: Celtic Folk And Fairy Tales
There was once a boy in the County Mayo; Guleesh was his name. There
was the finest rath a little way off from the gable of the house, and
he was often in the habit of seating himself on the fine grass bank
that was running round it. One night he stood, half leaning against
the gable of the house, and looking up into the sky, and watching the
beautiful white moon over his head. After he had been standing that
way for a
couple of hours, he said to himself: "My bitter grief that I
am not gone away out of this place altogether. I'd sooner be any place
in the world than here. Och, it's well for you, white moon," says he,
"that's turning round, turning round, as you please yourself, and no
man can put you back. I wish I was the same as you."
Hardly was the word out of his mouth when he heard a great noise
coming like the sound of many people running together, and talking,
and laughing, and making sport, and the sound went by him like a whirl
of wind, and he was listening to it going into the rath. "Musha, by my
soul," says he, "but ye're merry enough, and I'll follow ye."
What was in it but the fairy host, though he did not know at first
that it was they who were in it, but he followed them into the rath.
It's there he heard the fulparnee, and the folpornee, the
rap-lay-hoota, and the roolya-boolya, that they had there, and
every man of them crying out as loud as he could: "My horse, and
bridle, and saddle! My horse, and bridle, and saddle!"
"By my hand," said Guleesh, "my boy, that's not bad. I'll imitate ye,"
and he cried out as well as they: "My horse, and bridle, and saddle!
My horse, and bridle, and saddle!" And on the moment there was a fine
horse with a bridle of gold, and a saddle of silver, standing before
him. He leaped up on it, and the moment he was on its back he saw
clearly that the rath was full of horses, and of little people going
riding on them.
Said a man of them to him: "Are you coming with us to-night, Guleesh?"
"I am surely," said Guleesh.
"If you are, come along," said the little man, and out they went all
together, riding like the wind, faster than the fastest horse ever you
saw a-hunting, and faster than the fox and the hounds at his tail.
The cold winter's wind that was before them, they overtook her, and
the cold winter's wind that was behind them, she did not overtake
them. And stop nor stay of that full race, did they make none, until
they came to the brink of the sea.
Then every one of them said: "Hie over cap! Hie over cap!" and that
moment they were up in the air, and before Guleesh had time to
remember where he was they were down on dry land again, and were
going like the wind. At last they stood still, and a man of them said
to Guleesh: "Guleesh, do you know where you are now?"
"Not a know," says Guleesh.
"You're in France, Guleesh," said he. "The daughter of the king of
France is to be married to-night, the handsomest woman that the sun
ever saw, and we must do our best to bring her with us, if we're only
able to carry her off; and you must come with us that we may be able
to put the young girl up behind you on the horse, when we'll be
bringing her away, for it's not lawful for us to put her sitting
behind ourselves. But you're flesh and blood, and she can take a good
grip of you, so that she won't fall off the horse. Are you satisfied,
Guleesh, and will you do what we're telling you?"
"Why shouldn't I be satisfied?" said Guleesh. "I'm satisfied, surely,
and anything that ye will tell me to do I'll do it without doubt."
They got off their horses there, and a man of them said a word that
Guleesh did not understand, and on the moment they were lifted up, and
Guleesh found himself and his companions in the palace. There was a
great feast going on there, and there was not a nobleman or a
gentleman in the kingdom but was gathered there, dressed in silk and
satin, and gold and silver, and the night was as bright as the day
with all the lamps and candles that were lit, and Guleesh had to shut
his two eyes at the brightness. When he opened them again and looked
from him he thought he never saw anything as fine as all he saw
there. There were a hundred tables spread out, and their full of meat
and drink on each table of them, flesh-meat, and cakes and sweetmeats,
and wine and ale, and every drink that ever a man saw. The musicians
were at the two ends of the hall, and they were playing the sweetest
music that ever a man's ear heard, and there were young women and fine
youths in the middle of the hall, dancing and turning, and going round
so quickly and so lightly, that it put a soorawn in Guleesh's head
to be looking at them. There were more there playing tricks, and more
making fun and laughing, for such a feast as there was that day had
not been in France for twenty years, because the old king had no
children alive but only the one daughter, and she was to be married to
the son of another king that night. Three days the feast was going on,
and the third night she was to be married, and that was the night that
Guleesh and the sheehogues came, hoping, if they could, to carry off
with them the king's young daughter.
Guleesh and his companions were standing together at the head of the
hall, where there was a fine altar dressed up, and two bishops behind
it waiting to marry the girl, as soon as the right time should come.
Now nobody could see the sheehogues, for they said a word as they came
in, that made them all invisible, as if they had not been in it at
"Tell me which of them is the king's daughter," said Guleesh, when he
was becoming a little used to the noise and the light.
"Don't you see her there away from you?" said the little man that he
was talking to.
Guleesh looked where the little man was pointing with his finger, and
there he saw the loveliest woman that was, he thought, upon the ridge
of the world. The rose and the lily were fighting together in her
face, and one could not tell which of them got the victory. Her arms
and hands were like the lime, her mouth as red as a strawberry when it
is ripe, her foot was as small and as light as another one's hand, her
form was smooth and slender, and her hair was falling down from her
head in buckles of gold. Her garments and dress were woven with gold
and silver, and the bright stone that was in the ring on her hand was
as shining as the sun.
Guleesh was nearly blinded with all the loveliness and beauty that was
on her; but when he looked again, he saw that she was crying, and that
there was the trace of tears in her eyes. "It can't be," said Guleesh,
"that there's grief on her, when everybody round her is so full of
sport and merriment."
"Musha, then, she is grieved," said the little man; "for it's against
her own will she's marrying, and she has no love for the husband she
is to marry. The king was going to give her to him three years ago,
when she was only fifteen, but she said she was too young, and
requested him to leave her as she was yet. The king gave her a year's
grace, and when that year was up he gave her another year's grace, and
then another; but a week or a day he would not give her longer, and
she is eighteen years old to-night, and it's time for her to marry;
but, indeed," says he, and he crooked his mouth in an ugly
way--"indeed, it's no king's son she'll marry, if I can help it."
Guleesh pitied the handsome young lady greatly when he heard that, and
he was heart-broken to think that it would be necessary for her to
marry a man she did not like, or what was worse, to take a nasty
sheehogue for a husband. However, he did not say a word, though he
could not help giving many a curse to the ill-luck that was laid out
for himself, to be helping the people that were to snatch her away
from her home and from her father.
He began thinking, then, what it was he ought to do to save her, but
he could think of nothing. "Oh! if I could only give her some help and
relief," said he, "I wouldn't care whether I were alive or dead; but I
see nothing that I can do for her."
He was looking on when the king's son came up to her and asked her for
a kiss, but she turned her head away from him. Guleesh had double pity
for her then, when he saw the lad taking her by the soft white hand,
and drawing her out to dance. They went round in the dance near where
Guleesh was, and he could plainly see that there were tears in her
When the dancing was over, the old king, her father, and her mother
the queen, came up and said that this was the right time to marry her,
that the bishop was ready, and it was time to put the wedding-ring on
her and give her to her husband.
The king took the youth by the hand, and the queen took her daughter,
and they went up together to the altar, with the lords and great
people following them.
When they came near the altar, and were no more than about four yards
from it, the little sheehogue stretched out his foot before the girl,
and she fell. Before she was able to rise again he threw something
that was in his hand upon her, said a couple of words, and upon the
moment the maiden was gone from amongst them. Nobody could see her,
for that word made her invisible. The little maneen seized her and
raised her up behind Guleesh, and the king nor no one else saw them,
but out with them through the hall till they came to the door.
Oro! dear Mary! it's there the pity was, and the trouble, and the
crying, and the wonder, and the searching, and the rookawn, when
that lady disappeared from their eyes, and without their seeing what
did it. Out of the door of the palace they went, without being stopped
or hindered, for nobody saw them, and, "My horse, my bridle, and
saddle!" says every man of them. "My horse, my bridle, and saddle!"
says Guleesh; and on the moment the horse was standing ready
caparisoned before him. "Now, jump up, Guleesh," said the little man,
"and put the lady behind you, and we will be going; the morning is not
far off from us now."
Guleesh raised her up on the horse's back, and leaped up himself
before her, and, "Rise, horse," said he; and his horse, and the other
horses with him, went in a full race until they came to the sea.
"Hie over cap!" said every man of them.
"Hie over cap!" said Guleesh; and on the moment the horse rose under
him, and cut a leap in the clouds, and came down in Erin.
They did not stop there, but went of a race to the place where was
Guleesh's house and the rath. And when they came as far as that,
Guleesh turned and caught the young girl in his two arms, and leaped
off the horse.
"I call and cross you to myself, in the name of God!" said he; and on
the spot, before the word was out of his mouth, the horse fell down,
and what was in it but the beam of a plough, of which they had made a
horse; and every other horse they had, it was that way they made it.
Some of them were riding on an old besom, and some on a broken stick,
and more on a bohalawn or a hemlock-stalk.
The good people called out together when they heard what Guleesh said:
"O Guleesh, you clown, you thief, that no good may happen you! Why did
you play that trick on us?"
But they had no power at all to carry off the girl, after Guleesh had
consecrated her to himself.
"O Guleesh, isn't that a nice turn you did us, and we so kind to you?
What good have we now out of our journey to France? Never mind yet,
you clown, but you'll pay us another time for this. Believe us, you'll
"He'll have no good to get out of the young girl," said the little man
that was talking to him in the palace before that, and as he said the
word he moved over to her and struck her a slap on the side of the
head. "Now," says he, "she'll be without talk any more; now, Guleesh,
what good will she be to you when she'll be dumb? It's time for us to
go--but you'll remember us, Guleesh!"
When he said that he stretched out his two hands, and before Guleesh
was able to give an answer, he and the rest of them were gone into the
rath out of his sight, and he saw them no more.
He turned to the young woman and said to her: "Thanks be to God,
they're gone. Would you not sooner stay with me than with them?" She
gave him no answer. "There's trouble and grief on her yet," said
Guleesh in his own mind, and he spoke to her again: "I am afraid that
you must spend this night in my father's house, lady, and if there is
anything that I can do for you, tell me, and I'll be your servant."
The beautiful girl remained silent, but there were tears in her eyes,
and her face was white and red after each other.
"Lady," said Guleesh, "tell me what you would like me to do now. I
never belonged at all to that lot of sheehogues who carried you away
with them. I am the son of an honest farmer, and I went with them
without knowing it. If I'll be able to send you back to your father
I'll do it, and I pray you make any use of me now that you may wish."
He looked into her face, and saw the mouth moving as if she were going
to speak, but there came no word from it.
"It cannot be," said Guleesh, "that you are dumb. Did I not hear you
speaking to the king's son in the palace to-night? Or has that devil
made you really dumb, when he struck his nasty hand on your jaw?"
The girl raised her white smooth hand, and laid her finger on her
tongue, to show him that she had lost her voice and power of speech,
and the tears ran out of her two eyes like streams, and Guleesh's own
eyes were not dry, for as rough as he was on the outside he had a soft
heart, and could not stand the sight of the young girl, and she in
that unhappy plight.
He began thinking with himself what he ought to do, and he did not
like to bring her home with himself to his father's house, for he knew
well that they would not believe him, that he had been in France and
brought back with him the king of France's daughter, and he was afraid
they might make a mock of the young lady or insult her.
As he was doubting what he ought to do, and hesitating, he chanced to
remember the priest. "Glory be to God," said he, "I know now what I'll
do; I'll bring her to the priest's house, and he won't refuse me to
keep the lady and care for her." He turned to the lady again and told
her that he was loth to take her to his father's house, but that there
was an excellent priest very friendly to himself, who would take good
care of her, if she wished to remain in his house; but that if there
was any other place she would rather go, he said he would bring her to
She bent her head, to show him she was obliged, and gave him to
understand that she was ready to follow him to any place he was going.
"We will go to the priest's house, then," said he; "he is under an
obligation to me, and will do anything I ask him."
They went together accordingly to the priest's house, and the sun was
just rising when they came to the door. Guleesh beat it hard, and as
early as it was the priest was up, and opened the door himself. He
wondered when he saw Guleesh and the girl, for he was certain that it
was coming wanting to be married they were.
"Guleesh, Guleesh, isn't it the nice boy you are that you can't wait
till ten o'clock or till twelve, but that you must be coming to me at
this hour, looking for marriage, you and your sweetheart? You ought
to know that I can't marry you at such a time, or, at all events,
can't marry you lawfully. But ubbubboo!" said he, suddenly, as he
looked again at the young girl, "in the name of God, who have you
here? Who is she, or how did you get her?"
"Father," said Guleesh, "you can marry me, or anybody else, if you
wish; but it's not looking for marriage I came to you now, but to ask
you, if you please, to give a lodging in your house to this young
The priest looked at him as though he had ten heads on him; but
without putting any other question to him, he desired him to come in,
himself and the maiden, and when they came in, he shut the door,
brought them into the parlour, and put them sitting.
"Now, Guleesh," said he, "tell me truly who is this young lady, and
whether you're out of your senses really, or are only making a joke of
"I'm not telling a word of lie, nor making a joke of you," said
Guleesh; "but it was from the palace of the king of France I carried
off this lady, and she is the daughter of the king of France."
He began his story then, and told the whole to the priest, and the
priest was so much surprised that he could not help calling out at
times, or clapping his hands together.
When Guleesh said from what he saw he thought the girl was not
satisfied with the marriage that was going to take place in the palace
before he and the sheehogues broke it up, there came a red blush into
the girl's cheek, and he was more certain than ever that she had
sooner be as she was--badly off as she was--than be the married wife
of the man she hated. When Guleesh said that he would be very thankful
to the priest if he would keep her in his own house, the kind man said
he would do that as long as Guleesh pleased, but that he did not know
what they ought to do with her, because they had no means of sending
her back to her father again.
Guleesh answered that he was uneasy about the same thing, and that he
saw nothing to do but to keep quiet until they should find some
opportunity of doing something better. They made it up then between
themselves that the priest should let on that it was his brother's
daughter he had, who was come on a visit to him from another county,
and that he should tell everybody that she was dumb, and do his best
to keep every one away from her. They told the young girl what it was
they intended to do, and she showed by her eyes that she was obliged
Guleesh went home then, and when his people asked him where he had
been, he said that he had been asleep at the foot of the ditch, and
had passed the night there.
There was great wonderment on the priest's neighbours at the girl who
came so suddenly to his house without any one knowing where she was
from, or what business she had there. Some of the people said that
everything was not as it ought to be, and others, that Guleesh was not
like the same man that was in it before, and that it was a great
story, how he was drawing every day to the priest's house, and that
the priest had a wish and a respect for him, a thing they could not
clear up at all.
That was true for them, indeed, for it was seldom the day went by but
Guleesh would go to the priest's house, and have a talk with him, and
as often as he would come he used to hope to find the young lady well
again, and with leave to speak; but, alas! she remained dumb and
silent, without relief or cure. Since she had no other means of
talking, she carried on a sort of conversation between herself and
himself, by moving her hand and fingers, winking her eyes, opening and
shutting her mouth, laughing or smiling, and a thousand other signs,
so that it was not long until they understood each other very well.
Guleesh was always thinking how he should send her back to her father;
but there was no one to go with her, and he himself did not know what
road to go, for he had never been out of his own country before the
night he brought her away with him. Nor had the priest any better
knowledge than he; but when Guleesh asked him, he wrote three or four
letters to the king of France, and gave them to buyers and sellers of
wares, who used to be going from place to place across the sea; but
they all went astray, and never a one came to the king's hand.
This was the way they were for many months, and Guleesh was falling
deeper and deeper in love with her every day, and it was plain to
himself and the priest that she liked him. The boy feared greatly at
last, lest the king should really hear where his daughter was, and
take her back from himself, and he besought the priest to write no
more, but to leave the matter to God.
So they passed the time for a year, until there came a day when
Guleesh was lying by himself on the grass, on the last day of the last
month in autumn, and he was thinking over again in his own mind of
everything that happened to him from the day that he went with the
sheehogues across the sea. He remembered then, suddenly, that it was
one November night that he was standing at the gable of the house,
when the whirlwind came, and the sheehogues in it, and he said to
himself: "We have November night again to-day, and I'll stand in the
same place I was last year, until I see if the good people come again.
Perhaps I might see or hear something that would be useful to me, and
might bring back her talk again to Mary"--that was the name himself
and the priest called the king's daughter, for neither of them knew
her right name. He told his intention to the priest, and the priest
gave him his blessing.
Guleesh accordingly went to the old rath when the night was darkening,
and he stood with his bent elbow leaning on a grey old flag, waiting
till the middle of the night should come. The moon rose slowly, and it
was like a knob of fire behind him; and there was a white fog which
was raised up over the fields of grass and all damp places, through
the coolness of the night after a great heat in the day. The night was
calm as is a lake when there is not a breath of wind to move a wave on
it, and there was no sound to be heard but the cronawn of the
insects that would go by from time to time, or the hoarse sudden
scream of the wild-geese, as they passed from lake to lake, half a
mile up in the air over his head; or the sharp whistle of the golden
and green plover, rising and lying, lying and rising, as they do on a
calm night. There were a thousand thousand bright stars shining over
his head, and there was a little frost out, which left the grass under
his foot white and crisp.
He stood there for an hour, for two hours, for three hours, and the
frost increased greatly, so that he heard the breaking of the
traneens under his foot as often as he moved. He was thinking, in
his own mind, at last, that the sheehogues would not come that night,
and that it was as good for him to return back again, when he heard a
sound far away from him, coming towards him, and he recognised what it
was at the first moment. The sound increased, and at first it was like
the beating of waves on a stony shore, and then it was like the
falling of a great waterfall, and at last it was like a loud storm in
the tops of the trees, and then the whirlwind burst into the rath of
one rout, and the sheehogues were in it.
It all went by him so suddenly that he lost his breath with it, but he
came to himself on the spot, and put an ear on himself, listening to
what they would say.
Scarcely had they gathered into the rath till they all began shouting,
and screaming, and talking amongst themselves; and then each one of
them cried out: "My horse, and bridle, and saddle! My horse, and
bridle, and saddle!" and Guleesh took courage, and called out as
loudly as any of them: "My horse, and bridle, and saddle! My horse,
and bridle, and saddle!" But before the word was well out of his
mouth, another man cried out: "Ora! Guleesh, my boy, are you here with
us again? How are you getting on with your woman? There's no use in
your calling for your horse to-night. I'll go bail you won't play such
a trick on us again. It was a good trick you played on us last year."
"It was," said another man; "he won't do it again."
"Isn't he a prime lad, the same lad! to take a woman with him that
never said as much to him as, 'How do you do?' since this time last
year!" says the third man.
"Perhaps he likes to be looking at her," said another voice.
"And if the omadawn only knew that there's an herb growing up by his
own door, and if he were to boil it and give it to her, she'd be
well," said another voice.
"That's true for you."
"He is an omadawn."
"Don't bother your head with him; we'll be going."
"We'll leave the bodach as he is."
And with that they rose up into the air, and out with them with one
roolya-boolya the way they came; and they left poor Guleesh standing
where they found him, and the two eyes going out of his head, looking
after them and wondering.
He did not stand long till he returned back, and he thinking in his
own mind on all he saw and heard, and wondering whether there was
really an herb at his own door that would bring back the talk to the
king's daughter. "It can't be," says he to himself, "that they would
tell it to me, if there was any virtue in it; but perhaps the
sheehogue didn't observe himself when he let the word slip out of his
mouth. I'll search well as soon as the sun rises, whether there's any
plant growing beside the house except thistles and dockings."
He went home, and as tired as he was he did not sleep a wink until the
sun rose on the morrow. He got up then, and it was the first thing he
did to go out and search well through the grass round about the house,
trying could he get any herb that he did not recognise. And, indeed,
he was not long searching till he observed a large strange herb that
was growing up just by the gable of the house.
He went over to it, and observed it closely, and saw that there were
seven little branches coming out of the stalk, and seven leaves
growing on every brancheen of them; and that there was a white sap in
the leaves. "It's very wonderful," said he to himself, "that I never
noticed this herb before. If there's any virtue in an herb at all, it
ought to be in such a strange one as this."
He drew out his knife, cut the plant, and carried it into his own
house; stripped the leaves off it and cut up the stalk; and there came
a thick, white juice out of it, as there comes out of the sow-thistle
when it is bruised, except that the juice was more like oil.
He put it in a little pot and a little water in it, and laid it on the
fire until the water was boiling, and then he took a cup, filled it
half up with the juice, and put it to his own mouth. It came into his
head then that perhaps it was poison that was in it, and that the good
people were only tempting him that he might kill himself with that
trick, or put the girl to death without meaning it. He put down the
cup again, raised a couple of drops on the top of his finger, and put
it to his mouth. It was not bitter, and, indeed, had a sweet,
agreeable taste. He grew bolder then, and drank the full of a thimble
of it, and then as much again, and he never stopped till he had half
the cup drunk. He fell asleep after that, and did not wake till it was
night, and there was great hunger and great thirst on him.
He had to wait, then, till the day rose; but he determined, as soon as
he should wake in the morning, that he would go to the king's daughter
and give her a drink of the juice of the herb.
As soon as he got up in the morning, he went over to the priest's
house with the drink in his hand, and he never felt himself so bold
and valiant, and spirited and light, as he was that day, and he was
quite certain that it was the drink he drank which made him so hearty.
When he came to the house, he found the priest and the young lady
within, and they were wondering greatly why he had not visited them
for two days.
He told them all his news, and said that he was certain that there was
great power in that herb, and that it would do the lady no hurt, for
he tried it himself and got good from it, and then he made her taste
it, for he vowed and swore that there was no harm in it.
Guleesh handed her the cup, and she drank half of it, and then fell
back on her bed and a heavy sleep came on her, and she never woke out
of that sleep till the day on the morrow.
Guleesh and the priest sat up the entire night with her, waiting till
she should awake, and they between hope and unhope, between
expectation of saving her and fear of hurting her.
She awoke at last when the sun had gone half its way through the
heavens. She rubbed her eyes and looked like a person who did not know
where she was. She was like one astonished when she saw Guleesh and
the priest in the same room with her, and she sat up doing her best to
collect her thoughts.
The two men were in great anxiety waiting to see would she speak, or
would she not speak, and when they remained silent for a couple of
minutes, the priest said to her: "Did you sleep well, Mary?"
And she answered him: "I slept, thank you."
No sooner did Guleesh hear her talking than he put a shout of joy out
of him, and ran over to her and fell on his two knees, and said: "A
thousand thanks to God, who has given you back the talk; lady of my
heart, speak again to me."
The lady answered him that she understood it was he who boiled that
drink for her, and gave it to her; that she was obliged to him from
her heart for all the kindness he showed her since the day she first
came to Ireland, and that he might be certain that she never would
Guleesh was ready to die with satisfaction and delight. Then they
brought her food, and she ate with a good appetite, and was merry and
joyous, and never left off talking with the priest while she was
After that Guleesh went home to his house, and stretched himself on
the bed and fell asleep again, for the force of the herb was not all
spent, and he passed another day and a night sleeping. When he woke up
he went back to the priest's house, and found that the young lady was
in the same state, and that she was asleep almost since the time that
he left the house.
He went into her chamber with the priest, and they remained watching
beside her till she awoke the second time, and she had her talk as
well as ever, and Guleesh was greatly rejoiced. The priest put food on
the table again and they ate together, and Guleesh used after that to
come to the house from day to day, and the friendship that was between
him and the king's daughter increased, because she had no one to
speak to except Guleesh and the priest, and she liked Guleesh best.
So they married one another, and that was the fine wedding they had,
and if I were to be there then, I would not be here now; but I heard
it from a birdeen that there was neither cark nor care, sickness nor
sorrow, mishap nor misfortune on them till the hour of their death,
and may the same be with me, and with us all!