left bank.
Flann went on with the day widening before him and when the height of the noon
was past he came to the glens and ridges and deep boggy places he had traveled
from. He went on with the bright day going before him and the brown night
coming behind him, and at dusk he came to the black and burnt place where the
Hags of the Long Teeth had their house of stone.
He saw the house with a puff of smoke coming through every crevice in the
stones. He went to the shut door and knocked on it with the knocking-stone.
"Who's without?" said one of the Hags.
"Who's within?" said Flann.
"The Three Hags of the Long Teeth," said one of the Hags, "and if you want to
know it," said she, "they are the runners and summoners, the brewers and
candle-makers for Crom Duv, the Giant."
Flann struck a heavier blow with the knocking-stone and the door broke in. He
stepped into the smoke-filled house.
"No welcome to you, whoever you are," said one of the three Hags who were
seated around the fire.
"I am the lad who was called Gilly of the Goatskin, and whom you reared up
here," said he, "and I have come back to you."
The three Hags turned from the fire then and screamed at him.
"And what brought you back to us, humpy fellow?" said the first Hag.
"I came back to make you tell me what Queen and King were my mother and
"Why should you think a King and Queen were your father and mother?" they said
"Because I have on my breast the stars of a son of a King," said Flann, "and,"
said he, "I have in my hand a sword that will make you tell me."
He came towards them and they were afraid. Then the first Hag bent her knee to
him, and, said she, "Loosen the hearthstone with your sword and you will find
a token that will let you know who your father was."
Flann put his sword under the hearthstone and pried it up. But if it were a
token, what was under the hearthstone was an evil thing--a cockatrice. It had
been hatched out of a serpent's egg by a black cock of nine years. It had the
head and crest of a cock and the body of a black serpent. The cockatrice
lifted itself up on its tail and looked at him with red eyes. The sight of
that head made Flann dizzy and he fell down on the floor. Then it went down
and the Hags put the hearthstone above it.
"What will we do with the fellow?" said one of the Hags, looking at Flann who
was in a swoon on the floor.
"Cut of his head with the sword that he threatened us with," said another.
"No," said the third Hag. "Crom Duv the Giant is in want of a servant. Let him
take this fellow. Then maybe the Giant will give us what he has promised us
for so long--a Berry to each of us from the Fairy Rowan Tree that grows in his
"Let it be, let it be," said the other Hags. They put green branches on the
fire so that Crom Duv would see the smoke and come to the house. In the
morning he came. He brought Flann outside, and after awhile Flann's senses
came back to him. Then the Giant tied a rope round his arms and drove him
before him with a long iron spike that he had for a staff.
Crom Duv's arms stretched down to his twisted knees; he had long, yellow,
overlapping horse s teeth in his mouth, with a fall-down under-lip and a
drawn-back upper-lip; he had a matted rug of hair on his head. He was as high
as a haystack. He carried in his twisted hand an iron spike pointed at the
end. And wherever he was going he went as quickly as a running mule.
He tied Flann's hands behind his back and drew the rope round Flann's body.
Then he started off. Flann was dragged on as if at the tail of a cart. Over
ditches and through streams; up hillsides and down into hollows he was hauled.
Then they came into a plain as round as the wheel of a cart. Across the plain
they went and into a mile-deep wood. Beyond the wood there were buildings--
such walls and such heaps of stones Flann never saw before.
But before they had entered the wood they had come to a high grassy mound. And
standing on that grassy mound was the most tremendous bull that Flann had ever
"What bull is that, Giant?" said Flann.
"My own bull," said Crom Duv, "the Bull of the Mound. Look back at him,
little fellow. If ever you try to escape from my service my Bull of the Mound
will toss you into the air and trample you into the ground." Crom Duv blew on
a horn that he had across his chest. The Bull of the Mound rushed down the
slope snorting. Crom Duv shouted and the bull stood still with his tremendous
head bent down.
Flann's heart, I tell you, sank, when he saw the bull that guarded Crom Duv's
house. They went through the deep wood then, and came to the gate of the
Giant's Keep. Only a chain was across it, and Crom Duv lifted up the chain.
The courtyard was filled with cattle black and red and striped. The Giant tied
Flann to a stone pillar. "Are you there, Morag, my byre-maid?" he shouted.
"I am here," said a voice from the byre. More cattle were in the byre and
someone was milking them.
There was straw on the ground of the courtyard and Crom Duv lay down on it and
went to sleep with the cattle trampling around him. A great stone wall was
being built all round the Giant's Keep--a wall six feet thick and built as
high as twenty feet in some places and in others as high as twelve. The wall
was still being built, for heaps of stones and great mixing-pans were about.
And just before the door of the Keep was a Rowan Tree that grew to a great
height. At the very top of the tree were bunches of red berries. Cats were
lying around the stems of the tree and cats were in its branches--great yellow
cats. More yellow cats stepped out of the house and came over to him. They
looked Flann all over and went back, mewing to each other.
The cattle that were in the courtyard went into the byre one by one as they
were called by the voice of the byre-maid. Crom Duv still slept. By and by a
little red hen that was picking about the courtyard came near him and holding
up her head looked Flann all over.
When the last cow had gone in and the last stream of milk had sounded in the
milking-vessel the byre-maid came into the courtyard. Flann thought he would
see a long-armed creature like Crom Duv himself. Instead he saw a girl with
good and kind eyes, whose disfigurements were that her face was pitted and her
hair was bushy. "I am Morag, Crom Duv's byre-maid," said she.
"Will Crom Duv kill me?" said Flann.
"No. He'll make you serve him," said the byre-maid.
"And what will he make me do for him?"
"He will make you help to build his wall. Crom Duv goes out every morning to
bring his cattle to pasture on the plain. And when he comes back he builds the
wall round his house. He'll make you mix mortar and carry it to him, for I
heard him say he wants a servant to do that."
"I'll escape from this," said Flann, "and I'll bring you with me."
"Hush," said Morag, and she pointed to seven yellow cats that were standing at
Crom Duv's door, watching them. "The cats," said she, "are Crom Duv's watchers
here and the Bull of the Mound is his watcher out-side."
"And is this Little Red Hen a watcher too?" said Flann, for the Little Red Hen
was watching them sideways. "The Little Red Hen is my friend and adviser,"
Morag, and she went into the house with two vessels of milk.
Crom Duv wakened up. He untied Flann and left him free. "You must mix mortar
for me now," he said. He went into the byre and came out with a great vessel
of milk. He left it down near the mixing-pan. He went to the side of the house
and came back with a trough of blood.
"What are these for, Crom Duv?" said Flann. "To mix the mortar with, gilly,"
said the Giant. "Bullock's blood and new milk is what I mix my mortar with, so
that nothing can break down the walls that I'm building round the Fairy Rowan
Tree. Every day I kill a bullock and every day my byre-maid fills a vessel of
milk to mix with my mortar. Set to now, and mix the mortar for me."
Flann brought lime and sand to the mixing-pan and he mixed them in bullock's
blood and new milk. He carried stones to Crom Duv. And so he worked until it
was dark. Then Crom Duv got down from where he was building and told Flann to
go into the house.
The yellow cats were there and Flann counted sixteen of them. Eight more were
outside, in the branches or around the stem of the Rowan Tree. Morag came in,
bringing a great dish of porridge. Crom Duv took up a wooden spoon and ate
porridge out of vessel after vessel of milk. Then he shouted for his beer and
Morag brought him vessel after vessel of beer. Crom Duv emptied one after the
other..Then he shouted for his knife and when Morag brought it he began to
sharpen it, singing a queer song to himself.
"He's sharpening a knife to kill a bullock in the morning," said Morag. "Come
now, and I'll give you your supper."
She took him to the kitchen at the back of the house. She gave him porridge
and milk and he ate his supper. Then she showed him a ladder to a room above,
and he went up there and made a bed for himself. He slept soundly, although he
dreamed of the twenty-four yellow cats within, and the tremendous Bull of the
Mound outside Crom Duv's Keep.
This is how the days were spent in the house of Crom Duv. The Giant and his
two servants, Flann and Morag, were out of their beds at the mouth of the day.
Crom Duv sounded his horn and the Bull of the Mound bellowed an answer. Then
he started work on his wall, making Flann carry mortar to him. Morag put down
the fire and boiled the pots. Pots of porridge, plates of butter and pans of
milk were on the table when' Crom Duv and Flann came in to their breakfasts.
Then, when the Giant had driven out his cattle to the pasture Flann cleaned
the byre and made the mortar, mixing lime and sand with bullock's blood and
new milk. In the afternoon the Giant came back and he and Flann started work
on the wall.
All the time the twenty-four yellow cats lay on the branches of the Rowan Tree
or walked about the court-yard or lapped up great crocks of milk. Morag's
Little Red Hen went hopping round the courtyard. She seemed to be sleepy or to
be always considering something. If one of the twenty-four yellow cats looked
at her the Little Red Hen would waken up, murmur something, and hop away.
One day the cattle came home without Crom Duv. "He has gone on one of his
journeys," said Morag, "and will not be back for a night and a day."
"Then it is time for me to make my escape," said Flann.
"How can you make your escape, my dear, my dear?" said Morag. "If you go by
the front the Bull of the Mound will toss you in the air and then trample you
into the ground."
"But I have strength and cunning and activity enough to climb the wall at the
"But if you climb the wall at the back," said Morag, "you will only come to
the Moat of Poisoned Water." "The Moat of Poisoned Water?" "The Moat of
Poisoned Water," said Morag. "The water poisons the skin of any creature that
tries to swim across the Moat."
Flann was downcast when he heard of the Moat of Poisoned Water. But his mind
was fixed on climbing the wall. "I may find some way of crossing the poisoned
water," he said, "so bake my cake and give me provision for my journey."
Morag baked a cake and put it on the griddle. And when it was baked she
wrapped it in a napkin and gave it to him. "Take my blessing with it," said
she, "and if you escape, may you meet someone who will be a better help to you
than I was. I must keep the twenty-four cats from watching you while you are
climbing the wall."
"And how will you do that?" said Flann.
She showed him what she would do. With a piece of glass she made on the wall
of the byre the shadows of flying birds. Birds never flew across the House of
Crom Duv and the cats were greatly taken with the appearances that Morag made
with the piece of glass. Six cats watched, and then another six came, and
after them six more, and after them the six that watched in the Rowan Tree.
And the twenty-four yellow cats sat round and watched with burning eyes the
appearances of birds that Morag made on the byre-wall. Flann looked back and
saw her seated on a stone, and he thought the Byre-Maid looked lonesome.
He tried with all his activity, all his cunning and all his strength, and at
last he climbed the wall at the back of Crom Duv's house. He gave a whistle to
let Morag know he was over. Then he went through a little wood and came to the
Moat of Poisoned Water.
Very ugly the dead water looked. Ugly stakes stuck up from the mud to pierce
any creature that tried to leap across. And here and there on the water were
patches of green poison as big as cabbage leaves. Flann drew back from the
Moat. Leap it he could not, and swim it he dare not. And just as he drew back
he saw a creature he knew come down to the bank opposite to him. It was Rory
the Fox. Rory carried in his mouth the skin of a calf. He dropped the skin
into the water and pushed it out before him. Then he got into the water and
swam very cautiously, always pushing the calf's skin before him. Then Rory
climbed up on the bank where Flann was, and the skin, all green and wrinkled,
sank down into the water.
Rory was going to turn tail, but then he recognized Flann. " Master," said he,
and he licked the dust on the ground.
"What are you doing here, Rory?" said Flann.
"I won't mind telling you if you promise to tell no other creature," said
"I won't tell," said Flann.
"Well then," said Rory, "I have moved my little family over here. I was being
chased about a good deal, and my little family wasn't safe. So I moved them
over here." The fox turned and looked round at the country behind him. "It
suits me very well," said he; "no creature would think of crossing this moat
"Well," said Flann, "tell me how you are able to cross it."
"I will," said the fox, "if you promise never to hunt me nor any of my little
"I promise," said Flann.
"Well," said Rory, "the water poisons every skin. Now the reason that I pushed
the calf's skin across was that it might take the poison out of the water. The
water poisons every skin. But where the skin goes the poison is taken out of
the water for a while, and a living creature can cross behind it if he is
"I thank you for showing me the way to cross the moat," said Flann.
"I don't mind showing you," said Rory the Fox, and he went off to his burrow.
There were deer-skins and calf-skins both sides of the moat. Flann took a
calf's skin. He pushed it into the water with a stick. He swam cautiously
behind it. When he reached the other side of the moat, the skin, all green and
wrinkled, sank in the water.
Flann jumped and laughed and shouted when he found himself in the forest and
clear of Crom Duv's house. He went on. It was grand to see the woodpecker
hammering on the branch, and to see him stop, busy as he was to say "Pass,
friend." Two young deer came out of the depths of the wood. They were too
young and too innocent to have anything to tell him, but they bounded
alongside of him as he raced along the Hunter's Path. He jumped and he shouted
again when he saw the river before him--the river that was called the Daybreak
River on the right bank and the River of the Morning Star on the left. He said
to himself, "This time, in troth, I will go the whole way with the river. A
moving thing is my delight. The river is the most wonderful of all the things
I have seen on my travels."
Then he thought he would eat some of the cake that Morag had baked for him. He
sat down and broke it. Then as he ate it the thought of Morag came into his
mind. He thought he was looking at her putting the cake on the griddle. He
went a little way along the river and then he began to feel lonesome. He
turned back, "I'll go to Crom Duv's House," said he, "and show Morag the way
to escape. And then she and I will follow the river, and I won't be lonesome
while she's with me."
So back along the Hunter's Path Flann went. He came to the Moat of Poisoned
Water. He found a deer-skin and pushed it into the water and then swam
cautiously across the moat. He climbed the wall then, and when he put his head
above it he saw Morag. She was watching for him.
"Crom Duv has not come back yet," said she, "but oh, my dear, my dear, I can't
prevent the yellow cats from watching you come over the wall."
First six cats came and then another six and they sat round and watched Flann
come down the wall. They did nothing to him, but when he came down on the
ground they followed him wherever he went.
"You crossed the moat," said Morag, "then why did you come back?"
"I came back," said Flann, "to bring you with me."
"But," said she, "I cannot leave Crom Duv's house."
"I'll show you how to cross the moat," said he, "and we'll both be glad to be
going by the moving river."
Tears came into Morag's eyes. "I'd go with you, my dear," said she, "but I
cannot leave Crom Duv's house until I get what I came for."
"And what did you come for, Morag?" said he.
"I came," said she, "for two of the rowan berries that grow on the Fairy Rowan
Tree in Crom Duv's court-yard. I know now that to get these berries is the
hardest task in the world. Come within," said she, "and if we sit long enough
at the supper-board I will tell you my story."
They sat at the supper-board long, and Morag told
The Story of Morag
I was reared in the Spae-Woman's house with two other girls, Baun and Deelish,
my foster-sisters. The Spae-Woman's house is on the top of a knowe, away from
every place, and few ever came that way.
One morning I went to the well for water. When I looked into it I saw, not my
own image, but the image of a young man. I drew up my pitcher filled with
water, and went back to the Spae-Woman's house. At noontide Baun went to the
well for water. She came back and her pitcher was only haft-fi/led. Before
dark Deelish went to the well. She came back without a pitcher, for it fell
and broke on the flags of the well.
The next day Baun and Deelish each plaited their hair, and they said to her
who was foster-mother for the three of us: "No one will come to marry us in
this far-away place. We will go into the world to seek our fortunes. So," said
they, "bake a cake for each of us before the fall of the night."
The Spae-Woman put three cakes on the griddle and baked them. And when they
were baked she said to Baun and Deelish: "Will you each take the half of the
cake and my blessing, or the whole of the cake without my blessing?" And Baun
and Deelish each said, "The whole of the cake will be little enough for our
Each then took her cake under her arm and went the path down the knowe. Then
said I to myself, "It would be well to go after my foster-sisters for they
might meet misfortune on the road." So I said to my foster-mother, "Give me
the third cake on the griddle until I go after my foster-sisters."
"Will you have half of the cake and my blessing or the whole of the cake
without my blessing?" said she to me.
"The half of the cake and your blessing, mother," said I.
She cut the cake in two with a black-handled knife and gave me the even half
of it. Then said she:--
May the old sea's
They who spin
Life's longest threads,
Protect and guard you!
She put salt in my hand then, and put the Little Red Hen under my arm, and I
I went on then till I came in sight of Baun and Deelish. Just as I caught up
on them I heard one say to the other, "This ugly, freckled girl will disgrace
us if she comes with us." They tied my hands and feet with a rope they found
on the road and left me in a wood.
I got the rope off my hands and feet and ran and ran until I came in sight of
them again. And when I was coming on them I heard one say to the other, "This
ugly, freckled girl will claim relationship with us wherever we go, and we
will get no good man to marry us." They laid hold of me again and put me in a
lime-kiln, and put beams across it, and put heavy stones on the beams. But my
Little Red Hen showed me how to get out of the lime-kiln. Then I ran and I ran
until I caught up with Baun and Deelish again.
"Let her come with us this evening," said one to the other, "and to-morrow
we'll find some way of getting rid of her."
The night was drawing down now, and we had to look for a house that would give
us shelter. We saw a hut far off the road and we went to the broken door. It
was the house of the Hags of the Long Teeth. We asked for shelter. They showed
us a big bed in the dormer-room, and they told us we could have supper when
the porridge was boiled.
The three Hags sat round the fire with their heads together. Baun and Deelish
were in a corner plaiting their hair, but the Little Red Hen murmured that I
was to listen to what the Hags said.
"We will give them to Crom Duv in the morning" one said. And another said, "I
have put a sleeping-pin in the pillow that will be under each, and they will
When I heard what they said I wanted to think of what we could do to make our
escape. I asked Baun to sing to me. She said she would if I washed her feet. I
got a basin of water and washed Baun's feet, and while she sang, and while the
Hags thought we were not minding them, I considered what we might do to
escape. The Hags hung a pot over the fire and the three of them sat around it
When I had washed my foster-sister's feet I took a besom and began to sweep
the floor of the house. One of the Hags was very pleased to see me doing that.
She said I would make a good servant, and after a while she asked me to sit at
the fire. I sat in the corner of the chimney. They had put meal in the water,
and I began to stir it with a pot-stick. Then the Hag that had asked me to the
fire said, "I will give you a good share of milk with your porridge if you
keep stirring the pot for us." This was just what I wanted to be let do. I sat
in the chimney-corner and kept stirring the porridge while the Hags dozed
before the fire.
First, I got a dish and ladle and took out of the pot some half-cooked
porridge. This I left one side. Then I took down the salt-box that was on the
chimney-shelf and mixed handfuls of salt in the porridge left in the pot.
When it was all cooked I emptied it into another dish and brought the two
dishes to the table. Then I told the Hags that all was ready. They came over
to the table and they gave my foster-sisters and myself three porringers of
goat's milk. We ate out of the first dish and they ate out of the second. "By
my sleep to-night," said one Hag, "this porridge is salty." "Too little salt
is in it for my taste," said my foster-sister Deelish. "It is as salt as the
depths of the sea," said another of the Hags. "My respects to you, ma'am,"
said Baun, "but I do not taste any salt on it at all." My foster-sisters were
so earnest that the Hags thought themselves mistaken, and they ate the whole
dishful of porridge.
The bed was made for us, and the pillows were laid on the bed, and I knew that
the slumber-pin was in each of the pillows. I wanted to put off the time for
going to bed so I began to tell stories. Baun and Deelish said it was still
young in the night, and that I should tell no short ones, but the long story
of Eithne, Balor's daughter. I had just begun that story, when one of the Hags
cried out that she was consumed with thirst.
She ran to the pitcher, and there was no water in it. Then another Hag shouted
out that the thirst was strangling her. The third one said she could not live
another minute without a mouthful of water. She took the pitcher and started
for the well. No sooner was she gone than the second Hag said she couldn't
wait for the first one to come back and she started out after her. Then the
third one thought that the pair would stay too long talking at the well, and
she started after them. Immediately I took the pillows off our bed and put
them on the Hags' bed, taking their pillows instead.
The Hags came back with a half-filled pitcher, and they ordered us to go to
our bed. We went, and they sat for a while drinking porringers of water. "Crom
Duv will be here the first thing in the morning," I heard one of them say.
They put their heads on the pillows and in the turn of a hand they were dead-
fast-sound asleep. I told my foster-sisters then what I had done and why I had
done it. They were very frightened, but seeing the Hags so sound asleep they
composed themselves and slept too.
Before the screech of day Crom Duv came to the house. I went outside and saw
the Giant. I said I was the servant of the Hags, and that they were sleeping
still. He said, "They are my runners and summoners, my brewers, bakers and
candle-makers, and they have no right to be sleeping so late." Then he went
I knew that the three Hags would slumber until we took the pillows from under
their heads. We left them sleeping while we put down a fire and made our
break-fast. Then, when we were ready for our journey, we took the pillows from
under their heads. The three Hags started up then, but we were out on the
door, and had taken the first three steps of our journey.
Without hap or mishap we came at last to the domain of the King of Senlabor.
Baun went to sing for the King's foster-daughters, and Deelish went to work at
the little loom in the King's chamber. We were not long at the court of the
King of Senlabor when two youths came there from the court of the King of
Ireland--Dermott and Downal were their names. There was a famous sword-smith
with the King of Senlabor and these two came to learn the trade from him. And
my two foster-sisters fell so deeply in love with the two youths that every
night the pillow on each side of me was wet with their tears.
I went to work in the King's kitchen. Now the King had a dish of such fine
earthware and with such beautiful patterns upon it that he never let it be
carried from the Kitchen to the Feast-Hall, nor from the Feast-Hall to the
Kitchen without going himself behind the servant who carried it. One day the
servant brought it into the Kitchen to be washed and the King came behind the
servant. I took the dish and cleaned it with thrice-boiled water and dried it
with cloths of three different kinds. Then I covered it with sweet-smelling
herbs and left it in a bin where it was sunk in soft bran. The King was
pleased to see the good care I took of his dish, and he said before his
servant that he would do me any favor I would ask. There and then I told him
about my two foster-sisters Baun and Deelish, and how they were in love with
the two youths Dermott and Downal who had come from the court of the King of
Ireland. I asked that when these two youths were being given wives, that the
King should remember my foster-sisters.
The King was greatly vexed at my request. He declared that the two youths had
on their breasts the stars that denoted the sons of Kings and that he intended
they should marry his own two foster-daughters when the maidens were of age to
wed. "It may be," he said, "that these two youths will bring what my Queen
longs for--a berry from the Fairy Rowan Tree that is guarded by the Giant Crom
The next day the King's Councillor was feeding the birds and I was sifting the
corn. I asked him what was the history of the Fairy Rowan Tree that the Giant
Crom Duv guarded and why it was that the Queen longed for a berry of it. There
and then he told me this story:--
The Story of the Fairy Rowan Tree
The history of the Fairy Rowan Tree (said the King's Councillor) begins with
Aine', the daughter of Mananaun who is Lord of the Sea. Curoi, the King of the
Munster Fairies loved Aine' and sought her in marriage. But the desire of the
girl's heart was set upon Fergus who was a mortal, and one of the Fianna of
Ireland. Now when Mananaun MacLir heard Curoi's proposals and learned how his
daughter's heart was inclined, he said, "Let the matter be settled in this
way: we will call a hurling-match between the Fairies of Munster and the
Fianna of Ireland with Curoi to captain one side and Fergus to captain the
other, and if the Fairies win, Aine' will marry Curoi and if the Fianna have
the victory she will have my leave to marry this mortal Fergus."
So a hurling-match was called for the first day of Lunassa, and it was to be
played along the strand of the sea. Mananaun himself set the goal-marks, and
Aine' was there to watch the game. It was played from the rising of the sun
until the high tide of noon, and neither side won a goal. Then the players
stopped to eat the refreshment that Mananaun had provided.
This is what Mananaun had brought from his own country, Silver-Cloud Plain: a
branch of bright-red rowan berries. Whoever ate one of these rowan berries his
hunger and his weariness left him in a moment. The berries were to be eaten by
the players, Mananaun said, and not one of them was to be taken into the world
of the mortals or the world of the Fairies.
When they stopped playing at the high tide of noon the mortal Fergus saw Aine'
and saw her for the first time. A spirit that he had never felt before flowed
into him at the sight of Mananaun's daughter. He forgot to eat the berry he
was given and held it in his mouth by the stalk.
He went into the hurling-match again and now he was like a hawk amongst small
birds. Curoi defended the goal and drove the ball back. Fergus drove it to the
goal again; the two champions met and Curoi's hurl, made out of rhinoceros'
horn, did not beat down Fergus's hurl made out of the ash of the wood. The
hosts stood aside and left the game to Fergus and Curoi. Curoi's hurl jerked
the ball upward; then Fergus gave it the double stroke first with the handle
and then with the weighted end of the hurl and drove it, beautifully as a
flying bird, between the goal-marks that Mananaun had set up. The match was
won by the goal that Fergus had gained.
The Fianna then invited the Fairies of Munster to a feast that they were
giving to Fergus and his bride. The Fairies went, and Mananaun and Aine' went
before them all. Fergus marched at the head of his troop with the rowan berry
still hanging from his mouth. And as he went he bit the stalk and the berry
fell to the ground. Fergus never heeded that.
When the feast was over he went to where Mananaun stood with his daughter.
Aine' gave him her hand. "And it is well," said Conan, the Fool of the Fianna,
"that this thick-witted Fergus has at last dropped the berry out of his
mouth." "What berry?" said Curoi, who was standing by. "The rowan berry," said
Conan, "that he carried across two townlands the same as if he were a bird."
When Mananaun heard this he asked about the berry that Fergus had carried. It
was not to be found. Then the Fianna and the Fairies of Munster started back
to look for a trace of it. what they found was a wonderful Rowan Tree. It had
grown out of the berry that Fergus had let fall, but as yet there were no
berries on its branches.
Mananaun, when he saw the tree said, "No mortal may take a berry that grows on
it. Hear my sentence now. Fergus will have to guard this tree until he gets
one who will guard it for him. And he may not see nor keep company with Aine'
his bride until he finds one who will guard it better than he can guard it
himself." Then Mananaun wrapped his daughter in his cloak and strode away in a
mist. The Fairy Host went in one direction and the Fianna in another, and
Fergus was left standing sorrowfully by the Fairy Rowan Tree.
Next day (said Morag), when the King's Councillor was feeding the birds and I
was sifting the corn, he told me the rest of the history of the Fairy Rowan
Tree. Fergus thought and thought how he might leave off watching it and be
with Aine', his bride. At last he bethought him of a Giant who lived on a
rocky island with only a flock of goats for his possessions. This Giant had
begged Finn, the Chief of the Fianna, for a strip of the land of Ireland, even
if it were only the breadth of a bull's hide. Finn had refused him. But now
Fergus sent to Finn and asked him to bring the Giant to be the guardian of the
Fairy Rowan Tree and to give him the land around it. "I mislike letting this
giant Crom Duv have any portion of the land of Ireland," said Finn,
"nevertheless we cannot refuse Fergus."
So Finn sent some of the Fianna to the Giant and they found him living on a
bare rock of an island with only a flock of goats for his possessions. Crom
Duv lay on his back and laughed when he heard what message the men of the
Fianna brought to him. Then he put them and his flock of goats into his big
boat and rowed them over to Ireland.
Crom Duv swore by his flock of goats he would guard the Fairy Rowan Tree until
the red berries ceased to come on its branches. Fergus left his place at the
tree then and went to Aine', and it may be that she and he are still together.
Well did Crom Duv guard the tree, never going far from it and sleeping at
night in its branches. And one year a heifer came and fed with his flock of
goats and another year a bullock came. And these were the beginning of his
great herd of cattle. He has become more and more greedy for cattle, said the
King's Councillor, and now he takes them away to far pastures. But still the
Fairy Rowan Tree is well guarded. The Bull that is called the Bull of the
Mound is on guard near by, and twenty-four fierce yellow cats watch the tree
night and day.
The Queen of Senlabor and many another woman besides desires a berry from the
Fairy Rowan Tree that stands in Crom Duv's courtyard. For the woman who is old
and who eats a berry from that tree becomes young again, and the maid who is
young and who eats a berry gets all the beauty that should be hers of right.
And now, my maid, said the King's Councillor to me, I have told you the
history of the Fairy Rowan Tree.
When I heard all this (said Morag), I made up my mind to get a berry for the
Queen and maybe another berry besides from the Fairy Rowan Tree in Crom Duv's
courtyard. When the King came into the kitchen again, I asked him would he
permit my foster-sisters to marry Downal and Dermott if I brought to his Queen
a berry from the Fairy Rowan Tree. He said he would give permission heartily.
That night when I felt the tears of Baun and Deelish I told them I was going
to search for such a dowry for them that when they had it the King would let
them marry the youths they had set their hearts on. They did not believe I
could do anything to help them, but they gave me leave to go.
The next day I told the Queen I was going to seek for a berry from the Fairy
Rowan Tree. She told me that if I could bring back one berry to her she would
give me all the things she possessed. I said good-by to my foster-sisters and
with the Little Red Hen under my arm I went towards the house of the Hags of
the Long Teeth. I built a shelter and waited till Crom Duv came that way. One
early morning he came by. I stood before him and I told him that I wanted to
take service in his house.
Crom Duv had never had a servant in his house. But I told him that he should
have a byre-maid and that I was well fitted to look after his cattle. He told
me to follow him. I saw the Bull of the Mound and I was made wonder how I
could get away with the berry from the Fairy Rowan Tree. Then I saw the
twenty-four fierce yellow cats and I was made wonder how I could get the berry
from the tree. And after that I found out about the Moat of Poisoned Water
that is behind the high wall at the back of Crom Duv's house. And so now (said
Morag), you know why I have come here and how hard the task is I have taken on
Now that he had heard the history of the Fairy Rowan Tree, Flann often looked
at the clusters of scarlet berries that were high up on its branches. The Tree
could be climbed, Flann knew. But on the top of the tree and along its
branches were the fierce yellow cats--the cats that the Hags of the Long Teeth
had reared for Crom Duv, thinking that he would some time give each of them
the berry that would make them young again. And at the butt of the tree there
were more cats. And all about the courtyard the Hags' fierce cats paraded
The walls round the Giant's Keep were being built higher by Crom Duv, helped
by his servant Flann. The Giant's herd was now increased by many calves, and
Morag the byre-maid had much to do to keep all the cows milked. And day and
night Morag and Flann heard the bellowing of the Bull of the Mound.
Now one day while Crom Duv was away with his herd, Flann and Morag were in the
courtyard. They saw the Little Red Hen rouse herself up, shake her wings and
turn a bright eye on them. "What dost thou say, my Little Red Hen?" said
"The Pooka," murmured the Little Red Hen. "The Pooka rides a fierce horse, but
the Pooka himself is a timid little fellow." Then the Little Red Hen drooped
her wings again, and went on picking in the courtyard.
"The Pooka rides a fierce horse," said Morag, "if the Pooka rides a fierce
horse he might carry us past the Bull of the Mound."
"And if the Pooka himself is a timid little fellow we might take the fierce
horse from him," said Flann.
"But this does not tell us how to get the berries off the Fairy Rowan Tree,"
"No," said Flann, "it does not tell us how to get the berries off the tree the
The next day Morag gave grains to the Little Red Hen and begged for words.
After a while the Little Red Hen murmured, "There are things I know, and
things I don't know, but I do know what grows near the ground, and if you pull
a certain herb, and put it round the necks of the cats they will not be able
to see in the light nor in the dark. And to-morrow is the day of Sowain," said
the Little Red Hen. She said no more words. She had become sleepy and now she
flew down and roosted under the table. There she went on murmuring to herself-
-as all hens murmur--where the Children of Dana hid their treasures--they
know, for it was the Children of Dana who brought the hens to Ireland.
"To-morrow," said Morag to Flann, "follow the Little Red Hen, and if she makes
any sign when she touches an herb that grows near the ground, pluck that herb
and bring it to me."
That night Morag and Flann talked about the Pooka and his fierce horse. On
Sowain night--the night before the real short days begin--the Pooka rides
through the countryside touching any fruit that remains, so that it may bring
no taste into winter. The blackberries that were good to eat the day before
are no good on November day, because the Pooka touched them the night before.