From Angus Campbell, quarryman, Knockderry, Roseneath.
AT some time there was a king and a queen, and they had one son; but the queen died, and the king married another wife. The name of the son that the first queen had, was Iain Direach. He was a handsome lad; he was a hunter, and there was no bird at which he would cast his arrow, that he would not fell; and he would kill the deer and the roes at a great distance from him; there was no day that he would go out with his bow and his quiver, that he would not bring venison home.
He was one day in the hunting hill hunting, and he got no venison1 at all; but there came a blue falcon past him, and he let an arrow at her, but he did but drive a feather from her wing. He raised the feather and he put it into his hunting bag, and he took it home; and when he came home his muime said to him, "Where is thy game to-day?" and he put his hand into the hunting bag, and he took out the feather and he gave it to her. And his muime took the feather in her hand, and she said, "I am setting it as crosses, and as spells, and as the decay of the year on thee; that thou be not without a pool in thy shoe, and that thou be wet, cold, and soiled, until thou gettest for me the bird from which that feather came."
And he said to his muime, "I am setting it as crosses and as spells, and as the decay of the year on thee; that thou be standing with the one foot on the great house, and the other foot on the castle; and that thy face be to the tempest whatever wind blows, until I return back."
And MacIain Direach went away as fast as he could to seek the bird from which the feather came, and his muime was standing with the one foot on the castle, and the other on the great house, till he should come back, and her front was to the face of the tempest, however long he might be without coming.
MacIain Direach was gone, travelling the waste to see if he could see the falcon, but the falcon he could not see; and much less than that, he could not get her; and he was going by himself through the waste, and it was coming near to the night. The little fluttering birds were going from the bush tops, from tuft to tuft, and to the briar roots, going to rest; and though they were, he was not going there, till the night came blind and dark; and he went and crouched at the root of a briar; and who came the way but AN GILLE MAIRTEAN, the fox; and he said to him, "Thou'rt down in the mouth a Mhic Iain Direach; thou camest on a bad night; I have myself but one wether's trotter and a sheep's cheek, but needs must do with it."
They kindled a fire, and they roasted flesh, and they ate the wether's trotter and the sheep's cheek; and in the morning Gille Mairtean said to the king's son, "Oh son of Iain Direach, the falcon thou seekest is by the great giant of the Five Heads, and the Five Humps, and the Five Throttles, and I will shew thee where his house is; and it is my advice to thee to go to be as his servant, and that thou be nimble and ready to do each thing, that is asked of thee, and each thing that is trusted thee; and be very good to his birds, and it well may be that he will trust thee with the falcon to feed and when thou gettest the falcon to feed be right good to her, till thou gettest a chance; at the time when the giant is not at home run away with her, but take care that so much as one feather of her does not touch any one thing that is within the house, or if it touches, it will not go (well) with thee."
MacIain Direach said "That he would take care of that;" and he went to the giant's house; he arrived, he struck at the door.
The giant shouted, "Who is there?"
"It is me," said MacIain Direach, "one coming to see if thou has hast need of a lad."
"What work canst thou do? " said the giant.
"It is (this)," said MacIain Direach, "I can feed birds and swine, and feed and milk a cow, or goats or sheep."
"It is the like of thee that I want," said the giant.
The giant came out and he settled wages on MacIain Direach; and he was taking right good care of everything that the giant had, and he was very kind to the hens and to the ducks; and the giant took notice how well he was doing; and he said that his table was so good since MacIain Direach had come, by what it was before; that he had rather one hen of those which he got now, than two of those he used to get before. "My lad is so good that I begin to think I may trust him the falcon to feed;" and the giant gave the falcon to MacIain Direach to feed, and he took exceeding care of the falcon; and when the giant saw how well MacIain Direach was taking care of the falcon, he thought that he might trust her to him when he was (away) from the house; and the giant gave him the falcon to keep, and he was taking exceeding care of the falcon.
The giant thought each thing was going right, and he went from the house one day; and MacIain Direach thought that was the time to run away with the falcon, and he seized the falcon to go away with her; and when he opened the door and the falcon saw the light, she spread her wings to spring, and the point of one of the feathers of one of her wings touched one of the posts of the door, and the door post let out a screech. The giant came home running, and he caught MacIain Direach, and he took the falcon from him; and he said to him, "I would not give thee my falcon, unless thou shouldst get for me the White Glave of Light that the Big Women of Dhiurradh have;" and the giant sent MacIain away.
MacIain Direach went out again and through the waste, and the Gille Mairtean met with him, and he said--
"Thou art down in the mouth 2 MacIain Direach; thou didst not, and thou wilt not do as I tell thee; bad is the night on which thou hast come; I have but one wether's trotter and one sheep's cheek, but needs must do with that."
They roused a fire, and they made ready the wether's trotter and the sheep's cheek, and they took their meat and sleep; and on the next day the Gille Mairtean said, "We will go to the side of the ocean."
They went and they reached the side of the ocean, and the Gille Mairtean said, "I will grow into a boat, and go thou on board of her, and I will take thee over to Dhiurradh; and go to the seven great women of Dhurrah and ask service, that thou be a servant with them; and when they ask thee what thou canst do, say to them that thou art good at brightening iron and steel, gold and silver, and that thou canst make them bright, clear, and shiny; and take exceeding care that thou dost each thing right, till they trust thee the White Glave of Light; and when thou gettest a chance run away with it, but take care that the sheath does not touch a thing on the inner side of the house, or it will make a screech, and thy matter will not go with thee. 3
The Gille Mairtean grew into a boat, and MacIain Direach went on board of her, and he came on shore at Creagan nan deargan, 4 on the northern side of Dhiurradh, and MacIain Direach leaped on shore, and he went to take service with the Seven Big Women of Dhiurradh. He reached, and he struck at the door; the Seven Big Women came out, and they asked what he was seeking. He said, "He could brighten, or make clear, white and shiny, gold and silver, or iron or steel." They said, "We have need of thy like;" and set wages on him. And he was right diligent for six weeks, and put everything in exceeding order; and the Big Women noticed it; and they kept saying to each other, "This is the best lad we have ever had; we may trust him the White Glave of Light."
They gave him the White Glave of Light to keep in order; and he was taking exceeding care of the White Glave of Light, till one day that the Big Women Were not at the house, he thought that was the time for him to run away with the White Glave of Light. He put it into the sheath, and he raised it on his shoulder; but when he was going out at the door the point of the sheath touched the lintel, and the lintel made a screech; and the Big Women ran home, and took the sword from him; and they said to him, "We would not give thee our White Glave of Light, unless thou shouldst get for us the Yellow (Bay) Filly of the King of Eirinn."
MacIain Direach went to the side of the ocean and the Gille Mairtean met him, and he said to him, "Thou'rt down in the mouth, MacIain Direach; thou didst not, and thou wilt not do as I ask thee; I have to-night but one wether's trotter and one sheep's cheek, but needs must do with it."
They kindled a fire, and they roasted flesh, and they were satisfied. On the next day the Gille Mairtean said to MacIain Direach, "I will grow into a barque, and go thou on board of her, and I will go to Eirinn with thee; and when we reach Eirinn go thou to the house of the king, and ask service to be a stable lad with him; and when thou gettest that, be nimble and ready to do each thing that is to be done, and keep the horses and the harness in right good order, till the king trusts the Yellow (Bay) Filly to thee; and when thou gettest a chance run away with her; but take care when thou art taking her out that no bit of her touches anything that is on the inner side of the gate, except the soles of her feet; or else thy matter will not prosper with thee."
And then the Gille Mairtean put himself into the form of a barque, MacIain Direach went on board, and the barque sailed with him to Eirinn. When they reached the shore of Eirinn, MacIain Direach leaped on land, and he went to the house of the king; and when he reached the gate, the gatekeeper asked where he was going; and he said, "That he was going to see if the king had need of a stable lad;" and the gate-keeper let him past, and he reached the king's house; he struck at the door and the king came out; and the king said, "What art thou seeking here?"
Said he, "With your leave, I came to see if you had need of a stable lad."
The king asked, "What canst thou do?"
Said he, "I can clean and feed the horses, and clean the silver work, and the steel work, and make them shiny."
The king settled wages on him, and he went to the stable; and he put each thing in good order; he took good care of the horses, he fed them well, and he kept them clean, and their skin was looking SLIOM, sleek; and the silver work and the steel work shiny to look at; and the king never saw them so well in order before. And he said, "This is the best stable lad I have ever had, I may trust the Yellow (Bay) Filly to him."
The king gave the Yellow (Bay) Filly to MacIain Direach to keep; and MacIain Direach took very great care of the Yellow (Bay) Filly; and he kept her clean, till her skin was so sleek and slippery, and she so swift, that she would leave the one wind and catch the other. The king never saw her so good.
The king went one day to the hunting hill, and MacIain Direach thought that was the time to run away with the Yellow Bay Filly; and he set her in what belonged to her, with a bridle and saddle; and when he took her out of the stable, he was taking her through the gate, she gave a switch, SGUAISE, with her tail, and the point of her tail touched the post of the gate, and it let out a screech.
The king came running, and he took the filly from MacIain Direach; and he said to him, "I would not give thee the Yellow (Bay) Filly, unless thou shouldst get for me the daughter of the king of the Frainge.5
And MacIain Direach needs must go; and when he was within a little of the side of the sea the Gille Mairtean met him; and he said to him, "Thou art down in the mouth, oh son of Iain Direach; thou didst not, and thou wilt not do as I ask thee; we must now go to France, I will make myself a ship, and go thou on board, and I will not be long till I take thee to France."
The Gille Mairtean put himself in the shape of a ship, and MacIain Direach went on board of her, and the Gille Mairtean sailed to France with him, and he ran himself on high up the face of a rock, on dry land; and he said to MacIain Direach "to go up to the king's house and to ask help, and to say that his skipper had been lost, and his ship thrown on shore."
MacIain Direach went to the king's house, and he struck at the door; one came out to see who was there; he told his tale and he was taken into the fort. The king asked him whence he was, and what he was doing here.
He told them the tale of misery; "that a great storm had come on him, and the skipper he had was lost; and the ship he had thrown on dry land, and she was there, driven up on the face of a rock by the waves, and that he did not know how he should get her out."
The king and the queen, and the family together, went to the shore to see the ship; and when they were looking at the ship, exceeding sweet music began on board; and the King of France's daughter went on board to see the musical instrument, together with MacIain Direach; and when they were in one chamber, the music would be in another chamber; but at last they heard the music on the upper deck of the ship, and they went above on the upper deck of the ship, and (so) it was that the ship was out on the ocean, and out of sight of land.
And the King of France's daughter said, "Bad is the trick thou hast done to me. Where art thou for going with me?"
"I am," said MacIain Direach, "going with thee to Eirinn, to give thee as a wife to the King of Eirinn, so that I may get from him his Yellow (Bay) Filly, to give her to the Big Women of Dhiurradh, that I may get from them their White Glave of Light, to give it to the Great Giant of the Five Heads, and Five Humps, and Five Throttles, that I may get from him his Blue Falcon, to take her home to my muime, that I may be free from my crosses, and from my spells, and from the bad diseases of the year."
And the King of France's daughter said, "I had rather be as a wife to thyself."
And when they came to shore in Eirinn, the Gille Mairtean put himself in the shape of a fine woman, and he said to MacIain Direach, "Leave thou the King of France's daughter here till we return, and I will go with thee to the King of Eirinn; I will give him enough of a wife."
MacIain Direach went with the Gille Mairtean in the form of a fine maiden, with his hand in the oxter of MacIain Direach. When the King of Eirinn saw them coming he came to meet them; he took out the Yellow (Bay) Filly and a golden saddle on her back, and a silver bridle in her head.
MacIain Direach went with the filly where the King of France's daughter was. The King of Eirinn was right well pleased with the young wife he had got; . . but little did the King of Eirinn know that he had got Gille Mairtean; and they had not long been gone to rest, when the Gille Mairtean sprung on the king, and be did not leave a morsel of flesh between the back of his neck and his haunch that be did not take off him. And the Gille Mairtean left the King of Eirinn a pitiful wounded cripple; and he went running where MacIain Direach was, and the King of France's daughter, and the Yellow (Bay) Filly.
Said the Gille Mairtean, "I will go into the form of a ship, and go you on board of her, and I will take you to Diurradh; he grew into the form of a ship; and MacIain Direach put in the Yellow (Bay) Filly first, and he himself and the King of France's daughter went in after her; and the Gille Mairtean sailed with them to Diurradh, and they went on shore at Creagan nan deargan, at Cilla-mhoire, at the northern end of Diurradh; and when they went on shore, the Gille Mairtean said, "Leave thou the Yellow (Bay) Filly here, and the king's daughter, till thou return; and I will go in the form of a filly, and I will go with thee to the Big Women of Diurradh, and I will give them enough of filly-ing."
The Gille Mairtean went into the form of a filly, MacIain Direach put the golden saddle on his back, and the silver bridle in his head, and he went to the Seven Big Women of Diurradh with him. When the Seven Big Women saw him coming, they came to meet him with the White Glave of Light, and they gave it to him. MacIain Direach took the golden saddle off the back of the Gille Mairtean, and the silver bridle out of his head, and he left him with them: and he went away himself with the White Glave of Light, and he went where he left the King of France's daughter, and the Yellow Bay Filly which he got from the King of Eirinn; and the Big Women of Diurradh thought that it was the Yellow Bay Filly of the King of Eirinn that they had got, and they were in great haste to ride. They put a saddle on her back, and they bridled her head, and one of them went up on her back to ride her, another went up at the back of that one, and another at the back of that one, and there was always room for another one there, till one after one, the Seven Big Women went up on the back of the Gille Mairtean, thinking that they had got the Yellow Bay Filly. 6
One of them gave a blow of a rod to the Gille Mairtean; and if she gave, he ran, and he raced backwards and forwards with them through the mountain moors; and at last he went bounding on high to the top of the MONADH mountain of Duirradh, and he reached the top of the face of the great crag, that is there, and he moved his front to the crag, and he put his two fore feet to the front of the crag, and he threw his aftermost end on high, and he threw the Seven Big women over the crag, and he went away laughing; and he reached where were MacIain Direach and the King of France's daughter, with the Yellow Bay Filly, and the White Glave of Light.
Said the Gille Mairtean, "I will put myself in the form of a boat, and go thyself, and the daughter of the King of France on board, and take with you the Yellow Baby Filly and the White Glave of Light, and I will take you to mainland."
The Gille Mairtean put himself in the shape of a boat; MacIain Direach put the White Glave of Light and the Yellow Bay Filly on board, and he went himself, and the King of France's daughter, in on board after them; and the Gille Mairtean went with them to the mainland. When they reached shore, the Gille Mairtean put himself into his own shape, and he said to MacIain Direach--
"Leave thou the King of France's daughter, the Yellow Bay Filly from the King of Eirinn, and the White Glave of Light there, and I will go into the shape of a White Glave of Light; and take thou me to the giant and give thou me to him for the falcon, and I will give him enough of swords."
The Gille Mairtean put himself into the form of a sword, and MacIain Direach took him to the giant; and when the giant saw him coming he put the blue falcon into a MUIRLAG, 7 and he gave it to MacIain Direach, and he went away with it to where he had left the King of France's daughter, the Yellow Bay Filly, and the White Glave of Light.
The giant went in with the Gille Mairtean in his hand, himself thinking that it was the White Glave of Light of the Big Women of Diurradh that he had, and he began at FIONNSAIREACH, fencing, and at SGUAISEAL, slashing with it; but at last the Gille Mairtean bent himself, and he swept the five heads off the giant, and he went where MacIain Direach was, and he said to him, "Son of John the Upright, put the saddle of gold on the filly, and the silver bridle in her head, and go thyself riding her, and take the King of France's daughter at thy back, and the White Glave of Light with its back against thy nose; or else if thou be not so, when thy muime sees thee, she has a glance that is so deadly that she will bewitch thee, and thou wilt fall a faggot of firewood; but if the back of the sword is against thy nose, and its edge to her, when she tries to bewitch thee, she will fall down herself as a faggot of sticks.
MacIain Direach did as the Gille Mairtean asked him; and when he came in sight of the house, and his muime looked at him with a deadly bewitching eye, she fell as a faggot of sticks, and MacIain Direach set fire to her, and then he was free from fear; and he had got the Best Wife in Albainn; and the Yellow Bay Filly was so swift that she could leave the one wind and she would catch the other wind, and the Blue Falcon would keep him in plenty of game, and the White Glave of Light would keep off each foe; and MacIain Direach was steadily, luckily off.
Said MacIain Direach to the Gille Mairtean, "Thou art welcome, thou Lad of March, to go through my ground, and to take any beast thou dost desire thyself to take with thee; and I will give word to my servants that they do not let an arrow at thee, and that they do not kill thee, nor any of thy race, whatever one of the flock thou takest with thee."
Said the Gille Mairtean, "Keep thou thy herds to thyself; there is many a one who has wethers and sheep as well as thou hast, and I will get plenty of flesh in another place without coming to put trouble on thee; and the Fox gave a blessing to the son of Upright John, and he went away; and the tale was spent.
Told by Angus Campbell, quarryman, Knockderry, Roseneath. Written by John Dewar, whose language has been strictly followed. This dialect of Gaelic seems to contain English idioms; and varies from the island Gaelic, especially in grammatical construction.
In this form the intention of the story seems to be the same as that of Murchag or Mionachag, No. 8. Every incident gives rise to another till the whole unwinds as a chain of cause and effect; a single feather is the first link, and a Princess the last, and then the whole is run back again and the chain wound up, and it ends with Theirig an sgeul, which means that the story came to an end because there was no more of it.
It is worth remark, that the objects sought are those which have been valued from the very earliest of times; a Falcon, a Sword, a Horse, and a fair Lady. The story might belong to any country and to any age. The scene is as usual laid to the westward, as far as it will go, and then it turns back to the nearest and best known foreign country.
Only two spots are specified--one is close to the Gulf of Corrie Bhreacan, the most remarkable place in the Highlands; the other the most conspicuous rock on the top of one of the most conspicuous and peculiar mountains in the West Highlands.
It seems hopeless to speculate who these seven great women who guarded a shining sword may have been, but the worship of the scimitar may have some bearing on the incident. The wicked muime fell a faggot of sticks before the sword, and the temple of the Scythian sword-god was a heap of faggots, from which human victims were thrown when they were sacrificed.
People who are beaten to death, or enchanted in these Gaelic legends, are always falling like a faggot of sticks or twigs, CUAL CHRIONACH; so the expression here may be simply an illustration, but still the analogy is worth remark.
The language is peculiar in the absence of pronouns; the names are repeated over and over again, but this belongs rather to the writer than to the telling of stories in general. It is the way in which Dewar expresses himself with precision and accuracy. There can be no mistake about the meaning of anything which he has written for me. The effect is rather too much repetition, but a story so told would not be easily forgotten by those into whose heads the incidents had been so hammered.
The following stories may throw some light on the Big Women of Jura. The first I have known all my life. They were sent to me by Mrs. MacTavish from Islay.
2. CHAILEACH BHEINE MHORE lived in Jura, at Largic Breac, and had a ball of thread by which she could draw towards her any person or thing, if she could throw the ball beyond them.
She got MacPhie of Colonsay into her toils, and would not part with him. Every time he attempted to leave her, she used to intercept him, and even after he got into his BIORLINN, or barge, and got off from the shore, she would get him ashore again, by throwing the ball into the boat. (The giant in the story of Black White-red had a like magic clue). At last he pretended perfect contentment in his bondage, and got the secret from her that she had a hatchet which would cut the thread on the enchanting clue. He watched an opportunity and stole the hatchet, having previously ordered his boat to be in waiting at Cnoc Breac at the foot of Bean a Chaolis. He set out by the dawn of day, and was seated in his boat before the Caileach got to the top of the hill, which she had climbed with speed, as soon as she missed him. When she saw him in the boat, she cried out most piteously--
A Mhic a Phie
A Ghaoils' thasgaidh
An d' fhag thu air a chladach mi?
Oh! Mac Phie
My love and treasure,
Hast thou left me on the strand?
And this she often repeated throwing at the same time the Cearsla dhruidheachd, magic clue, into the boat, and drawing it towards the shore. But when she saw the thread cut and the boat rowing off beyond her reach, she got desperate, and slid down what is called SGRIOB NA CAILICH, crying out,
A Mhic a Phie
'An d' fhag thu air a chladach mi?
Oh! Mac Phie
Rough skinned and foul
Hast thou left me on the strand?
Sgriob na Cailich is a very curious and conspicuous mark on the north-western side of the highest of the Jura hills. Two rocky gorges begin at the very top of the hill, which were made by the Carlin's heels, and two strips of bare grey boulders extend across the side of lower hills almost to the sea. Unless these last are the marks of lightning, I cannot account for them. This is the place where Dewar's fox threw the big women over the rock.
In her time the Island of Jura was under the sway of MacDonald of Islay, but this Carlin was so powerful, that she would not allow the Islay post to pass through Jura, for she killed him as soon as he crossed the ferry.
MacDonald spoke to a Jura man of the name of Buie, who lived at the Ferry and promised the farm of Largie Breac where the Caileach lived, to him and his heirs for ever, if he would kin her.
He told his wife the offer that MacDonald had made him, remarking at the same time, that he never would attempt to encounter the giantess.
Their eldest son, however, overheard his father, and set off the next day to offer battle to the Caileach.
They had wrestled hard and long, when at length she brought him on his knees, and she said "Thou art in extremity, a Mhic Meadh Bhuie, and pity it is so." "My grandmother, on the hinderside of Alba, is here, and will come to help me if I be," said he, as he put his hand on his dirk.
They engaged again, and she brought him on his knees again, saying the same words, Tha thu at eigin a Mhic Meadh Bhuie s' b olc an arraidh e, when he drew his dirk and stabbed her to the heart.
MacDonald performed his promise of giving the Buies Largie Breac, which they held for centuries after.
3. There is a song about the same personage, whoever she may have been. I give it, though I do not quite understand it.
Caileach Bheinna Bhric horo
Bhric horo, Bhric horo
Caileach Bheinna Bhric horo
Caileach mhor leathan ard
Cha deachaidh mo bhuidheann fhiadh
Bhuidheann fhiadh bhuidheann fhiadh
Cha deachaidh mo bhuidheann riamh
A dh'iarraidh chlaba, do 'n traigh
Carlin of Ben Breac horo, &c.,
Carlin great broad high,
There went not my troop of deer, &c.
There went not my troop ever
To seek her clack to the strand.
Now this old woman, or set of old women guarding a sword, or owning magic clues, and living in an island, are surely the same as the Groach, of whom so many stories are told in Brittany, and these are presumed to have been a college of Druidesses. See Foyer Breton, vol. i. p. 157; and if so, the Carlin may be a fiction founded upon fact.
The spelling Diura, and Diurath for the Island of Jura, does not change the sound, but seems to indicate a reasonable derivation for the name which is common to the "Jura" mountains, and may well be an old Celtic name preserved, AN DIU RATH, the waste steep, the Jura.
There is a local rhyme in support of this view, said to have been composed by a poetess who was a native of some other island.
Dhiu Rath an domhain,
'S diu dath an domhain ann,
Buidhe Dugh a's Riabhach.
Waste steep of the world,
And waste hue of the world in it,
Yellow, black, and brindled.
These three colours being the most common family names, until very lately, in the island, as well as the distinguishing coloure of the landscape, according to the eye of the discontented lady.
4. I have another version of this, which gives such a very different view of the same incidents that I translate it, giving such bits of the Gaelic as seem best worth preservation.
AN SIONNACH, THE Fox, from John the tinker, Inveraray, written by Hector Urquhart, 1859.
Brian, the son of the king of Greece, fell in love with the henwife's daughter, and he would marry no other but she. His father said to him on a day of days, before that should happen that he must get first for him the most marvellous bird that there was in the world.
Then here went Brian, and he put the world under his head, till he went much farther than I can tell, or you can think, till he reached the house of CAILLEACH NAN CUARAN, the carlin of buskins. (A sock, a brogue of untanned leather or skin, commonly worn with the hairy side outward; Lat., Cothurnus; Welsh, Cwaran; Fr., Cothurne.) He got well taken to by the carlin that night, and in the morning she said to him, "It is time for thee to arise, the journey is far."
When he rose to the door, what was it but sowing and winnowing snow; he looked hither and thither, and what should he see but a fox drawing on his shoes and stockings.
"SHA! BHEATHAICH, Sha! beast," said Brian, Thou hadst best leave my lot of shoes and stockings for myself."
"Och," said the fox, "it's long since a shoe or a stocking was on me; and I am thinking that I shall put them to use this day itself."
"Thou Ugly LADAMA (?) beast, art thou thinking to steal my foot webs, CHAISBEART, and I myself looking at thee?"
"Well," said the fox, "if thou wilt take me to be thy servant, thou shalt get thy set of shoes and stockings."
"Oh, poor beast," said he, "thou wouldst find death with me from hunger."
"O hoth!" said the fox, "there's little good in the gille that will not do for his ownself, and for his master at times."
"Yes! Yes," said he, "I don't mind, at all events; thou mayest follow me." 8
They had not gone far on their journey when the fox asked him if he was good at riding. He said he was, if it could be known what on.
"Come on top of me a turn of a while," said the fox.
"On top of thee! poor beast, I would break thy back."
"Ho! huth! son of the King of Greece," said the fox, "thou didst not know me so well as I knew thee; take no care but that I am able to carry thee."
But never mind; when Brian went on the top of the fox, CUIREADH IAD SAD AS GACH LODAN AGUS SRAD AS GACH CREAGAN S' CHA DO CHABH IAD TAMH NA FOIS GUS AN D' RAINIG IAD TIGH FAMHAIR NAN COIG CINN S' NAN COIG MILL S' NAN COIG MUINEAIL.
They would drive spray from each puddle, spark from each pebble; and they took no halt nor rest till they reached the house of the Giant of Five Heads, Five Humps, and Five Throttles.
"Here's for thee," said the fox, "the house of the giant who has the marvellous bird, AN T EUN IONGANTACH; and what wilt thou say to him when thou goest in?"
"What should I say, but that I came to steal the marvellous bird?"
"Hu! hu! said the fox, "thou wilt not return; but," said the fox, "take thou (service) with this giant to be a stable lad, and there is no sort of bird FO SHEACHD RONAGAN RUADH AN T SAOGHAIL, under the seven russet rungs of the world (from RONG, a joining spar, a hoop, perhaps ring) that he has not got; and when he brings out the marvellous bird, say thou 'Fuith! fuith!' the nasty bird, throw it out of my sight, I could find braver birds than that on the middens at home."
Brian did thus.
"S' tia!" said the big one, "then I must go to thy country to gather a part of them."
But Brian was pleasing the giant well; but on a night of the nights, Brian steals the marvellous bird, and drags himself out with it. When he was a good bit from the giant's house, "S' tia!" said Brian to himself, "I don't know if it is the right bird I have after every turn." Brian lifts the covering off the bird's head, and he lets out one screech, and the screech roused the giant.
"O! O! son of the King of Greece," said the giant, "that I have coming to steal the marvellous bird; the prophet FAIDH was saying that he would come to his GIRD."
Then here the giant put on the shoes that could make nine miles at every step, and he wasn't long catching poor Brian. They returned home to the giant's house, and the giant laid the binding of the three smalls on him, and he threw Brian into the peat corner, and he was there till the morning on the morrow's day.
"Now," said the giant, "son of the King of Greece, thou hast thy two rathers; whether wouldst thou rather thy head to be yonder stake, or go to steal for me the White Glave of Light that is in the realm of Big Women?"
"S' BAIGHEIL DUINE RI BHEATHA, a man is kind to his life," said Brian, "I will go to steal the White Glave of Light."
But never mind; Brian had not gone far from the giant's house when the fox met him.
"O DHUINE GUN TUR GUN TOINSG, Oh man, without mind or sense, thou didst not take my counsel, and what will now arise against thee! Thou art going to the realm of Big Women to steal the White Glave of Light; that is twenty times as hard for thee as the marvellous bird of that earl of a giant."
"But what help for it now, but that I must, IONNSAIDH A THURRAIRT AIR, betake myself to it," said poor Brian.
"Well, then," said the fox, "come thou on top of me, and I am in hopes thou wilt be wiser the next time."
They went then farther than I can remember, till they reached CNOCAN NA 'N AOINE AIR CUL GAOITHE 'S AIR AODAN GREINE, the knoll of the country at the back of the wind and the face of the sun, that was in the realm of big women.
"Now," said the Fox, "thou shalt sit here, and thou shalt begin at BURRALAICH blubbering, and CAOINEADH crying, and when the big women come out where thou art, they will lift thee N'AN ACHLAIS in their oxters, and when they reach the house with thee, they will try to coax thee, but never thou cease of crying until thou get the White Glave of Light, and they will leave it with thee in the cradle the length of the night, to keep thee quiet."
Worthy Brian was not long blubbering and crying when the big women came, and they took Brian with them as the fox had said, and when Brian found the house quiet, he went away with the White Glave of Light, and when lie thought he was a good way from the house, he thought he would see if he had the right sword. He took it out of the sheath, and the sword gave out BINN, a ring. This awoke the big women, and they were on their soles. "Whom have we here," said they, "but the son of the King of Greece coming to steal the White Glave of Light."
They took after Brian, and they were not long bringing him I back. CHEANGAIL IAD GU CRUIN E, they tied him roundly (like a ball), and they threw him into the peat corner, till the white morrow's day was. When the morning came they asked him CO B FHEARR LEIS A BHI FO SHRADAN A BHUILG SHEIDIDH 9 to be under the sparks of the bellows, or to go to steal AN DIA GREINE 10 NIGHEAN RIGH FEILL FIONN, the Sun Goddess, daughter of the King of the gathering of Fioun.
"A man is kind to his life," said Brian, "I will go steal the Sun Goddess."
Never mind. Brian went, but he was not long on the path AIR AN T SLIGHE when the fox met him.
"Oh! poor fool," said the fox, thou art as FAOIN silly as thou wert ever. What good for me to be giving thee counsel, thou art now going to steal the Sun Goddess. Many a better thief than thou went on the same journey; but ever a man came never back. There are nine guards guarding her, and there is no dress under the seven russet rungs of the world that is like the dress that is on her but one other dress, and here is that dress for thee. And mind, said the fox, that thou dost as I ask thee, or, if thou dost not, thou wilt not come to the next SGEULA tale."
Never mind. They went, and when they were near the guard the fox put the dress on Brian, and he said to him to go forward straight through them, and when he reached the Sun Goddess to do as he bid him. And, Brian, if thou gettest her out I will not be far from you.
But never mind. Brian took courage, and he went on, and each guard made way for him, till he went in where the Sun Goddess, daughter of the King of the Gathering of Fionn, was. She put all hail and good luck on him, and she it was who was pleased to see him, for her father was not letting man come near her.
And there they were; but how shall we get away at all at all, said she, in the morning. Brian lifted the window, and he put out the Sun Goddess through it.
The fox met them. "Thou wilt do yet," said he; "leap you on top of me."
And when they were far, far away, and near the country of big women,
"Now, Brian," said the fox, "is it not a great pity for thyself to give away this Sun Goddess for the White Glave of Light?"
"Is it not that which is wounding me at this very time?" said Brian.
"It is that I will make a Sun Goddess of myself, and thou shalt give me to the big women," said the fox.
"I had rather part with the Sun Goddess herself than thee."
"But never thou mind, Brian, they wont keep me long."
Here Brian went in with the fox as a Sun Goddess, and he got the White Glave of Light. Brian left the fox with the big women, and he went forward.
In a day or two the fox overtook them, and they got on him, and when they were nearing the house of the big giant,
"Is it not a great pity for thyself, oh Brian, to part with the White Glave of Light for that filth of a marvellous bird."
"There is no help for it," said Brian.
"I will make myself a White Glave of Light," said the fox; "it may be that thou wilt yet find a use for the White Glave of Light."
Brian was not so much against the fox this time, since he saw that he had got off from the big women.
"Thou art come with it," said the big man. "It was in the prophecies that I should cut this great oak tree, at one blow, which my father cut two hundred years ago with the same sword."
Brian got the marvellous bird, and he went away.
He had gone but a short distance from the giant's house, when the fox made up to him with his pad to his mouth.
"What's this that befel thee," said Brian. "Oh, the son of the great one!" said the fox, "when he seized me, with the first blow he cut the tree all but a small bit of bark; and look thyself there is no tooth in the door of my mouth which that filth of a Bodach has not broken."
Brian was exceedingly sorrowful that the fox had lost the teeth, but there was no help for it.
They were going forward, walking at times, and at times riding, till they came to a spring that there was by the side of the road.
"Now, Brian," said the fox, "unless thou dost strike off my head with one blow of the White Glave of Light into this spring, I will strike off thine."
"S'tia!" said Brian, "a man is kind to his own life," and he swept the head off him with one blow, and it fell into the well; and in the wink of an eye, what should rise up out of the well, but the son of the King that was father of the Sun Goddess?
They went on till they reached his father's house, and his father made a great wedding with joy and gladness that lasted a day and a year, and there was no word about marrying the henwife daughter when I parted from them.
There can be no doubt that this is the same legend as the Golden Bird in Grimm, and it is evident that it is not derived from the printed story. From the notes in Grimm's third volume, it appears to be very old and very widely spread. I am told that even now there is some trace of a veneration for birds amongst the Turks, who secretly worship parrots even at Constantinople.
The giant of many heads and ornithological tastes is not in the German version, and the tinker has omitted the horse, which seems to belong to the story.
On the 25th of April, 1859, John the tinker gave the beginning of this as part of his contribution to the evening's entertainment. He not only told the story, but acted it, dandling a fancied baby when it came to the adventure of the big women, and rolling his eyes wildly. The story which he told varied from that which he dictated in several particulars. It began:--
BHA RIGH ANN AGUS BHA, RIGHDEIRE MAR A BHA S MAR A BHITHIS S' MAR A CHINNIS AN GHIUTHAS, CUID DHE CAM S' CUID DHE DIREACH AGUS SE RIGH EIRINN A BH' ANN.
"There was a king and a knight, as there was and will be, and as grows the fir tree, some of it crooked and some of it straight, and it was the King of Eirinn, it was; and the Queen died with her first son, and the King married another woman. And the henwife came to her, and she said--A BHANRIGH DONA GHOLACH CHA NEIL THUSA COSAIL RIS A BHANRIGH SHONA. SHÒLACH A BH' AGAIN ROIMHE SO. Oh! bad straddleing Queen, thou art not like the sonsy, cheery Queen that we had ere now. And here came a long bit which the tinker put into another story, and which he seems to have condensed into the first sentence in the version which I have got and translated. He has also transferred the scene from Ireland to Greece, perhaps because the latter country sounds better, and is farther off, or perhaps he had got the original form of the story from his old father in the meantime."
Some of the things mentioned in the tinker's version have to do with Druidical worship--the magic well, the oak tree, the bird; for the Celtic tribes, as it is said, were all guided in their wanderings by the flight of birds. The Sun Goddess: for the Druids are supposed to have worshipped the sun, and the sun is feminine in Gaelic. These are all mixed up with Fionn, and the sword of light, and the big women, personages and things which do not appear out of the Highlands. Perhaps this is one of "the sermons" to which Dewar refers. (See introduction.)
9 BOLG SEIDIDH, bag of blowing. The bellows used for melting copper in the mint at Tangiers in 1841, consisted of two sheepskins worked by two men. The neck of the hide was fastened to the end of an iron tube, and the legs sewn up. The and of each bag opened with two flat sticks, and the workmen, by a skilful action of the hand, filled the bag with air as he raised it, and then squeezed it out by pressing downwards. By working the two bags turn about, a constant steady blast was kept on a crucible on the furnace, and the copper was soon melted. The Gaelic word clearly points to the use of some such apparatus. I believe something of the kind is used in India; but I saw the Tangier mint at work. Return to place in story.
10 DIA GREINE may perhaps be DEO GREINE, the sunbeam, the name given to Fionn's banner, and here applied to his daughter. Return to place in story.
Campbell, J. F. Popular Tales of the West Highlands: Orally Collected. London: Alexander Gardner, 1890-1893. v. 2, p. 344. (Reprint available from Detroit: Singing Tree Press, 1969.) Amazon.com: Buy the book inpaperback (Volume 1)or paperback (Volume 2).