Legends & Sagas
STORY OF THE KING OF SPAIN.
Said he--"My name is Garna Sgiathlais Righ na Iospainde (Garna Skeelance, king of Spain.) 1 Let me tell you the hardest strait in which I ever was.]
I was once a warrior, and the deeds of a warrior were on my hand well enough, and I was on my way to the dun of the king of Laidheann to take out Breast of Light with right strong hand; and I saw Mac a-Mor, son of the king of the Sorcha, and the most beauteous drop of blood that I ever saw upon his shoulder. I never saw a woman that I would rather wish to have for
myself than that woman. I was working with my own sword at him as high as the band of his kilt. He had but the one duan (song) for me--'Wilt thou not cease, and wilt thou not stop?' but I gave no heed to him. 1]
He fell upon me, and he bound me, and fettered me, and set me on the horse before him, and he took me to the top of a rock. The rock was high, and he threw me down the rock, and if I had fallen to the bottom I had gone to little morsels, but so it was that I fell into the nest of a dreagan. 2 When I came to myself I looked about me, and I saw three great birds in the nest, and I held my hands and my feet to them, as they were bound, until they loosed them; the monsters! that they might tear me asunder.]
I saw a cave at the back of the nest, and I dragged myself into the cave, and when the old dreagon would come and leave food for the young ones, I would stay till the old dreagan would go, and then I would come out and I'd take the food from the young dreagans; that was all I had to keep alive upon. But at last the young dreagans found death for want of food. The old dreagan understood that something was eating their food, and she ransacked all about the nest, and she went into the cave. 3]
She seized me then in her talons; she sailed to the back of the ocean with me; and she sprang to the clouds with me, and I was a while that I did not know which
was heaven or earth for me, nor whether she would let me fall in the drowning sea, or on rocks of hardness, or on cairns of stones;]
she was lifting me and letting me down, till she saw that I was soon dead, on the breast of the sea. Though I was not heavy, when I took the brine I was heavy indeed; and when she was lifting me she was spent. She lifted me with her from the surface of the sea as I was dead, and she sailed with me to an island, and the sun was so hot; and she put me myself on the sun side of the island. Sleep came upon herself, and she slept. The sun was enlivening me pretty well though I was dead.]
She had come down at the side of a well, and when she awoke she began at working herself about in the well. I understood that there was iocshlaint, healing in the well, because of how the side of me that was nearest to the well was healing with the splashes of water that the dreagan was putting from her. And I moved the other side of me towards the well, till that side was healed also. Then I felt for my sword; my sword had always stuck by me; 1 and I got it, and I rose up and I crept softly (eallaidh mi) to the back of the dreagan, and with the sword I struck off her head. But it was but simple to strike off her head, by keeping it off. The balsam that was in the well was so strong that though the head should be struck off her, it would spring on again, till at last I got the sword held between the head and neck, till the hag's-marrow froze, and then I got the head and neck driven asunder.]
I did not leave a thong of her uncut, and that is the death that went nearest to me, till the blood dried throughout the island,]
and when the blood
dried I put the dreagan into the well, and I went and I washed myself in it; and so it was that it seemed to myself that I grew stronger and more active than I had ever been before. And the first exploit (gaisge) that I tried to do after that, was to try to contend against the King of Lochlann; and it would have gone with me hadst thou not been here. And my being cast into the nest of the dreagan, and what I bore before I got out, is a harder strait and a worse extremity, in my esteem, than to be under the board of the King of Lochlann and thine."
251:1 It is not easy to put a meaning on these names; there are two Gaelic words which are like Sgiathlais, and which have appropriate meanings; one means winging about, the other storytelling. MacNeill gives neither name nor country. It might mean "Cut of the tale-telling," because the episode cuts the story in two. Old MacPhie did not give it.
252:1 MacNair mounts him on a horse. Macgilvray makes him the king of the universe.
252:2 MacNeill says, Cro mhineach, which is a vast bird like an eagle to be found in stories all over the world. Macgilvray says Ghri Mhineach greeveen-each, and I have no doubt the word is the same as Griffin.
252:3 The other version is the same, less the cave, and there was but one chick.
253:1 Claidheamh beag chorr na sgeithe, the little sword of the crook of the shield, according to MacNeill.
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