From Hector Boyd, Fisherman, Barra.
THERE were three widows, and every one of them had a son apiece. Dòmhnull was the name of the son of one of them. 1
Dòmhnull had four stots, and the rest had but two each. They were always scolding, saying that he had more grass than they had themselves. On a night of the nights they went to the fold, and they seized on the stots of Dòmhnull and they killed them. When Dòmhnull rose and went out in the morning to see the stots, he found them dead.
He flayed the stots, and he salted them, and he took one of the hides with him to the big town to sell. The way was so long, that the night came on him before he reached the big town. He went into a wood and he put the hide about his head. There came a heap of birds, and they lighted on the hide; he put out his hand and he seized on one of them. About the brightening of day he went away; he betook himself to the house of a gentleman.
The gentleman came to the door, and he asked what he had there in his oxter. He said that he had a soothsayer. "What divination will he be doing?"
"He will be doing every sort of divination," said Dòmhnull. "Make him do divination," said the gentleman.
He went and he wrung him, and the bird gave a RAN. 1 "What is he saying?" said the gentleman. "He says that thou hast a wish to buy him, and that thou wilt give two hundred pounds Saxon for him," said Dòmhnull. "Well, surely!--it is true, doubtless; and if I were thinking that he would do divination, I would give that for him," said the gentleman.
So now the gentleman bought the bird from Dòmhnull, and he gave him two hundred pounds Saxon for him.
"Try that thou do not sell him to any man, and that there is no knowing that I might not come myself to seek him yet. I would not give him to thee for three thousand pounds Saxon were it not that I am in extremity."
Dòmhnull went home, and the bird did not do a pinch of divination ever after.
When he took his meat he began at counting the money. Who were looking at him but those who killed the stots. They came in.
"Ah, Dòmhnull," said they, "How didst thou get all the money that is there?"
"I got it as you may get it too. It's I that am pleased that you killed the stots for me," said be. "Kill you your own stots and flay them, and take with you' the hides to the big town, and be shouting, 'Who will buy a stot's hide,' and you will get plenty of money."
They killed the stots, and they flayed them. They
took with them the hides to the big town, and they began at shouting, "Who will buy a stot's hide." They were at that work the length of the day; and when the people of the big town were tired making sport of them, they returned home.
Now they did not know what they should do. They were vexed because of the stots that were killed. They saw the mother of Dòmhnull going to the well, and they seized on her and they choked her.
When Dòmhnull was taking sorrow, so long was his mother coming, he looked out to try if he could see her. He reached the well, and he found her dead there.
He did not know what he should do. Then he took her with him home.
On the morrow he arrayed her in the best clothes she had, and he took her to the big town. He walked up to the king's house with her on the top of him. When he came to the king's house he met with a large well.
He went and he stuck the stick into the bank of the well, and he set her standing with her chest on the stick. He reached the door and he struck at it, and the maidservant came down. 1
"Say to the king," said he, "that there is a respectable woman yonder, and that she has business with him."
The maidservant told that to the king.
"Say to him to say to her to come over," said the king.
"The king is asking thee to say to her to come over," said the maidservant to Dòmhnull.
"I won't go there; go there thyself; I am tired enough."
The maid went up, and she told the king that not a bit of the man would go there.
"Go there thyself," said the king.
"If she will not answer thee," said Dòmhnull to the maidservant, "thou shalt push her; she is deaf."
The maidservant reached where she was.
"Good woman," said the maidservant to her, "the king is asking yourself to come over."
She took no notice. She pushed her and she said not a word. Dòmhnull was seeing how it was without.
"Draw the stick from her chest," said Dòmhnull; "it's asleep she is."
She drew the stick from her chest, and there she went head foremost into the well.
Then he shouted out, "Oh my cattle! my cattle! my mother drowned in the well! What shall I do this day?" Then he struck his two palms against each other, and there was no howl he gave that could not be heard at three miles' distance.
The king came out. "Oh, my lad, never give it voice for ever, and I will pay for thy mother. How much wilt thou be asking for thy mother?"
"Five hundred pounds Saxon," said Dòmhnull.
"Thou shalt get that within the minute," said the king.
Dòmhnull got the five hundred Saxon pounds. He went where his mother was; he took the clothes off that were on her, and he threw her into the well.
He came home, and he was counting the money. They came--the two--where he was, to see if he should be lamenting his mother. They put a question to him--"Where had he got all the money that was there?"
"I got it," said he, "where you may get it if you yourselves should choose."
"How shall we get it?"
"Kill you your mothers, and take them with you on top of you, and take them about the big town, and be shouting, 'Who will buy old dead carlins?' and you get your fortunes."
When they heard that they went home, and each one of them began upon his mother with a stone in a stocking till he killed her.
They went on the morrow to the big town. They began at shouting, "Who will buy old carlins dead?"
And there was no man who would buy that.
When the people of the big town were tired making sport of them, they set the dogs at them home.
When they came home that night they laid down and they slept. On the morrow, when they rose, they went where Dòmhnull was, and they seized on him and they put him into a barrel. They went with it to reel it down from a peak of rock. They were thus, and they had time about carrying it. The one said to the other, "Since the way was so long, and the day so hot, that they should go in to take a dram." They went in, and they left him in the barrel on the great road without. He heard a "TRISTRICH" 1 coming, and who was there but the shepherd, and a hundred sheep with him. He came down, and he began to play a "trump" (Jew's harp) which he had in the barrel. The shepherd struck a stroke of his stick on a barrel. "Who's in here?" said he. "It's me," said Dòmhnull. "What art thou doing in it?" said the shepherd. "I am making a fortune in it," said Dòmhnull, "and no man ever saw such a place with gold and silver. I have just filled a
thousand purses here, and the fortune is nearly made." "It's a pity," said the shepherd, "that thou shouldest not let myself in a while."
"I won't let thee. It is much that would make me."
"And wilt thou let me in? Mightest thou not let me in for one minute, and mightest thou not have enough thyself nevertheless?"
"By the books, poor man, since thou art needful, I will not let thee in. (Do) thou thyself drive the head out of the barrel and come here; but thou shalt not get (leave) to be long in it," said Dòmhnull.
The shepherd took the head out of the barrel, and he came out; he seized on the shepherd by the two shanks, and he set him head foremost in the barrel.
"There is neither silver nor gold here," said the shepherd.
"Thou wilt not see a thing till the head goes on the barrel," said Dòmhnull.
"Oh, I don't see a shadow in here," said he.
"If thou seest not, so be it with thee," said Dòmhnull.
Dòmhnull went and he put on the plaid that the shepherd had, and when he put on the plaid the dog followed him. Then they came out and they seized the barrel, and they raised it on their shoulders. They went away with it.
The shepherd would say at the end of every minute, "It's me that's in it--it's me that's in it." "Oh, it's thou, roguey! belike it's thou?"
They reached the peak of the rock, and they let down the barrel with the rock and shepherd in its inside.
When they returned, whom did they see but Dòmhnull,
with his plaid and his dog, and his hundred of sheep with him in a park.
They went over to him.
"Oh, Dòmhnull," said they, "how gottest thou to come hither?"
"I got as you might get if you would try it. After that I had reached the world over yonder, they said to me that I had plenty of time for going over there, and they set me over here, and a hundred sheep with me to make money for myself."
"And would they give the like of that to us if we should go there?" said they.
"They would give (that.) It's they that would give," said Dòmhnull.
"(By) what means shall we get going there?" said they.
"Exactly the very means by which you yourselves sent me there," said he.
They went and they took with them two barrels to set themselves into up above.
When they reached the place one of them went into one of the barrels, and the other sent him down with the rock. That one gave a roar below, and his brains just after going out with the blow he got.
The other one asked Dòmhnull. what he was saying?
"He is shouting. 'Cattle and sheep, wealth and profit,'" said Dòmhnull.
"Down with me, down with me!" said the other one.
He did not stay to go into the barrel. He cut a caper down, and the brains went out of him.
Dòmhnull went home, and he had the land to himself.
This story is marvellously like Big Peter and Little Peter (Norse Tales, p. 387), published in 1859. That, again, is equally like Grimm's "Little Farmer," p. 179 of the English translation,
[paragraph continues] 1857; and that, again, resembles an Italian tale printed in 1567. The incident of the man in the cupboard is common to German and Norse, it is not in the Gaelic tale, but it is the whole subject of the "Monk and the Miller's Wife" by Allan Ramsay, p. 520, vol. ii. of the edition published in 1800; and that has a much older relative in "the Friars of Berwick," published in "Scottish Ballads" by John Gilchrist, 1815, p. 327. That tale is said to be from Sibbald's Chronicle of Scottish Poetry, and Pinkerton's Scottish Poets, collated with the Bannatyne MS. That poem, of rather questionable propriety, contains none of the incidents in this Gaelic tale; and it is clearly not derived from any of these modern books. The version translated was written down in Barra by Hector MacLean, in July, from the mouth of a fisherman.
In December, the following version was written down by the Rev. Mr. MacLauchlan of Edinburgh, a very highly respected gentleman, well known as one of the best Gaelic scholars of his day; while he is also a zealous and active minister. He has interested himself in the collection of the popular lore of his country; and he has been kind enough to write down several tales for me from the dictation of one of his parishioners. He gives the following pedigree, with his translation of the Gaelic, which be was good enough to send, and which was returned to him:--
2d. From Donald MacLean, born in Ardnamurchan, brought up from the age of 3 years in Mull (Jarvisfield), 69 years of age. Heard this from an old man in Ardnamurchan, Angus MacPhie, who died forty-five years ago. Reads a little English; has never seen any of these stories in a book; cannot write; reads no Gaelic; lives in the Grassmarket; came to Edinburgh thirty-five years ago.
RIBIN, ROBIN, AND LEVI THE: DUN (LEVI-OUR).
Once in a time there lived three men in the same place, whose names were Ribin, Robin, and Levi-our. The men were not on friendly terms together, as the other two disliked Levi-our. On one occasion Levi-our was from home, when the other two, out of revenge, killed one of his cows. On his return, he flayed the cow, and dried the hide. He made two pockets, which he sewed to the hide, and put in there several pieces of money of different
value. He went with the hide to the market town. He was trying at his leisure whether he could find any one to buy it. He saw a man, who had the appearance of being rich, come to the place in which he stood, and he made an offer for the hide; but Levi-our thought the price too small. Levi-our said that they had better go into the inn and have a dram. The gentleman assented, and they entered the inn. Levi-our called for such a dram as was suitable in the circumstances, and they got it. When they were about to pay for the dram Levi-our struck a stroke of his stick on the hide, and said, "Pay this, hide." The coin of money that was necessary to pay the dram leaped out on the floor. The gentleman asked him whether the hide would always pay in that way. He said it would. "Whatever a man drinks in an inn the hide will pay it." "Do you think," said the gentleman, "it will do that for me if I buy it?" "Oh, yes, the very same," said the other. "If it will, I'll give you a hundred merks for it," said he. "It is yours," said Levi-our, "if you give me that sum for it." The other paid the money and got the hide. The gentleman called for another dram which they drank together. Levi-our bade him strike the hide as he had done, and he would see that the hide would pay as it did for him. The other struck the hide and it did pay the money. Levi-our went away and left it there, and so pleased was the other with his purchase that he called for more drink in the inn. He struck the hide, and bade it pay for the drink, but nothing would come out of it; it would pay no more. Levi-our went home, and next morning he saw Ribin and Robin, his neighbours, coming to the house. He was engaged counting the money he got for the hide when the men came into his house. "Oh, Levi- our," said they, "where did you get all that money?" "One of my cows died," said he, "I flayed her, and carried the hide to the market town; I sold the hide and got all this money for it. There is a great price," said he, "to be had for raw hides." They went away home, and killed each of them a cow; they took the hides off them, and dried them. They went with them to the market town, and were then walking backwards and forwards asking who would buy raw hides. Several people came their way, and were offering, some half-a-crown, and some a crown for each hide. They were resolved not to sell them, unless they got the same price for them that Levi-our got for his. They saw that they could not succeed in that, so they were just obliged at last to return home with the
hides. They went to Levi-our's house. Levi-our left, and went out of their way. There was nobody to be found within but an old woman, his mother. It was this they did--they killed Levi-our's mother out of revenge towards himself. When he returned home, he found his mother dead. He took the body, and instead of dressing it in grave-clothes, he put on his mother's usual dress, and went away with it to the market town. When he reached the market town, he looked about for a well, and he saw a great deep well there. He took two sticks, and propped the body of his mother, with the two sticks, at the side of the well. He saw a number of fine looking scholars flocking out from a school in the neighbourhood. He asked a boy, who seemed to be the son of a great influential and distinguished man, if he would be so good as go and tell the old woman who was standing near the well, that he was wishful to leave, and to ask her to come to him. The boy agreed, and went to the old woman. She took no notice of him. He returned to Levi-our, and said that she did not answer him. "Ud," said Levi-our, "go again and speak loud and resolutely to her, and tell her it is her own son wants her." The boy returned, and went up close to her, and as he thought she was deaf, he spoke loud to her. As she made no reply, he gave her a push, when down she tumbled into the well. Levi-our called out for the town-guard, and told them to seize the boy that had drowned his mother. The officers came immediately, arrested the boy, and put him in prison. Notice was given through the town, with the ringing of a bell, that such a young man had been imprisoned for drowning an old woman in a well. Who did the boy happen to be but the son of the provost of the town. The provost came to Levi-our and asked what he would take on condition of letting his son off, and as an equivalent for the life of his mother. Levi-our said it was not an easy matter to say, seeing he had so great a regard for his mother. "Oh," said the provost, "I will see your mother decently buried, and will give you besides five hundred merks in consideration of her having been drowned as happened." "Very well," said Levi-our, "as you are a respectable gentleman, I will accept that." Levi-our returned home. Next day he saw his two neighbours coming towards his house. He commenced counting the money he had got for his mother. "Oh," said they, "where did you get all that money?" "My mother died," said he, "and I went with her to the market town and sold her. There is a
high price given for dead old women, to make powder of their bones. "Then," said they, "we, ourselves, will try the same thing. He who had no mother had a mother-in-law; so they killed an old woman each. Off they go next day to the market town, with the old women on their shoulders. They walked backwards and forwards through the streets, crying out who would buy dead old women. All the loose fellows and dogs in the town soon gathered around them. As they carried the dead women they had their feet around their necks, and their bodies hanging down along their backs. When they saw the number of people likely to gather round them, they began to get out of the way as fast as possible. Before they got to the other end of the town, there was nothing remaining of the old women but the feet, which hung around their necks. They threw these at last to the people, and made off as fast as they could. Levi-our, when he thought that they were likely to do him an injury, resolved that, by the time of their return home, he and his wife would have a great feast for them. He did so. He spread a splendid table, covered with meat and drink for them. He filled a portion of a sheep's gut with blood, and tied it round his wife's neck. "Now," said he, "when they come, I will call to you to place more upon the table, and when you don't lay down enough, I will rise and take my knife, and stick it into the piece of gut that is around your neck, and I will let you fall gently to the ground. Afterwards I will sound a horn. You will then rise and wash yourself, and be as you were--living and well." Ribin and Robin came to the house. "Come away, neighbours," said he, "you will be hungry after being in the market town." There was as much meat and drink before them as would serve a dozen of men. He was always bidding his wife to put down more and more. On one of these occasions Levi-our rose and put his pointed knife into the piece of gut that was round his wife's neck. "Oh Levi-our, senseless man as thou ever wert, what made you kill your wife?" "Get you on with your dinner," said he, "I'll bring her alive whenever I choose." They took such alarm, and became so much afraid that they couldn't eat their food. Levi-our rose, seized the horn, and sounded it. His wife rose and shook herself. "Now," said he, "see to it that you behave well hereafter, and that you don't refuse anything I require of you." Ribin and Robin went away. When they saw the strange things he could do, they could not remain any longer
in his company. "Our own wives might very well provide us with such a feast as we had from Levi-our," said they, "and if they do not we will treat them just as Levi-our did." So soon as they returned home, they told their wives that they must prepare them a feast, and a better one than Levi-our gave them. Their wives did so, but they were not satisfied; they were always asking for more. "Oh," said the women, "Levi-our has sent you home drunk, and you don't know what you are saying." Both of the men rose and cut the throats of their wives at once. They fell down and were shedding their blood. The men then rose and sounded a horn to raise them again. Though they should sound the horn to this very hour, the wives wouldn't rise. When they saw that the wives would not rise, they resolved to pursue Levi-our. When he saw them coming, he took to his heels and ran away. They looked at nothing else; but after him they ran, determined to have his life. He hadn't run far on his way when he met in with a man having a flock of sheep. He said to the man, "Put off your plaid, and put on what I am wearing, there are two men coming who are resolved to have your life. Run as fast as you can, or you will be a dead man immediately." The man ran away as he was bidden, and they ran hard after him. They didn't halt until they had pushed him into the deep black pool of Ty-an-leòban. The man fell in, and he was never seen afterwards. They returned home. Next day, what did they see on looking out but Levi-our herding a fine flock of sheep. They came to the place where he was. "Levi-our," said they, "the whole world won't satisfy you, didn't we think that we had pitched you last night into the pool of Ty-an-leòban." "Don't you see the sheep I found there?" said he. "Would we find the same if we went in?" said they. "Yes, if I were to put you in," said he. Off Ribin and Robin set, and off Levi-our set after them. They reached, and when they got to the hole they stood still. Levi-our came behind them, and pushed them both into the pool. "Fish for sheep there," he said, "if you choose." Levi-our came home, and got everything in the place for himself. I left them there.
I have a third version of this written by Hector MacLean, from the telling of Margaret MacKinnon in Berneray, in the Sound of Harris. It is called
3. BRIAN BRIAGACH--Bragging Brian.--What should happen
but that a great merchant should come to the house of Lying Brian, and what should he have but a great grey mare, and he pretended that she made gold and silver; and what should the merchant do but covet this mare because she made gold and silver. Brian gave the mare money amongst her food, and the merchant found it when he looked for it, and he gave thousands for the mare, and when he got her she was coining money.
He took her with him, and he had her for a week, but a penny of money she did not coin. He let her alone till the end of a month, but money nor money she did not make.
Then he went at the end of the month, where Brian was, to talk to him (A CHAINEADH) for the lie, and to send the mare back again.
Brian killed a cow and filled the entrails with blood, and wrapped them about his wife, under her clothes; and when the merchant came, he and his wife began to scold, and the merchant struck her, and she fell over for dead, and the blood ran about the floor.
Then Brian went and he catches two horns that were in the top of the bed, BARR NA LEAPA, and he blew into his wife's throat till he brought her alive again.
The merchant got the horns, and promised to say no more about the mare, and went home and killed his wife, and his sister, and his mother, and he began to blow into their throats with the horns, but though he were blowing for ever he had not brought them alive. Then he went where Lying Brian was to kill him. He got him into a sack, and was to beat him to death with flails, but Brian asked a little delay, and got out (it is not said how), and put in two big dogs. The men threw the sack out into the sea when they were tired of beating it.
What was more wonderful for the merchant at the end of a fortnight, than to see Brian and a lot of cattle with him.
"O CHIAL," "oh, my reason," said the merchant, "hast thou come back, O Brian!"
"I came," said Brian. "It was you that did the good to me; when you put me out on the sea I saw thy mother, and thy wife, and thy sister, since I went away; and they asked thee to go out on the sea in the place where thou didst put me out, and that thou thyself shouldst get a lot of cattle like this."
The merchant went and cuts a caper Out AIR A BHAD on the
spot where he had put out Brian. He was drowned, and Brian got his house for himself.
I have a fourth version written by John Dewar, collected somewhere in Argyleshire, and sent May 1860.
4. EODHAN IURRACH.--The hero and two others were working a town-land, BAILE FEARAINN, together. The one staid at home, and the others drowned his cow. He took off the hide, and hung it on the rafters, and when it was dry, he put a piece of money into each knee and hoof, and took it to the town, and he would cry out "CO A CHANICHEAS SEICH NA'M BUINN AIRGIOD"--"who will buy the hide of the pieces of money?" and he would strike a blow on the hide, and the money would fall on the street, and each piece as it fell he picked up and put it into his pocket.
He sold it, of course; and when the bargain was made, he knocked out all the money, to prove that it was no cheat, and put the money into his pocket, and went home.
The others killed their cattle, and when they could not sell the hides, they decided on killing Hugh, but he was outside listening to all they said.
They pulled down his house, but he was in the barn, and his mother-in-law alone was killed; for be had offered his own bed to his mother-in-law, and she had said,--
"Oh, my little hero, thou usest always to be kind to me."
Hugh took his mother-in-law's body to a place that was far from his own house, and there was a well-spring near the hostel, TIGH OSD, and there he propped up his mother-in-law with a stick under her chin, to keep her standing.
Then he went in and began to buy a drove from a drover, and sent out the drover to ask his deaf mother in to have a drink of beer, because she was very hard and would scold him for spending money if he asked her, but she would take it kindly if the drover did. The drover went, and after a while pushed the Carlin, and she fell into the well. He got, CIAD MARG, a hundred marks from the drover by threatening him with the gallows.
He went home, told his friends that there Was MIADH MÒR AIR CAILLEACHAN MARBH, great value on dead carlins; and they killed their mothers-in-law, and were like to be put in prison for trying to sell them. So they determined to serve out their tricky neighbour, and asked him and his wife to a dance at an inn. But Hugh tied a pudding full of blood about his wife's neck, and
covered it up with a WEAPAIGIN, and when he and his wife got up to dance a reel he put the SKIAN DUBH, black knife, into the pudding, and the wife fell as dead.
Then Eobhan got a horn which hunters, MUINTER SEILGE, had at same time for the wood, and he put it to his wife, and he blew into the horn, and the horn gave a NUADULAN, lamentable groan and the wife of Hugh got up again, and she began to dance.
The neighbours bought the horn and tried FEARTAN NA HADHARC, the trick of the horn, on their own wives. They killed them, and blew, but though they were blowing still, their wives would not get up.
Then they caught Hugh and put him in a sack, to throw him over a fall. They went into an inn to drink beer. A drover came past, and Hugh in the sack began,--"I am going to the good place, I am going to the good place," etc. "Where art thou going?" said the drover. "It is," said Hugh, "they are going to put me where I will feel neither cold, nor weariness, nor hunger more. I shall not feel them, nor thirst." "Wilt thou let me there?" said the drover. And so the man was enticed into the sack, and thrown over the fall, and they heard him saying, "O CHOCH! O CHOCH! 'S O MO CHEANN MO CHEANN! alas, alas! and oh, my head! my head!"
When the neighbours came home and found Hugh counting money, and heard that he had got it at the bottom of the fall, they got sacks, and the one threw the other over the fall till there was but one left, and he tied the sack to his sides and threw himself over, and every one of them was killed; and Eobhan Iurach got the farms to himself, and the cattle that his neighbours had, and he took the possession of both artfully, AGUS GABH E SEILBH ANNDA GU SEOLDA.
The incident of getting riches by accusing people of killing a dead body is common to one of the African tales. Appendix to Norse tales--"The Ear of Corn and the Twelve Men."
The selling of something valueless, as a source of riches, is common to a story which I used to hear as a child, from John Piper my guardian, and which I lately found in another shape, in an English translation of Master Owlglass.
The story, as I remember it, was this:--A sailor who had got his money, and who knew that he would spend it all, went to visit his friends. On his way he paid double, and generously,
for his board and lodging, and bargained that he should take off a certain old hat as payment on his way back.
A Jew accompanied him on his return, and seeing the effect of the hat, begged for it, offered for it, and finally bought it for a large sum. Then he tried it, got cudgelled by the innkeepers, and cursed the clever tar who had outwitted him.
Here, then, is a story known in the Highlands for many years, with incidents common to Gaelic, Norse, English, German, and some African tongue, and with a peculiar character of its own which distinguishes it from all the others. I am indebted to the author of Norse Tales for a loan of the rare book mentioned in the following reference, which may throw some light on the story and its history:--
In Le Piacevole Notte di Straparola, 1567, the story is told of a priest and three rogues who outwit him and whom he outwits in return.
First, they persuade him that a mule which he has bought is an ass, and get it; which incident is in another Gaelic story in another shape. Then he sells them a bargain in the shape of a goat, which is good for nothing.
Then he pretends to kill his house-keeper by sticking a knife into a bladder filled with blood, and brings her alive again with something which he sells to them for two hundred florins of gold, and they kill their three wives in earnest.
They are enraged, catch the priest, and put him into a sack, intending to drown him in a river. They set him down, and a shepherd comes, who hears a lamentable voice in a sack saying, "Me la vogliono pur dare, and io non la voglio"--They wish to give her to me, and I don't want her. The priest explains that the Lord of that city wants to marry him to his daughter, and by that bait (not the bait of riches) entices the shepherd into the sack. The shepherd is drowned. The priest takes the sheep, and the rogues, when they find the priest with the sheep, beg to be put into three sacks. They get in, are carried to the river by three "facconi," and disposed of; and pre-Scarpacifico, rich in money and flocks, returned home and lived pleasantly, etc.
By what process this story got from Italian into Gaelic, or who first invented it, seems worth inquiry. One thing is clear; the Italian version and the four Gaelic versions now given resemble each other very closely.
It seems possible that the amusements of the Court of Mary
[paragraph continues] Queen of Scots, or of the foreigners whose morals so enraged John Knox, may have descended to the Grassmarket and to the fisher. men of the Western Isles. David Rizzio, a Turinese, has the credit of many Scotch airs. He was killed in 1567, and the edition of Straparola which I have before me, printed in Venice, 1567, if it be the first, may have found its way to Scotland through some of the countrymen of Rizzio. If that explanation be considered reasonable, it has still to be shewn how the story got to Germany and Norway: where the man in the cupboard went in: and whence came the soothsaying bird in the grey hide and the unsaleable dead carlins, for they are not in the Italian version.
Having carried the three widows' sons from Barra to the Grassmarket, where they are named Ribin, and Robin, and Levi-our; thence to Norway, where they appear as Big and Little Peter; thence to Germany, where they have no name; and thence to the city of Postema in Italy in 1567,-as the narrator says, "There I left them."
232:1 (Lit.) It was Domhnull that was on the son of one of them.
233:1 There seems to be a pun here. RAN is a roar, a hoarse noise. RANN is a rhyme, a verse, a stanza.
234:1 The manners and customs of kings, according to west country fishermen, were primitive.
236:1 TRISTRICH: a word which exactly describes the tripping sound of a lot of sheep on hard ground.