Sacred Texts  Legends & Sagas  Celtic  Index  Previous 

p. 421




From Roderick MacLean (tailor) Ken Tangval, Barra, who heard it frequently recited by old men in South Uist, about fifteen years ago. One of them was Angus Macintyre, Bornish, who was about eighty years old at the time. Written by H. MacLean, 1860. I have selected this, because it shews one of the Ossianic heroes in a very mythological character. I omit the Gaelic for want of room, and translate closely but more freely.

THE Fhinn were once together, on the side of Beinn Eudainn, on a wild night, and there was pouring rain and falling snow from the north. About midnight a creature of uncouth appearance struck at the door of Fionn. Her hair 1 was down to her heels, and she cried to him to let her in under the border of his covering. Fionn raised up a corner of the covering, and he gazed at her. "Thou strange looking ugly creature," said he "thy hair is down to thy heels, how shouldst thou ask me to let thee in?"

She went away, and she gave a scream. She reached Oisean, and she asked him to let her in under the border of his covering. Oisean lifted a corner of his covering, and be saw her.

"Thou strange, hideous creature, how canst thou ask me to let thee in?" said be.

p. 422

"Thy hair is down to thy heels. Thou shalt not come in."

She went away, and she gave a shriek.

She reached Diarmaid, and she cried aloud to him to let her in under the border of his covering.

Diarmaid lifted a fold of his covering, and he saw her. "Thou art a strange, hideous creature. Thy hair is down to thy heels, but come in," said be. She came in under the border of his covering.

"Oh, Diarmaid," said she, "I have spent seven years travelling over ocean and sea, and of all that time I have not passed a night till this night, till thou hast let me in. Let me come in to the warmth of the fire."

"Come up," said Diarmaid.

When she came up, the people of the Finn began to flee, so hideous was she. 1

"Go to the further side," said Diarmaid, "and let the creature come to the warmth of the fire."

They went to the one side, and they let her be at the fire, but she had not been long at the fire, when she sought to be under the warmth of the blanket together with himself.

"Thou art growing too bold," said Diarmaid. "First thou did'st ask to come under the border of the covering, then thou did'st seek to come to the fire, and now thou seekest leave to come under the blanket with me; but come."

She went under the blanket, and he turned a fold of it between them. She was not long thus, when he gave a start, and he gazed at her, and he saw the finest

p. 423

drop of blood that ever was, from the beginning of the universe till the end of the world at his side. He shouted out to the rest to come over where he was, and he said to them.

"It is not often that men are unkind! Is not this the most beauteous woman that man ever saw!"

"She is," said they, as they covered her up, "the most beautiful woman that man ever saw." 1

Then she was asleep, and she did not know that they were looking at her. He let her sleep, and he did not awaken her, but a short time after that she awoke, and she said to him, "Art thou awake Diarmaid?"

"I am awake," said Diarmaid.

"Where would'st thou rather that the very finest castle thou hast ever seen should be built?"

"Up above Beinn Eudainn, if I had my choice," and Diarmaid slept, and she said no more to him.

"There went one out early, before the day, riding, and he saw a castle built up upon a hill. He cleared his sight to see if it was surely there; then he saw it, and he went home, and he did not say a word.

Another went out, and he saw it, and he did not say a word. Then the day was brightened, and two come in telling that the castle was most surely there.

Said she, as she rose up sitting, "Arise Diarmaid, go up to thy castle, and be not stretched there any longer."

"If there was a castle to which I might go," said he.

"Look out, and see if there be a castle there."

p. 424

He looked out, and he saw a castle, and he came in. I will go up to the castle, if thou wilt go there together with me."

"I will do that, Diarmaid, but say not to me thrice how thou did'st find me," said she.

"I will not say 1 to thee for ever, how I found thee," said Diarmaid.

They went to the castle, the pair. That was the beautiful castle! There was not a shadow of thing, that was for the use of a castle that was not in it, even to a herd for the geese.

The meat was on the board, and there were maid servants, and men servants about it. 2

They spent three days in the castle together, and at the end of three days she said to him, "Thou art turning sorrowful, because thou art not together with the rest."

"Think that I am not feeling sorrow surely that I am not together with the Fhinn," said he.

"Thou had'st best go with the Fhinn, and thy meat and thy drink will be no worse than they are," said she.

p. 425

"Who will take care of the greyhound bitch, 1 and her three pups?" said Diarmaid.

"Oh," said she, "what fear is there for the greyhound, and for the three pups?"

He went away when he heard that. He left a blessing with her, and he reached the people of the Finne, and Fionn, the brother of his mother, and there was a chief's honour and welcome 2 before Diarmaid when he arrived, and they had ill will 3 to him, because the woman had come first to them, and that they had turned their backs to her, and that he had gone before her wishes, and the matter had turned out so well.

She was out after he had gone away, and what should she see but one coming in great haste. Then she thought of staying without till he should come, and who was there but Fionn. He hailed her, and caught her by the hand.

Thou art angry with me, damsel," 4 said he.

"Oh, I am not at all, Fhinn," said she. "Come in till thou take a draught from me."

"I will go if I get my request," said Fionn.

"What request might be here that thou should'st not get," said she.

"That is, one of the pups of the greyhound bitch."

"Oh, the request thou hast asked is not great," said she; "the one thou mayest choose take it with thee."

He got that, and he went away. 5

At the opening of the night came Diarmaid. The greyhound met him without, and she gave a yell.

p. 426

"It is true, my lass, one of thy pups is gone. But if thou had'st mind of how I found thee, how thy hair was down to thy heels, thou had'st not let the pup go."

"Thou Diarmaid, what saidst thou so?"

"Oh," said Diarmaid, "I am asking pardon."

"Oh, thou shalt get that," said she, and he slept within that night, and his meat and drink were as usual.

On the morrow he went to where he was yesterday, and while he was gone she went out to take a stroll, and while she was strolling about, what should she see but a rider coming to where she was. She stayed without till he reached her.

Who reached her here but Oisean, son of Fionn.

They gave welcome and honour to each other. She told him to go in with her, and that he should take a draught from her, and he said that he would, if he might get his request.

"What request hast thou?" said she.

"One of the pups of the greyhound bitch."

"Thou shalt get that," said she, "take thy choice of them."

He took it with him, and he went away. 1

At the opening of the night came Diarmaid home, and the greyhound met him without, and she gave two yells.

"That is true, my lass," said Diarmaid, "another is taken from thee. But if she had mind of how I found her, she had not let one of thy pups go. When her hair was down to her heels."

"Diarmaid! What said'st thou?" said she.

"I am asking pardon," said Diarmaid.

p. 427

"Thou shalt get that," said she, and they seized each others hands, and they went home together, and there was meat and drink that night as there ever had been.

In the morning Diarmaid went away, and a while after he had gone she was without taking a stroll. She saw another rider coming to-day, and he was in great haste. She thought she would wait, and not go home till he should come forward. What was this but another of the Fhinn.

He went with civil words to the young damsel, and they gave welcome and honour to each other.

She told him to go home with her, and that he should take a draught from her. He said that he would go if he should get his request.

She asked that time what request that might be, "One of the pups of the greyhound bitch," said he.

"Though it is a hard matter for me," said she, "I will give it to thee."

He went with her to the castle, he took a draught from her, he got the pup, and he went away.

At the opening of the night came Diarmaid. The greyhound met him, and she gave three yells, the most hideous that man ever heard.

"Yes, that is true my lass, thou art without any this day," said Diarmaid, "but if she had mind of howl found her, she would not have let the pup go; when her hair was down to her heels, she would not have done that to me."

"Thou, Diarmaid, what said'st thou?"

"Oh, I am asking pardon," said Diarmaid. He went home, and he was without wife or bed beside him, as he ever had been. It was in a moss-hole he awoke on the morrow. There was no castle, nor a stone left of it

p. 428

on another. He began to weep, and he said to himself that he would not stay, head or foot, till he should find her.

Away he went, and what should he do but take his way across the glens. There was neither house nor ember in his way. He gave a glance over his shoulder, and what should he see but the greyhound just dead. He seized her by the tail, and he put her on his shoulder, and he would not part with her for the love that he bore her. He was going on, and what should he see above him but a herd.

"Did'st thou see, this day or yesterday, a woman taking this way?" said Diarmaid to the herd.

"I saw a woman early in the morning yesterday, and she was walking hard," said the herd.

"What way did'st thou see her going?"

"She went down yonder point to the strand, and I saw her no more."

He took the very road that she took, till there was no going any further. He saw a ship. He put the slender end of his spear under his chest, and he sprang into her, and he went to the other side. He laid himself down, stretched out on the side of a hill, and he slept, and when he awoke there was no ship to be seen. "A man to be pitied am I," said he, "I shall never get away from here, but there is no help for it."

He sat on a knoll, and he had not sat there long when he saw a boat coming, and one man in her, and he was rowing her.

He went down where she was, he grasped the greyhound by the tail, and he put her in, and he went in after her.

Then the boat went out over the sea, and she went down under, and he had but just gone down, when he

p. 429

saw ground, and a plain on which be could walk. 1 He went on this land, and he went on.

p. 430

He was but a short time walking, when he fell in with a gulp of blood. He lifted the blood, and he

p. 431

put it into a napkin, and he put it into his pouch. "It was the greyhound that lost this," said he.

He was a while walking, and he fell in with the next gulp, and he lifted it, and put it into his pouch. He fell in with the next one, and he did the like with it. What should he see a short space from him, after that, but a woman, as though she wore crazed, gathering rushes. He went towards her, and he asked her what news she had. "I cannot tell till I gather the rushes," said she.

"Be telling it whilst thou art gathering," said Diarmaid.

"I am in great haste," said she.

"What place is here?" said he.

"There is here," said she, "Rioghachd Fo Thuinn, Realm Underwaves."

"Realm Underwaves!"

"Yes," said she.

"What use hast thou for rushes, when thou art gathering them?" said Diarmaid.

"The daughter of King Underwaves has come home,

p. 432

and she was seven years under spells, and she is ill, and the leeches of Christendom are gathered, and none are doing her good, and a bed of rushes is what she finds the wholesomest."

"Well then, I would be far in thy debt if thou wouldst see me where that woman is."

"Well then I will see that. I will put thee into the sheaf of rushes, and I will put the rushes under thee and over thee, and I will take thee with me on my back."

That is a thing that thou can'st not do," said Diarmaid.

"Be that upon me," said she.

She put Diarmaid into the bundle, and she took him on her back.

(Was not that my lass!) When she reached the chamber she let down the bundle.

"Oh! hasten that to me," said the daughter of King Underwaves.

He sprang out of the bundle, and be sprang to meet her, and they seized each other's hands, and there was joy then.

"Three parts of the ailment are gone, but I am not well, and I will not be. Every time I thought of thee when I was coming, I lost a gulp of the blood of my heart."

"Well then, I have got these three gulps of thy heart's blood, take thou them in a drink, and there will be nothing amiss."

"Well then, I will not take them," said she; "they will not do me a shade of good, since I cannot get one thing and I shall never get that in the world."

"What thing is that?" said he.

"There is no good in telling thee that; thou wilt not

p. 433

get it, nor any man in the world; it has discomfitted them for long."

"If it be on the surface of the world I will get it, and do thou tell it," said Diarmaid.

"That is three draughts from the cup of Righ Magh an Ioghnaidh, the King of Plain of Wonder, and no man ever got that, and I shall not get it."

"Oh! said Diarmaid, "there are not on the surface of the world as many as will keep it from me. Tell me if that man be far from me."

"He is not; he is within a bound near my father, but a rivulet is there, and in it there is the sailing of a ship with the wind behind her, for a day and a year before thou reach it."

He went away, and he reached the rivulet, and he spent a good while walking at its side.

"I cannot cross over it; that was true for her," said Diarmaid.

Before he had let the word out of his mouth, there stood a little russet man in the midst of the rivulet. 1

"Diarmaid, son of Duibhne, thou art in straits," said he.

"I am in a strait just now," said Diarmaid.

What would'st thou give to a man who would bring thee out of these straits? come hither and put thy foot on my palm."

"Oh! my foot cannot go into thy palm," said Diarmaid.

p. 431

"It can."

He went, and he put his foot on his palm. "Now, Diarmaid, it is to King Mag an Iunai that thou art going."

"It is indeed," said Diarmaid.

"It is to seek his cup thou art going."

"It is."

"I will go with thee myself."

"Thou shalt go," said Diarmaid.

Diarmaid reached the house of King Wonderplain. He shouted for the cup to be sent out, or battle, or combat; and it was not the cup.

There were sent out four hundred Lugh ghaisgeach, and four hundred Lan ghaisgeach, and in two hours he left not a man of them alive.

He shouted again for battle, or else combat, or the cup to be sent out.

That was the thing he should get, battle or else combat, and it was not the cup.

There were sent out eight hundred loo gaishgeach, and eight hundred lan gaisgeach, and in three hours he left not a man of them alive.

He shouted again for battle, or else combat, or else the cup to be sent out to him.

There were sent out nine hundred strong heroes, and nine hundred full heroes, and in four hours he left no man of them alive.

"Whence," said the king as he stood in his own great door, "came the man that has just brought my realm to ruin? If it be the pleasure of the hero let him tell from whence he came."

"It is the pleasure of the hero; a hero of the people of the Fhinn am I. I am Diarmaid."

"Why did'st thou not send in a message to say who

p. 435

it was, and I would not have spent my realm upon thee, for thou would'st kill every man of them, for it was put down in the books seven years before thou wert born. What dost thou require?"

"That is the cup; it comes from thine own hand for healing." 1

"No man ever got my cup but thou, but it is easy for me to give thee a cup; but for healing there is but that I have myself about the board."

Diarmaid got the cup from King Wonderplain.

"I will now send a ship with thee Diarmaid," said the king.

"Great thanks (Taing mhor) to thee, oh king. I am much in thy debt; but I have a ferry of my own." 2

Here the king and Diarmaid parted from each other. He remembered when he had parted from the king that he had never said a word at all, the day before about the little russet man, and that he had not taken him in. It was when he was coming near upon the rivulet that he thought of him; and he did not know how he should get over the burn.

"There is no help for it," said he. "I shall not now

p. 436

get over the ferry, and shame will not let me return to the king." 1

What should rise while the word was in his mouth but the little russet man out of the burn.

"Thou art in straits, Diarmaid."

"I am."

"It is this day that thou art in extremity."

"It is. I got the thing I desired, and I am not getting across."

"Though thou didst to me all that which thou hast done; though thou didst not say a word of me yesterday; put thy foot on my palm and I will take thee over the burn."

Diarmaid put his foot on his palm, and he took him over the burn.

"Thou wilt talk to me now Diarmaid," said he.

"I will do it," said Diarmaid.

"Thou art going to heal the daughter of King Underwaves; she is the girl that thou likest best in the world."

"Oh! it is she."

"Thou shalt go to such and such a well. Thou wilt find a bottle at the side of the well, and thou shalt take it with thee full of the water. When thou reachest the damsel, thou shalt put the water in the cup, and a gulp of blood in it, and she will drink it. Thou shalt fill it again, and she will drink. Thou shalt fill it the third time, and thou shalt put the third gulp of blood into it, and she will drink it, and there will not be a whit ailing

p. 437

her that time. When thou hast given her the last, and she is well, she is the one for whom thou carest least that ever thou hast seen before thee."

"Oh! not she," said Diarmaid.

"She is; the king will know that thou hast taken a dislike to her. She will say Diarmaid thou hast taken a dislike to me. Say thou that thou hast. Dost thou know what man is speaking to thee?" said the little russet man.

"Not I," said Diarmaid.

"In me there is the messenger of the other world, who helped thee; because thy heart is so warm to do good to another. King Underwaves will come, and he will offer thee much silver and gold for healing his daughter. Thou shalt not take a jot, but that the king should send a ship with thee to Eirinn to the place from whence thou camest." 1

Diarmaid went; he reached the well; he got the bottle, and he filled it with water; he took it with him, and he reached the castle of King Underwaves. When he came in he was honoured and saluted.

"No man over got that cup before," said she.

"I would have got it from all that there are on the surface of the world; there was no man to turn me back," said Diarmaid.

"I thought that thou wouldst not get it though thou shouldst go, but I see that thou hast it," said she.

He put a gulp of blood into the water in the cup, and she drank it. She drank the second one, and she drank the third one; and when she had drunk the third one there was not a jot ailing her. She was whole and

p. 438

healthy. When she was thus well, he took a dislike for her; scarcely could he bear to see her.

"Oh! Diarmaid," said she, "thou art taking a dislike for me."

"Oh! I am," said he.

Then the king sent word throughout the town that she was healed, and music was raised, and lament laid down. The king came where Diarmaid was, and he said to him,

"Now, thou shalt take so much by counting of silver for healing her, and thou shalt get herself to marry."

"I will not take the damsel; and I will not take anything but a ship to be sent with me to Eirinn, where the Fhinn are gathered."

A ship went with him, and he reached the Fhinn and the brother of his mother; and there was joy before him there, and pleasure that he had returned.


MacLean quotes a Gaelic proverb--

"Cha d' thug gaol luath nach d' thug fuath clis."

"None gave love quickly but gave sudden hate."

Which might be the pith of this curious story. Unless it is mythological it cannot be explained. At all events, here is one of the heroes of Ossian meeting with the messenger of the other world in the Realm under the Waves, and crossing a river like the pious Æneas, when he went below. The story is manifestly imperfect. Something should have been done with the greyhound, but I have no version which fills up the gap.

There is an Irish story which seems to bear upon the incident. Tuirreann, the sister of Fionn's mother, is married to Iollan Eachtach, and his fairy sweetheart transforms her into a hound, and takes her to Fergus. She there gives birth to a couple of puppies, "Bran"

p. 439

and "Sceoluing," Finn's favourite hounds, which were consequently his cousins. Diarmaid is one of the names mixed up with this strange Irish story, and this favourite hound might have been the transformed lady, and if so, Diarmaid's relative-his grand aunt. It is not easy, then, to accomplish the feat of making the Fionn of the stories a real commander of mortal Irish militiamen.

The incident of the greyhound and her three pups, formed part of a story which was told to me at Polchar inn on the 3d of September 1860. The narrator was a slender middle-aged woman, with black hair and gray eyes, returning from durance at the jail at Lochmaddy; her offence had been the sale of unlawful whisky. I heard her crooning a very pretty old Gaelic love song to a baby, and went down into the kitchen. I found a whole tribe of black-haired girls, of all ages, barefooted, and barelegged, clustered about the peat fire with their bare arms all twined about each others' necks and waists, and their bright eyes and teeth glancing in the red light over each other's shoulders, as they peeped at the stranger. An old man was smoking on a bench and the singer with black elf-locks was dancing the baby on her knee. We soon got friends, and the story was the result. It was a stepmother story, and the wicked muime gave away the pups to a captain of a ship, and accused the king's daughter of killing them, and broke candlesticks and laid the blame on the girl, till the king took her out to a lonely moor, and said--

"Whether wouldst thou rather that I slew thee outright, or that I should cut off one hand, and one breast, and one knee."

Here the old dame used action and great emphasis, and a shiver of horror ran through the junior part of the audience, who were listening intently.

p. 440

The deed was done, and the girl crawled to a house where there lived three king's sons under spells, and she went in and found food. They came home and put off their cochal, that is their enchanted form; and one of them said, "Here is a drop of king's blood on the board;" and he sought, and found her, and dressed her wounds, and washed her, and "dried her with a towel."

She married this one, and had three sons, and by the help of a poor woman, and through the agency of a well, recovered her lost members.

She went home at last, and found her father with a wounded leg, which would never be well, till his daughter cured it with her two hands. She laid her recovered hands on the knee, the penitent father cut a caper quite well, and the muime was roasted.

This joins the traditions of the Feinne to Grimm's Handless Maiden.

The idea of a land under ground is also very common in Gaelic stories, and I had intended to give several illustrations of the belief. I had also selected a number of other specimens of traditions of the Feinne, popular history, and proverbs, stories of water horses, water bulls, and other such matters. The last number on my Gaelic list is 308, on my English list, 357, making about 665 stories, but the wish to give one long one as a specimen, and to preserve as much Gaelic as possible, has exhausted my alloted space.

In the oldest Gaelic manuscript in Edinburgh, an ancient scribe has written--"And I regret that there is not left of my ink enough to fill up this line; I am Fithil, an attendant on the school." So I, like Fithil, must stop scribbling, though not for want of matter, and write




421:1 A falt 's a fionna.

422:1 This gives to Brat the meaning of the cover of a tent or booth, it generally means a flag, a rag, or a mantle.

423:1 The very same idea exists in a Spanish legend of the Cid, who in like manner shewed kindness to, and shared his couch with a leper; in the night he changed into St. Lazarus, all bright and shining.

424:1 Na can. Cha chan. This verb is not common in some districts.

424:2 This description of magnificence is very characteristic. The narrator, knowing nothing earthly about castles, describes nothing, but leaves everything to fancy, except the goose herd, and the food, and the waiters. An Arabian story-teller would have given a long detail of eastern magnificence, the Countess d'Aulnoy would have filled in the picture from her own knowledge of courts, and when all is done the incident is the same. It was the most magnificent castle that could be imagined, and there were lots to eat, and servants to work, and there is an end of it.

425:1 Saighead mialchoin; perhaps arrow, Greyhound.

425:2 Flath a's failt.

425:3 Miorun.

425:4 Righin.

425:5 This is characteristic of Fionn, as he always appears in these traditions; he represents wisdom, but crafty wisdom, and gains his ends by stratagem.

426:1 This is foreign to the character of Oisein in all other stories, but he was the son of Fionn, and he generally tells his own story.

429:1 This notion of a land under the waves is very widely spread, and common to many nations. The Arabian Nights are full of stories about people who lived under the sea, but this was not taken from the Arabian Nights, for it is common to all the surviving branches of the Celtic family, and to other races.

In the story of "Rouge Gorge," Foyer Brenton, 1858, a maiden befriends a red-breast, and by his aid and advice gets magic sabots and a stick, walks over the sea to certain islands, where she knocks at a rock, and out comes--Mor vyo'ch, the sea cow, which only varies from other cows in being better, and magical. In Gaelic it would be muir bho. By thrice repeating the name of Saint Ronan d Hybernie, and stroking the beast with a magic herb, the cow which had been sold, and had returned, was transformed to Marc’h mor, the sea-horse, which again is like other horses, only ten times better. The word Marc’h does not now survive in the Gaelic, but riding is Mar-cach.

The horse is sold, and returns, and is transformed by the same means into Mor Vawd. Mer veau, muir bho, the sea-calf or cow, which is a sheep with fine red wool, which is sold also, but jumps into the sea, and escapes to the Seven Isles, and vanishes into a rock.

In the story of the Groach d l’ ile de Lok (156), a man goes into a boat like a swan, and when he is on board the swan awakes, and dives down to the bottom of a pool in the middle of a Sea Island. and there he finds a magnificent dwelling, and a fairy, who treats him well for a time, but turns him into a frog at last.

In the Mabinogion it appears that Cardigan Bay was once dry land, and that the land sank, and the people survive, with their dwellings and possessions.

In a curious pamphlet which I picked up in Dublin--"The History of the Isle of Man," etc., "with a succinct detail of enchantments that have been exhibited there by sorcerers and other infernal beings," etc., 1780, I find the account of an English tourist, who, like Herodotus, wrote down all be heard, and seems to have believed a great deal of it. He mentions the "Mauthe dog," which a Gaelic scholar would spell Madadh dubh, dog p. 430 black, who is a Celtic goblin still, and endless other stories and superstitions which are familiar to me; but amongst others, he tells a tale of Port Iron, where the people were quite familiar with mermen, and had caught a merwoman in a net one moonlight night on the shore. She would not speak till she was allowed to escape to her own people. She had a tail like a fish. So has Abdallah of the sea in Lane's Arabian Nights. But this is nothing. A company was formed for diving, "in glass machines cased with thick tough leather," and a man was let down near the Isle of Man to seek for treasure. The diver passed through the region of fishes, and got into a pure element, clear as the air. He saw the ground glittering with all manner of magnificence, streets and squares of mother of pearl. He hauled his diving bell into a house, and almost within reach of treasures, but there was no more line, and he was hauled back empty handed.

This is a "story" in every sense of the term, and it is so elaborate and ornamented that it must have been cooked for the stranger, or by him, but the main idea is that there is a world under the waves, and the Manks sailors then declared that they commonly heard at sea the bleating of sheep, the barking of dogs, the howling of wolves, and the distinct cries of every beast the land affords, and they now believe in the water horse, and the water bull, and the sea man.

Being lately in Ireland, I proceeded to pump a carman, who had the reputation of being full of stories, and after many vain attempts I got him started, as we drove home to Waterford in the dark. The first thing he told me was a story which was perfectly familiar, though told with an Irish brogue, and with Irish characteristics--a story of a man who grew rich by getting sea cows and sheep. His place of abode, and all particulars were given, but I knew that the same story was told in Orkney, Harris, and Barra; here I had it at Waterford, and it was the same as the Breton story quoted above, for the end of it was that the cow and all her progeny ran off, and jumped into their native sea, because the man wanted to slaughter the cow.

The same idea is in Straparola's, Italian. A man is swallowed by a mermaid, and restored from the bottom of the Atlantic. It p. 431 is in old Scotch ballads where men fall in love with mermaids. It is in German stories where men are carried off by Nixies. It is in Norse and Swedish, and it was in Greek and Latin, for there were sea gods of old, and from all this fiction I would gather one probable fact. The men whose minds first conceived this idea was not bred near the sea, or used to it, they were not sailors. They surely came from some inland country to the sea, and peopled it with the creatures of the land. If they saw a seal they might fancy it a man. A walrus they might call a cow, and if the idea was so formed by those who first arrived at the sea, it has survived till now.

A mermaid was lately seen oft Plymouth, according to a young sailor of my acquaintance, and Diarmaid went to the land under the waves to search for the daughter of the king.

433:1 This personage plays a part which is common enough, that of the ferryman, of whom Charon was one. A little red-haired man rising in the middle of a river that was a year's sail wide, and taking a great hero over on the palm of his hand, is not to be reasonably accounted for, and he should be some marine divinity. He tells his own employment below.

435:1 The resemblance which all this bears to mediæval romance, and to Welsh popular tales, is striking. The subject is referred to elsewhere. Fionn had a healing cup, which he refused to give Diarmaid after the fatal boar-hunt, and a great part of mediæval romance hinges on the search for a mystic healing cup. There is another story of which I have read in which Conan goes to Ifrionn; the cold isle of the dead.

435:2 Some Saxon foe relates that a Mac------ had proved unwittingly that his family were older than the flood. The other objected that there were none of that name in the ark, to which the highlander replied--"The Mac------s had always a boat o' their ain."

436:1 The idea of the ferry is clearly that of one of the dangerous tidal fords which abound in the islands. One between North Uist and Benbecula is said to be six miles wide. It is crossed on foot at low tide, and in a boat when the tide is high, and at night it is dangerous enough.

437:1 This bit bears some resemblance to the German story of Godfather Death, in that the messenger of the other world instructs a man in the healing art, and he heals a king's daughter.