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THE Leprechaun–that flash from elf-land–was perched comfortably upon the west window ledge, high up in Ardmore Tower. Dawn was just beginning to send misty, gray lights over the rolling land. Winds that have blown since the world began were blowing around the old Irish tower. It was the south wind, this morning, that was blowing the strongest–the wind from the good sea that washed the coast of Ardmore and the high-lands of Ireland. The strong, stone tower, tapering skyward, stood, as it stands today, like a silent sentinel on the “hill of the sheep”–the “great hill.” Below its conical top, two windows, east and west, looked out, and it’s on the ledge of the west one–mind you–that the Leprechaun was sitting. He had been sitting there since sundown. An iron bar, inside the tower, goes from the top of the west window to the top of the east window, and once, no one knows how long ago, seven small bells hung from this bar under the pinnacle. They are gone now, but in the old days they used to ring often.
(“That’s so,” said the Leprechaun. He was always saying “That’s so,” to agree with himself or other people–himself oftenest.)
The Tower of Ardmore, Ireland
This little elf, in red jacket and green breeches who spends most of his days and some of his nights making shoes for the fairy folk, has been working the past night on a pair of riding boots for the fairy prince who wants the boots by sunrise. Tap, tap, tap–goes the Leprechaun’s tiny hammer. Whish, whish, go his swift fingers. Hum, hum-m-m-m-, goes his little singing tune, for the Leprechaun could no more work without singing than you could sleep without shutting your eyes.
(“That’s so!” said the Leprechaun.)
 
He is only six inches high, and harder to catch than a will-o’-the-wisp. If one could ever succeed in catching him, and then could keep looking at him, he might tell–though not a bit willingly–where a wonderful crock of gold is. But do you think you could keep looking at him and at him alone? Why, just as you think you are looking at nothing else, he, somehow, makes you look away from him, and, ochone, he is gone! He’s that clever.
(“That’s so,” said the Leprechaun.)
Many an enchantment the Leprechaun can perform, for all he appears so simple as he pegs away at the riding boots. Yes, himself it is that can blight the corn or snip off hair most unexpectedly.
When he sits, cross-legged at his work, whether on a cornice of a roof or on a twig of the low bushes, it’s just as well not to let him know you are watching him. The Irish fairy folk are all like that, and draw magic out of earth and sea and sky, or else draw it out of nothing at all.
(“Do you hear that?” said the Leprechaun.)
 
Now this misty, windy dawn of a morning, thousands of days and nights ago, as the Leprechaun, up there on the gray, stone tower, tapped, tapped with his hammer, to finish the prince’s boots, promised by sunrise, his elfin mind capered around with many thoughts. The mists were beginning to shine in the dim light of early morning, and the Leprechaun’s thoughts, freshened by the south wind, were wafted over the whole land of Erin that stretched beyond the bogs and swamps, beyond the mounds and cromlechs, beyond the hills. He could tell you the colours of all the winds of Ireland. This south wind was white; the north wind, full of blackness; the west wind pale yellow, and the east wind was always a stirring, purple wind. The lesser winds, too, had their colours–yellow of furze, red of fire, gray of fog, green of meadow, brown of autumn leaves, and three more colours that mortals could not see. The Leprechaun, whenever he wished, could travel lightly on whatever wind was blowing and sing a tune as loud as any of them. This morning, in the misty dawn, it was his heart that did the travelling and it was his thoughts that sang tunes to match. When his eyes glanced from his work, toward the sea, his thoughts flew to Manannan Mac Lir, the old sea-god, riding along in his chariot, with thousands of his steeds shaking their manes as they galloped with him. For many a century, the great, slender, round tower had watched these steeds and the spirited charioteer. On many a moonlit night, it had seen invading bands crawl quietly to shore and stealthily march right up to the base of the tower with bad plans to surprise the unprotected people. Again and again the men of Ardmore had gathered their families, with provisions, safely, into the tall tower, barring the narrow door that was many feet high above the ground. There the weak ones and the women and children had lived, for days, until the invaders had been driven away. The Leprechaun laughed aloud as he thought of one stormy day when the old sea-god, Manannan Mac Lir, had bidden his horses keep the invaders from reaching the shore and the tower. The lively horses shook their manes and obeyed–ochone, but they obeyed!
 
Tap, tap, tap! The south wind, thought the Leprechaun, will be a strong one, this day! And the wind will draw music from the harps of all the Little Good Folk throughout Erin. As the Leprechaun, between his taps, looked westward, there was a break in the light morning vapor, like the gay snatch of song a maiden sings in the midst of her work; and, through the break, the elf’s long gaze swept across the river Blackwater, and beside Watergrasshill, over the moor-land to the Bochragh Mountains, and even as far as Mt. Mish. There was a tale about Mt. Mish that rushed in now upon his thinking–a tale about his ancestors, the Tuatha-de-Danann “the folk of the god whose mother is Dana.”
 
On a day, in the early age of the world, when gray moor-land and steep mountains began to blaze brilliant with purple heather and yellow furze, the Danaans, covering themselves with a fog, crept along the east coast to possess the country near Mt. Mish. Fiercely they fought with the inhabitants, the Firbolgs, and won. For a thousand years they held sway–these tall, fair-haired men of Greek descent who had come from the North. After the thousand years and one day more, new invaders, the Milesians, entering along the bank of the Inverskena River, swept up into the land, like the knowing conquerors that they were, to overcome the Danaans.
The Leprechaun now sang, with a little humming chant, the words that Amergin, chief druid of the Milesians, sang when he set his right foot on the soil of Erin:
 
                      I am the Wind that blows over the sea,
I am the Wave of the ocean;
I am the Murmur of the billows;
I am the Ox of the seven combats;
I am the Vulture upon the rock;
I am a Ray of the Sun;
I am the fairest of Plants;
. . . . . . . . . . .
When the Danaans had been conquered by the Milesians, they promised that they would dwell inside the hills or under the lakes, and that they would be invisible to mortals, except on rare occasions. This promise they had kept.
(“That’s so,” said the Leprechaun.)
 
The Leprechaun liked what the Danaans, his ancestors, had done next. The chief druid of the Danaans had raised his golden harp in the dazzling sunlight, the other druids had lifted their silver harps in the glittering morning air, and all the druids had played such deliciously enchanting melodies that the Danaans, in a long procession that seemed like a living green, had followed their leaders, laughing as they went, and singing like merry brooks or happy children. Into the mountains they had gone, disappearing before the very eyes of the Milesians. Forever afterwards they lived within the mountains and became the Ever-Living Living Ones in the Land of Youth.
 
The Leprechaun knew well that he, and all his elf kin, were descendants of those very Danaans, who still lived in their underground palaces that blazed with light and laughter. Hadn’t the drean–the wise, small wren–that druid of birds, often told him what was going on down there? Hadn’t he himself been below the tower of Ardmore, where, in a glorious hall that belonged to the Ever-Living Living Ones, the Danaans held many a gay carousal? Didn’t he hear, at times, their bells ringing under the bog, on a quiet evening? And hadn’t he, more times than once, rung the sweet bells of Ardmore–these bells which never had been rung except by one whose real home was in the Land of Youth? In the Land of Youth was the Leprechaun’s home. (Ochone, I should say!) There it had been since the day that Oisin, son of Finn, journeyed to that land. For, on the same day, without Oisin’s knowledge, the Leprechaun had sped from the green hills of Erin, through a golden haze, to the country of the Ever-Living Living Ones. Oisin was his hero, his great hero, whom he had helped, invisibly, more than he had helped anyone else. The most valiant Danaan of all was Oisin, and Oisin he would follow to the world’s end.
(“That’s so,” said the Leprechaun, as he began the fancy stitching on the prince’s riding boots.)
Now, for the thousandth time, he told himself the story of Oisin, for he liked this tale best of all: how Oisin, when hunting, met the maiden, Niam of the Golden Hair, riding her snow-white steed; how, after she sang to him a song of the enchanting “land beyond dreams,” Oisin had ridden with her to the Land of Youth (and the Leprechaun, in the shape of a butterfly, had perched on the horse’s mane); how, in the realm of her father, the king, fearless Oisin had had brave adventures.
The Leprechaun Tower - Pixie 1
He rescued a princess from a giant; subdued the three Hounds of Erin (helped by the Leprechaun who confused the hounds), and found the magic harp–a harp next in wonder to the Dagda’s harp whose strings, when touched, would sing the story of the one who last touched them. He had even tilted with the king’s cupbearer to win a gold-hilted sword, and had done other worthy deeds. No time at all, it seemed to Oisin, that magical time, in the Land of Youth, but, at last, his heart longed to see his old home. So Niam of the Golden Hair gave him her snow-white steed to ride, but charged him three times that, when he should reach the familiar places of Erin, he must not, once, set foot upon the ground or he would never be able to return to the Land of Youth. Oisin bade her farewell and, with the Leprechaun as a butterfly still on the horse’s mane, he began his homeward journey.
As he was riding along, once more, through a beautiful vale of Erin, he saw men, much smaller than himself, trying in vain to push aside a huge boulder that had rolled from the hillside down upon their tilled land. In pity for these weaklings, he instantly jumped from his saddle to the ground (not heeding the Leprechaun who, in his own form, clung with all his might, to remind him of Niam’s warning) and, with one push, he sent the boulder out of the way. Alas! Even as the men were shouting praises to their god-like helper, it seemed to Oisin that darkness bore him to the earth. When he opened his eyes, lo, he was an old man, feeble, gray-headed, gray-bearded! The men whom he had helped, had with one accord run away; but the Leprechaun, astride a twig close by, whispered words of cheer and sang part of the song of the Danaans when they went into the mountains. Oisin then roused himself and said faintly, “I hear the voice of bells.” Then he added in a resolute tone, “Whenever I shall hear sweet bells ring, young will be my heart.” Since that day, the Leprechaun had often rung bells, especially the bells of Ardmore Tower, because he knew that Oisin would hear them and feel young again.
 
Tap, tap, tap,–and the Leprechaun’s work is done. It’s little that anyone can tell about him making shoes, or about Ireland’s heroes, or about its grassy mounds of mystery. He stands up now and stretches himself. If he felt like it, he could blow a blast on the tiny, curved horn, hanging at his side, and call, from the Underland, as many merry-hearted Danaans as he chose. He could cast spells, too, on the sea, beyond the ninth wave from shore. Instead, he whisks from the west window into the tower and out again, through the east window. There he stands for a few moments–his feet braced on the highest circular cornice, his back leaning against the sloping roof top–watching the rim of the sun rise over a mountainous cloud.
 
The sky of gold is changing to the pink of a wild rose. The gray mists, over moorland and mound, are scattering as quickly as the men whom Oisin helped.
 
The Leprechaun Tower - Pixie 2
The Round Tower of Ardmore again greeted the sun, as the Leprechaun, hugging tightly the riding boots promised to the fairy prince at sunrise, swiftly slid down a sunbeam to the top of the oak tree, where the prince was waiting.
 
“Here they are, Your Highness,” said the elf, with a bow.
The prince smiled, as he took the boots, and gave the Leprechaun a piece of gold. “You’ve kept your promise,” he said.
“That’s so,” answered the Leprechaun. Then he sprang up on the rollicking south wind and flew away.
 
From: Tower Legends
ISBN: 9781907256349
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ONCE upon a time, a wise raven lived in the top of the Giralda, the Moorish bell tower of the cathedral in Seville, Spain. The raven was old, so old that his head was not black, but gray. The tower, too, is old, and is crowned by the large, bronze figure of Faith which serves as a weather vane. For four centuries, el Girandello, the weather vane, has turned with the wind; and it was four centuries ago, that the raven was living in the tower. All day, he would sit on his perch, with his learned head cocked on one side as he sleepily studied the stonework of the belfry, or alertly discussed weighty matters with his bird comrades and with the wind. At night, he was often deep in talk with his special friend, the owl, who, when tired of roaming through the tops of the giant palm trees or of prowling into out-of-the-way nooks in the cathedral roof, liked to tell of his adventures. For, in night wanderings, the owl sometimes flew near the quiet Guadalquiver which flowed by Seville, and he heard the river murmur tales of the Tower of Gold on its bank; or he peered into the gardens of the Alcazar where Spanish kings had long had their palace, and heard, from the moonbeams, tales which, when repeated, made even the raven’s sober thoughts turn sprightly. What the raven liked best to hear was what the owl, or any one else, could tell of the Giralda itself or of the mighty Cathedral below the tower. For the raven cared for nothing in the world so much as he cared for this tall tower, up whose winding passage, of three hundred feet, men had ridden on horseback, almost to the very top. Yes, with his own eyes he had seen those riders. Before the days of the riders, in the time when the bells of the Giralda summoned the Moors to prayer, there had been, on the spire, four large, gilded, copper balls that shone like golden apples. After an earthquake had thrown down the copper balls, el Girandello was placed on the top of the dome. The raven considered himself the owner of el Girandello and, in truth, of all the Giralda. Who, but himself, had perched on the sills of the twin windows that looked out, high in the tower, over the white-roofed Seville? Who, but himself, had stood upon the helmet on the head of el Girandello? Not the owl!–the raven saw to that! And not another bird of his acquaintance, surely! He knew himself to be the oldest raven in the world; he knew himself to be the wisest raven in the world;–and he certainly owned the whole of the Giralda!

The raven, in short, was entirely satisfied with his belfry and its bells. It was a rectangular belfry, and on the four faces of the rectangular stage, high up, were inscribed the four words: Turris . . . Fortissima . . . Nomen . . . Domini1 The great bells, each christened with holy oil, had their own names. There were Santa Maria and San Juan; there was la Gorda, or The Fat; there was brave San Miguel; there was el Cantor, or The Singer; and there was many another. At times, the bells rang softly through the still air that hovered over the flat-roofed city. At other times, they rang out with such noisy clamor that the vibration penetrated the houses farthest away, and the raven of the Giralda clung to his stone perch as closely as the leaves of the cocoa tree cling to their twigs. The raven liked el Cantor better than all the other bells. He couldn’t sing a note himself, but he liked this singing bell, with its especially clear tone. On spring evenings when the fragrance of orange blossoms and acacias filled the air, The Singer would peal forth such a glad note that the people down in the street would say, “El Cantor is feeling fine tonight”; and the raven, up in the tower, would croak loudly with him, though he never croaked with any other bell.

Now it happened that the wind, even more than the owl, was a friend of the raven. This was not only because the wind was usually a gentle, lovable, sunny-hearted fellow, but because he was always around the tower, day and night, whereas the owl hid all day.

RAVEN OF THE GIRALDA - Raven Ringing the Bell

When the raven felt like talking, the wind was always on hand to listen. That was a friend worth having! The wind, too, often told capital stories.

One afternoon, the wind told the raven an astonishing tale. The wind had it from the owl who, in turn, had it from the passarinno–that small, gray bird who sings like an angel. To this passarinno, the story had come down from his ancestor, of a much earlier time. That ancestor had told it to the wind of his day, who wafted it to the ears of King Alfonso, the Sage. Perhaps, in the later days, it had grown by traveling (passarinno to owl, owl to wind, wind to raven); for, when Alfonso, in the thirteenth century, wrote the tale in his big book of Cantigas, it wasn’t just like the passarinno’s story to the owl three centuries later. Would you like to hear the tale? Anyone may hear it. To believe the tale as it should be believed, and to understand it aright, you must be able to know the power of melodious sounds, as truly as the blind organist of Seville Cathedral knew that power. If you do not know anything about the music of the trees, or the music of the birds, or the music of the air, you may as well stop reading this story and gather nuts instead. Listen to the tale, if you will; here it is, as the wind told it to the raven.

“For, sir,” began the wind,” it was a passarinno who told the owl and the owl told me. The owl had been praising the voice of the passarinno, but the passarinno protested and said,

‘My voice is nothing compared to the voice of my ancestress–the passarinna 2 who entranced the monk.’ Now, pray, explain your words,’ said the owl. The passarinno answered, pleasantly, ‘Sit comfortably and I will tell you all.’ They were in the garden of the Alcazar and were perched on a tall cocoa tree. The owl settled himself on a wide, sweeping leaf, and the passarinno perched himself on a leaf above.

‘My ancestress,’ the passarinno went on, ‘was the most marvelous singer ever known. Her home was in the garden, just outside the Court of Oranges beside the Giralda, and when she was singing she would look up at the tower. But she rarely was heard by anyone, because she chose to live in the unfrequented part of the great garden. One morning a monk came, very slowly, along the path that led to the shrubbery where the passarinna lived, and my ancestress knew at once three things about that monk: first, that he was good; second, that he was old; third, that he was weary. The monk sat down, rather heavily, beside the fountain that was sending a cool, orange-scented, shimmering spray of water into the air. Leaning over the edge of the pool, he bathed his hands in the clear water and bathed his face. The passarinna could plainly see how refreshing, to the tired monk, the water felt; for there came into his face a look like the look on a parched tree when a shower renews it. The weary lines on the monk’s brow passed away, as cloud-bars vanish from the evening sky, leaving fairness and tranquillity. He sat, for some time, with a smile on his face, looking up at the tree tops and at the Giralda beyond. Then, kneeling down–and his knees were not as stiff as when he entered the garden–he prayed aloud that he might be permitted to know what the happiness of Paradise would be like. It was at that moment the passarinna–marvelous ancestress of mine–began to sing.

RAVEN OF THE GIRALDA - The Monk rose from his knees

‘The monk rose from his knees, and, with a smile on his face, seated himself in the thickest part of the shrubbery, where he could see the passarinna and where the passarinna could see him. That bird of birds sang on and on, now softly, now triumphantly, now wistfully, now ecstatically. There was such charm in her singing, all the leaves forgot to rustle. There was such charm in the melody, the water in the fountain ceased moving–the breezy air was hushed and wondering–the day faded imperceptibly into night, and the stars came nearer earth to hear the song. Still the passarinna sang on and on and on. Still the monk listened happily, with an exalted look in his eyes, and was unaware of the passing of hours or of days. As the passarinna continued her heavenly song, time itself stopped, though life went on. . . . The monk listened, listened in rapture, while joyous satisfaction held his whole being . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

RAVEN OF THE GIRALDA - There came to the door of the monastery

‘Late one afternoon,’ went on the passarinno, ‘there came to the door of the monastery near the Giralda, an aged, worn-looking man, long-bearded, and in shabby monk’s dress. The prior himself answered his knock and said, “Who are you, poor stranger, and what do you want?”

‘The monk stammered in much confusion, “Good father, I belong here . . . I left the monastery this morning for a walk. . . . I come back–all is changed. I do not understand. The trees look different . . . the monastery is larger . . . you are not my prior . . . nothing is the same. Where am I? . . . What has happened since morning? . .

I heard a bird sing, and I was so entranced with the song I may have stayed away too long.”

‘The prior and the brother monks who had now come to the door looked at one another in surprise, and said, in low tones, “He is evidently not himself. . . . The man does not know what he says.”

‘The prior then spoke to the man, kindly, saying, “What is your name?”

“I am Brother Jubilo,” the monk replied; “I mean, . . . he stammered, “that was my name in the monastery . . . that was what I was called this morning.”

‘The oldest monk among those at the door now looked thoughtful. It was to him that the others always turned whenever any knowledge of the past was wanted. “Attend my words,” he suddenly said to the prior. “Three hundred years ago a brother monk, named Jubilo, wandered off and was never again seen. My Father–my brother monks—I am of the opinion that we have before us, this day, a true marvel! I am sure this poor monk and that Jubilo, of three hundred years ago, are the same!”

‘Then the prior, believing, took the monk warmly by the hand and brought him into the monastery, and all rejoiced.’

‘That, ‘said the passarinno to the owl, ‘is the story of my ancestress, the passarinna of long ago. The Giralda knows I speak truth.’

And the wind, as he finished the tale, remarked, “That’s all the story, sir; but the passarinno does speak truth.”

“Truth it is,” replied the raven, “and I’ll keep the story going.”

Then the sunny wind brushed the tail feathers of the raven and blew along his leisurely way, through the streets of Seville.

The raven sat stolidly in his niche, gazing with keen eyes at the city spread out below the Giralda–its flat-roofed houses gleaming in soft colours, from blue and gray to palest pink. He watched the women watering their carnations on the roofs. He saw the motionless, dusky Guadalquiver, in the late afternoon light. His eyes followed the group of boys coming to the Cathedral to practice their solemn dance. Turning his wise, old head, he looked toward the gardens of the Alcazar, then down at the Court of Oranges, and at the roof of the vast Cathedral below him–its parapets, and buttresses. His roving gaze went all over the city until sundown. The bells of the Giralda sent out their evening peal, and el Cantor’s vibrating tone fell softly on the waiting breeze. The raven sturdily croaked, croaked, until el Cantor stopped singing; then, humping himself into a ball, he tucked his head under his feathers and went to sleep.

RAVEN OF THE GIRALDA - The Raven Sings

From: TOWER LEGENDS

ISBN: 9781907256349

URL: http://abelapublishing.com/tower-legends_p27279490.htm

Also available as an eBook in PDF and ePub

Footnotes

1 The name of the Lord a most steadfast tower.

2 Passarinna (the feminine form of passarinno) is the diminutive of the Old Spanish pasara (in modern Spanish, pajara). The nearest equivalent today is Passerina (sparrow), the painted finch.

Raven of the Giralda - Sevilla_La_Giralda

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