The Celtic Dragon Myth, by J.F. Campbell, , at sacred-texts.com
76. Then as usual the old herd met him and counted the cows, and said:
"Did anything happen to frighten you to-day? "No," said the herd, "nothing. What should happen?"
77. "I have news for you this day," said the herd.
"What's that?" said the Gray Lad.
The great "Biast" is coming out of the sea to take away the king's daughter, and unless he gets her the whole realm will be ravaged.
"I should care much more if evil befel our brown cow, than if it happens to the king's daughter," said the herd's boy; and home he sauntered to the herd's hut, and went to rest.
78. If the dawn came early next day, the herd
rose earlier, and he took the cows and the brown cow at their head, and went straight to the first park. He opened the door of the park, and put them in, because there was no giant there now to meddle with or molest them. Then he tucked up the skirts of his gray garment, and up he went to the copper castle, and took out his copper whistle and played on it, and blew a shrill blast. The ruddy brown-russet servant came out and said:
"What's your will, master?"
"Meat and drink, horse and dress, arms and armour," said the lad.
That was ready, and when he had eaten and drunk his fill, he mounted and started.
79. Now when the king found that his only daughter had to be early out on the deep-dyed dark green hills, where the sun rises betimes and sets so late; and when he could find no man to guard her from the great sea monster that was to come out of the sea but the cock-eyed carrotty cook, who carved the meat with a great big knife in the king's kitchen, he sent them both off to the strand before sunrise, and fourteen full-armed, worthy warriors with them. When they got there, the king's daughter sat on a green mound by the seaside, and the cook went to the shore and flourished his carving-knife. He dug it into the sand and shouted:
"Though all the monsters in the sea, and all the warriors in Sorcha should come, thus will I do to them."
When he was tired he came to the king's daughter, and laid his head on her lap.
"Comb my hair," said he.
"Comb your filthy hair?" said the Princess, "you wretched scullion, not I."
80. Then they saw a shower coming from the West, and the sun in the East, and a glittering warrior with a flashing sword, with a ruddy russet dress, and a red horse riding swiftly from the eastern sky. And when they saw him, the fourteen full-armed worthy warriors fled to hide, and the cock-eyed carrotty-headed cook with the carving-knife ran away faster than they. And he hid in a dark hole where no man could see him and where he could see all.
81. Then the rider of the red palfrey came down to earth and tied his steed to the branch of a tree and came to the king's daughter, who sat sorrowful on the green mound by the deep-dyed dark green hills by the sea-shore, and he said:
"There's gloom on your face, girl; what ails you? and why are you here?"
"No matter," said she. "I shall not be here long, for the dragon is coming out of the sea for me, to take me away."
"I will stay with you," said the lad, "and keep you company for a while."
Then he laid his head in her lap to sleep and rest, and she combed his long hair.
82. "But if you sleep," said she, "what will rouse you?"
"If I sleep," said he, "nothing will rouse me but to cut off the tip of my left ear. Do that when the dragon comes."
And so they sat on the green mound in the morning sun, and the king's daughter combed the lad's long hair and he fell fast asleep.
83. He had not slept long when the lady looked and saw the dark squall coming from the West, the sea running East, and the waves waxing; and she tried to waken the lad. She laid his sword on his face and he stirred but slept on.
Then she saw the dragon coming in the squall with the rising tide and the waxing waves, spouting and blowing spray and spindrift from mouth and nose, and she was terribly frightened by the horrible noise of the fearful beast. She took the lad's bright sword and cut off the tip of his left ear, and up he rose and shook himself.
84. Then he shook a little rusty shaggy bridle that he had at his girdle and a black steed came and a black hound. He mounted the horse, and down to the strand he rode with the black hound at his heels.
85. And the dragon came to the strand, and he was so weighty that he sank in in the sand.
86. Then they fell upon each other with hard blows and much noise, rattling of stones, clashing of arms, baying and neighing, and shouting and roaring, splashing of billows and turmoil of wind and waves. Man and dog did the best they could, and the dragon
fought as well; sometimes the dragon rolled over the man, sometimes the man rolled over the dragon.
87. At last the man thought that he was far from friends and near his foe, so he gathered his strength and clutched his sword and smote off one of the monster's heads.
88. "If I had a draught of fair water," said the dragon, "I would tear you to pieces now."
"If I had a draught of good red wine I would slay you this day," said the fisher's son.
89. "If one head is off two are on," said the dragon. "If the king's daughter is not here tomorrow at this same hour the realm shall be ravaged by me."
90. Then the dragon went back into the sea and went out of the loch with the ebb tide and the swelling waves of the ocean.
91. Then the lad picked up the dragon's head and tied it in a withy with a queer knot, and he sprang on his red horse and rode off to the eastern sky and disappeared.
92. Now the cook had hid in a place where no one could see him and where he could see every one, and when the coast was clear, out he came and seized the head and flourished his knife, and threatened the king's daughter with instant death if she dared to say that he did not do this deed of valour.
93. The fourteen full-armed worthy warriors of the king's guard when all was still came back, and found the cook with the dragon's head on a withy,
and the king's daughter unharmed. They all marched back to the palace and boasted aloud.
94. But the king's daughter had the tip of the ear in her pocket.
95. The fisher's son went back to the copper castle and played on his copper whistle, and gave his red steed to be stabled by the ruddy russet-brown servant, and his dress to be laid aside. Meat he got and good red wine to drink, and when he had rested, he tucked up the skirts of his gray garment and went to the park and opened the gate, and let out the brown cow and the rest of the cattle, and sauntered home as was his wont.
96. "I have news for you to-day," said the old herd when he met him.
"What's that?" said the Gray Lad.
"The cock-eyed carrotty cook has cut one head off the beast that was to take away the king's daughter, but two heads are on yet, and they are to meet tomorrow."
"I had rather our brown cow were well than the realm and the king's girl," said the herd's boy.
97. "Well," said the herd. "It will be said of that cock-eyed cook: 'Many a good blade has a bad sheath.'"
"That's true enough," said the herd's boy, and home he went and slept in his dark crib.
98. If the day came soon, sooner than that the herd was up, and off he set with the cows to the second park. He went to the silver castle and
sounded his silver whistle, and the fine fair servant came out and said: "What's your will, Master?"
"Meat and drink, horse and harness," said he.
That was ready, and when he had eaten and drunk he mounted and rode through the air.
99. The king's daughter, with the carrotty cockeyed cook and the fourteen fine, full-armed, worthy warriors were at the strand boasting and brandishing their blades as before.
100. But when the sun rose they looked to the East, and saw a gleaming, glittering warrior in silver armour riding through the air on a milk-white steed, with a gleaming, glancing sword of light in his right hand; and then they fled helter-skelter up to the deep dyed dark green hills, and the cook hid in his dark hole as he did before.
101. The rider of the milk-white steed came down to earth, and tied his horse to the branch of a tree and came to the king's daughter; and without more ado he laid his head in her lap, where she sat on the green knoll by the sea-shore, and there they talked for a time and a while, while she combed his hair.
102. "But," said she, "if you sleep how shall you be roused?"
"Lay my sword upon my face," he said, "and if that won't rouse me, cut off the tip of my little finger when the dragon comes."
103. Then he slept while the lady sat and combed his hair, and the cook looked out of the
dark hole, where no one could see him and he could see all.
104. He had not slept long when the West grew dark with a coming squall, and the sea ran East and the waves waxed big and gurly, and the tide rose on the strand. Then she laid the bright steel on his face, and he stirred in his sleep but slept on.
Then she saw the dragon in the squall with the spindrift flying, blowing clouds of spray and steam from his mouth and throat and nostrils, and she seized the sword and shore off the tip of his right little finger, and up he rose.
105. He took from his girdle the little black rusty bit and the shaggy headstall and shook itand the black steed and the black hound were at his side. He mounted, and to the strand he rode.
106. Then the dragon landed and trailed himself up, and he sank in the sand; he was so mighty and weighty, but this time he sank less, for he was lighter by one head.
107. "A hard fight for the king's daughter today," roared the dragon.
"A hard fight," shouted the herd boy, and at it they went. Horse and hound and man and monster rolled and roared, barked and bayed, and drove the sand and stones into the air, bit and fought and panted till they were tired. It was hard to say which had the best of the battle.
108. At last the herd thought that he was far from friend and too near a fearful foe, so he gathered
his might and heaved up the beast, and he put his shoulder under and tossed him up and broke his ribs, and his shoulder-blade on the strand.
Then he grasped his shining steel sword and smote off a second head.
109. If I had a draught of water I would win yet," said the dragon.
"If I had a draught of good red wine I would slay you this day," said the herd.
110. One head is on if two are off," said the dragon. "I will be here to-morrow to take the king's daughter. If she is not here I'll ruin the realm."
111. Then the dragon trailed himself back to the sea, and went out with the ebb and the gurly waves of the dark west. Then the herd bound the head on a withy, mounted his white steed and went off swiftly.
112. Then out came the cock-eyed carrotty cook with his carving-knife, and danced and boasted and brandished his blade and took the head in his hand.
113. Then down came the worthy well-armed warriors of the king's guard, and they took the king's daughter home in triumph, and boasted and shouted more than ever they boasted before.
114. The herd went back to his silver castle and blew his whistle, and gave his milk-white steed and glittering silver armour to his fine fair servant to stable and keep; he called for meat and blood-red wine to drink, and when he had rested he donned his gray garment and gathered the skirts, and opened
the park gate and let out the brown cow, and followed the beasts home as before.
115. "I've got right good news," said the old herd when he met the lad.
"What's that?" said he.
116. "It will be often said of that red-skulled cook that a good blade may have a bad sheath."
"What has he done now?" said the lad.
"He has brought home the dragon's second head and broken his ribs and his shoulder-blade, and the king's daughter is safe; and all the realm is rejoicing, for they hope to be rid of the dragon to-morrow."
"Is it so?" said the lad, and he went to the byre with the brown cow and the rest of them and went to bed.
117. Next morning long before dawn the herd was up and off to the third park with the cows. He put them in and went to his golden castle and played upon his golden whistle, and when the yellow russet servant came out, he said: "What's your will, master?"
"Meat and drink, horse and harness for a hard fight," said he.
That was ready, and when he had enough he mounted and rode west.
118. The king's daughter and all her company were at the same place. They looked East and they looked West, and they saw nothing but sky and sea.
119. Then the boasters began to brandish their weapons, and the carrotty, cock-eyed cook came to
the king's daughter where she sat on the green knoll beside the sea-shore by the deep-dyed dark-green hills of Greece, and he laid his head on her lap.
120. Louse my head," said he. "You filthy scullion," said she. "Not I."
121. Then they looked West and they saw the squall, and they looked East and they saw the same. And they saw a rider riding through the sky in a glittering green garment on a yellow golden-brown palfrey, with a bright, glancing, glittering, bright sword of light in his right hand, and when they saw him they all fled to their lairs as was their wont.
122. The rider of the golden steed came down to earth and tied his horse to the branch and came to the king's daughter, and laid his hand on her lap at once.
123. "If I am hard pressed," he said, "give me a draught of wine."
"And where shall I get wine here?" said she.
"Take this golden cup," he said, "and give to me when I am hard pressed."
124. "And what will wake you if you sleep?" said she.
"Cut the size of a coin from the crown of my head," said he.
125. Then he laid his head in her lap, and she combed his long hair, and he slept for he was tired.
126. Then the tide began to rise, and the clouds to gather in the West, and the dark squall came down, and the sea ran East, and the waves waxed
great and gurly green and blue and black. The storm rose and the king's daughter quaked for fear, but the lad slept on.
127. Then she saw the dragon coming up the loch with the spindrift flying, steaming and spouting, roaring and raving, and she took the sharp sword and shore a bit from the lad's scalp, a lock of his hair, and a bit of his skin, and up he rose and shook himself.
128. He shook his little black rusty bit and shaggy bridle-rein, and his black horse and hound were beside him.
129. The dragon landed where he landed before, and trailed himself up the sand, and sank in it, so vast and heavy he was; but he did not sink nearly so far, and he did not go so fast, for he was lighter and weaker.
130. The lad rode to meet him.
"A hard battle to-day," said the dragon.
"A stout fight," said the lad, and at it they went once more. Horse and hound, man and monster, neighing, baying, shouting and roaring, biting and fighting, struggling and wrestling, at hand grips they made little stones fly up, great rocks fall with the clatter of hard knocks. At last they were so tired that they stopped for breath.
131. "If I had a draught of water I would win yet and tear you to bits," said the dragon.
"If I had a draught of good wine I would slay you," said the herd.
Click to enlarge
The storm rose and the king's daughter quaked for fear, but the lad slept on.
Click to enlarge
He cut off the dragon's third head, and won the fight.
Then the king's daughter took wine and ran to the lad, and he drank a draught. 1
132. Then he thought of the wolf and he was a wolf, and he tore at the dragon, and was a man and clutched his sword and cut off the dragon's third head, and won the fight.
133. And the dragon was a pool of water and a heap of sand.
Then he tied the head on a withy with a curious knot, and sprang on his golden steed and went the way he came.
134. Out came the cook and flourished his blade, and out came the well-armed worthy warriors of the king's guard, and home they went with the princess in triumph, for the dragon was dead and the cook had won the princess and half the realm; and when they got home, all the realm rejoiced that the dragon had died on the shore and would trouble them no further.
135. The lad rode back to his golden castle, and gave his green dress and his golden steed to the yellow-faced russet servant to tend and feed. When he was rested and feasted, he gathered the skirts of his gray garment and gathered his cows and followed them home.
136. The herd met him and said, "Good news to-night, my lad."
"What's that?" said he.
"The cook has killed the dragon and won the princess and half the realm, and all the people are bidden to a great wedding-feast that the king will give to-morrow. There is many a good blade in a bad sheath, and that cock-eyed carrotty cook is one."
"You don't say so," quoth the Gray Lad, and he sauntered home with his beasts, arid slept as if nothing had happened.
69:1 From a Gaelic version told by Dewar and Macnair. In Swedish, the princess aids by putting rags on the necks of the monster, for the heads when they touch water gain life and leap on again. This incident is in Gaelic also, and occurs at the end of this story.