by Joseph Jacobs
The Leeching of Kayn's Leg
THERE were five hundred blind men, and five hundred deaf men, and five hundred limping men, and five hundred dumb men, and five hundred cripple men. The five hundred deaf men had five hundred wives, and the five hundred limping men had five hundred wives, and the five hundred dumb men had five hundred wives, arid the five hundred cripple men had five hundred wives. Each five hundred of these had five hundred children and five hundred dogs. They were in the habit of going about in one band, and were called the Sturdy Strolling Beggarly Brotherhood. There was a knight in Erin called O'Cronicert, with whom they spent a day and a year; and they ate up all that he had, and made a poor man of him, till he had nothing left but an old tumble-down black house, and an old lame white horse. There was a king in Erin called Brian Boru; and O'Cronicert went to him for help. He cut a cudgel of grey oak on the outskirts of the wood, mounted the old lame white horse, and set off at speed through wood and over moss and rugged ground, till he reached the king's house. When he arrived he went on his knees to the king; and the king said to him, "What is your news, O'Cronicert ?"
"I have but poor news for you, king."
" What poor news have you ?" said the king.
"That I have had the Sturdy Strolling Beggarly Brotherhood for a day and a year, and they have eaten all that I had, and made a poor man of me," said he.
"Well!" said the king, "I am sorry for you ; what do you want?"
"I want help," said O'Cronicert ; " anything that you may be willing to give me."
The king promised him a hundred cows. He went to the queen, and made his complaint to her, and she gave him another hundred. He went to the king's son, Murdoch Mac Brian, and he got another hundred from him. He got food and drink at the king's; and when he was going away he said, " Now I am very much obliged to you. This will set me very well on my feet. After all that I have got there is another thing that I want."
"What is it ? said the king
"It is the lap-dog that is in and out after the queen that I wish for."
"Ha !" said the king, "it is your mightiness and pride that has caused the loss of your means; but if you become a good man you shall get this along with the rest."
O'Cronicert bade the king good-bye, took the lap-dog, leapt on the back of the old lame white horse, and went off at speed through wood, and over moss and rugged ground. After he had gone some distance through the wood a roebuck leapt up and the lap-dog went after it. In a moment the deer started up as a woman behind O'Cronicert, the handsomest that eye had ever seen from the beginning of the universe till the end of eternity. She said to him, "Call your dog off me."
"I will do so if you promise to marry me," said O'Cronicert.
"If you keep three vows that I shall lay upon you I will marry you," said she.
"What vows are they ? " said he.
"The first is that you do not go to ask you' worldly king to a feast or a dinner without first letting me know," said she.
"Hoch " said O'Cronicert, " do you think that I cannot keep that vow ? I would never go to invite my worldly king without informing you that I was going to do so. It is easy to keep that vow."
"You are likely to keep it !" said she.
"The second vow is," said she, "that you do not cast up to me in any company or meeting in which we shall be together, that you found me in the form of a deer."
"Hoo " said O'Cronicert, " you need not to lay that vow upon me. I would keep it at any rate."
"You are likely to keep it ! " said she.
The third vow is," said she, " that you do not leave me in the company of only one man while you go out." It was agreed between them that she should marry him.
They reached the old tumble-down black house. Grass they cut in the clefts and ledges of the rocks ; a bed they made and laid down. O'Cronicert's wakening from sleep was the lowing of cattle and the bleating of sheep and the neighing of mares, while he himself was in a bed of gold on wheels of silver, going from end to end of the Tower of Castle Town.
"I am sure that you are surprised," said she.
"I am indeed," said he.
"You are in your own room," said she.
"In my own room," said he. "I never had such a room."
"I know well that you never had," said she ; "but you have it now. So long as you keep me you shall keep the room."
He then rose, and put on his clothes, and went out. He took a look at the house when he went out ; and it was a palace, the like of which he had never seen, and the king himself did not possess. He then took a walk round the farm ; and he never saw so many cattle, sheep, and horses as were on it. He returned to the house, and said to his wife that the farm was being ruined by other people's cattle and sheep. "It is not," said she : " your own cattle and sheep are on it."
"I never had so many cattle and sheep," said he.
"I know that," said she; " but so long as you keep me you shall keep them. There is no good wife whose tocher does not follow her."
He was now in good circumstances, indeed wealthy. He had gold and silver, as well as cattle and sheep. He went about with his gun and dogs hunting every day, and was a great man. It occurred to him one day that he would go to invite the King of Erin to dinner, but he did not tell his wife that he was going. His first vow was now broken. He sped away to the King of Erin, and invited him and his great court to dinner. The King of Erin said to him,
"Do you intend to take away the cattle that I promised you?"
"Oh ! no, King of Erin,' said O'Cronicert ; "I could give you as many to-day."
"Ah ! " said the king, "how well you have got on since I saw you last !"
"I have indeed," said O'Cronicert " I have fallen in with a rich wife who has plenty of gold and silver, and of cattle and sheep."
"I am glad of that," said the King of Erin.
O'Cronicert said, " I shall feel much obliged if you will go with me to dinner, yourself and your great court."
"We will do so willingly," said the king.
They went with him on that same day. It did not occur to O'Cronicert how a dinner could be prepared for the king without his wife knowing that he was coming. When they were going on, and had reached the place where O'Cronicert had met the deer, he remembered that his vow was broken, and he said to the king, " Excuse me; I am going on before to the house to tell that you are coming."
The king said, " We will send off one of the lads."
"You will not," said O'Cronicert ; " no lad will serve the purpose so well as myself."
He set off to the house ; and when he arrived his wife was diligently preparing dinner.
He told her what he had done, and asked her pardon. "I pardon you this time," said she: "I know what you have done as well as you do yourself. The first of your vows is broken."
The king and his great court came to O'Cronicert 's house ; and the wife had everything ready for them as befitted a king and great people ; every kind of drink and food. They spent two or three days and nights at dinner, eating and drinking. They were praising the dinner highly, and O'Cronicert himself was praising it but his wife was not. O'Cronicert was angry that she was not praising it and he went and struck her in the mouth with his fist and knocked out two of her teeth. " Why are you not praising the dinner like the others, you contemptible deer?" said he.
"I am not," said she : " I have seen my father's big dogs having a better dinner than you are giving to-night to the King of Erin and his court."
O'Cronicert got into such a rage that he went outside of the door. He was not long standing there when a man came riding on a black horse, who in passing caught O'Cronicert by the collar of his coat, and took him up behind him: and they set off The rider did not say a word to O'Cronicert. The horse was going so swiftly that O'Cronicert thought the wind would drive his head off. They arrived at a big, big palace, and came off the black horse. A stableman came out, and caught the horse, and took it in. It was with wine that he was cleaning the horse's feet. The rider of the black horse said to O'Cronicert, " Taste the wine to see if it is better than the wine that you are giving to Brian Boru and his court to-night."
O'Cronicert tasted the wine, and said, " This is better wine."
The rider of the black horse said, " How unjust was the fist a little ago ! The wind from your fist carried the two teeth to me."
He then took him into that big, handsome, and noble house, and into a room that was full of gentlemen eating and drinking, and he seated him at the head of the table, and gave him wine to drink, and said to him, " Taste that wine to see if it is better than the wine that you are giving to the King of Erin and his court to-night."
"This is better wine," said O'Cronicert.
"How unjust was the fist a little ago .'" said the rider of the black horse.
When all was over the rider of the black horse said, "Are you willing to return home now?"
"Yes," said O'Cronicert, "very willing."
They then rose, and went to the stable and the black horse was taken out ; and they leaped on its back, and went away. The rider of the black horse said to O'Cronicert, after they had set off; " Do you know who I am?"
"I do not," said O'Cronicert
"I am a brother-in-law of yours," said the rider of the black horse ; and though my sister is married to you there is not a king or knight in Erin who is a match for her. Two of your vows are now broken; and if you break the other vow you shall lose your wife and all that you possess."
They arrived at O'Cronicert's house ; and O'Cronicert said, "I am ashamed to go in, as they do not know where I have been since night came."
"Hoo!" said the rider, "they have not missed you at all. There is so much conviviality among them, that they have not suspected that you have been anywhere. Here are the two teeth that you knocked out of the front of your wife's mouth. Put them in their place, and they will be as strong as ever."
"Come in with me," said O'Cronicert to the rider of the black horse.
"I will not : I disdain to go in," said the rider of the black horse.
The rider of the black horse bade O'Cronicert good-bye, and went away.
O'Cronicert went in ; and his wife met him as she was busy waiting on the gentlemen. He asked her pardon, and put the two teeth in the front of her mouth, and they were as strong as ever. She said, "Two of your vows are now broken." No one took notice of him when he went in, or said "Where have you been ? " They spent the night in eating and drinking, and the whole of the next day,
In the evening the king said, "I think that it is time for us to be going ;" and all said that it was. O'Cronicert said, " You will not go to-night. I am going to get up a dance. You will go to-morrow."
"Let them go," said his wife.
"I will not," said he.
The dance was set a-going that night. They were playing away at dancing and music till they became warm and hot with perspiration. They were going out one after another to cool themselves at the side of the house. They all went out except O'Cronicert and his wife, and a man called Kayn Mac Loy. O'Cronicert himself went out, and left his wife and Kayn Mac Loy in the house, and when she saw that he had broken his third vow she gave a spring through a room, and became a big filly, and gave Kayn Mac Loy a kick with her foot, and broke his thigh in two She gave another spring, and smashed the door and went away, and was seen no more. She took with her the Tower of Castle Town as an armful on her shoulder and a light burden on her back, and she left Kayn Mac Loy in the old tumble-down black house in a pool of rain-drip on the floor.
At daybreak next day poor O'Cronicert could only see the old house that he had before. Neither cattle nor sheep, nor any of the fine things that he had was to be seen. One awoke in the morning beside a bush, another beside a dyke, and another beside a ditch. The king only had the honour of having O'Cronicert's little hut over his head. As they were leaving, Murdoch Mac Brian remembered that he had left his own foster-brother Kayn Mac Loy behind, and said there should be no separation in life between them and that he would go back for him. He found Kayn in the old tumble-down black house, in the middle of the floor, in a pool of rain-water, with his leg broken ; and he said the earth should make a nest in his sole and the sky a nest in his head if he did not find a man to cure Kayn's leg.
They told him that on the Isle of Innisturk was a herb that would heal him.
So Kayn Mac Loy was then borne away, and sent to the island, and he was supplied with as much food as would keep him for a month, and with two crutches on which he would be going out and in as he might desire. At last the food was spent, and he was destitute, and he had not found the herb. He was in the habit of going down to the shore, and gathering shell-fish, and eating it.
As he was one day on the shore, he saw a big, big man landing on the island, and he could see the earth and the sky between his legs. He set off with the crutches to try if he could get into the hut before the big man would come upon him. Despite his efforts, the big man was between him and the door, and said to him, "Unless you deceive me, you are Kayn Mac Loy."
Kayn Mac Loy said, "I have never deceived a man: I am he."
The big man said to him:
"Stretch out your leg, Kayn, till I put a salve of herbs and healing to it. Salve and binding herb and the poultice are cooling; the worm is channering. Pressure and haste hard bind me, for I must hear Mass in the great church at Rome, and be in Norway before I sleep.
Kayn Mac Loy said:
"May it be no foot to Kayn or a foot to any one after one, or I be Kayn son of Loy, If I stretch out my foot for you to put a salve of herbs and healing on it, till you tell me why you have no church of your own in Norway, so as, as now, to be going to the great church of Rome to Rome to-morrow.
Unless you deceive me you are Machkan-an-Athar, the son of the King of Lochlann."
The big man said, "I have never deceived any man: I am he. I am now going to tell you why we have not a church in Lochlann. Seven masons came to build a church, and they and my father were bargaining about the building of it. The agreement that the masons wanted was that my mother and sister would go to see the interior of the church when it would be finished. My father was glad to get the church built so cheaply. They agreed accordingly; and the masons went in the morning to the place where the church was to be built. My father pointed out the spot for the foundation. They began to build in the morning, and the church was finished before the evening. When it was finished they requested my mother and sister to go to see its interior. They had no sooner entered than the doors were shut ; and the church went away into the skies in the form of a tuft of mist.
"Stretch out your leg, Kayn, till I put a salve of herbs and healing to it. Salve and binding herb and the poultice are cooling; the worm is channering. Pressure and haste hard bind me, for I must hear Mass in the great church at Rome, and be In Norway before I sleep.
Kayn Mac Loy said:
"May it be no root to Kayn or a root to any one after one, or I be Kayn son of Loy, if I streten out my foot for you to put a saive of herbs and heallng on it, till you tell me if you heard what befell your mother and sister."
"Ah!" said the big man, "the mischief is upon you; that tale is long to tell ; but I will tell you a short tale about the matter. On the day on which they were working at the church I was away in the hill hunting game; and when I came home in the evening my brother told me what had happened, namely, that my mother and sister had gone away in the form of a tuft of mist. I became so cross and angry that I resolved to destroy the world till I should find out where my mother and sister were. My brother said to me that I was a fool to think of such a thing. ' I'll tell you,' said he, 'what you'll do. You will first go to try to find out where they are. When you find out where they are you will demand them peaceably, and if you do not get them peaceably you will fight for them.'
I took my brother's advice, and prepared a ship to set off with. I set off alone, and embraced the ocean. I was overtaken by a great mist, and I came upon an island, and there was a large number of ships at anchor near it ; I went in amongst them, and went ashore. I saw there a big, big woman reaping rushes ; and when she would raise her head she would throw her right breast over her shoulder and when she would bend it would fall down between her legs. I came once behind her, and caught the breast with my mouth, and said to her, 'You are yourself witness, woman, that I am the foster-son of your right breast.' ' I perceive that, great hero,' said the old woman, 'but my advice to you is to leave this island as fast as you can.' 'Why?' said I. 'There is a big giant in the cave up there,' said she, 'and every one of the ships that you see he has taken in from the ocean with his breath, and he has killed and eaten the men. He is asleep at present, and when he wakens he will have you in a similar manner. A large iron door and an oak door are on the cave. When the giant draws in his breath the doors open, and when be emits his breath the doors shut ; and they are shut as fast as though seven small bars, and seven large bars, and seven locks were on them. So fast are they that seven crowbars could not force them open.' I said to the old woman, 'Is there any way of destroying him ? ' 'I'll tell you,' said she, 'how it can be done. He has a weapon above the door that is called the short spear and if you succeed in taking off his head with the first blow it will be well ; but if you do hot, the case will be worse than it was at first.'
"I set off; and reached the cave, the two doors of which opened. The giant's breath drew me into the cave; and stools, chairs, and pots were by its action' dashing against each other, and like to break my legs. The door shut when I went in, and was shut as fast as though seven small bars, and seven large bars, and seven locks were on it ; and seven crowbars could not force it open ; and I was a prisoner in the cave. The giant drew in his breath again, and the doors opened. I gave a look upwards, and saw the short spear, and laid hold of it. I drew the short spear, and I warrant you that I dealt him such a blow with it as did not re. quire to be repeated ; I swept the head off him. I took the head down to the old woman, who was reaping the rushes, and said to her, ' There is the giant's head for you.' The old woman said, ' Brave man ! I knew that you were a hero. This island had need of your coming to it to-day. Unless you deceive me, you are Mac Connachar son of the King of Lochlann.' 'I have never deceived a man. I am he,' said I. 'I am a soothsayer,' said she, ' and know the object of your journey. You are going in quest of your mother and sister.' ' Well,' said I, 'I am so far on the way if I only knew where to go for them.' ' I'll tell you where they are,' said she ; 'they are in the kingdom of the Red Shield, and the King of the Red Shield is resolved to marry your mother, and his son is resolved to marry your sister. I'll tell you how the town is situated. A canal of seven times seven paces breadth surrounds it. On the canal there is a drawbridge, which is guarded during the day by two creatures that no weapon can pierce, as they are covered all over with scales, except two spots below the neck in which their death-wounds lie. Their names are Roar and Rustle. When night comes the bridge is raised, and the monsters sleep. A very high and big wall surrounds the king's palace.'
"Stretch out your leg, Kayn, tlll I put a salve of herbs and healing to it. Salve and binding herb and the poultice are cooling; the worm is channering. Pressure and haste hard bind me, for I must hear Mass in the great church at Rome, and be in Norway before I sleep.
Kayn Mac Loy said:
"May it be no foot to Kayn or a foot to any one after one, or I be Kayn son of Loy, if I stretch out my foot for you to put a salve of herbs and healing on It, till you tell me if you went farther in search of your mother and sister, or if you returned home, or what befell you."
"Ah ! " said the big man, "the mischief is upon you that tale is long to tell ; but I will tell you another tale. I set off; and reached the big town of the Red Shield; and it was surrounded by a canal, as the old woman told me; and there was a drawbridge on the canal. It was night when I arrived, and the bridge was raised, and the monsters were asleep. I measured two feet before me and a foot behind me of the ground on which I was standing, and I sprang on the end of my spear and on my tiptoes, and reached the place where the monsters were asleep; and I drew the short spear, and I warrant you that I dealt them such a blow below the neck as did not require to be repeated. I took up the heads and hung them on one of the posts of the bridge. I then went on to the wall that surrounded the king's palace. This wall was so high that it was not easy for me to spring over it ; and I set to work with the short spear, and dug a hole through it, and got in. I went to the door of the palace and knocked and the doorkeeper called out, 'Who is there ? ' 'It is I,' said I. My mother and sister recognised my speech ; and my mother called, ' Oh ! it is my son ; let him in.' I then got in, and they rose to meet me with great joy. I was supplied with food, drink, and a good bed. In the morning breakfast was set before us; and after it I said to my mother and sister that they had better make ready, and go with me. The King of the Red Shield said, 'It shall not be so. I am resolved to marry your mother, and my son is resolved to marry your sister.' 'If you wish to marry my mother, and if your son wishes to marry my sister, let both of you accompany me to my home, and you shall get them there.' The King of the Red Shield said, 'So be it.'
We then set off; and came to where my ship was, went on board of it, and sailed home. When we were passing a place where a great battle was going on, I asked the King of the Red Shield what battle it was, and the cause of it.
'Don't you know at all?" said the King of the Red Shield. 'I do not,' said I. The King of the Red Shield said, 'That is the battle for the daughter of the King of the Great Universe, the most beautiful woman in the world; and whoever wins her by his heroism shall get her in marriage.
Do you see yonder castle ?' 'I do,' said I. 'She is on the top of that castle, and sees from it the hero that wins her,' said the King of the Red Shield. I requested to be put on shore, that I might win her by my swiftness and strength. They put me on shore; and I got a sight of her on the top of the castle. Having measured two feet behind me and a foot before me, I sprang on the end of my spear and on my tiptoes, and reached the top of the castle and I caught the daughter of the King of the Universe in my arms and flung her over the castle. I was with her and intercepted her before she reached the ground, and I took her away on my shoulder, and set off to the shore as fast as I could, and delivered her to the King of the Red Shield to be put on board the ship. Am I not the best warrior that ever sought you ? said I. 'You can jump well' said she, ' but I have not seen any of your prowess. I turned back to meet the warriors, and attacked them with the short spear, and did not leave a head on a neck of any of them. I then returned, and called to the King of the Red Shield to come in to the shore for me. Pretending not to hear me, he set the sails in order to return home with the daughter of the King of the Great Universe, and marry her. I measured two feet behind me and a foot before me, and sprang on the end of my spear and on my tiptoes and got on board the ship. I then said to the King of the Red Shield, 'WI)at were you going to do? Why did you not wait for me ?' 'Oh !' said the king, 'I was only making the ship ready and setting the sails to her before going on shore for you. Do you know what I am thinking of?' ' I do not,' said I. ' It is,' said the King, 'that I will return home with the daughter of the King of the Great Universe, and that you shall go home with your mother and sister.' 'That is not to be the way of it,' said I. ' She whom I have won by my prowess neither you nor any other shall get.'
"The king had a red shield, and if be should get it on, no weapon could make an impression on him. He began to put on the red shield, and I struck him with the short spear in the middle of his body, and cut him in two, and threw him overboard. I then struck the son, and swept his head off; and threw him overboard.
"Stretch out your leg, Kayn, till I put a salve of herbs and healing to It. Salve and binding herb and the poultice are cooling; the worm is channering. Pressure and haste hard bind me, for I must hear Mass in the great church at Rome, and be in Norway before I sleep.
Kayn Mac Loy said:
"May It be no foot to Kayn or a foot to any one after one, or I be Kayn son of Loy, if I stretch out my foot for you to put a salve of herbs and healing on it, till you tell me whether any search was made for the daughter of the King of the Universe.
''Ah! the mischief is upon you," said the big man; ''I will tefl you another short tale. I came home with my mother and sister, and the daughter of the King of the Universe, and I married the daughter of the King of the Universe. The first son I had I named Machkan-na-skayajayrika (son of the red shield). Not long after this a hostile force came to enforce compensation for the King of the Red Shield, and a hostile force came from the King of the Universe to enforce compensation for the daughter of the King of the Universe. I took the daughter of the King of the Universe with me on the one shoulder and Machkan-na-skaya-jayrika on the other, and I went on board the ship and set the sails to her, and I placed the ensign of the King of the Great Universe on the one mast, and that of the King of the Red Shield on the other, and I blew a trumpet, and passed through the midst of them, and I said to them that here was the man, and that if they were going to enforce their claims, this was the time. All the ships that were there chased me ; and we set out on the expanse of ocean. My ship would be equalled in speed by but few. One day a thick dark mist came on, and they lost sight of me. It happened that I came to an island called The Wet Mantle. I built a hut there; and another son was born to me, and I called him Son of the Wet Mantle.
"I was a long time in that island ; but there was enough of fruit, fish, and birds in it. My two sons had grown to be somewhat big. As I was one day out killing birds, I saw a big, big man coming towards the island, and I ran to try if I could get into the house before him. He met me, and caught me, and put me into a bog up to the armpits, and he went into the house, and took out on his shoulder the daughter of the King of the Universe, and passed close to me in order to irritate me the more. The saddest look that I ever gave or ever shall give was that I gave when I saw the daughter of the King of the Universe on the shoulder of another, and could not take her from him. The boys came out where I was ; and I bade them bring me the short spear from the house. They dragged the short spear after them, and brought it to me; and I cut the ground around me with it till I got out.
"I was a long time in the Wet Mantle, even till my two sons grew to be big lads. They asked me one day if I had any thought of going to seek their mother. I told them that I was waiting till they were stronger, and that they should then go with me. They said that they were ready to go with me at any time. I said to them that we had better get the ship ready, and go. They said, 'Let each of us have a ship to himself.' We arranged accordingly; and each went his own way.
"As I happened one day to be passing close to land I saw a great battle going on. Being under vows never to pass a battle without helping the weaker side, I went on shore, and set to work with the weaker side, and I knocked the head off every one with the short spear. Being tired, I lay myself down among the bodies and fell asleep.
"Stretch out your leg, Kayn, till I put a salve of herbs and healing to it. Salve and binding herb and the poltice are cooling; the worm is channering. Pressure and baste hard bind me, for I must hear Mass In the great church at Rome, and be in Norway before I sleep."
Kayn Mac Loy said:
"May it be no foot to Kayn or a foot to any one after one, or I be Kayn son of Loy, if I stretch out my foot for you to put a salve of herbs and healing on it, till you tell me if you found the daughter of the King of the Universe, or if you went home, or what happened to you."
"The mischief is upon you," said the big man ; that tale is long to tell, but I will tell another short tale. When I awoke out of sleep I saw a ship making for the place where I was lying, and a big giant with only one eye dragging it after him : and the ocean reached no higher than his knees. He had a big fishing-rod with a big strong line hanging from it on which was a very big hook. He was throwing the line ashore, and fixing the hook in a body, and lifting it on board, and he continued this work till the ship was loaded with bodies. He fixed the hook once in my clothes; but I was so heavy that the rod could not carry me on board. He had to go on shore himself, and carry me on board in his arms. I was then in a worse plight than I ever was in. The giant set off with the ship, which he dragged after him, and reached a big, precipitous rock, in the face of which he had a large cave : and a damsel as beautiful as I ever saw came out, and stood in the door of the cave.
He was handing the bodies to her, and she was taking hold of them and putting them into the cave. As she took hold of each body she said, 'Are you alive ?' At last the giant took hold of me, and handed me in to her, and said, ' Keep him apart ; he is a large body, and I will have him to breakfast the first day that I go from home.'
My best time was not when I heard the giant's sentence upon me. When he had eaten enough of the bodies, his dinner and supper, he lay down to sleep. When he began to snore the damsel came to speak to me; and she told me that she was a king's daughter the giant had stolen away and that she had no way of getting away from him. I am now,' she said, 'seven years except two days with him, and there is a drawn sword between us. He dared not come nearer me than that till the seven years should expire.' I said to her, ' Is there no way of killing him ?' 'It is not easy to kill him, but we will devise an expedient for killing him,' said she. 'Look at that pointed bar that he uses for roasting the bodies. At dead of night gather the embers of the fire together, and put the bar in the fire till it be red. Go, then, and thrust it into his eye with all your strength, and take care that he does not get hold of you, for if he does he will mince you as small as midges.' I then went and gathered the embers together, and put the bar in the fire, and made it red, and thrust it into his eye ; and from the cry that he gave I thought that the rock had split. The giant sprang to his feet and chased me through the cave in order to catch me; and I picked up a stone that lay on the floor of the cave, and pitched it into the sea ; and it made a plumping noise. The bar was sticking in his eye all the time. Thinking it was I that had sprung into the sea, he rushed to the mouth of the cave, and the bar struck against the doorpost of the cave, and knocked off his brain-cap. The giant fell down cold and dead, and the damsel and I were seven years and seven days throwing him into the sea in pieces.
"I wedded the damsel, and a boy was born to us. After seven years I started forth again.
"I gave her a gold ring, with my name on it, for the boy, and when be was old enough he was sent out to seek me.
"I then set off to the place where I fought the battle, and found the short spear where I left it ; and I was very pleased that I found it, and that the ship was safe. I sailed a day's distance from that place, and entered a pretty bay that was there, hauled my ship up above the shore, and erected a hut there, in which I slept at night. When I rose next day I saw a ship making straight for the place where I was. When it struck the ground, a big, strong champion came out of it, and hauled it up ; and if it did not surpass my ship it was not a whit inferior to it and I said to him, 'What impertinent fellow are you that has dared to haul up your ship alongside of my ship ?' 'I am Machkan-na-skaya-jayrika,' said the champion, 'going to seek the daughter of the King of the Universe for Mac Connachar, son of the King of Lochlann.' I saluted and welcomed him, and said to him, ' I am your father : it is well that you have come.' We passed the night cheerily in the hut.
"When I arose on the following day I saw another ship making straight for the place where I was ; and a big, strong hero came out of it, and hauled it up alongside of our ships ; and if it did not surpass them it was not a whit inferior to them. ' What impertinent fellow are you that has dared to haul up your ship alongside of our ships?' said I. 'I am,' said he, 'the Son of the Wet Mantle, going to seek the daughter of the King of the Universe for Mac Connachar, son of the King of Lochlann.' 'I am your father, and this is your brother : it is well that you have come,' said I, We passed the night together in the hut, my two sons and I.
When I rose next day I saw another ship coming, and making straight for the place where I was. A big, strong champion sprang out of it, and hauled it up alongside of our ships ; and if it was not higher than they, it was not lower. I went down where he was, and said to him, 'What impertinent fellow are you that has dared to haul up your ship alongside of our ships? ' 'I am the Son of the Wet Mantle,' said he, 'going to seek the daughter of the King of the Universe for Mac Connachar, son of the King of Lochlann. Have you any token in proof of that?' said I. 'I have,' said he: 'here is a ring that my mother gave me at my father's request.' I took hold of the ring, and saw my name on it : and the matter was beyond doubt. I said to him, 'I am your father, and here are two half-brothers of yours. We are now stronger for going in quest of the daughter of the King of the Universe. Four piles are stronger than three piles.' We spent that night cheerily and comfortably together in the hut.
"On the morrow we met a soothsayer, and he spoke to us: 'You are going in quest of the daughter of the King of the Universe. I will tell you where she is : she is with the Son of the Blackbird.
"Machkan-na-skaya-jayrika then went and called for combat with a hundred fully trained heroes, or the sending out to him of the daughter of the King of the Universe. The hundred went out ; and he and they began on each other, and he killed every one of them. The Son of the Wet Mantle called for combat with another hundred, or the sending out of the daughter of the King of the Universe. He killed that hundred with the short spear. The Son of Secret called for combat with another hundred, or the daughter of the King of the Universe. He killed every one of these with the short spear. I then went out to the field, and sounded a challenge on the shield, and made the town tremble. The Son of the Blackbird had not a man to send out : he had to come out himself; and he and I began on each other, and I drew the short spear, and swept his head off. I then went into the castle, and took out the daughter of the King of the Universe. It was thus that it fared with me.
"Stretch out your leg, Kayn, till I put a salve of herbs and healing to it. Salve and binding herb and the poultice are cooling; the worm is channering. Pressure and haste hard bind me, for I must hear Mass in the great church at Rome, and be in Norway before I sleep."
Kayn Mac Loy stretched his leg; and the big man applied to it leaves of herbs and healing ; and it was healed. The big man took him ashore from the island, and allowed him to go home to the king.
Thus did O'Cronicert win and lose a wife, and thus befell the Leeching of the leg of Kayn, son of Loy.
Jacobs, Joseph. More Celtic Fairy Tales. London:
David Nutt, 1894.
Jacobs' Notes and References
Source - Maclnnes, Folk-Tales from Argyleshire, vii., combined with Campbell of Tiree's version.
Parallels - The earliest version, from an Egerton MS. of the fifteenth century, has been printed by Mr. S. H. O'Grady in his Silva Gadelica, No.20, with an English version, pp.332-42. Mr. Campbell of Tiree has given a short Gaelic version in the Transactions of the Gaelic Society of Inverness, 78-100. Campbell of Islay collected the fullest version of this celebrated story, which is to be found among his manuscript remains now in Edinburgh. Mr. Nutt has given his English abstract in Folk-lore, i. 373-7, in its original form. The story must have contained twenty-four tales or episodes of stories, nineteen of which are preserved in J. F. Campbell's version. For parallels to the various incidents, see Mr. Nutt's notes on Maclnnes, pp. 47~3. The tale is referred to in MacNicol, Remarks on Dr. Johnson's Journey to the Hebrides, 1779.
Remarks - Nothing could give a more vivid idea of what might be called the organisation of the art of story-telling among the Celts than this elaborate tale. Mr. Nutt is inclined to trace it, even in its present form, back to the twelfth or, thirteenth century. It occurs in an MS. of the fifteenth century in an obviously unoriginal form which shows that the story-teller did not appreciate the significance of many features in the folk-tale he was retelling, and yet it was orally collected by the great Campbell in 1871, in a version which runs to 142 folio pages.
Formally, its interest consists in large measure in the curious frame-work in which the subsidiary stories are imbedded. This is not of the elaborate kind introduced into Europe from the East by the Crusades, but more naive, resembling rather, as Mr. Nutt points out to me, the loosely-knit narratives of Charles Lever in his earlier manner.