From Neill Gillies, fisherman, near Inverary.
THERE was a king over Lochlin, once upon a time, who had a leash of daughters; they went out (on) a day to take a walk; and there came three giants, and they took with them the daughters of the king, and there was no knowing where they had gone. Then the king sent word for the sheanachy, and he asked him if he knew where his lot of daughters had gone. The sheanachy said to the king that three giants had taken them with them, and they were in the earth down below by them, and there was no way to get them but by making a ship that would sail on sea and land; and so it was that the king set out an order, any one who would build a ship that would sail on sea and on land, that he should get the king's big daughter to marry. There was a widow there who had a leash of sons; and the eldest said to his mother on a day that was there, "Cook for me a bannock, and roast a cock; I am going away to cut wood, and to build a ship that will go to seek the daughters of the king." His mother said to him, "Which is better with thee, the big bannock with my cursing, or a little bannock with my blessing?" "Give me a big bannock, it will be small enough before I build a
ship." He got a bannock and he went away. He arrived where there was a great wood and a river, and there he sat at the side of the river to take the bannock. A great Uruisg came out of the river, and she asked a part of the bannock. He said that he would not give her a morsel, that it was little enough for himself. He began cutting the wood, and every tree he cut would be on foot again; and so he was till the night came.
When the night came, he went home mournful, tearful, blind sorrowful. His mother asked, "How went it with thee to-day, son?" He said "That it went but black ill; every tree I would cut would be on foot again." A day or two after this the middle brother said that he himself would go; and he asked his mother to cook him a cake and roast him a cock; and in the very way as happened to his eldest brother, so it happened to him. The mother said the very same thing to the young one; and he took the little bannock. The Uruisg came, and she asked a part of the cake and the cock. He said to her, "That she should get that." When the Uruisg had eaten her own share of the cake and of the cock, she said to him, That she knew what had brought him there as well as he himself, but he was to go home; but to be sure to meet her there at the end of a day and year; and that the ship would be ready at the end.
It was thus it happened: At the end of a day and a year the widow's young son went, and he found that the Uruisg had the ship floating on the river, fully equipped. He went away then with the ship, and a leash of gentlemen, as great as were in the kingdom, that were to marry the daughters of the king. They were but a short time sailing when they saw a man
drinking a river that was there. He asked him, "What art thou doing there?" "I am drinking up this river." "Thou hadst better come with me, and I will give thee meat and wages, and better work than that." "I will do that," said he. They had not gone far forward, when they saw a man eating a stot in a park. "What art thou doing there?" said he.
"I am here going to eat all the stots in this park."
"Thou hadst better go with me, and thou wilt get work, and wages better than raw flesh." "I will do that," said he. They went but a short distance when they saw another man with his ear to the earth. "What art thou doing there?" said he. "I am here hearing the grass coming through earth." "Go with me, and thou wilt get meat, and better wages than to be there with thy ear to the earth." They were thus sailing back and forwards, when the man who was listening said, "That this was the place in which were the king's daughters and the giants." The widow's son, and the three that had fallen in with them, were let down in a creel in a great hole that was there. They reached the house of the big giant. "Ha! ha!" said he, the giant, "I knew well what thou art seeking here. Thou art seeking the king's daughter, but thou wilt not get that, unless thou hast a man that wilt drink as much water as I." He set the man who was drinking the river to hold drinking against the giant; and before he was half satisfied the giant burst. Then they went where the second giant was. "Ho, both! ha, hath!" said the giant, "I know well what sent thee here; thou art seeking the king's daughter; but thou shalt not get her, if thou hast not a man who will eat as much flesh as I." He set the man who was eating the stot to hold the eating of flesh against the
giant; but before he was half satisfied the giant burst. Then he went where the third giant was. "Haio!" said the giant, "I know what set thee here; but thou wilt not get the king's daughter, by any means, unless thou stayest a day and a year by me a sgalag" (slave, servant). "I will do that," said he; and he sent up in the basket, first the three men, and then the king's daughters. The three great men were waiting at the mouth of the hole till they should come up, and they went with them where the king was; and they told the king that they themselves had done all the daring deeds that there were.
When the end of a day and year had come, he said to the giant, "that he was going." The giant said, "That he had an eagle that would set him up to the top of the hole." The giant set the eagle away with him, and five stots and ten for a meal for her; but the eagle went not half way up through the hole when she had eaten the stots, and she returned back again.
Then the giant said to him, "Thou must remain by me another day and year, and then I will send thee away." When the end of this year came he sent the eagle away with him, and ten stots and twenty. They went this time well further on than they went before, but she ate the stots and she turned back. "Thou must," said the giant, "stay by me another year, and then I will send thee away." The end of this year came, and the giant sent them away, and three score of stots for the eagle's meat; and when they were at the mouth of the hole the stots were expended, and she was going to turn back; but he took a steak out of his own thigh, and he gave this to the eagle, and with one spring she was on the surface of the earth.
At the time of parting the eagle gave him a whistle,
and she said to him, "Any hard lot that comes on thee, whistle and I will be at thy side." He did not allow his foot to stop, or empty a puddle out of his shoe, till he reached the king's big town. He went where there was a smith who was in the town, and he asked the smith if he was in want of a gillie to blow the bellows. The smith said that he was. He was but a short time by the smith, when the king's big daughter sent word for the smith. "I am hearing," said she, "that thou art the best smith in the town; but if thou dost not make for me a golden crown, like the golden crown that I had when I was by the giant, the head shall be taken off thee." The smith came home sorrowfully, lamentably; and his wife asked him his news from the king's house. "There is but poor news," said the smith; "the king's daughter is asking that a golden crown shall be made for her, like the crown that she had when she was under the earth by the giant; but what do I know what likeness was on the crown that the giant had." The bellows-blowing gillie said, "Let not that set thee thinking; get thou for me enough of gold, and I will not be long making the crown." The smith got of gold as he asked, with the king's order. The gillie went into the smithy, and he shut the door; and he began to splinter the gold asunder, and to throw it out of the window. Each one that came the way was gathering the gold, that the bellows lad was hurling out. Here, then, he blew the whistle, and in the twinkling of an eye the eagle came. "Go," said he to the eagle, "and bring here the golden crown that is above the big giant's door." The eagle went, and she was not long on the way, and the crown (was) with her. He gave the crown to the smith. The smith went so merrily,
cheerily with the crown where the king's daughter was. "Well then," said she, "if I did not know that it could not be done, I would not believe that this is not the crown I had when I was with the big giant." The king's middle daughter said to the smith, "Thou wilt lose the head if thou dost not make for me, a silver crown, like the one I had when I was by the giant." The smith took himself home in misery: but his wife went to meet him, expecting great news and flattery; but so it was, that the gillie said that he would make a silver crown if he could get enough of silver. The smith got plenty of silver with the king's order. The gillie went, and he did as he did before. He whistled: the eagle came. "Go," said he, "and bring hither here to me, the silver crown that the king's middle daughter had when she was by the giant."
The eagle went, and she was not long on the journey with the silver crown. The smith went merrily, cheerily, with the silver crown to the king's daughter. "Well, then," said she, "it is marvellously like the crown I had when I was by the giant." The king's young daughter said to the smith that he should make a copper crown for her, like the copper crown she had when she was by the giant. The smith now was taking courage, and he went home much more pleasantly this turn. The gillie began to splinter the copper, and to throw it out of each door and window; and now they were from each end of the town gathering the copper, as they were gathering the silver and gold. He blew the whistle, and the eagle was at his side.
"Go back," said he, "and bring here hither to me the copper crown that the king's young daughter had when she was by the giant," The eagle went, and she was not long going and coming. He gave the crown to the
smith. The smith went merrily, cheerily, and he gave it to the king's young daughter. "Well, then!" said she, "I would not believe that this was not the very crown that I had when I was by the giant underground, if there were a way of getting it." Here the king said to the smith, that he must tell him where he had learned crown making, "for I did not know that the like of thee was in the kingdom." "Well, then," said the smith, "with your leave, oh king, it was not I who made the crowns, but the gillie I have blowing the bellows." "I must see thy gillie," said the king, "till he makes a crown for myself."
The king ordered four horses in a coach, and that they should go to seek the smith's gillie; and when the coach came to the smithy, the smith's gillie was smutty and dirty, blowing the bellows. The horse gillies came, and they asked for the man who was going to look on the king. The smith said, "That was he yonder, blowing the bellows." "Oov! oov!" said they; and they (set) to catch him, and throw him head foremost into the coach, as if they had a dog.
They went not far on their journey when he blew the whistle. The eagle was at his side. "If ever thou didst good for me take me out of this, and fill it full of stones," said he. The eagle did this. The king was out waiting on the coach; and when the king opened the door of the coach, he was like to be dead with the stones bouncing on top of him. There was catching of the horse gillies, and hanging them for giving such an affront to the king,
Here the king sent other gillies with a coach and when they reached the smithy, "Oov! oov!" said they. "Is this, the black thing the king sent us to seek?" They caught him, and they cast him into the
coach as if they had a turf peat. But they went not far on their way when he blew the whistle, and the eagle was at his side; and he said to her, "Take me out of this, and fill it with every dirt thou canst get." When the coach reached the king's palace, the king went to open the door. Each dirt and rubbish fell about the king's head. Then the king was in a great rage, and he ordered the horse gillies to be hanged immediately. Here the king sent his own confidential servant away; and when he reached the smithy, he caught the black bellows-blowing gillie by the hand. "The king," said he, "sent me to seek thee. Thou hadst better clean a little of the coal off thy face." The gillie did this; he cleaned himself well, and right well; and the king's servant caught him by the hand, and he put him into the coach. They were but a short time going, when he blew the whistle. The eagle came; and he asked her to bring the gold and silver dress that was by the big giant here without delay, and the eagle was not long going and coming with the dress. He arrayed himself with the giant's dress. And when they came to the king's palace, the king came, and he opened the door of the coach, and there was the very finest man the king ever saw. The king took him in, and he told the king how it happened to him from first to last. The three great men who were going to marry the king's daughters were hanged, and the king's big daughter was given him to marry; and they made them a wedding the length of twenty nights and twenty days; and I left them dancing, and I know not but that they are cutting capers on the floor till the day of to-day.
This story was written, May 1859, by Hector Urquhart, gamekeeper, from the dictation of Neil Gillies, a fisherman and builder of stone dykes, who lives near Inverary. He is now about fifty-five, and says he learned the story from his father, who used to tell it when he was about sixteen or seventeen.
It has something of many other Gaelic tales. In particular, one called "Bolgum Mor," in which there are more gifted men. It has some resemblance to Fortunio; and the part which goes on under ground resembles part of many other popular tales. The Three Giants, with their gold, silver, and copper crowns, are like the Gnomes of the Mine. Similar Giants, ruling over metals, and living in castles made of gold, silver, and copper, are mentioned in a story front South Uist, which resembles the Sea Maiden.
As a whole, No. 16 is unlike anything I know, but nearly every incident has a parallel woven in with something else, and it most resembles Grimm's Golden Goose.
The Enchanted Ship, which could sail on sea or land, belongs
to Norse tales and to Norse mythology. The gods had such a ship.
The Eagle is peculiarly eastern: he is but a genius in another shape; the underground treasures are also eastern; and it is worth remark, that two of the daughters are not provided for at all. The three gentlemen were hanged, and the smith's servant married the eldest princess with the golden crown, so the two youngest remain spinsters. It is suggested by the author of Norse Tales, that similar incidents may show the change from Eastern to Western manners. There would be no hitch, if it were lawful to marry the three ladies in this story; and in the Norse story of Shortshanks, it is suggested that the second brother is added, to make all things proper. In No. 22, a man marries a round dozen.
The clothes of these giants fit the lad, so they were but underground men.
There is the usual moral. The least becomes the greatest but there is a dash of character in the pride of the smith's lad, who will not come till he is taken by the hand by the king's own confidential servant. And this is characteristic of the race. A Celt can be led anywhere, but he will not be driven. The king, who opens his own coach door, is somewhat like a farmer. The coach and four is but the grandest of the vehicles seen in the neighbourhood--one of which was compared by a friend of mine, to "a packing box upon wheels, lined with an old blanket." In the mouth of a city narrator, it would have been a lord mayor's coach, and it probably was a palanquin at one time.
This story may be compared with "The Big Bird Dan," Norse Tales, No. 55. Gifted men are to be found in "The Master Maid," No. 11. Such men are also in German, "How six travelled through the World;" and, according to the notes in the third volume of Grimm, the story is widely spread, and common to Italian.