There was a
king over England once, and he had three sons, and they went to France to
get learning, and when they came back home they said to their father that
they would go to see what order was in the kingdom since they went away;
and that was the first place which they went, to the house of a man of the
king's tenants, by name Conal Crobhi.
had every thing that was better than another waiting for them; meat of
each meat, and draughts of each drink. When were satisfied, and the time
came for them to lie down, the king's big son said –
"This is the
rule that we have since we came home - The good-wife must wait on me, and
the maid must wait on my middle brother, and the guidman's daughter on my
young brother." But this did not please Conal Crovi at all, and he said -
"I won't say much about the maid and the daughter, but I am not willing to
part from my wife, but I will go out and ask themselves about this
matter;" and out he went, and he locked the door behind him, and he told
his gillie that the three best horses that were in the stable were to be
ready without delay; and he and his wife went on one, his gillie and his
daughter on another, and his son and the maid on the third horse, and they
went where the king was to tell the insult his set of sons had given them.
watchful gillie was looking out whom he should see coming. He called out
that he was seeing three double riders coming. Said the king, ha! hah!
This is Conal Crovi coming, and he has my three sons under cess (Cis,
cess, tax, subjection) but if they are, I will not be. When Conal Crovi
came the king would not give him a hearing. Then Conal Crovi said, when he
got no answer, "I will make thy kingdom worse than it is," and he went
away, and he began robbing and lifting spoil.
The king said
that he would give any reward to any man that would make out the place
where Conal Crovi was taking his dwelling.
swift rider said, that if he could get a day and a year he would find out
where he was. He took thus a day and a year seeking for him, but if he
took it he saw no sight of Conal Crovi. On his way home he sat on a pretty
yellow brow, and he saw a thin smoke in the midst of the tribute wood.
had a watching gillie looking whom he should see coming. He went in and he
said that he saw the likeness of the swift rider coming. "Ha, ha!" said
Conal Crovi, "the poor man is sent away to exile as I went myself."
had his hands spread waiting for him, and he got his choice of meat and
drink, and warm water for his feet, and a soft bed for his limbs. He was
but a short time lying when Conal Crovi cried, "Art thou asleep, swift
rider?" "I am not," said he. At the end of a while again he cried, "Art
thou asleep?" He said he was not. He cried again the third time, but there
was no answer. Then Conal Crovi cried, "On your soles! all within, this is
no crouching time. The following will be on us presently." The watchman of
Conal Crovi was shouting that he was seeing the king's three sons coming,
and a great company along with them. He had of arms but one black rusty
sword. Conal Crovi began at them, and he did not leave a man alive there
but the three king's sons, and he tied them and took them in, and he laid
on them the binding of the three smalls, straitly and painfully and he
threw them into the peat corner, and he said to his wife to make meat
speedily, that he was going to do a work whose like he never did before.
"What is that, my man!" said she. "Going to take the heads off the king's
three sons." He brought up the big one and set his head on the block, and
he raised the axe. "Don't, don't," said he, "and I will take with thee in
right or unright for ever." Then he brought up the younger one, and he did
the very same to him. "Don't, don't," said he, "and I will take with thee
in right or unright for ever." Then he went, himself and the king's three
sons, where the king was.
gillies of the king were looking out when they should see the company
coming with the head of Conal Crovi. Then one called out that he was
seeing the likeness of the king's three sons coming, and Conal Crovi
said the king, "Conal Crovi is coming, and he has my sons under cess, but
if they are I won't be." He would give no answer to Conal Crovi, but that
he should be hanged on a gallows in the early morning of the morrow's day.
gallows was set up and Conal Crovi was about to be hanged, but the king's
big son cried, "I will go in his place." The king’s middle son cried, "I
will go in his place;" and the king's young son cried, "I will go in his
place. " Then the king took contempt for his set of sons. Then said Conal
Crovi, "We will make a big ship, and we will go steal the three black
whitefaced stallions that the king of Eirinn has, and we will make the
kingdom of Sasunn rich as it ever was. When the ship was ready, her prow
went to sea and her stem to shore, and they hoisted the chequered flapping
sails against the tall tough masts; there was no mast unbent, nor sail
untorn, and the brown buckies of the strand were "glagid"ing on her floor.
They reached the "Paileas" of the King of Eirinn. They went into the
stable, but when Conal Crovi would lay a hand on the black whitefaced
stallions, the stallions would let out a screech. The King of Eirinn
cried, "Be out lads; some one is troubling the stallions." They went out
and they tried down and up, but they saw no man. There was an old hogshead
in the lower end of the stable, and Conal Crovi and the king's three sons
were hiding themselves in the hogshead. When they went out Conal laid
hands on the stallion and the stallion let out a screech, and so they did
three times, and at the third turn, one of those who were in the party
said, they did not look in the hogshead. Then they returned and they found
the king's three sons and Conal in it. They were taken in to the king,
"Ha, ha, thou hoary wretch," said the king, "many a mischief thou didst
before thou thoughtest to come and steal my black stallions."
of the three smalls, straitly and painfully, was put on Conal Crovi, and
he was thrown into the peat comer, and the king’s three sons were taken up
a stair. When the men who were above had filled themselves full of meat
and drink, it was then that the king thought of sending word down for
Conal Crovi to tell a tale. ‘Twas no run for the king's big son, but a
leap down to fetch him. Said the king, "Come up here, thou hoary wretch,
and tell us a tale." "I will tell that," said he, "if I get the worth of
its telling; and it is not my own head nor the head of one of the
company." “Thou wilt get that," said the king. "Tost! hush! over there,
and let us hear the tale of Conal Crovi": -
As a young
lad I was flshing on a ds beside a river and a great ship came past me.
They said to me would I go as 'pilot' to go to Rome. I said that I would
do it; and of every place as we reached it, they would ask was that Rome?
and I would say that it was not, and I did not know where in the great
world Rome was.
"We came at
last to an island that was there, we went on shore, and I went to take a
walk about the island, and when I returned back the ship was gone. There I
was, left by myself, and I did not know what to do. I was going past a
house that was there, and I saw a woman crying. I asked what woe was on
her; she told me that the heiress of this island had died six weeks ago,
and that they were waiting for a brother of hers who was away from the
town, but that she was to be buried this day.
gathering to the burying, and I was amongst them when they put her down in
the grave; they put a bag of gold under her head, and a bag of silver
under her feet. I said to myself, that were better mine; that it was of no
use at all to her. When the night came I turned back to the grave.(The
same word means cave and grave; the grave is dug because western graves
are dug; but the stone falls on the mouth of the grave, probably because
the story came from some country where graves were caves. There is an
Italian story in which this incident occurs -- Decameron of Boccacio).
When I had dug up the grave, and when I was coming up with the gold and
the silver I caught hold of the stone that was on the mouth of the grave,
the stone fell down and I was there along with the dead carlin. By thy
hand, oh, King of Eirinn! and by my hand, though free, if I was not in a
harder case along with the carlin than I am here under thy compassion,
with a hope to get off."
"Ha! ha! thou
hoary wretch, thou camest out of that, but thou wilt not go out of this."
"Give me now
the worth of my ursgeul," said Conal.
that?" said the king.
"It is that
the big son of the King of Sasunn, and the big daughter of the King of
Eirinn, should be married to each other, and one of the black white faced
stallions a tocher for them."
get that," said the king.
was seized, the binding of the three smalls laid on him straitly and
painfully, and he was thrown into the peat comer; and a wedding of twenty
days and twenty nights was made for the young couple. When they were tired
then of eating and drinking, the king said that it were better to send for
the hoary wretch, and that he should tell them how he had got out of the
'Twas no run,
but a leap for the king's middle son to go to fetch him; he was sure he
would get a marriage for himself as he had got for his brother. He went
down and he brought him up.
king, "Come up and tell to us how thou gottest out of the grave." "I will
tell that," said Conal Crovi, "if I get the worth telling it; and it is
not my own head, nor the head of one that is the company." "Thou shalt get
that," said the king.
“I was there
till the day. The brother of the heiress came home, and he must see a
sight of his sister; and when they were digging the grave I cried out, oh!
catch me by the hand; and the man that would not wait for his bow he would
not wait for his sword, as they called that the worst one was there; and I
was as swift as one of themselves. Then I was there about the island, not
knowing what side I should go. Then I came across three young lads, and
they were casting lots. I asked them what they were doing thus. They said
'what was my business what they were doing?’ “Hud! hud!'said I myself,
'you will tell me what you are doing. 'Well, then, said they, a great
giant took away our sister. We are casting lots which of us shall go down
into this hole to seek her. I cast lots with them, and there was but that
the next lot fell on myself to go down to seek her. They let me down in a
creel. There was the very prettiest woman I ever saw, and she was winding
golden thread off a silver windle.
Oh! said she
to myself, how didst thou come here? I came down here to seek thee; thy
three brothers are waiting for thee at the mouth of the hole, and you will
send down the creel to-morrow to fetch me. If I be living, 'tis well, and
if I be not, there's no help for it. I was but a short time there when I
heard thunder and noise coming with the giant. I did not know where I
should go to hide myseIf; but I saw a heap of gold and silver on the other
side of the giant’s cave. I thought there was no place whatsoever that was
better for me to hide in than amidst the gold. The giant came with a dead
carlin trailing to each of his shoe-ties. He looked down, and he looked
up, and when he did not see her before him, he let out a great howl of
crying, and he gave the carlins a little singe through the fire and he ate
them. Then the giant did not know what would best keep wearying from him,
but he thought that he would go and count his lot of gold and silver; then
he was but a short time when he set his hand on my own head. 'Wretch!'
said the giant, 'many a bad thing didst thou ever before thou thoughtest
to come to take away the pretty woman that I had; I have no need of thee
to-night, but 'tis thou shalt polish my teeth early to-morrow.' The brute
was tired and he slept after eating the carlins; I saw a great flesh stake
beside the fire. I put the iron spit in the very middle of the fire till
it was red. The giant was in his heavy sleep, and his mouth open, and he
was snoring and blowing. I took the red spit out of the fire and I put it
down in the giant's mouth; he took a sudden spring to the further side of
the cave, and he struck the end of the spit against the wall, and it went
right out through him. I caught the giant's big sword, and with one stroke
I struck the head off him. On the morrow's day the creel came down to
fetch myself; but I thought I would fill it with the gold and silver of
the giant; and when it was in the midst of the hole, with the weight of
the gold and silver, the tie broke. I fell down amidst stones, and bushes,
and brambles; and by thy hand, oh, King of Eirinn! and by my hand, though
free, I was in a harder case than I am to-night, under thy clemency, with
the hope of getting out."
hoary wretch, thou camest out of that, but thou wilt not go out of this,"
said the king.
"Give me now
the worth of my ursgeul."
that?" said the king.
"It is the
middle son of the King of Sasunn, and the middle daughter of the King of
Eirinn to be married to each other, and one of the black white faced
stallions as tocher. "
happen," said the king.
was caught and bound with three slender ends, and tossed into the peat
corner; and a wedding of twenty nights and twenty days was made for the
young couple, there and then.
were tired of eating and drinking, the king said they had better bring
Conal Crovi up, till he should tell how he got up out of the giant's cave.
‘Twas no run, but a spring for the king's young son to go down to fetch
him; he was sure he would get a "match" for him, as he got for the rest.
here, thou hoary wretch," said the king, "and tell us how thou gottest out
of the giant's cave." "I will tell that if I get the worth of telling; and
it is not my own head, nor the head of one in the company." "Thou wilt get
that," said the king. "Tost! silence over there, and let us listen to the
sgeulachd of Conal Crovi," said the king.
"Well! I was
there below wandering backwards and forwards; I was going past a house
that was there, and I saw a woman there, and she had a child in one hand
and a knife in the other hand, and she was lamenting and crying. I cried
myself to her, 'Hold on thy hand, woman, what art thou going to do?" ‘O!'
said she, 'I am here with three giants, and they ordered my pretty babe to
be dead, and cooked for them, when they should come home to dinner.' 'I
see,' said I, 'three hanged men on a gallows yonder, and we will take down
one of them; I will go up in the place of one of them, and thou wilt make
him ready in place of the babe.' And when the giants came home to dinner,
one of them would say, 'This is the flesh of the babe;' and another would
say, 'It is not.' One of them said that he would go to fetch a steak out
of one of those who were on the gallows, and that he would see whether it
was the flesh of the babe he was eating. I myself was the first that met
them; and by thy hand, oh, King of Eirinn, and by my hand, were it free,
if I was not in a somewhat harder case, when the steak was coming out of
me, than I am to-night under thy mercy, with a hope to get out."
wretch, thou camest out of that, but thou wilt not come out of this," said
"Give me now
the reward of my ursgeul?"
get that," said the king.
is, the young son of the King of Sasunn, and the young daughter of the
king of Eirinn, to be married, and one of the black stallions as tocher."
catching of Conal Crovi, and binding him with the three slender ends,
straitly and painfully, and throwing him down into the peat comer; and
there was a wedding made, twenty nights and twenty days for the young
pair. When they were tired eating and drinking, the king said that it were
best to bring up that hoary wretch to tell how he came off the gallows.
Then they brought myself up.
hither, thou hoary wretch, and tell us how thou gottest off the gallows."
"I will tell that," said I myself, "if I get a good reward." "Thou wilt
get that," said the king.
the giants took their dinner, they were tired and they fell asleep. When I
saw this, I came down, and the woman gave me a great flaming sword of
light that one of the giants had; and I was not long throwing the heads
off the giants. Then I myself, and the woman were here, not knowing how we
should get up out of the giant's cave. We went to the farther end of the
cave, and then we followed a narrow road through a rock, till we came to
light, and to the giant's 'biorlinn' of ships.( BIOR, a log; LINN a pool;
LUINGEANACH, of ships; naval barge; or LUNN, handle of an oar,
oared barge.) What should I think, but that I would turn back and load
the biorlinn with the gold and silver of the giant; and just so I did. I
went with the biorlinn under sail till I reached an island that I did not
know. The ship, and the woman, and the babe were taken from me, and I was
left there to come home as best I might. I got home once more to Sasunn,
though I am here to-night."
Then a woman,
who was lying in the chamber, cried out, "Oh, king, catch hold of this
man; I was the woman that was there, and thou wert the babe." It was here
that value was put on Conal Crovi; and the king gave him the biorlinn full
of the giant's gold and silver, and he made the kingdom of Sasunn as rich
as it ever was before.
Told by Neill
Gillies a fisherman at Inverary, about fifty-five years old, who says that
he has known the story, and has repeated it for many years: he learned it
from his parents. Written down by