There was ere
now a poor old fisher, but on this year he was not getting much fish. On a
day of days, and he fishing, there rose a sea maiden at the side of his
boat, and she asked him if he was getting fish. The old man answered, and
he said that he was not. "What reward wouldst thou give me for sending
plenty of fish to thee?" "Ach!" said the old man, "I have not much to
spare." "Wilt thou give me the first son thou hast?" said she. "It is I
that would give thee that, if I were to have a son; there was not, and
there will not be a son of mine," said he, "I and my wife are grown so
old." "Name all thou hast." "I have but an old mare of a horse, an old
dog, myself and my wife. There's for thee all the creatures of the great
world that are mine." "Here, then, are three grains for thee, that thou
shalt give thy wife this very night, and three others to the dog, and
these three to the mare, and these three likewise thou shalt plant behind
thy house, and in their own time thy wife will have three sons, the mare
three foals, and the dog three puppies, and there will grow three trees
behind thy house, and the trees will be a sign, when one of the sons dies,
one of the trees will wither. Now, take thyself home, and remember me when
thy son is three years of age, and thou thyself wilt get plenty of fish
after this." Everything happened as the sea maiden said, and he himself
was getting plenty of fish; but when the end of the three years was
nearing, the old man was growing sorrowful, heavy hearted, while he failed
each day as it came. On the namesake of the day, he went to fish as he
used, but he did not take his son with him.
maiden rose at the side of the boat, and asked, "Didst thou bring thy son
with thee hither to me?" "Och! I did not bring him. I forgot that this was
the day." "Yes! yes! then," said the sea maiden; "thou shall get four
other years of him, to try if it be easier for thee to part from him. Here
thou hast his like age," and she lifted up a big bouncing baby. "Is thy
son as fine as this one?" He went home full of glee and delight, for that
he had got four other years of his son, and he kept on fishing and getting
plenty of fish, but at the end of the next four years sorrow and woe
struck him, and he took not a meal, and he did not a turn, and his wife
could not think what was ailing him. This time he did not know what to do,
but he set it before him, that he would not take his son with him this
time either. He went to fish as at the former times, and the sea maiden
rose at the side of the boat, and she asked him, "Didst thou bring thy son
hither to me?" "Och! I forgot him this time too," said the old man. "Go
home then," said the sea maiden, "and at the end of seven years after
this, thou art sure to remember me, but then it will not be the easier for
thee to part with him, but thou shalt get fish as thou used to do."
The old man
went home full of joy; he had got seven other years of his son, and before
seven years passed, the old man thought that he himself would be dead, and
that he would see the sea maiden no more. But no matter, the end of those
seven yeam was nearing also, and if it was, the old man was not without
care and trouble. He had rest neither day nor night. The eldest son asked
his father one day if any one were troubling him? The old man said that
some one was, but that belonged neither to him nor to any one else. The
lad said he must know what it was. His father told him at last how the
matter was between him and the sea maiden. "Let not that put you in any
trouble," said the son; "I will not oppose you." "Thou shalt not; thou
shalt not go, my son, though I should not get fish for ever." "If you will
not let me go with you, go to the smithy, and let the smith make me a
great strong sword, and I will go to the end of fortune." His father went
to the smithy, and the smith made a doughty sword for him. His father came
home with the sword. The lad grasped it and gave it a shake or two, and it
went in a hundred splinters. He asked his father to go to the smithy and
get him another sword in which there should be twice as much weight; and
so did his father, and so likewise it happened to the next sword it broke
in two halves. Back went the old man to the smithy; and the smith made a
great sword, its like he never made before. "There's thy sword for thee,"
said the smith, "and the fist must be good that plays this blade." The old
man gave the sword to his son, he gave it a shake or two. "This will do,"
said he; "it's high time now to travel on my way." On the next morning he
put a saddle on the black horse that the mare had, and he put the world
under his head, (took the world for his pillow) and his black dog was by
his side. When he went on a bit, he fell in with the carcass of a sheep
beside the road. At the carrion were a great dog, a falcon, and an otter.
He came down off the horse, and he divided the carcass amongst the three.
Three third shares to the dog, two third shares to the otter, and a third
share to the falcon. "For this," said the dog, "if swiftness of foot or
sharpness of tooth will give thee aid, mind me, and I will be at thy
side." Said the otter, "If the swimming of foot on the ground of a pool
will loose thee, mind me, and I will be at thy side." Said the falcon, "if
hardship comes on thee, where swiftness of wing or crook of a claw will do
good, mind me, and I will be at thy side." On this he went onward till he
reached a king's house, and he took service to be a herd, and his wages
were to be according to the milk of the cattle. He went away with the
cattle, and the grazing was but bare. When lateness came (in the evening),
and when he took (them) home they had not much milk, the place was so
bare, and his meat and drink was but spare this night.
On the next
day he went on further with them; and at last he came to a place
exceedingly grassy, in a green glen, of which he never saw the like.
But about the
time when he should go behind the cattle, for taking homewards, who is
seen coming but a great giant with his sword in his hand. "HIU! HAU!!
HOGARAICH!!!" says the giant. "It is long since my teeth were rusted
seeking thy flesh. The cattle are mine; they are on my march; and a dead
man art thou." "I said, not that," says the herd; "there is no knowing,
but that may be easier to say than to do."
To grips they
go - himself and the giant. He saw that he was far from his friend, and
near his foe. He drew the great clean-sweeping sword, and he neared the
giant; and in the play of the battle the black dog leaped on the giant's
back. The herd drew back his sword, and the head was off the giant in a
twinkling. He leaped on the black horse, and he went to look for the
giant's house. He reached a door, and in the haste that the giant made he
had left each gate and door open. In went the herd, and that's the place
where there was magnificence and money in plenty, and dresses of each kind
on the wardrobe with gold and silver, and each thing finer than the other.
At the mouth of night he took himself to the king's house, but he took not
a thing from the giant's house. And when the cattle were milked this night
there was milk. He got good feeding this night, meat and drink
without stint, and the king was hugely pleased that he had caught such a
herd. He went on for a time in this way, but at last the glen grew bare of
grass, and the grazing was not so good.
thought he would go a little further forward in on the giant's land; and
he sees a great park of grass. He returned for the cattle, and he puts
them into the park.
They were but
a short time grazing in the park when a great wild giant came full of rage
and madness. "Hiu! Haw!! Hoagraich!!!" said the giant. "It is a drink of
thy blood that quenches my thirst this night." "There is no knowing," said
the herd, "but that's easier to say than to do." And at each other went
the men. There was the shaking of blades! At length and at last it
seemed as if the giant would get the victory over the herd. Then he called
on his dog, and with one spring the black dog caught the giant by the
neck, and swiftly the herd struck off his head.
He went home
very tired this night, but it's a wonder if the king's cattle had not
milk. The whole family was delighted that they had got such a herd.
herding in this way for a time; but one night after he came home, instead
of getting "all hail" and "good luck" from the dairymaid, all were at
crying and woe.
He asked what
cause of woe there was this night. The dairymaid said that a great beast
with three heads was in the loch, and she was to get (some) one every
year, and the lots had come this year on the king's daughter, "and in the
middle of the day (to morrow) she is to meet the Uile Bheist at the upper
end of the loch, but there is a great suitor yonder who is going to rescue
is that?" said the herd. "Oh, he is a great General of arms," said the
dairymaid, "and when he kills the beast, he will marry the king's
daughter, for the king has said, that he who could save his daughter
should get her to marry."
But on the
morrow when the time was nearing, the king's daughter and this hero of
arms went to give a meeting to the beast, and they reached the black
corrie at the upper end of the loch. They were but a short time there when
the beast stirred in the midst of the loch; but on the general's seeing
this terror of a beast with three heads, he took fright, and he slunk
away, and he hid himself. And the king's daughter was under fear and under
trembling with no one at all to save her. At a glance, she sees a doughty
handsome youth, riding a black horse, and coming where she was. He was
marvellously arrayed, and full armed, and his black dog moving after him.
"There is gloom on thy face, girl," said the youth. "What dost thou here?"
"Oh! that's no matter," said the king's daughter. lt's not long I'll be
here at all events." "I said not that," said he. ďA worthy fled as likely
as thou, and not long since," said she. "He js a worthy who stands the
war," said the youth. He lay down beside her, and he said to her, if he
should fall asleep, she should rouse him when she should see the beast
making for shore. "What is rousing for thee?" said she. "Rousing for me is
to put the gold ring on thy finger on my little finger." They were not
long there when she saw the beast making for shore. She took a ring off
her finger, and put it on the little finger of the lad. He awoke, and to
meet the beast he went with his sword and his dog. But there was the
spluttering and splashing between himself and the beast! The dog was doing
all he might, and the king's daughter was palsied by fear the noise of the
beast. They would now be under, and now above. But at last he cut one of
the heads off her. She gave one roar RAIVIC, and the son of earth,
MACTALLA of the rocks (echo), called to her screech, and she drove the
loch in spindrift from end to end, and a twinkling she went out of sight.
"Good luck and victory that were following thee, lad!" said the king's
daughter. "I am safe for one night, but the beast will come again, and for
ever, until the other two heads come off her." He caught the beast's head
and he drew a withy through it, and he told her to bring it with her there
to-morrow. She went home with the head on her shoulder, and the herd
betook himself to the cows, but she had not gone far when this great
General saw her, and he said to her that he would kill her, if ,she would
not say that 'twas he took the head off the beast. "Oh!" she, " 'tis I
will say it, Who else took the head off the beast but thou!" They reached
the king's house, and the head was on the General's shoulder. But here was
rejoicing, that she should come home alive and whole, and this great
captain with the beast's head full of blood in his hand. On the morrow
they went away, and there no question at all but that this hero would save
the king's daughter.
the same place, and they were not long there when the fearful Uile Bheist
stirred in the midst of the loch, and the hero slunk away as he did on
yesterday, but it was not long after this when the man of the black horse
came, with another dress on. No matter, she knew that it was the very same
lad. "It is I am pleased to see thee," said she. "I am in hopes thou wilt
handle thy great sword to-day as thou didst yesterday. Come up and take
breath." But they were not long there when they saw the beast steaming in
the midst of the loch.
The lad lay
down at the side of the king's daughter, and he said to her, "If I sleep
before the beast comes, rouse me." "What is rousing for thee?" "Rousing
for me is to put the ear-ring that is in thine ear in mine." He had not
well fallen asleep when the king's daughter cried, "rouse! rouse!" but
wake he would not; but she took the ear-ring out of her ear, and she put
it in the ear of the lad. At once he woke, and to meet the beast he went,
but there was Tloopersteich and Tlaperstich, rawceil s'tawceil,
spluttering, splashing, raving and roaring on the beast! They kept on thus
for a long time, and about the mouth of night, he cut another head off the
beast. He put it on the withy, and he leaped on the black horse, and he
betook himself to the herding. The king's daughter went home with the
heads. The General met her, and took the heads from her, and he said to
her, that she must tell that it was he who took the head off the beast
this time also. "Who else took the head off the beast but thou?" said she.
They reached the king's house with the heads. Then there was joy and
gladness. If the king was hopeful the first night, he was now sure that
this great hero would save his daughter, and there was no question at all
but that the other head would be off the beast on the morrow.
same time on the morrow, the two went away. The officer hid himself as he
usually did. The king's daughter betook herself to the bank of the loch.
The hero of the black horse came, and he lay at her side. She woke the
lad, and put another ear-ring in his other ear; and at the beast he went.
But if rawceil and toiceil, roaring and raving were on the beast on the
days that were passed, this day she was horrible. But no matter, he took
the third head off the beast; and if he did, it was not without a
struggle. He drew it through the withy, and she went home with the heads.
When they reached the king's house, all were full of smiles, and the
General was to marry the king's daughter the next day. The wedding was
going on, and every one about the castle longing till the priest should
come. But when the priest came, she would marry but the one who could take
the heads off the withy without cutting the withy. "Who should take the
heads off the withy but the man that put the heads on?" said the king.
tried them, but he could not loose them; and at last there was no one
about the house but had tried to take the heads off the withy, but they
could not. The king asked if there were any one else about the house that
would try to take the heads off the withy? They said that the herd had not
tried them yet. Word went for the herd; and he was not long throwing them
hither and thither. "But stop a bit, my lad," said the king's daughter,
"the man that took the heads off the beast, he has my ring and my two ear
rings." The herd put his hand in his pocket, and he threw them on the
board. "Thou art my man," said the king's daughter. The king was not so
pleased when he saw that it was a herd who was to marry his daughter, but
he ordered that he should be put in a better dress; but his daughter
spoke, and she said that he had a dress as fine as any that ever was in
his castle; and thus it happened. The herd put on the giant's golden
dress, and they married that same night.
They were now
married, and everything going on well. They were one day sauntering by the
side of the loch, and there came a beast more wonderfully terrible than
the other, and takes him away to the loch without fear, or asking. The
king's daughter was now mournful, tearful, blind sorrowful for her married
man; she was always with her eye on the loch. An old smith met her, and
she told how it had befallen her married mate. The smith advised her to
spread everything that was finer than another in the very same place where
the beast took away her man; and so she did. The beast put up her nose,
and she said, "Fine is thy jewellery, king's daughter." "Finer than that
is the jewel that thou tookest from me," said she. "Give me one sight of
my man, and thou shalt get any one thing of all these thou seest." The
beast brought him up. "Deliver him to me, and thou shalt get all thou
seest," said she. The beast did as she said. She threw him alive and whole
on the bank of the loch.
A short time
after this, when they were walking at the side of the loch, the same beast
took away the king's daughter. Sorrowful was each one that was in the town
on this night. Her man was mournful, tearful, wandering down and up about
the banks of the loch, by day and night. The old smith met him. The smith
told him that there was no way of killing the Uille Bheist but the one
way, and this is it - "In the island that is in the midst of the loch is
Eillid Chaisfhion - the white footed hind, of the slenderest legs, and the
swiftest step, and though she should be caught, there would spring a
hoodie out of her, and though the hoodie should be caught, there would
spring a trout out of her, but there is an egg in the mouth of the trout,
and the soul of the beast is in the egg, and if the eggs breaks, the beast
was no way of getting to this island, for the beast would sink each boat
and raft that would go on the loch. He thought he would try to leap the
strait with the black horse, and even so he did. The black horse leaped
the strait, and the black dog with one bound after him. He saw the Eillid,
and he let the black dog after her, but when the black dog would be on one
side of the island, the Eillid would be on the other side. "Oh! good were
now the great dog of the carcass of flesh here!" No sooner spoke he the
word than the generous dog was at his side; and after the Eillid he took,
and the worthies were not long in bringing her to earth. But he no sooner
caught her than a hoodie sprang out of her. " 'Tis now, were good the
falcon grey, of sharpest eye and swiftest wing!" No sooner said he this
than the falcon was after the hoodie, and she was not long putting her to
earth; and as the hoodie fell on the bank of the loch, out of her jumps
the trout. "Oh, that thou wert by me now, oh otter!" No sooner said than
the otter was at his side, and out on the loch she leaped, and brings the
trout from the midst of the loch; but no sooner was the otter on shore
with the trout than the egg came from his mouth. He sprang and he put his
foot on it. 'Twas then the beast let out a roar, and she said, "Break not
the egg, and thou gettest all thou askest." "Deliver to me my wife?" In
the wink of an eye she was by his side. When he got hold of her hand in
both his hands he let his foot (down) on the egg and the beast died.
The beast was
dead now, and now was the sight to be seen. She was horrible to look upon.
The three heads were off her doubtless, but if they were, there were heads
under and heads over head on her, and eyes, and five hundred feet. But no
matter, they left her there and they went home, and there was delight and
smiling in the king's house that night. And till now he had not told the
king how he killed the giants. The king put great honour on him, and he
was a great man with the king.
his wife were walking one day, when he noticed a little castle beside the
loch in a wood; he asked his wife who was dwelling in it? She said that no
one would be going near that castle, for that no one had yet come back to
tell the tale, who had gone there.
must not be so," said he; "this very night I will see who is dwelling in
it." "Go not, go not," said she; "there never went man to this castle that
returned." "Be that as it pleases," says he. He went; he betakes himself
to the castle. When he reached the door, a little flattering crone met him
standing in the door. "All hail and good luck to thee, fisher's son; 'tis
I myself am pleased to see thee; great is the honour for this kingdom, thy
like to be come into it thy coming in is fame for this little bothy; go in
first; honour to the gentles; go on, and take breath." In he went, but as
he was going up, she drew the Slachdan druidhach on him, on the back of
his head, and at once - there he fell.
On this night
there was woe in the king's castle, and on the morrow there was a wail in
the fisher's house. The tree is seen withering, and the fisher's middle
son said that his brother was dead, and he made a vow and oath, that he
would go, and that he would know where the corpse of his brother was
lying. He put saddle on a black horse, and rode after his black dog; (for
the three sons of the fisher had a black horse and a black dog), and
without going hither or thither he followed on his brother's step till he
reached the king's house.
This one was
so like his elder brother, that the king's daughter thought it was her own
man. He stayed in the castle. They told him how it befell his brother; and
to the little castle of the crone, go he must happen hard or soft as it
might. To the castle he went; and just as befell the eldest brother, so in
each way it befell the middle son, and with one blow of the Slachdan
druidhach, the crone felled him stretched beside his brother.
On seeing the
second tree withering, the fisher's youngest son said that now his two
brothers were dead, and that he must know what death had come on them. On
the black horse he went, and he followed the dog as his brothers did, and
he hit the king's house before he stopped. 'Twas the king who was pleased
to see him; but to the black castle (for that was its name) they would not
let him go. But to the castle he must go; and so he reached the
castle.'All hail and good luck to thyself, fisher's son: 'tis I am pleased
to see thee; go in and take breath," said she (the crone). "In before me
thou crone: I don't like flattery out of doors; go in and let's hear thy
speech." In went the crone, and when her back was to him he drew his sword
and whips her head off; but the sword flew out of his hand. And swift the
crone gripped her head with both hands, and puts it on her neck as it was
before. The dog sprung on the crone, and she struck the generous dog with
the club of magic; and there he lay. But this went not to make the youth
more sluggish. To grips with the crone he goes; he got a hold of the
Slachan druidhach, and with one blow on the top of the head, she was on
earth in the wink of an eye. He went forward, up a little, and he sees his
two brothers lying side by side. He gave a blow to each one with the
Slachdan druidhach and on foot they were, and there was the spoil! Gold
and silver, and each thing more precious than another, in the crone's
castle. They came back to the king's house, and then there was rejoicing!
The king was growing old.
son of the fisherman was crowned king, and the pair of brothers stayed a
day and a year in the king's house, and then the two went on their journey
home, with the gold and silver of the crone, and each other grand thing
which the king gave them; and if they have not died since then, they are
alive to this very day.
April 1850, by Hector Urquhart, from the dictation of John Mackenzie,
fisherman, Kenmore, near Inverary, who says that he leamed it from an old
man in Lorn many years ago. He has lived for thirty six years at Kenmore.
He told the tale fluently at first, and then dictated it slowly.
The Gaelic is
given as nearly as possible in the words used by Mackenzie, but he thinks
his story rather shortened.