The Celtic Dragon Myth, by J.F. Campbell, , at sacred-texts.com
p. 32 p. 33
1. At some time of the world, long long ago, there lived a poor old smith whose name was Duncan, and he lived in a little hut by the sea-shore. His house was built of boulders and turf, and thatched with bent and sea-ware; yellow gowans, green-grass, red thistles, and white flowers grew on the roof and waved in the wind, while the blue peat smoke curled up through a narel at the end of the roof. The fire was on the clay floor inside, and the smith's forge was at the end of the house. There Duncan had lived for many a long year, and there he was living with an old wife, an old mare, and an old dog for company. He had no son nor daughter, and never a man of his clan to bury him when his time should come.
2. When work was done in the smithy, or when there was no work to do, this old smith used to go out in the evening to fish in an old crazy boat; and many a time he had scanty fare, for fish are scarce and hard to catch in stormy weather in the west country.
3. On a day of these days, longer ago than you can remember, or than I can tell, he was fishing in
the gloaming as he used to do, but he could catch nothing.
4. At last, just at the mouth of night, a mermaid rose at the side of his boat, and she said:
"Well, Duncan, are you getting fish?"
Now, as everyone in these parts knows full well, mermaids are sea-monsters, half-woman, half-fish, with long yellow hair which they comb when they sit on the rocks to bask. They are very fond of music, they are very rich, and they are able to do many wonderful things. They often endow men and women with magical powers, and sometimes they fall in love with land people and marry them. So Duncan the smith answered the mermaid as he would have answered one of his land friends.
"No," said he, "I'm getting no fish at all."
"What will you give me," said the mermaid, "if I send you plenty of fish."
"Well then," said he, "I have but little to give."
"What have you got at home?" said the mermaid.
"Well," said the fisher, "I have an old wife, and an old white mare, and an old black dog, and that is all the stock that I have in the world."
"Will you give me your first son when he is three years old?" said the mermaid, "if I send you fish."
"I'll do that," said the fisher; and he thought that was a good bargain, for he had no son to give.
"It's a bargain," said the mermaid, and down she sank.
5. It was too late to fish any more that night, so the fisher sculled home and went to bed.
But if the sun rose early next day the fisher rose earlier than she did, and he went to the boat and out to sea, and there he fished his best. But all day long he caught nothing. At last in the time of dusk and lateness, what should he happen upon but a fish. He drew it up to the side of his boat, and reached out his hand to grasp it; but the fish with the hook in his throat opened his big mouth and gaped at him, and it gurgled and gasped out:
"Are you going to take me?"
"Well I am," said the fisher. "I'm glad enough to get even you."
"That's not the best thing for you to do," said the fish. "Let me go now and you shall have plenty of fish to-morrow."
So the old fisher pulled the hook out of the fish's throat and let him go, and home he rowed to his hut.
6. Home he went and dragged up his boat, and his wife met him.
"Well," said she, "have you got anything at all?"
"No," said he, "I have got nothing, but I shall get plenty to-morrow."
"What a pity it is that you came home empty to-night," said the wife.
"There's no help for it," said he.
And so they went supperless to bed.
7. Next morning he was up as early as the sun and off to sea to try his luck, but all day long he worked in vain. He could not catch hold of a fish, not a nibble could he get all day. But just at the mouth of night, at the time for coming home, the fish jerked and he struck and hauled up cheerily haul over haul. But when the fish came to the top it cried out:
"Are you going to take me with you to-night?"
"Well," said the old fisher, "I'm glad enough to have got you to take home."
"Oh," said the fish, rolling his eyes, "let me go to-night, it's best for you, and to-morrow you shall get something worth having."
So the fisher let the fish go, and home he rowed and dragged up his boat on the shingle, and shouldered his tackle, and walked up to his house door, and there his old wife met him again.
8. "Are you come home empty-handed again?" said she.
"I am, indeed," said the old man.
"Oh we shall not live," said the wife, we shall die." And so they went fasting to bed once more.