The Story Of Manus
: The Orange Fairy Book
Far away over the sea of the West there reigned a king who had two
sons; and the name of the one was Oireal, and the name of the other was
Iarlaid. When the boys were still children, their father and mother
died, and a great council was held, and a man was chosen from among
them who would rule the kingdom till the boys were old enough to rule
The years passed on, and by-and-by another
council was held, and it was
agreed that the king's sons were now of an age to take the power which
rightly belonged to them. So the youths were bidden to appear before
the council, and Oireal the elder was smaller and weaker than his
'I like not to leave the deer on the hill and the fish in the rivers,
and sit in judgment on my people,' said Oireal, when he had listened to
the words of the chief of the council. And the chief waxed angry, and
'Not one clod of earth shall ever be yours if this day you do not take
on yourself the vows that were taken by the king your father.'
Then spake Iarlaid, the younger, and he said: 'Let one half be yours,
and the other give to me; then you will have fewer people to rule over.'
'Yes, I will do that,' answered Oireal.
After this, one half of the men of the land of Lochlann did homage to
Oireal, and the other half to Iarlaid. And they governed their
kingdoms as they would, and in a few years they became grown men with
beards on their chins; and Iarlaid married the daughter of the king of
Greece, and Oireal the daughter of the king of Orkney. The next year
sons were born to Oireal and Iarlaid; and the son of Oireal was big and
strong, but the son of Iarlaid was little and weak, and each had six
foster brothers who went everywhere with the princes.
One day Manus, son of Oireal, and his cousin, the son of Iarlaid,
called to their foster brothers, and bade them come and play a game at
shinny in the great field near the school where they were taught all
that princes and nobles should know. Long they played, and swiftly did
the ball pass from one to another, when Manus drove the ball at his
cousin, the son of Iarlaid. The boy, who was not used to be roughly
handled, even in jest, cried out that he was sorely hurt, and went home
with his foster brothers and told his tale to his mother. The wife of
Iarlaid grew white and angry as she listened, and thrusting her son
aside, sought the council hall where Iarlaid was sitting.
'Manus has driven a ball at my son, and fain would have slain him,'
said she. 'Let an end be put to him and his ill deeds.'
But Iarlaid answered:
'Nay, I will not slay the son of my brother.'
'And he shall not slay my son,' said the queen. And calling to her
chamberlain she ordered him to lead the prince to the four brown
boundaries of the world, and to leave him there with a wise man, who
would care for him, and let no harm befall him. And the wise man set
the boy on the top of a hill where the sun always shone, and he could
see every man, but no man could see him.
Then she summoned Manus to the castle, and for a whole year she kept
him fast, and his own mother could not get speech of him. But in the
end, when the wife of Oireal fell sick, Manus fled from the tower which
was his prison, and stole back to his on home.
For a few years he stayed there in peace, and then the wife of Iarlaid
his uncle sent for him.
'It is time that you were married,' she said, when she saw that Manus
had grown tall and strong like unto Iarlaid. 'Tall and strong you are,
and comely of face. I know a bride that will suit you well, and that
is the daughter of the mighty earl of Finghaidh, that does homage for
his lands to me. I myself will go with a great following to his house,
and you shall go with me.'
Thus it was done; and though the earl's wife was eager to keep her
daughter with her yet a while, she was fain to yield, as the wife of
Iarlaid vowed that not a rood of land should the earl have, unless he
did her bidding. But if he would give his daughter to Manus, she would
bestow on him the third part of her own kingdom, with much treasure
beside. This she did, not from love to Manus, but because she wished
to destroy him. So they were married, and rode back with the wife of
Iarlaid to her own palace. And that night, while he was sleeping,
there came a wise man, who was his father's friend, and awoke him
saying: 'Danger lies very close to you, Manus, son of Oireal. You hold
yourself favoured because you have as a bride the daughter of a mighty
earl; but do you know what bride the wife of Iarlaid sought for her own
son? It was no worldly wife she found for him, but the swift March
wind, and never can you prevail against her.'
'Is it thus?' answered Manu. And at the first streak of dawn he went
to the chamber where the queen lay in the midst of her maidens.
'I have come,' he said, 'for the third part of the kingdom, and for the
treasure which you promised me.' But the wife of Iarlaid laughed as
she heard him.
'Not a clod shall you have here,' spake she. 'You must go to the Old
Bergen for that. Mayhap under its stones and rough mountains you may
find a treasure!'
'Then give me your son's six foster brothers as well as my own,'
answered he. And the queen gave them to him, and they set out for Old
A year passed by, and found them still in that wild land, hunting the
reindeer, and digging pits for the mountain sheep to fall into. For a
time Manus and his companions lived merrily, but at length Manus grew
weary of the strange country, and they all took ship for the land of
Lochlann. The wind was fierce and cold, and long was the voyage; but,
one spring day, they sailed into the harbour that lay beneath the
castle of Iarlaid. The queen looked from her window and beheld him
mounting the hill, with the twelve foster brothers behind him. Then
she said to her husband: 'Manus has returned with his twelve foster
brothers. Would that I could put an end to him and his murdering and
'That were a great pity,' answered Iarlaid. 'And it is not I that will
'If you will not do it I will,' said she. And she called the twelve
foster brothers and made them vow fealty to herself. So Manus was left
with no man, and sorrowful was he when he returned alone to Old Bergen.
It was late when his foot touched the shore, and took the path towards
the forest. On his way there met him a man in a red tunic.
'Is it you, Manus, come back again?' asked he.
'It is I,' answered Manus; 'alone have I returned from the land of
The man eyed him silently for a moment, and then he said:
'I dreamed that you were girt with a sword and became king of
Lochlann.' But Manus answered:
'I have no sword and my bow is broken.'
'I will give you a new sword if you will make me a promise,' said the
man once more.
'To be sure I will make it, if ever I am king,' answered Manus. 'But
speak, and tell me what promise I am to make.'
'I was your grandfather's armourer,' replied the man, 'and I wish to be
your armourer also.'
'That I will promise readily,' said Manus; and followed the man into
his house, which was at a little distance. But the house was not like
other houses, for the walls of every room were hung so thick with arms
that you could not see the boards.
'Choose what you will,' said the man; and Manus unhooked a sword and
tried it across his knee, and it broke, and so did the next, and the
'Leave off breaking the swords,' cried the man, 'and look at this old
sword and helmet and tunic that I wore in the wars of your grandfather.
Perhaps you may find them of stouter steel.' And Manus bent the sword
thrice across his knee but he could not break it. So he girded it to
his side, and put on the old helmet. As he fastened the strap his eye
fell on a cloth flapping outside the window.
'What cloth is that?' asked he.
'It is a cloth that was woven by the Little People of the forest,' said
the man; 'and when you are hungry it will give you food and drink, and
if you meet a foe, he will not hurt you, but will stoop and kiss the
back of your hand in token of submission. Take it, and use it well.'
Manus gladly wrapped the shawl round his arm, and was leaving the
house, when he heard the rattling of a chain blown by the wind.
'What chain is that?' asked he.
'The creature who has that chain round his neck, need not fear a
hundred enemies,' answered the armourer. And Manus wound it round him
and passed on into the forest.
Suddenly there sprang out from the bushes two lions, and a lion cub
with them. The fierce beasts bounded towards him, roaring loudly, and
would fain have eaten him, but quickly Manus stooped and spread the
cloth upon the ground. At that the lions stopped, and bowing their
great heads, kissed the back of his wrist and went their ways. But the
cub rolled itself up in the cloth; so Manus picked them both up, and
carried them with him to Old Bergen.
Another year went by, and then he took the lion cub and set forth to
the land of Lochlann. And the wife of Iarlaid came to meet him, and a
brown dog, small but full of courage, came with her. When the dog
beheld the lion cub he rushed towards him, thinking to eat him; but the
cub caught the dog by the neck, and shook him, and he was dead. And
the wife of Iarlaid mourned him sore, and her wrath was kindled, and
many times she tried to slay Manus and his cub, but she could not. And
at last they two went back to Old Bergen, and the twelve foster
brothers went also.
'Let them go,' said the wife of Iarlaid, when she heard of it. 'My
brother the Red Gruagach will take the head off Manus as well in Old
Bergen as elsewhere.'
Now these words were carried by a messenger to the wife of Oireal, and
she made haste and sent a ship to Old Bergen to bear away her son
before the Red Gruagach should take the head off him. And in the ship
was a pilot. But the wife of Iarlaid made a thick fog to cover the
face of the sea, and the rowers could not row, lest they should drive
the ship on to a rock. And when night came, the lion cub, whose eyes
were bright and keen, stole up to Manus, and Manus got on his back, and
the lion cub sprang ashore and bade Manus rest on the rock and wait for
him. So Manus slept, and by-and-by a voice sounded in his ears,
saying: 'Arise!' And he saw a ship in the water beneath him, and in the
ship sat the lion cup in the shape of the pilot.
Then they sailed away through the fog, and none saw them; and they
reached the land of Lochlann, and the lion cub with the chain round his
neck sprang from the ship and Manus followed after. And the lion cub
killed all the men that guarded the castle, and Iarlaid and his wife
also, so that, in the end, Manus son of Oireal was crowned king of
[Shortened from West Highland Tales.]