: 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

repent it."

"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

to them.

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

forget it.

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!