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ISSN: 2397-9607 Issue 84
In Issue 84 of the Baba Indaba Children’s Stories, Baba Indaba narrates the Burmese tale of A SAD FATE – how a poor farm boy is taught to fish by a magical bird. So successful was he that he fed more than just his family. The king hears about his and asks the boy his secret. But did he tell the king the truth? Download and read the story to find out just what the boy said. Lookout for the moral of the story.
The second story is FRIENDS – Four brothers are continually fighting until taught a lesson in unity and strength by their father.
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THERE was once a king, who was very old; but he had three grown-up sons. So he called them to him, and said:
“My dear sons, I am very old, and the cares of government press heavily upon me. I must therefore give them over to one of you. But as it is the law among us, that no unmarried prince may be King, I wish you all to get married, and whoever chooses the best wife shall be my successor.”
So they determined each to go a different way, and settled it thus. They went to the top of a very high tower, and each one at a given signal shot an arrow in a different direction to the others. Wherever their arrows fell they were to go in search of their future wives.
The eldest prince’s arrow fell on a palace in the city, where lived a senator, who had a beautiful daughter; so he went there, and married her.
The second prince’s arrow struck upon a country-house, where a very pretty young lady, the daughter of a rich gentleman, was sitting; so he went there, and proposed to her, and they were married.
But the youngest prince’s arrow shot through a green wood, and fell into a lake. He saw his arrow floating among the reeds, and a frog sitting thereon, looking fixedly at him.
But the marshy ground was so unsafe that he could not venture upon it; so he sat down in despair.
“What is the matter, prince?” asked the frog.
“What is the matter? Why, I cannot reach that arrow on which you are sitting.”
“Take me for your wife, and I will give it to you.”
“But how can you be my wife, little frog?”
“That is just what has got to be. You know that you shot your arrow from the tower, thinking that where it fell, you would find a loving wife; so you will have her in me.”
“You are very wise, I see, little frog. But tell me, how can I marry you, or introduce you to my father? And what will the world say?”
“Take me home with you, and let nobody see me. Tell them that you have married an Eastern lady, who must not be seen by any man, except her husband, nor even by another woman.”
The prince considered a little. The arrow had now floated to the margin of the lake; he took the arrow from the little frog, put her in his pocket, carried her home, and then went to bed, sighing very deeply.
Next morning the king was told that all his sons had got married; so he called them all together, and said:
“Well children, are you all pleased with your wives?”
“Very pleased indeed, father and king.”
“Well, we shall see who has chosen best. Let each of my daughters-in-law weave me a carpet by to-morrow, and the one whose carpet is the most beautiful shall be queen.”
The elder princes hastened at once to their ladies; but the youngest, when he reached home, was in despair.
“What is the matter, prince?” asked the frog.
“What is the matter? My father has ordered that each of his daughters-in-law shall weave him a carpet, and the one whose carpet proves the most beautiful shall be first in rank. My brothers’ wives are most likely working at their looms already. But you, little frog, although you can give back an arrow, and talk like a human being, will not be able to weave a carpet, as far as I can see.”
“Don’t be afraid,” she said; “go to sleep, and before you wake the carpet shall be ready.”
So he lay down, and went to sleep.
But the little frog stood on her hind-legs in the window and sang:
“Ye breezes that blow, ye winds that sigh,
Come hither on airy wing;
And all of you straight to my dwelling hie,
And various treasures bring.
Two fleeces I crave of the finest wool,
And of the loveliest flowers a basketful;
From the depths of the ocean bring sands of gold,
And pearl-drops of lustre manifold;
That so I may fashion a carpet bright,
Adorned with fair flow’rets and gems of light,
And weave it in one short day and night,
When my true love’s hands must the treasure hold.”
There was a gentle murmur of the breezes, and from the sunbeams descended seven lovely maidens, who floated into the room, carrying baskets of various coloured wools, pearls, and flowers. They curtsied deeply to the little frog, and in a few minutes they wove a wonderfully beautiful carpet; then they curtsied again, and flew away.
Meanwhile the wives of the other princes bought the most beautifully coloured wools, and the best designs they could find, and worked hard at their looms all the next day.
Then all the princes came before the king, and spread out their carpets before him.
The king looked at the first and the second; but when he came to the third, he exclaimed:
“That’s the carpet for me! I give the first place to my youngest son’s wife; but there must be another trial yet.”
And he ordered that each of his daughters-in-law should make him a cake next day; and the husband of the one whose cake proved the best should be his successor.
The youngest prince came back to his frog wife; he looked very thoughtful, and sighed deeply.
THE FAIRY GIRLS MAKE THE CARPET
“What is the matter, prince?” she asked.
“My father demands another proof of skill; and I am not so sure that we shall succeed so well as before; for how can you bake a cake?”
“Do not be afraid,” she said: “Lie down, and sleep; and when you wake you will be in a happier frame of mind.”
The prince went to sleep; and the frog sprang up to the window, and sang:
“Ye breezes that blow, ye winds that sigh,
Come hither on airy wing;
And all of you straight to my dwelling hie,
These various gifts to bring.
From the sunbeams bright
Bring me heat and light;
And soft waters distil
From the pure flowing rill.
From the flowers of the field
The sweet odours they yield.
From the wheatfields obtain
Five full measures of grain,
That so I may bake In the night-time a cake,
For my true love’s sake.”
The winds began to rise, and the seven beautiful maidens floated down into the room, carrying baskets, with flour, water, sweetmeats, and all sorts of dainties. They curtsied to the little frog, and got the cake ready in a few minutes; curtsied again, and flew away.
The next day the three princes brought their cakes to the king. They were all very good; but when he tasted the one made by his youngest son’s wife, he exclaimed:
“That is the cake for me! light, floury, white, and delicious! I see, my son, you have made the best choice; but we must wait a little longer.”
The two elder sons went away much depressed; but the youngest greatly elated. When he reached home he took up his little frog, stroked and kissed her, and said:
“Tell me, my love, how it was that you, being only a little frog, could weave such a beautiful carpet, or make such a delicious cake?”
“Because, my prince, I am not what I seem. I am a princess, and my mother is the renowned Queen of Light, and a great enchantress. But she has many enemies, who, as they could not injure her, were always seeking to destroy me. To conceal me from them she was obliged to turn me into a frog; and for seven years I have been forced to stay in the marsh where you found me. But under this frog-skin I am really more beautiful than you can imagine; yet until my mother has conquered all her enemies I must wear this disguise; after that takes place you shall see me as I really am.”
While they were talking two courtiers entered, with the king’s orders to the young prince, to come to a banquet at the king’s palace, and bring his wife with him, as his brothers were doing by theirs.
He knew not what to do; but the little frog said:
“Do not be afraid, my prince. Go to your father alone; and when he asks for me, it will begin to rain. You must then say that your wife will follow you; but she is now bathing in May-dew. When it lightens say that I am dressing; and when it thunders, that I am coming.”
The prince, trusting to her word, set out for the palace; and the frog jumped up to the window, and standing on her hind-legs, began to sing:
“Ye breezes that blow,
ye winds that sigh,
Come hither on airy wing;
And all of you straight to my dwelling hie,
These several gifts to bring.
My beauty of yore;
And my bright youth once more;
All my dresses so fair;
And my jewels so rare;
And let me delight
My dear love by the sight.”
Then the seven beautiful damsels, who were the handmaidens of the princess—when she lived with her mother—floated on the sunbeams into the room. They curtsied, walked three times round her, and pronounced some magical words.
Then the frog-skin fell off her, and she stood among them a miracle of beauty, and the lovely princess she was.
Meanwhile the prince, her husband, had arrived at the royal banquet-hall, which was already full of guests. The old king welcomed him warmly, and asked him:
“Where is your wife, my son?”
Then a light rain began to fall, and the prince said:
“She will not be long; she is now bathing herself in May-dew.”
Then came a flash of lightning, which illuminated all the palace, and he said:
“She is now adorning herself.”
But when it thundered, he ran to the door exclaiming:
“Here she is!”
And the lovely princess came in, seeming to bring the sunshine with her. They all stood amazed at her beauty. The king could not contain his delight; and she seemed to him all the more beautiful, because he thought her the very image of his long-deceased queen. The prince himself was no less astonished and overjoyed to find such loveliness in her, whom he had only as yet seen in the shape of a little frog.
“Tell me, my son,” said the king, “why you did not let me know what a fortunate choice you had made?”
The prince told him everything in a whisper; and the king said:
“Go home then, my son, at once, and pick up that frog-skin of hers; throw it in the fire, and come back here as fast as you can. Then she will have to remain just as she is now.”
The prince did as his father told him, went home, and threw the frog-skin into the fire, where it was at once consumed.
But things did not turn out as they expected; for the lovely princess, on coming home, sought for her frog-skin, and not finding it, began to cry bitterly. When the prince confessed the truth, she shrieked aloud, and taking out a green poppy-head, threw it at him. He went to sleep at once; but she sprang up to the window, sang her songs to the winds; upon which she was changed into a duck, and flew away.
The prince woke up in the morning, and grieved sadly, when he found his beautiful princess gone.
Then he got on horseback, and set out to find her, inquiring everywhere for the kingdom of the Queen of Light—his princess’s mother—to whom he supposed she must have fled.
He rode on for a very, very long time, till one day he came into a wide plain, all covered with poppies in full flower, the odour of which so overpowered him, that he could scarce keep upright in his saddle. Then he saw a queer little house, supported on four crooked legs. There was no door to the house; but knowing what he ought to do, he said:
“Little house, move On your crooked legs free; Turn your back to the wood, And your front door to me.”
The hut with the crooked legs made a creaking noise, and turned round, with its door towards the prince. He went straight in, and found an old fury, whose name was Jandza, inside she was spinning from a distaff, and singing.
NOTE: Jandza pronounced Yen-jar.
“How are you, prince?” she said, “what brings you here?”
So the prince told her, and she said:
“You have done wisely to tell me the truth. I know your bride, the beautiful daughter of the Queen of Light; she flies to my house daily, in the shape of a duck, and this is where she sits. Hide yourself under the table, and watch your opportunity to lay hold of her. Hold her fast, whatever shapes she assumes; when she is tired she will turn into a spindle; you must then break the spindle in two, and you will find that which you are seeking.”
Presently the duck flew in, sat down beside the old fury, and began to preen her feathers with her beak. The prince seized her by the wing. The duck quacked, fluttered, and struggled to get loose. But seeing this was useless she changed herself into a pigeon, then into a hawk, and then into a serpent, which so frightened the prince, that he let her go; on which she became a duck again, quacked aloud, and flew out of the window.
The prince saw his mistake, and the old woman cried aloud: “What have you done, you careless fellow! you have frightened her away from me forever.
But as she is your bride, I must find some other way to help you. Take this ball of thread, throw it before you, and wherever it goes follow after it; you will then come to my sister’s house, and she will tell you what to do next.”
So the prince went on day and night, following the ball of thread, till he came to another queer little house, like the first, to which he said the same rhyme, and going in, found the second old fury, and told her his story.
“Hide under the bench,” she exclaimed; “your bride is just coming in.”
The duck flew in, as before, and the prince caught her by the wing; she quacked, and tried to get away.
Then she changed herself into a turkey, then into a dog, then into a cat, then into an eel, so that she slipped through his hands, and glided out of the window.
THE LITTLE HOUSE TURNS
The prince was in despair; but the old woman gave him another ball of thread, and he again followed it, determining not to let the princess escape again so easily. So going on after the thread, as it kept unwinding, he came to a funny little house, like the two first, and said:
“Little house, move On your crooked legs free; Turn your back to the wood, And your front door to me.”
The little house turned round, so that he could go in, and he found a third old fury inside; much older than her sisters, and having white hair. He told her his story, and begged for help.
“Why did you go against the wishes of your clever and sensible wife?” said the old woman. “You see she knew better than you what her frog-skin was good for; but you must needs be in such a hurry to display her beauty, to gain the world’s applause, that you have lost her; and she was forced to fly away from you.”
The prince hid himself under the bench: the duck flew in and sat at the old woman’s feet; on which he caught her by the wings.
She struggled hard; but she felt his strength was too great for her to resist; so she turned herself into a spindle at once. He broke it across his knee…. And lo! and behold! instead of the two halves of the spindle he held the hands of his beautiful princess, who looked at him lovingly with her beautiful eyes, and smiled sweetly.
And she promised him that she would always remain as she was then, for since her mother’s enemies were all dead she had nothing to fear.
They embraced each other, and went out of the old fury’s hut. Then the princess spoke some magical spells; and in the twinkling of an eye there appeared a wonderful bridge, reaching from where they stood hundreds of miles, up to the very gallery of the palace, belonging to the prince’s father. It was all made of crystal, with golden hand-rails, and diamond bosses upon them.
The princess spoke some more magical words, and a golden coach appeared, drawn by eight horses, and a coachman, and two tall footmen, all in golden liveries.
THE WAY HOME
And there were four outriders on splendid horses, riding by the side of the coach, and an equerry, riding in front, and blowing a brazen trumpet. And a long procession of followers, in splendid dresses, came after them.
Then the prince and princess got into the golden coach, and drove away, thus accompanied, along the crystal bridge, till they reached home, when the old king came out to meet them, and embraced them both tenderly. He appointed the prince his successor; and such magnificent festivities were held on the occasion, as never were seen or heard of before.
THE mid-autumn moon was shining on the high pagoda that stood outside the Red Bird Gate, the southern entrance to Chin-ling,1 China. Wing Ling (Peaceful Forest), a wide-awake boy, had just this
The priests say so, and they must know, because they have charge of the pagoda and they protect all the images of the idols and saints–two thousand of them–here in the pagoda. And the priests know all about . . .”
“Tell the tale, then,” said Li Sun, cheerfully laying aside his great hunger, because he knew that his older brother who liked so much to talk wouldn’t eat till the story was told.
“Here it is,” began Wing Ling, as he and Li Sun wriggled themselves back into the corner of the step to be out of the way of people’s feet. “Once the Emperor, Ming Wong, was walking in the moonlight–moonlight just like this; and he was on a terrace . . . “
“I forget. Perhaps it was that terrace–perhaps another. He was walking up and down, and his courtiers were with him . . .”
“How many courtiers?” broke in Li Sun.
“The Emperor and the magician then walked along the broad avenues of the pale yellow cassia trees and saw, on either side, radiant palaces, sparkling towers and twinkling streams. Fair ladies, in rainbow-coloured robes, came out to meet them, and, after bowing and smiling and saying welcoming words, passed on their way. Strange flowers, that looked far away though they were near at hand, covered the fields with silver-white or golden bloom. Snowy-white birds, with eyes like stars, flew in and out the golden cassia branches. Ah, it was a great glory, there, on the moon, Li Sun! And it’s the same moon that shines down here tonight on this pagoda. But there’s more to the story.”
The father paused, breathless; and the mother said to the boys quietly, “Sons, have you eaten your moon-cakes yet?”
1 Now Nanking or Nanjing, Jiangsu, China – 298km WNW of ShanghaiURL: http://www.abelapublishing.com/tower-legends_p23332696.htm
As Odin was the leader of all disembodied spirits, he was identified in the middle ages with the Pied Piper of Hamelin. According to mediæval legends, Hamelin was so infested by rats that life became unbearable, and a large reward was offered to any who would rid the town of these rodents. A piper, in parti-coloured garments, offered to undertake the commission, and the terms being accepted, he commenced to play through the streets in such wise that, one and all, the rats were beguiled out of their holes until they formed a vast procession. There was that in the strains which compelled them to follow, until at last the river Weser was reached, and all were drowned in its tide.
You heard as if an army muttered;
And the muttering grew to a grumbling;
And the grumbling grew to a mighty rumbling;
And out of the houses the rats came tumbling.
Great rats, small rats, lean rats, brawny rats,
Brown rats, black rats, grey rats, tawny rats,
Grave old plodders, gay young friskers,
Fathers, mothers, uncles, cousins,
Cocking tails and pricking whiskers,
Families by tens and dozens,
Brothers, sisters, husbands, wives—
Followed the Piper for their lives.
From street to street he piped advancing,
And step for step they followed dancing,
Until they came to the river Weser,
Wherein all plunged and perished!”
As the rats were all dead, and there was no chance of their returning to plague them, the people of Hamelin refused to pay the reward, and they bade the piper do his worst. He took them at their word, and a few moments later the weird strains of the magic flute again arose, and this time it was the children who swarmed out of the houses and merrily followed the piper.
“There was a rustling that seemed like a bustling
Of merry crowds justling at pitching and hustling;
Small feet were pattering, wooden shoes clattering,
Little hands clapping and little tongues chattering,
And, like fowls in a farmyard when barley is scattering,
Out came all the children running.
All the little boys and girls,
With rosy cheeks and flaxen curls,
And sparkling eyes and teeth like pearls,
Tripping and skipping, ran merrily after
The wonderful music with shouting and laughter.”
The burghers were powerless to prevent the tragedy, and as they stood spellbound the piper led the children out of the town to the Koppelberg, a hill on the confines of the town, which miraculously opened to receive the procession, and only closed again when the last child had passed out of sight. This legend probably originated the adage “to pay the piper.” The children were never seen in Hamelin again, and in commemoration of this public calamity all official decrees have since been dated so many years after the Pied Piper’s visit.
“They made a decree that lawyers never
Should think their records dated duly
If, after the day of the month and year,
These words did not as well appear,
’And so long after what happened here
On the Twenty-second of July,
Thirteen hundred and seventy-six:’
And the better in memory to fix
The place of the children’s last retreat,
They called it the Pied Piper Street—
Where any one playing on pipe or tabor
Was sure for the future to lose his labour.”
In this myth Odin is the piper, the shrill tones of the flute are emblematic of the whistling wind, the rats represent the souls of the dead, which cheerfully follow him, and the hollow mountain into which he leads the children is typical of the grave.
From MYTHS OF THE NORSEMEN translated by H. A. Geurber
Illustrated by various artists
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There was once upon a time a man and woman who had three fine-looking sons, but they were so poor that they had hardly enough food for themselves, let alone their children. So the sons determined to set out into the world and to try their luck. Before starting their mother gave them each a loaf of bread and her blessing, and having taken a tender farewell of her and their father the three set forth on their travels.
The youngest of the three brothers, whose name was Ferko, was a beautiful youth, with a splendid figure, blue eyes, fair hair, and a complexion like milk and roses. His two brothers were as jealous of him as they could be, for they thought that with his good looks he would be sure to be more fortunate than they would ever be.
One day all the three were sitting resting under a tree, for the sun was hot and they were tired of walking. Ferko fell fast asleep, but the other two remained awake, and the eldest said to the second brother, ‘What do you say to doing our brother Ferko some harm? He is so beautiful that everyone takes a fancy to him, which is more than they do to us. If we could only get him out of the way we might succeed better.’
‘I quite agree with you,’ answered the second brother, ‘and my advice is to eat up his loaf of bread, and then to refuse to give him a bit of ours until he has promised to let us put out his eyes or break his legs.’
His eldest brother was delighted with this proposal, and the two wicked wretches seized Ferko’s loaf and ate it all up, while the poor boy was still asleep.
When he did awake he felt very hungry and turned to eat his bread, but his brothers cried out, ‘You ate your loaf in your sleep, you glutton, and you may starve as long as you like, but you won’t get a scrap of ours.’
Ferko was at a loss to understand how he could have eaten in his sleep, but he said nothing, and fasted all that day and the next night. But on the following morning he was so hungry that he burst into tears, and implored his brothers to give him a little bit of their bread. Then the cruel creatures laughed, and repeated what they had said the day before; but when Ferko continued to beg and beseech them, the eldest said at last, ‘If you will let us put out one of your eyes and break one of your legs, then we will give you a bit of our bread.’
At these words poor Ferko wept more bitterly than before, and bore the torments of hunger till the sun was high in the heavens; then he could stand it no longer, and he consented to allow his left eye to be put out and his left leg to be broken. When this was done he stretched out his hand eagerly for the piece of bread, but his brothers gave him such a tiny scrap that the starving youth finished it in a moment and besought them for a second bit.
But the more Ferko wept and told his brothers that he was dying of hunger, the more they laughed and scolded him for his greed. So he endured the pangs of starvation all that day, but when night came his endurance gave way, and he let his right eye be put out and his right leg broken for a second piece of bread.
After his brothers had thus successfully maimed and disfigured him for life, they left him groaning on the ground and continued their journey without him.
Poor Ferko ate up the scrap of bread they had left him and wept bitterly, but no one heard him or came to his help. Night came on, and the poor blind youth had no eyes to close, and could only crawl along the ground, not knowing in the least where he was going. But when the sun was once more high in the heavens, Ferko felt the blazing heat scorch him, and sought for some cool shady place to rest his aching limbs. He climbed to the top of a hill and lay down in the grass, and as he thought under the shadow of a big tree. But it was no tree he leant against, but a gallows on which two ravens were seated. The one was saying to the other as the weary youth lay down, ‘Is there anything the least wonderful or remarkable about this neighbourhood?’
‘I should just think there was,’ replied the other; ‘many things that don’t exist anywhere else in the world. There is a lake down there below us, and anyone who bathes in it, though he were at death’s door, becomes sound and well on the spot, and those who wash their eyes with the dew on this hill become as sharp-sighted as the eagle, even if they have been blind from their youth.’
‘Well,’ answered the first raven, ‘my eyes are in no want of this healing bath, for, Heaven be praised, they are as good as ever they were; but my wing has been very feeble and weak ever since it was shot by an arrow many years ago, so let us fly at once to the lake that I may be restored to health and strength again.’ And so they flew away.
Their words rejoiced Ferko’s heart, and he waited impatiently till evening should come and he could rub the precious dew on his sightless eyes.
At last it began to grow dusk, and the sun sank behind the mountains; gradually it became cooler on the hill, and the grass grew wet with dew. Then Ferko buried his face in the ground till his eyes were damp with dewdrops, and in a moment he saw clearer than he had ever done in his life before. The moon was shining brightly, and lighted him to the lake where he could bathe his poor broken legs.
Then Ferko crawled to the edge of the lake and dipped his limbs in the water. No sooner had he done so than his legs felt as sound and strong as they had been before, and Ferko thanked the kind fate that had led him to the hill where he had overheard the ravens’ conversation. He filled a bottle with the healing water, and then continued his journey in the best of spirits.
He had not gone far before he met a wolf, who was limping disconsolately along on three legs, and who on perceiving Ferko began to howl dismally.
‘My good friend,’ said the youth, ‘be of good cheer, for I can soon heal your leg,’ and with these words he poured some of the precious water over the wolf’s paw, and in a minute the animal was springing about sound and well on all fours. The grateful creature thanked his benefactor warmly, and promised Ferko to do him a good turn if he should ever need it.
Ferko continued his way till he came to a ploughed field. Here he noticed a little mouse creeping wearily along on its hind paws, for its front paws had both been broken in a trap.
Ferko felt so sorry for the little beast that he spoke to it in the most friendly manner, and washed its small paws with the healing water. In a moment the mouse was sound and whole, and after thanking the kind physician it scampered away over the ploughed furrows.
Ferko again proceeded on his journey, but he hadn’t gone far before a queen bee flew against him, trailing one wing behind her, which had been cruelly torn in two by a big bird. Ferko was no less willing to help her than he had been to help the wolf and the mouse, so he poured some healing drops over the wounded wing. On the spot the queen bee was cured, and turning to Ferko she said, ‘I am most grateful for your kindness, and shall reward you some day.’ And with these words she flew away humming, gaily.
Then Ferko wandered on for many a long day, and at length reached a strange kingdom. Here, he thought to himself, he might as well go straight to the palace and offer his services to the King of the country, for he had heard that the King’s daughter was as beautiful as the day.
So he went to the royal palace, and as he entered the door the first people he saw were his two brothers who had so shamefully ill-treated him. They had managed to obtain places in the King’s service, and when they recognised Ferko with his eyes and legs sound and well they were frightened to death, for they feared he would tell the King of their conduct, and that they would be hung.
No sooner had Ferko entered the palace than all eyes were turned on the handsome youth, and the King’s daughter herself was lost in admiration, for she had never seen anyone so handsome in her life before. His brothers noticed this, and envy and jealousy were added to their fear, so much so that they determined once more to destroy him. They went to the King and told him that Ferko was a wicked magician, who had come to the palace with the intention of carrying off the Princess.
Then the King had Ferko brought before him, and said, ‘You are accused of being a magician who wishes to rob me of my daughter, and I condemn you to death; but if you can fulfil three tasks which I shall set you to do your life shall be spared, on condition you leave the country; but if you cannot perform what I demand you shall be hung on the nearest tree.’
And turning to the two wicked brothers he said, ‘Suggest something for him to do; no matter how difficult, he must succeed in it or die.’
They did not think long, but replied, ‘Let him build your Majesty in one day a more beautiful palace than this, and if he fails in the attempt let him be hung.’
The King was pleased with this proposal, and commanded Ferko to set to work on the following day. The two brothers were delighted, for they thought they had now got rid of Ferko for ever. The poor youth himself was heart-broken, and cursed the hour he had crossed the boundary of the King’s domain. As he was wandering disconsolately about the meadows round the palace, wondering how he could escape being put to death, a little bee flew past, and settling on his shoulder whispered in his ear, ‘What is troubling you, my kind benefactor? Can I be of any help to you? I am the bee whose wing you healed, and would like to show my gratitude in some way.’
Ferko recognised the queen bee, and said, ‘Alas! how could you help me? for I have been set to do a task which no one in the whole world could do, let him be ever such a genius! To-morrow I must build a palace more beautiful than the King’s, and it must be finished before evening.’
‘Is that all?’ answered the bee, ‘then you may comfort yourself; for before the sun goes down to-morrow night a palace shall be built unlike any that King has dwelt in before. Just stay here till I come again and tell you that it is finished.’ Having said this she flew merrily away, and Ferko, reassured by her words, lay down on the grass and slept peacefully till the next morning.
Early on the following day the whole town was on its feet, and everyone wondered how and where the stranger would build the wonderful palace. The Princess alone was silent and sorrowful, and had cried all night till her pillow was wet, so much did she take the fate of the beautiful youth to heart.
Ferko spent the whole day in the meadows waiting the return of the bee. And when evening was come the queen bee flew by, and perching on his shoulder she said, ‘The wonderful palace is ready. Be of good cheer, and lead the King to the hill just outside the city walls.’ And humming gaily she flew away again.
Ferko went at once to the King and told him the palace was finished. The whole court went out to see the wonder, and their astonishment was great at the sight which met their eyes. A splendid palace reared itself on the hill just outside the walls of the city, made of the most exquisite flowers that ever grew in mortal garden. The roof was all of crimson roses, the windows of lilies, the walls of white carnations, the floors of glowing auriculas and violets, the doors of gorgeous tulips and narcissi with sunflowers for knockers, and all round hyacinths and other sweet-smelling flowers bloomed in masses, so that the air was perfumed far and near and enchanted all who were present.
This splendid palace had been built by the grateful queen bee, who had summoned all the other bees in the kingdom to help her.
The King’s amazement knew no bounds, and the Princess’s eyes beamed with delight as she turned them from the wonderful building on the delighted Ferko. But the two brothers had grown quite green with envy, and only declared the more that Ferko was nothing but a wicked magician.
The King, although he had been surprised and astonished at the way his commands had been carried out, was very vexed that the stranger should escape with his life, and turning to the two brothers he said, ‘He has certainly accomplished the first task, with the aid no doubt of his diabolical magic; but what shall we give him to do now? Let us make it as difficult as possible, and if he fails he shall die.’
Then the eldest brother replied, ‘The corn has all been cut, but it has not yet been put into barns; let the knave collect all the grain in the kingdom into one big heap before to-morrow night, and if as much as a stalk of corn is left let him be put to death.
The Princess grew white with terror when she heard these words; but Ferko felt much more cheerful than he had done the first time, and wandered out into the meadows again, wondering how he was to get out of the difficulty. But he could think of no way of escape. The sun sank to rest and night came on, when a little mouse started out of the grass at Ferko’s feet, and said to him, ‘I’m delighted to see you, my kind benefactor; but why are you looking so sad? Can I be of any help to you, and thus repay your great kindness to me?’
Then Ferko recognised the mouse whose front paws he had healed, and replied, ‘Alas I how can you help me in a matter that is beyond any human power! Before to-morrow night all the grain in the kingdom has to be gathered into one big heap, and if as much as a stalk of corn is wanting I must pay for it with my life.’
‘Is that all?’ answered the mouse; ‘that needn’t distress you much. Just trust in me, and before the sun sets again you shall hear that your task is done.’ And with these words the little creature scampered away into the fields.
Ferko, who never doubted that the mouse would be as good as its word, lay down comforted on the soft grass and slept soundly till next morning. The day passed slowly, and with the evening came the little mouse and said, ‘Now there is not a single stalk of corn left in any field; they are all collected in one big heap on the hill out there.’
Then Ferko went joyfully to the King and told him that all he demanded had been done. And the whole Court went out to see the wonder, and were no less astonished than they had been the first time. For in a heap higher than the King’s palace lay all the grain of the country, and not a single stalk of corn had been left behind in any of the fields. And how had all this been done? The little mouse had summoned every other mouse in the land to its help, and together they had collected all the grain in the kingdom.
The King could not hide his amazement, but at the same time his wrath increased, and he was more ready than ever to believe the two brothers, who kept on repeating that Ferko was nothing more nor less than a wicked magician. Only the beautiful Princess rejoiced over Ferko’s success, and looked on him with friendly glances, which the youth returned.
The more the cruel King gazed on the wonder before him, the more angry he became, for he could not, in the face of his promise, put the stranger to death. He turned once more to the two brothers and said, ‘His diabolical magic has helped him again, but now what third task shall we set him to do? No matter how impossible it is, he must do it or die.’
The eldest answered quickly, ‘Let him drive all the wolves of the kingdom on to this hill before to-morrow night. If he does this he may go free; if not he shall be hung as you have said.’
At these words the Princess burst into tears, and when the King saw this he ordered her to be shut up in a high tower and carefully guarded till the dangerous magician should either have left the kingdom or been hung on the nearest tree.
Ferko wandered out into the fields again, and sat down on the stump of a tree wondering what he should do next. Suddenly a big wolf ran up to him, and standing still said, ‘I’m very glad to see you again, my kind benefactor. What are you thinking about all alone by yourself? If I can help you in any way only say the word, for I would like to give you a proof of my gratitude.’
Ferko at once recognised the wolf whose broken leg he had healed, and told him what he had to do the following day if he wished to escape with his life. ‘But how in the world,’ he added, ‘am I to collect all the wolves of the kingdom on to that hill over there?’
‘If that’s all you want done,’ answered the wolf, ‘you needn’t worry yourself. I’ll undertake the task, and you’ll hear from me again before sunset to-morrow. Keep your spirits up.’ And with these words he trotted quickly away.
Then the youth rejoiced greatly, for now he felt that his life was safe; but he grew very sad when he thought of the beautiful Princess, and that he would never see her again if he left the country. He lay down once more on the grass and soon fell fast asleep.
All the next day he spent wandering about the fields, and toward evening the wolf came running to him in a great hurry and said, ‘I have collected together all the wolves in the kingdom, and they are waiting for you in the wood. Go quickly to the King, and tell him to go to the hill that he may see the wonder you have done with his own eyes. Then return at once to me and get on my back, and I will help you to drive all the wolves together.’
Then Ferko went straight to the palace and told the King that he was ready to perform the third task if he would come to the hill and see it done. Ferko himself returned to the fields, and mounting on the wolf’s back he rode to the wood close by.
Quick as lightning the wolf flew round the wood, and in a minute many hundred wolves rose up before him, increasing in number every moment, till they could be counted by thousands. He drove them all before him on to the hill, where the King and his whole Court and Ferko’s two brothers were standing. Only the lovely Princess was not present, for she was shut up in her tower weeping bitterly.
The wicked brothers stamped and foamed with rage when they saw the failure of their wicked designs. But the King was overcome by a sudden terror when he saw the enormous pack of wolves approaching nearer and nearer, and calling out to Ferko he said, ‘Enough, enough, we don’t want any more.’
But the wolf on whose back Ferko sat, said to its rider, ‘Go on! go on!’ and at the same moment many more wolves ran up the hill, howling horribly and showing their white teeth.
The King in his terror called out, ‘Stop a moment; I will give you half my kingdom if you will drive all the wolves away.’ But Ferko pretended not to hear, and drove some more thousands before him, so that everyone quaked with horror and fear.
Then the King raised his voice again and called out, ‘Stop! you shall have my whole kingdom, if you will only drive these wolves back to the places they came from.’
But the wolf kept on encouraging Ferko, and said, ‘Go on! go on!’ So he led the wolves on, till at last they fell on the King and on the wicked brothers, and ate them and the whole Court up in a moment.
Then Ferko went straight to the palace and set the Princess free, and on the same day he married her and was crowned King of the country. And the wolves all went peacefully back to their own homes, and Ferko and his bride lived for many years in peace and happiness together, and were much beloved by great and small in the land.
From THE YELLOW FAIRY BOOK – compiled and edited by Andrew Lang
There once lived a king and a queen as many a one has been. They were long married and had no children; but at last a baby boy came to the queen when the king was away in the far countries. The queen would not christen the boy till the king came back, and she said: ‘We will just call him Nix Nought Nothing until his father comes home.’ But it was long before he came home, and the boy had grown a fine, bonny laddie. At length the king was on his way back; but he had a big river to cross, and there was a whirlpool, and he could not get over the water. But a giant came up to him, and said: ‘I’ll carry you over.’ But the king said: ‘What’s your pay?’ ‘Oh, give me Nix, Nought, Nothing, and I will carry you over the water on my back.’ The king had never heard that his son was called Nix Nought Nothing, and so he said: ‘Oh, I’ll give you that and my thanks into the bargain.’ When the king got home again, he was very happy to see his wife again, and his young son. She told him that she had not given the child any name, but just Nix Nought Nothing, until he should come home again himself. The poor king was in a terrible case. He said: ‘What have I done? I promised to give the giant who carried me over the river on his back Nix Nought Nothing.’ The king and the queen were sad and sorry, but they said: ‘When the giant comes we will give him the hen-wife’s boy; he will never know the difference.’ The next day the giant came to claim the king’s promise, and he sent for the hen-wife’s boy; and the giant went away with the boy on his back. He travelled till he came to a big stone, and there he sat down to rest. He said: ‘Hidge, Hodge, on my back, what time of day is that?’
The poor little lad said: ‘It is the time that my mother, the hen-wife, takes up the eggs for the queen’s breakfast.’
Then the giant was very angry, and dashed the boy on the stone and killed him.
Back he went in a tower of a temper and this time they gave him the gardener’s boy. He went off with him on his back till they got to the stone again when the giant sat down to rest. And he said: ‘Hidge, Hodge, on my back, what time of day do you make that?’
The gardener’s boy said: ‘Surely, it’s the time that my mother takes up the vegetables for the queen’s dinner.’
Then the giant was as wild as could be, and killed him, too.
Then the giant went back to the king’s house in a terrible temper and said he would destroy them all if they did not give him Nix Nought Nothing this time. They had to do it; and when he came to the big stone, the giant said: ‘What time of day is that?’ Nix Nought Nothing said: ‘It is the time that my father the king will be sitting down to supper.’ The giant said: ‘I’ve got the right one now’; and took Nix Nought Nothing to his own house and brought him up till he was a man.
The giant had a bonny daughter, and she and the lad grew very fond of each other. The giant said one day to Nix Nought Nothing: ‘I’ve work for you tomorrow. There is a stable seven miles long and seven miles broad, and it has not been cleaned for seven years, and you must clean it tomorrow, or I will have you for my supper.’
The giant’s daughter went out next morning with the lad’s breakfast, and found him in a terrible state, for always as he cleaned out a bit, it just fell in again. The giant’s daughter said she would help him, and she cried all the beasts in the field, and all the fowls in the air, and in a minute they all came, and carried away everything that was in the stable and made it all clean before the giant came home. He said: ‘Shame on the wit that helped you; but I have a worse job for you tomorrow.’ Then he said to Nix Nought Nothing: ‘There is a lake seven miles long, and seven miles deep, and seven miles broad, and you must drain it tomorrow by nightfall, or else I’ll have you for my supper.’ Nix Nought Nothing began early next morning and tried to lave the water with his pail, but the lake was never getting any less, and he didn’t know what to do; but the giant’s daughter called on all the fish in the sea to come and drink the water, and very soon they drank it dry. When the giant saw the work done he was in a rage, and said: ‘I’ve a worse job for you tomorrow; there is a tree, seven miles high, and no branch on it, till you get to the top, and there is a nest with seven eggs in it, and you must bring down all the eggs without breaking one, or else I’ll have you for my supper.’ At first the giant’s daughter did not know how to help Nix Nought Nothing; but she cut off first her fingers and then her toes, and made steps of them, and he climb the tree and got all the eggs safe till he came just to the bottom, and then one was broken. So they determined to run away together, and after the giant’s daughter had gone back to her room and got her magic flask, they set out together as fast as they could run. And they hadn’t got but three fields away when they looked back and saw the giant walking along at full speed after them. ‘Quick! quick!’ called out the giant’s daughter, ‘take my comb from my hair and throw it down.’ Nix Nought Nothing took her comb from her hair and threw it down, and out of every one of its prongs there sprung up a fine thick briar in the way of the giant. You may be sure it took him a long time to work his way through the briar bush, and by the time he was well through, Nix Nought Nothing and his sweetheart had run far, far away from him. But he soon came along after them, and was just like to catch ’em up when the giant’s daughter called out to Nix Nought Nothing, ‘Take my hair dagger and throw it down, quick, quick!’ So Nix Nought Nothing threw down the hair dagger and out of it grew as quick as lightning a thick hedge of sharp razors placed cuss-cross. The giant had to tread very cautiously to get through all this and meanwhile they both ran hard, and on, and on, and on, till they were nearly out of sight. But at last the giant was through, and it wasn’t ‘long before he was like to catch them up. But just as he was stretching out his hand to catch Nix Nought Nothing his daughter took out her magic flask and dashed it on the ground. And as it broke, out of it welled a big, big wave that grew, and that grew, till it reached the giant’s waist and then his neck, and when it got to his head, he was drowned dead, and dead, and dead indeed.
But Nix Nought Nothing fled on till where do you think they came to? Why, to near the castle of Nix Nought Nothing’s father and mother. But the giant’s daughter was so weary that she couldn’t move a step further. So Nix Nought Nothing told her to wait there while he went and found out a lodging for the night. And he went on towards the lights of the castle, and on the way he came to the cottage of the hen-wife whose boy, you’ll remember, had been killed by the giant. Now she knew Nix Nought Nothing in a moment, and hated him because he was the cause of her son’s death. So when he asked his way to the castle, she put a spell upon him, and when he got to the castle, no sooner was he let in than he fell down dead asleep upon a bench in the hail. The king and queen tried all they could do to wake him up, but all in vain, So the king promised that if any maiden could wake him she could marry him.
Meanwhile the giant’s daughter was waiting and waiting for him to come back. And she went up into a tree to watch for him. The gardener’s daughter, going to draw water in the well, saw the shadow of the lady in the water and thought it was herself, and said: ‘If I’m so bonny, if I’m so brave, why do you send me to draw water?’ So she threw down her pail and went to see if she could wed the sleeping stranger. And she went to the hen-wife, who taught her an unspelling charm which would keep Nix Nought Nothing awake as long as the gardener’s daughter liked. So she went up to the castle and sang her charm and Nix Nought Nothing was wakened for a while and they promised to wed him to the gardener’s daughter. Meanwhile the gardener went down to draw water from the well and saw the shadow of the lady in the water. So he looked up and found her, and he brought the lady from the tree, and led her into his house. And he told her that a stranger was to marry his daughter, and took her up to the castle and showed her the man: and it was Nix Nought Nothing asleep in a chair. And she saw him, and she cried to him: ‘Waken, waken, and speak to me!’ But he would not waken, and soon she cried: ‘I cleaned the stable, I laved the lake, and I clomb the tree, And all for the love of thee, And thou wilt not waken and speak to me.’
The king and queen heard this, and came to the bonny young lady, and she said: ‘I cannot get Nix Nought Nothing to speak to me, for all that I can do.’
Then were they greatly astonished when she spoke of Nix Nought Nothing, and asked where he was, and she said: ‘He that sits there in that chair.’ Then they ran to him and kissed him and called him their own dear son; so they called for the gardener’s daughter and made her sing her charm, and he wakened, and told them all that the giant’s daughter had done for him, and of all her kindness. Then they took her in their arms and kissed her, and said she should now be their daughter, for their son should marry her. But as for the hen-wife, she was put to death. And they lived happy all their days.
From English Fairy Tales
(Recorded from Ann MacGilvray, Islay.–April 1859)
THERE was ere now a farmer, and he had three daughters. They were waulking(1) clothes at a river. A hoodie came round and he said to the eldest one, ’M-POS-U-MI, “Wilt thou wed me, farmer’s daughter?” “I won’t wed thee, thou ugly brute. An ugly brute is the hoodie,” said she. He came to the second one on the morrow, and he said to her, “M-POS-U-MI, wilt thou wed me?” “Not I, indeed,” said she; “an ugly brute is the hoodie.” The third day he said to the youngest, M-POS-U-MI, “Wilt thou wed me, farmer’s daughter?,” “I will wed thee,” said she; “a pretty creature is the hoodie,” and on the morrow they married.
The hoodie said to her, “Whether wouldst thou rather that I should be a hoodie by day, and a man at night; or be a hoodie at night, and a man by day?” “I would rather that thou wert a man by day, and a hoodie at night,” says she. After this he was a splendid fellow by day, and a hoodie at night. A few days after they married he took her with him to his own house.
At the end of three quarters they had a son. In the night there came the very finest music that ever was heard about the house. Every man slept, and the child was taken away. Her father came to the door in the morning, and he asked how were all there. He was very sorrowful that the child should be taken away, for fear that he should be blamed for it himself.
At the end of three quarters again they had another son. A watch was set on the house. The finest of music came, as it came before, about the house; every man slept, and the child was taken away. Her father came to the door in the morning. He asked if everything was safe; but the child was taken away, and he did not know what to do for sorrow.
Again, at the end of three quarters they had another son. A watch was set on the house as usual. Music came about the house as it came before; every one slept, and the child was taken away. When they rose on the morrow they went to another place of rest that they had, himself and his wife, and his sister-in-law. He said to them by the way, “See that you have not forgotten anything.” The wife said, “I FORGOT MY COARSE COMB.” The coach in which they were fell a withered faggot, and he went away as a hoodie.
Her two sisters returned home, and she followed after him. When he would be on a hill top, she would follow to try and catch him; and when she would reach the top of a hill, he would be in the hollow on the other side. When night came, and she was tired, she had no place of rest or dwelling; she saw a little house of light far from her, and though far from her she was not long in reaching it.
When she reached the house she stood deserted at the door. She saw a little laddie about the house, and she yearned to him exceedingly. The housewife told her to come up, that she knew her cheer and travel. She laid down, and no sooner did the day come than she rose. She went out, and when she was out, she was going from hill to hill to try if she could see a hoodie. She saw a hoodie on a hill, and when she would get on the hill the hoodie would be in the hollow, when she would go to the hollow, the hoodie would be on another hill. When the night came she had no place of rest or dwelling. She saw a little house of light far from her, and if far from her she, was not long reaching it. She went to the door. She saw a laddie on the floor to whom she yearned right much. The, housewife laid her to rest. No earlier came the day than she took out as she used. She passed this day as the other days. When the night came she reached a house. The housewife told her to come up, that she knew her cheer and travel, that her man had but left the house a little while, that she should be clever, that this was the last night she would see him, and not to sleep, but to strive to seize him. She slept, he came where she was, and he let fall a ring on her right hand. Now when she awoke she tried to catch hold of him, and she caught a feather of his wing. He left the feather with her, and he went away. When she rose in the morning she did not know what she should do. The housewife said that he had gone over a hill of poison over which she could not go without horseshoes on her hands and feet. She gave her man’s clothes, and she told her to go to learn smithying till she should be able to make horse shoes for herself.
She learned smithying so well that she made horseshoes for her hands and feet. She went over the hill of poison. That same day after she had gone over the hill of poison, her man was to be married to the daughter of a great gentleman that was in the town.
There was a race in the town that day, and everyone was to be at the race but the stranger that had come over to poison hill. The cook came to her, and he said to her, Would she go in his place to make the wedding meal, and that he might get to the race.
She said she would go. She was always watching where the bridegroom would be sitting.
She let fall the ring and the feather in the broth that was before him. With the first spoon he took up the ring, with the next he took up the feather. When the minister came to the fore to make the marriage, he would not marry till he should find out who had made ready the meal. They brought up the cook of the gentleman, and he said that this was not the cook who made ready the meal.
They brought up now the one who had made ready the meal. He said, “That now was his married wife.” The spells went off him. They turned back over the hill of poison, she throwing the horse shoes behind her to him, as she went a little bit forward, and he following her. When they came, back over the hill, they went to the three houses in which she had been. These were the houses of his sisters, and they took with them the three sons, and they came home to their own house, and they were happy.
1 – Washing clothes – also known as waulking: in addition to washing by hand the women would also lay the clothes on rocks and walk on the cloth during washing (usually at a river)
Written down by Hector Maclean, schoolmaster at Ballygrant, in Islay, from the recitation of “Ann MacGilvray, a Cowal woman, married to a farmer at Kilmeny, one Angus Macgeachy from Campbelltown.” Sent April 14, 1859.
The Gaelic of this tale is the plain everyday Gaelic of Islay and the West Highlands. Several words are variously spelt, but they are variously pronounced–falbh, folbh, tigh, taighe, taighean. There is one word, Tapaidh, which has no English equivalent; it is like “Tapper” in Swedish.
From “Popular Tales of the West Highlands” collated and edited by John Campbell – better known as “John of Islay”
CONNLA of the Fiery Hair was son of Conn of the Hundred Fights. One day as he stood by the side of his father on the height of Usna, he saw a maiden clad in strange attire coming towards him.
“Whence comest thou, maiden?” asked Connla.
“I come from the Plains of the Ever Living,” she said, “there where there is neither death nor sin. There we keep holiday alway, nor need we help from any in our joy. And in all our pleasure we have no strife. And because we have our homes in the round green hills, men call us the Hill Folk.”
The king and ail with him wondered much to hear a voice when they saw no one. For save Connla alone, none saw the Fairy Maiden.
“To whom art thou talking, my son? ” said Conn the king.
Then the maiden answered, “Connla speaks to a young, fair maid, whom neither death nor old age awaits. I love Connla, and now I call him away to the Plain of Pleasure, Moy Mell, where Boadag is king for aye, nor has there been complaint or sorrow in that land since he has held the kingship. Oh, come with me, Connla of the Fiery Hair, ruddy as the dawn with thy tawny skin. A fairy crown awaits thee to grace thy comely face and royal form. Come, and never shall thy comeliness fade, nor thy youth, till the last awful day of judgment.”
The king in fear at what the maiden said, which he heard though he could not see her, called aloud to his Druid, Coran by name.
“Oh, Coran of the many spells,” he said, ” and of the cunning magic, I call upon thy aid. A task is upon me too great for all my skill and wit, greater than any laid upon me since I seized the kingship. A maiden unseen has met us, and by her power would take from me my dear, my comely son. If thou help not, he will be taken from thy king by woman’s wiles and witchery.”
Then Coran the Druid stood forth and chanted his spells towards the spot where the maiden’s voice had been heard. And none heard her voice again, nor could Connla see her longer. Only as she vanished before the Druid’s mighty spell, she threw an apple to Connla.
For a whole month from that day Connla would take nothing, either to eat or to drink, save only from that apple. But as he ate it grew again and always kept whole. And all the while there grew within him a mighty yearning and longing after the maiden he had seen.
But when the last day of the month of waiting came, Connla stood by the side of the king his father on the Plain of Arcomin, and again he saw the maiden come towards him, and again she spoke to him.
“‘Tis a glorious place, forsooth, that Connla holds among shortlived mortals awaiting the day of death. But now the folk of life, the ever-living ones, beg and bid thee come to Moy Mell, the Plain of Pleasure, for they have learnt to know thee, seeing thee in thy home among thy dear ones.
When Conn the king heard the maiden’s voice he called to his men aloud and said:
“Summon swift my Druid Coran, for I see she has again this day the power of speech.”
Then the maiden said ” Oh, mighty Conn, fighter of a hundred fights, the Druid’s power is little loved; it has little honour in the mighty land, peopled with so many of the upright. When the Law will come, it will do away with the Druid’s magic spells that come from the lips of the false black demon.”
Then Conn the king observed that since the maiden came Connla his son spoke to none that spake to him. So Conn of the hundred fights said to him, “Is it to thy mind what the woman says, my son?”
“‘Tis hard upon me,” then said Connla; “I love my own folk above all things; but yet, but yet a longing seizes me for the maiden.”
When the maiden heard this, she answered and said “The ocean is not so strong as the waves of thy longing. Come with me in my curragh, the gleaming, straight-gliding crystal canoe. Soon we can reach Boadag’s realm. I see the bright sun sink, yet far as it is, we can reach it before dark. There is, too, another land worthy of thy journey, a land joyous to all that seek it. Only wives and maidens dwell there. If thou wilt, we can seek it and live there alone together in joy.”
When the maiden ceased to speak, Connla of the Fiery Hair rushed away from them and sprang into the curragh, the gleaming, straight-gliding crystal canoe. And then they all, king and court, saw it glide away over the bright sea towards the setting sun. Away and away, till eye could see it no longer, and Connla and the Fairy Maiden went their way on the sea, and were no more seen, nor did any know where they came.
From “Celtic Fairy Tales” compiled by Joseph Jacobs and exquisitely illustrated by John D Batten