II. The Battle of the Birds, pp.25-38.

As told by John Mackenzie, Fisherman, April 1859, to Hector Urquhart in Ceanmore, near Inverary.

 

THERE was once a time when every creature and bird was gathering to battle. The son of the king of Tethertown1 said, that he would go to see the battle, and that he would bring sure word home to his father the king, who would be king of the creatures this year. The battle was over before he arrived all but one (fight), between a great black raven and a snake, and it seemed as if the snake would get the victory over the raven. When the King’s son saw this, he helped the raven, and with one blow takes the head off the snake. When the raven had taken breath, and saw that the snake was dead, he said,

“For thy kindness to me this day, I will give thee a sight. Come up now on the root of my two wings.

(Air son do choimhneis dhòmhsa an diugh, bheir mise sealladh dhuit; thig a nios a nis air bun mo dhà sgéithe.)

The king’s son mounted upon the raven, and, before he stopped, he took him over seven Bens, and seven Glens, and seven Mountain Moors.

“Now,”

(A nis,)

said the raven,

“seest thou that house yonder? Go now to it. It is a sister of mine that makes her dwelling in it; and I will go bail that thou art welcome. And if she asks thee, “Wert thou at the battle of the birds?” say thou that thou wert. And if she asks, “Didst thou see my likeness?” say that thou sawest it. But be sure that thou meetest me tomorrow morning here, in this place.”

(am bheil thu faicinn an tigh’ ud thàll; falbh a nis d’a ‘ionnsuidh; ‘s i piuthar dhòmhsa a tha gabhail còmhnuidh ann agus théid mis ‘an urras gu’r é do bheatha, agus ma dh’ fhoighneachdas i dhìot, ‘an robh thu aig Cath nan eun? abair thusa, “gu’n robh”. Agus ma dh’ fheòraicheas i dhìot, ‘am faca tu mo choltas-sa, abair thusa ‘gu ‘m faca, ach bi cinnteach gu’n coinnich thu mise moch am màireach anns an àite so.)

The king’s son got good and right good treatment this night. Meat of each meat, drink of each drink, warm water to his feet, and a soft bed for his limbs.

On the next day the raven gave him the same sight over seven Bens, and seven Glens, and seven Mountain moors. They saw a bothy far off, but, though far off, they were soon there. He got good treatment this night, as before – plenty of meat and drink, and warm water to his feet, and a soft bed to his limbs – and on the next day it was the same thing.

On the third morning, instead of seeing the raven as at the other times, who should meet him but the handsomest lad he ever saw, with a bundle in his hand. The king’s son asked this lad if he had seen a big black raven. Said the lad to him,

“Thou wilt never see the raven again, for I am that raven. I was put under spells; it was meeting thee that loosed me, and for that thou art getting this bundle. Now,”

(Cha ‘n ‘fhaic thu ‘m fitheach tuillidh, oir s mise am fitheach a bha ‘sin; bha mi air mo, chuir fo gheasaibh agus ‘se thusa a choinneachadh a dh’ fhuasgail mi, air son sin, tha thu a’ faotainn a phasgain so. Nis,)

said the lad,

“thou wilt turn back on the self-same steps, and thou wilt lie a night in each house, as thou wert before; but thy lot is not to lose the bundle which I gave thee, till thou art in the place where thou wouldst most wish to dwell.”

(pillidh tu air t’ais air a chois-cheum cheudna, agus bithidh tu oidhche anns gach tigh mar a bha thu roimhe; ach am bonn a tha agad ri dhèanamh,’na fuasgail am pasgan sin a thug mi dhuit, gus am bi thu anns an àite bu mhiannaiche leat a bhith chòmhnuidh.)

The king’s son turned his back tothe lad, and his face to his father’s house; and he got lodging from the raven’s sisters, just as he got it when going forward. When he was nearing his father’shouse he was going through a close wood. It seemed to him that the bundle was growing heavy, and he thought he would look what was in it.

When he loosed the bundle, it was not without astonishing himself. In a twinkling he sees the very grandest place he ever saw. A great castle, and an orchard about the castle, in which was every kind of fruit and herb. He stood full of wonder and regret for having loosed the bundle – it was not in his power to put it back again – and he would have wished this pretty place to be in the pretty little green hollow that was opposite his father’s house; but, at one glance, he sees a great giant coming towards him.

“Bad’s the place where thou hast built thy house, king’s son,”

(‘S olc an t-àite anns an do thog thu do thigh, a mhic an rìgh,)

says the giant.

“Yes, but it is not here I would wish it to be, though it happened to be here by mishap,”

(Seadh, ach cha b’ ann an so bu mhiannaiche leam e ‘bhith, ge do thachair e ‘bhith ann gu tabaisteach,)

says the king’s son.

“What’s the reward thou wouldst give me for putting it back in the bundle as it was before?”

(Ciod an duais a bheireadh tu air son a chur air ais sa phasgan mar a bha e roimhe?)

“What’s the reward thou wouldst ask?”

(Ciod an duais a dh’ iarradh tu?)

says the king’s son.

“If thou wilt give me the first son thou hast when he is seven years of age,”

(Ma bheir thu dhòmhs’ a cheud mhac a bhitheas agad, ‘nuair a bhitheas e seachd bliadhna dh’ aois,)

says the giant.

“Thou wilt get that if I have a son,”

(Gheibh thu sin ma bhitheas mac agam,)

said the king’s son.

In a twinkling the giant put each garden, and orchard, and castle in the budle as they were before.

“Now,”

(Nis,)

says the giant,

“take thou thine own road, and I will take my road; but mind thy promise, and though thou shouldst forget, I will remember.”

(gabh thusa do rathad féin, ‘s gabhaidh mise mo rathad féin, ach cuimhnich do ghealladh ‘s ged nach cuimhnich thusa, cha di-chuimhnich mise.)

The king’s son took to the road, and at the end of a few days he reached the place he was fondest of. He loosed the bundle, and the same place was just as it was before. And when he opened the castle-door he sees the handsomest maiden he ever cast eye upon.

“Advance, king’s son,”

(Thìg air t-aghaidh, a mhic an rìgh,)

said the pretty maid;

“everything is in order for thee, if thou wilt marry me this very night. 

(tha gach ni an òrdugh air do shon, ma phòsas tu mise, an nochd féin.)

“It’s I am the man that is willing,”

(‘S mis’ an duine a bhitheas toileach,)

said the king’s son. And on the same night they married.

But at the end of a day and seven years, what great man is seen coming to the castle but the giant. The king’s son minded his promise to the giant, and till now he had not told his promise to the queen.

“Leave thou (the matter) between me and the giant,”

(Leig thus’ eadar mise ‘s am famhair,)

says the queen.

“Turn out thy son,”

(Cuir a mach do mhac,)

says the giant;

“mind your promise.”

(cuimhnich do ghealladh.)

“Thou wilt get that,”

(Gheibh thu sin,)

says the king,

“when his mother puts him order for his journey.”

(‘nuair a chuireas a mhathair an òrdugh e air son a thurais.)

The queen arrayed the cook’s son, and she gave him to the giant by the hand. The giant went away with him; but he had not gone far when he put a rod inthe hand of the little laddie. The giant asked him –

“If thy father had that rod what would he do with it?”

(Na ‘m bitheadh an t-slatag sin aig t-athair, de ‘dhèanadh e, leatha?)

“If my father had that rod he would beat the dogs and the cats, if they would be going near the king’s meat,”

(Na ‘m biodh an t-slat so aig m’ athair, ghabhadh e air na coin ‘s air na cait na ‘m biodh iad a dol a chòir biadh an rìgh,)

said the little laddie.

“Thou’rt the cook’s son,”

(‘S tusa mac a chòcaire,)

said the giant. He catches him by the two small ankles and knocks him – “Sgleog” – against the stone that was beside him. The giant turned back to the castle in rage and madness, andhe said that is they did not turn out the king’s son to him, the highest stone of the castle would be the lowest. Said the queen to the king,

“We’ll try it yet; the butler’s son is of the same age as our son.”

(Feuchaidh sinn fathast e, tha mac a bhuidealair an aon aois h ar mac féin.)

She arrayed the butler’s son, and she gives him to the giant by the hand. The giant had not gone far when he put the rod in his hand.

“If thy father had that rod,”

(Na ‘m bitheadh an t-slat so aig t-athair,)

says the giant,

“what would he do with it?”

(dé a dhèanadh e leatha?)

“He would beat the dogs and cats when they would be coming near the king’s bottles and glasses.”

(Ghabhadh e air na coin ‘s air na cait ‘nuair a bhiodh iad a tighinn dlủth air botail ‘s air gloinneachan an rìgh.)

“Thou art the son of the butler,”

(‘S tusa mac a bhuidealair,)

says the giant, and dashed his brains out too. The giant returned in very great rage and anger. The earth shook under the sole of his feet, and the castle shook and all that was in it.

“OUT HERE THY SON,”

(MACH AN SO DO MHAC,)

says the giant,

“or in a twinkling the stone that is highest in the dwelling will be the lowest.”

(oir ann nam prioba na sủla ‘s e chlach is àirde, ‘chlach is ìsle bhitheas do ‘n aitreabh.)

So needs must they had to give the king’s son to the giant.

The giant took him to his own house, andhe reared him as his own son. On a day of days when the giant was from home, the lad heard the sweetest music he ever heard in a room at the top of thegiant’s house. At a glance he saw the finest face he had ever seen. She beckoned to him to come a bit nearer to her, and she told him to go this time, but to be sure to be at the same place about that dead midnight.

And as he promised he did. The giant’s daughter was at his side in a twinkling, and she said,

“Tomorrow thou wilt get the choice of my two sisters to marry; but say thou that thou wilt not take either, but me. My father wants me to marry the son of the king of the Green City, but I don’t like him.”

(Am màireach gheibh thu do roghainn ri phosadh dheth mo dhà phiuthar; ach abair thusa nach gabh thu a h-aon dhiubh ach mise; tha m’ athair air son gu ‘m pòs mi mac rìgh na Cathair uaine, ach ‘s coma leam è.)

On the morrow the giant took out his three daughters, and he said,

“Now son of the king of Tethertown, thou hast not lost by living with me so long. Thou wilt get to wife one of the two eldest of my daughters, and with her leave to go home with her the day after the wedding.”

(Nis, a mhic rìgh na Cathair Shìomain, cha do chaill thu air a bhith leamsa cho fada: gheibh thu air son bean aon do ‘n dithis is sine do m’ nigheanaibh, agus bithidh cead agad dol dhachaidh leatha, an déigh na bainnse.)

“If thou wilt give me this pretty little one,”

(Ma bheir thu dhomh an té bheag bhòidheach so,)

says the king’s son,

“I will take thee at thy word.”

(gabhaidh mi air t-fhacal thu.)

The giant’s wrath kindled, and he said,

“Before thou gett’st her thou must do the three things that I ask thee to do.”

(Ma’m faigh thu sin, feumaidh tu na tri nitheanana a dh’ iarras mis’ ort a dhèanamh.)

“Say on,”

(Abair romhad.)

says the king’s son. The giant took him to the byre.

“Now,”

(Nis,)

says the giant,

“the dung of a hundred cattle is here, and it has not been cleansed for seven years. I am going from home today, and if this byre is not cleaned before night comes, so clean that a golden apple will run from end to end of it, not only thou shalt not get my daughter, but ’tis a drink of thy blood that will quench my thirst this night.”

(tha innear nan ceud damh an so, agus cha deach a chartadh o cheann seachd bliadhna. Tha mise ‘dol o ‘n bhaile ‘n diugh agus mar bi ‘m bàthach so air a chartadh mu ‘n d’thig: an oidhche cho ghlan ‘s gu’n ruith ubhall òir o cheann gu ceann dith, cha ‘n e mhàin nach faigh thu mo nighean, ach ‘s e deoch dhe d’fhuil a chaisgeas mo phathadh a nochd.)

He begins cleaning the byre, but it was just as well to keep baling the great ocean. After mid-day, when sweat was blinding him, the giant’s young daughter came where he was, and she said to him,

“Thou art being punished, king’s son.”

(Tha thu ‘ga’d’ phianadh, a rnhic an rìgh.)

“I am that,”

(Tha mi ‘n sin,)

says the king’s son.

“Come over,”

(Thig a nall,)

says she,

“and lay down thy weariness.”

(agus leig do sgìos.) 

“I will do that,

(Ni mi sin,)

says he,

“there is but death awaiting me, at any rate.”

(cha ‘n ‘eil ach am bàs a feitheamh orm co dhiu.)

He sat down near her. He was so tired that he fell asleep beside her. When he awoke, the giant’s daughter was not to be seen, but the byre was so well cleaned that a golden apple would run from end to end of it. In comes the giant, and he said,

“Thou hast cleaned the byre, king’s son?”

(Chairt thu’m bathaich, a mhic an rìgh?)

“I have cleaned it,”

(Chairt mi,)

says he.

“Somebody cleaned it,”

(Chairt neach éiginn i,)

says the giant.

“Thou didst not clean it, at all events,”

(Cha do chairt thus’ i co dhiu,)

said the king’s son.

“Yes, yes!”

(Seadh! Seadh!)

says the giant,

“Since thou wert so active today, thou wilt get to this time tomorrow to thatch this byre with birds’ down – birds with no two feathers of one colour.”

(Bhon a’bha thu co tapaidh an diugh, gheibh thu gus an am so am maireach gu tubhadh a bhathaich so le clòimh eòin gun dà ite air an aon dath.)

The king’s son was on foot before the sun; he caught up  his bow and his quiver of arrows to kill the birds. He took to the moors, but if he did, the birds were not so easy to take. He was running after them till the sweat was blinding him. About mid-day who should come but the giant’s daughter.

“Thou art exhausting thyself, king’s son,”

(Tha thu ga’d’ phianadh, a mhic an rìgh,)

says she.

“I am,”

(Tha mi.)

said he.

“There fell but these two black-birds, and both of one colour.”

(Cha do thuit ach an dà Ion dubh so, agus iad air aon dath.)

“Come over and lay down thy weariness on this pretty hillock,”

(Thig a nall, ‘s leig do sgìos air a chnocan bhòidheach so.)

says the giant’s daughter.

“It’s I am willing,”

(‘S mi tha toileach,)

said he. He thought she would aid him this time, too, and he sat down near her, and he was not long there till he fell asleep.

When he awoke, the giant’s daughter was gone. He thought he would go back to the house, and he sees the byre thatched with the feathers. When the giant came home, he said,

“Thou has thatched the byre, king’s son?”

(Thubh thu ‘m bathaich, a mhic an rìgh.) 

“I thatched it,”

(Thubh mi,)

says he.

“Somebody thatched it,”

(Thubh cuid-eiginn i,)

says the giant.

“Thou didst not thatch it,”

(Cha do thubh thusa i,)

says the king’s son.

“Yes, yes!”

(Seadh! Seadh!)

says the giant.

“Now,”

(‘Nis,)

says the giant,

“there is a fir-tree beside that loch down there, and there is a magpie’s nest in its top. The eggs thou wilt find in the nest. I must have them for my first meal. Not one must be burst or broken, and there are five in the nest.”

(tha craobh ghiubhas ri taobh an loch ud shios agus tha nead pioghaid ‘na mullach. Na h-uibhean a gheibh thu anns an nead, feumaidh iad a bhi agamsa gu mo cheud-lon, gaidh; cha ‘n fhàod a h-aon a bhith sgàinte no briste, agus ‘s e còig a tha ‘san nead.) 

Early in the morning the king’s son went where the tree was, and that tree was not hard to hit upon. Its match was not in the whole wood. From the foot to the first branch was five hundred feet. The king’s son was going all round the tree. She came who was always bringing help to him;

“Thou art losing the skin of thy hands and feet.”

(Tha thu air call craiceann nan làmh ‘s nan cas, a mhic an rìgh.)

“Ach! I am,”

(Ach tha,)

says he.

“I am no sooner up than down.”

(cha luaithe shuas na shìos mi.)

“This is no time for stopping,”

(Cha ‘n àm fuireachd so,)

says the giant’s daughter. She thrust finger after finger into the tree, till she made a ladder for the king’s son to go up to the magpie’s nest. When he was atthe nest, she said,

“Make haste now with the eggs, for my father’s breath is burning my back.”

(Dèan cabhag a nuas leis na h-uibheam, oir tha anail m’ athar a’ losgadh mo dhroma.)

In his hurry she left her little finger in the top of the tree.

“Now,”

(Nis,)

says she,

“thou wilt go home with the eggs quickly, and thou wilt get me to marry tonight if thou canst know me. I and my two sisters will be arrayed in the same garments, and made like each other, but look at me when my father says, “Go to thy wife, king’s son”; and thou wilt see a hand without a little finger.”

(thèid thu dhachaidh leis na h-uibhean gu luath, agus gheibh thu mise ri phòsadh a nochd ma dh’aithnicheas tu mi. Bithidh mis’ agus mo dha phiuthar air ar n-èideadh anns an aon trusgan, agus air ar dèanamh coltach ri’ chéile, ach seall thus’ ormsa ‘nuair a their m’ athair “falbh le d’ mhnaoi, a mhic an rìgh”; agus chi thu Iàimh gun lủdag.)

He gave the eggs to the giant.

“Yes, yes!”

(Seadh! seadh!)

says the giant,

“be making ready for thy marriage.”

(bi’ dèanamh deas chum do phòsadh.) 

Then indeed there was a wedding, and it was a wedding! Giants and gentlemen, and the son of the king of the Green City was in the midst of them. They were married, and the dancing began, and that was a dance? The giant’s house was shaking from top to bottom. But bed time came, and the giant said,

“It is time for thee to go to rest, son of the king of Tethertown; take thy bride with thee from amidst those.”

(Tha ‘n t-àm dhuit dol a luidhe, a mhic rìgh na Cathair Shìomain; thoir leat do bhean as am meadhon sin.)

She put out the hand off which the little finger was, and he caught her by the hand.

“Thou hast aimed well this time too; but there is no knowing but we may meet thee another way,”

(Dh’ amais thu gu maith air an am so cuideachd, ach cha ‘n’eil fios nach coinnich sinn thu air dòigh eile,)

said the giant.

But to rest they went.

“Now,”

(A nis,)

says she,

“sleep not, or else thou diest. We must fly quick, quick, or for certain my father will kill thee.”

(cadal cha dèan thu, air neo bàsaichidh tu. Feumaidh sinn teicheadh gu luath, oir gun teagamh marbhaidh m’ athair thu.) 

Out they went, and on the blue gray filly in the stable they mounted.

“Stop a while,”

(Dèan socair beagan,)

says she,

“and I will play a trick to the old hero.”

(agus cluichidh mise cleas air an t-seann laoch.) 

She jumped in, and cut an apple into nine shares, and she put two shares at the head of the bed, and two shares at the foot of the bed, and two shares at the door of the kitchen, and two shares at the big door, and one outside the house.

The giant awoke and called,

“Are you asleep?”

(`M bheil sibhse ‘nur cadal?)

“We are not yet,”

(Cha ‘n ‘eil fathast,) 

 said the apple that was at the head of the bed. At the end of a while he called again.

“We are not yet,”

(Cha ‘n ‘eil fathast,)

said the apple that was at the foot of the bed. A while after this he called again.

“We are not yet,”

(Cha ‘n ‘eil fathast,)

said the apple at the kitchen door. The giant called again. The apple that was at the big door answered.

“You are now going far from me,”

(Tha sibh a’ dol ni’s faide uam,)

says the giant.

“We are not yet,”

(Cha ‘n ‘eil fathast,)

says the apple that was outside the house.

“You are flying,”

(Tha sibh a teichadh,)

says the giant. The giant jumped on his feet, and to the bed he went, but it was cold – empty.

“My own daughter’s tricks are trying me,”

(Tha cuilbheartan mo nighean féin a feuchainn rium.) 

said the giant.

“Here’s after them,”

(Air an tòir ghabh e,)

says he.

In the mouth of day, the giant’s daughter said that her father’s breath was burning her back.

“Put thy hand, quick,”

(Cuir do làmh, gu luath,)

said she,

“in the ear of the gray filly, and whatever thou findest in it, throw it behind thee.”

(ann an cluais na loth dhuinn, agus ge be ni gheibh thu innte tilg ‘na d’ dhéigh e.)

“There is a twig of a sloe tree,”

(Tha bior do sgitheach an so.)

said he.

“Throw it behind thee,”

(TiIg as do dheigh e,)

said she.

No sooner did he that, than there were twenty miles of black thorn wood, so thick that scarce a weasel could go through it. The giant came headlong, and there he is fleecing his head and neck in the thorns.

“My own daughter’s tricks are here as before,”

(Tha cuilbheartan mo nighean féin an so mar an ceudna,)

said the giant;

“but if I had my own big axe and wood knife here, I would not be long making a way through this.”

(ach na ‘m biodh agamsa mo thuagh mhòr ‘s mo, chorc choille an so, cha b’ fhad’ a bhithinn a dèanamh rathad troimhe so.)

He went home for the big axe and the wood knife, and sure he was not long on his journey, and he was the boy behind the big axe. He was not long making a way through the black thorn.

“I will leave the axe and the wood knife here till I return,”

(Fàgaidh mi ‘n tuadh ‘s a chorc choille ‘n so, gus am till mi,) 

says he.

“If thou leave them,”

(Ma dh’ fhagas,)

said a Hoodie2 that was in a tree,

“we will steal them.”

(goididh sinne iad.)

“You will do that same,”

(Ni sibh sin fhéin,)

says the giant,

“but I will set them home.”

(ach cuiridh mise dhachaidh iad.)

He returned and left them at the house. At the heat of day the giant’s daughter felther father’s breath burning her back.

“Put thy finger in the filly’s ear, and throw behind thee whatever thou findest in it.”

(Cuir do mheur ann an cluais na lotha, agus tilg na gheibh thu innte as do dhéigh.)

He got a splinter of gray stone, and in a twinkling there were twenty miles, by breadth and height, of great gray rock behind them. The giant came full pelt, but past the rock he could not go.

“The tricks of my own daughter are the hardest things that ever met me,”

(Se cuilbheartan mo nighinn fèin rud as cruaidh’ a thachair riamh rium,)

says the giant;

“but if I had my lever and my mighty mattock, I would not be long making my way through this rock also.”

(ach na ‘m biodh agamsa mo, gheamhlag ‘s mo mhatag mhòr, cha b’ fhada a bhithinn a dèanamh rathad roimh n’ chreig so cuideachd.)

There was no help for it, but to turn the chase for them; and he was the boy to split the stones. He was not long making a road through the rock.

“I will leave the tools here, and I will return no more.”

(Fagaidh mi an acfhuinn an so, ‘s cha thill mi tuillidh.)

“If thou leave them,”

(Ma dh’ fhagas,)

says the hoodie,

“we will steal them.”

(goididh sinn’ iad.)

“Do that if thou wilt; there is no time to go back.”

(Tha sin ‘s a roghainn agad; cha ‘n‘eil tìom tilleadh ann.)

At the time of breaking the watch, the giant’s daughter said that she was feeling her father’s breath burning her back.

“Look in the filly’s ear, king’s son, or else we are lost.”

(Seall ann an cluais na lotha, a mhic an rìgh, air neo tha sinn cailte.)

He did so, and it was a bladder of water that was in her ear this time. He threw it behind him and there was a fresh-water loch, twenty miles in length and breadth, behind them.

The giant came on, but with the speed he had on him, he was in the middle of the loch, and he went under, and he rose no more.

On the next day the young companions were come in sight of his father’s house.

“Now,”

(Nis,)

said she,

“my father is drowned, and he won’t trouble us any more; but before we go further,”

(tha m’athair bàite, ‘s cha chuir e dragh tuillidh òirn. Ach mu ‘n d’ théid sinn ni ‘s faide,)

says she,

“go thou to thy father’s house, and tell that thou hast the like of me; but this is thy lot, let neither man nor creature kiss thee, for if thou dost thou wilt not remember that thou hast ever seen me.”

(rach thusa gu tigh t’athar, agus innis ga ‘bheil mo leithid-sa agad; ach am bonn a tha agad ri ‘dheànamh, na leig le duine na crèutair do phògadh; oir ma ni thu sin, cha bhi cuimhn’ agad gu ‘faca tu riamh mi.)

Every one he met was giving him welcome and luck, and he charged his father and mother not to kiss him; but as mishap was to be, and old greyhound was in and she knew him, and jumped up to his mouth, and after that he did not remember the giant’s daughter.

She was sitting at the well’s side as he left her, but the king’s son was not coming. In the mouth of night she climbed up into a tree of oak that was beside the well, and she lay in the fork of the tree all that night. A shoemaker had a house near the well, and about mid-day on the morrow, the shoemaker asked his wife to go for a drink for him out of the well. When the shoemaker’s wife reached the well, and when she saw the shadow of her that was in the tree, thinking of it that it was her own shadow -a nd she never thought till now that she was so handsome – she gave a cast to the dish that was in her hand, and it was broken on the ground, and she took herself to the house without vessel or water.

“Where is the water, wife?”

(Cait’ am bheil an t-uisge, a bhean?)

 said the shoemaker.

“Thou shambling, contemptible old carle, without grace, I have stayed too long thy water and wood thrall.”3

(A bhodaich leibidich, shuaraich, gun mhaise, dh’ fhan mi tuilidh ‘s fada ‘n am thràill uisge ‘s connaidh agad.)

“I am thinking, wife, that thou hast turned crazy. Go thou, daughter, quickly, and fetch a drink for thy father.”

(Tha mi féin a smaoineachadh, a bhean, gu’n deach thu air bhoile; falbh thusa a nighean, gu luath ‘s faigh deoch do d’ athair.)

His daughter went, and in the same way so it happened to her. She never thought till now that she was so loveable, and she took herself home.

“Up with the drink,”

(Nios an deoch,)

 said her father.

“Thou home-spun4 shoe carle, dost thou think that I am fit to be thy thrall.”

(A pheallaig bhodiach nam bròg, an saoil thu gu ‘bheil mise gu bhi ‘m thràill uisge agad.)

The poor shoemaker thought that they had taken a turn in their understandings, and he went himself to the well. He saw the shadow of the maiden in the well, and he looked up to the tree, and he sees the finest woman he ever saw.

“Thy seat is wavering, but thy face is fair,”

(‘S corrach do shuidheachan, ach ‘s maiseach do ghnủis,”)

said the shoemaker.

Come down for there is need of thee for a short while at my house.”

(Thig a nuas, oir tha feum dhuit car ủine gheàrr ‘nam thigh-sa.)

The shoemaker understood that this was the shadow that had driven his people mad. The shoemaker took her to his house, and he said that he had but a poor bothy, but that she should get a share of all that was in it. At the end of a day or two came a leash of gentlemen lads to the shoemaker’s house for shoes to be made them, for the king had come home, and he was going to marry. The glance the lads gave they saw the giant’s daughter, and if they saw her, they never saw one so pretty as she.

“‘Tis thou hast the pretty daughter here,”

(‘S ann agad a tha ‘n nighean bhòidheach an so.)

 said the lads to the shoemaker.

“She is pretty, indeed,”

says the shoemaker,

“but she is no daughter of mine.”

(Ach cha ‘n e mo nighean-sa th’ ann.)

St. Nail!”

(Nàile!)

said one of them,

“I would give a hundred pounds to marry her.”

(Bheirinn féin ceủd punnd air son a pòsadh.)

The two others said the very same. The poor shoemaker said that he had nothing to do with her.

“But,”

(Ach,)

said they,

“ask her to-night, and send us word tomorrow.”

(farraid thusa dhith ‘n nochd, agus leig fios thugainne ‘màireach.)

When the gentles went away, she asked the shoemaker –

“What’s that they were saying about me?”

(Gu dé sud a bha iad ag radh mu ‘m dheibhinnse?)

The shoemaker told her.

“Go thou after them,”

(Falbh ‘nan déigh,) 

said she;

“I will marry one of them, and let him bring his purse with him.”

(Pòsaidh mi fear aca a nochd féin, ‘s thugadh e leis a sporan airgid.)

The youth returned, and he gave the shoemaker a hundred pounds for tocher. They went to rest, and when she had laid down, she asked the lad for a drink of water from a tumbler that was on the board on the further side of the chamber. He went; but out of that he could not come, as he held the vessel of water the length of the night.

“Thou lad,”

(Oglaich thu,)

said she,

“why wilt thou not lie down?”

(cairson nach dig thu a luidhe?) 

but out of that he could not drag till the bright morrow’s day was. The shoemaker came to the door of the chamber, and she asked him to take away that lubberly boy. This wooer went and betook himself to his home, but he did not tell the other two how it happened to him. Next came the second chap, and in the same way, when she had gone to rest –

“Look,”

(Seall,)

she said,

“if the latch is on the door.”

(am bheil an crann air an dorus.)

The latch laid hold of his hands, and out of that he could not come the length of the night, and out of that hhe did not come till the morrow’s day was bright. He went, under shame and disgrace. No matter, he did not tell the other chap how it had happened, and on the third night he came. As it happened to the two others, so ithappened to him. One foot stuck to the floor; he could neither come nor go, but so he was the length of the night. On the morrow, he took his soles out (of that), and he was not seen looking behind him.

“Now,”

(Nis,)

said the girl to the shoemaker,

“thine is the sporran of gold; I have no need of it. It will better thee, and I am no worse for thy kindness to me.”

(‘s leatsa an sporan òir; cha ‘n’eil feum agam-sa air. ‘S feàird thus’ e, agus cha mbiosde mis’ e air son do chaoimhneis dhomh.)

The shoemaker had the shoes ready, and on that very day the king was to be married. The shoemaker was going to the castle with the shoes of the young people, and the girl said to the shoemaker,

“I would like to get a sight of the king’s son, before he marries.”

(Bu mhaith leam sealladh fhaicinn dhe mac an rìgh, mu ‘m pòsadh e.)

“Come with me,”

(Thig leamsa,)

says the shoemaker,

“I am well acquainted with the servants at the castle, and thou shalt get a sight of the king’s son and all the company.”

(tha mi mion eòlach air seirbheisich a’ chaisteail, agus gheibh thu sealladh air mac an rìgh ‘s na cuideachd uile.)

And when the gentles saw the pretty woman that was here they took her to the wedding-room, and they filled for her a glass of wine. When she was going to drink what is in it, a flame went up out of the glass, and a golden pigeon and a silver pigeon sprung out of it. They were flying about whenthree grains of barley fell on the floor. The silver pigeon sprang, and he eats that. Said the golden pigeon to him,

“If thou hadst mind when I cleared the byre, thou wouldst not eat that without giving me a share.”

(Na ‘m biodh cuimhn’ agad ‘nuair a chairt mi ‘m bàthaich, cha ‘n ‘itheadh tu siud gun chuid a thoirt dhomhsa.)

Again fell three other grains of barley, and the silver pigeon sprang, andhe eats that, as before.

“If thou hadst mind when I thatched the byre, thou wouldst not eat that without giving me my share,”

(Na’m bitheadh cuimhn’ agad ‘nuair a thubh mi ‘m bàthaich cha ‘n ‘itheadh tu siud, gun mo chuid a thoirt dhomhsa,)

says the golden pigeon. Three other grains fall, and the silver pigeon sprang, and he eats that.

“If thou hadst mind when I harried the magpie’s nest, thou wouldst not eat that without giving me my share,”

(Na ‘m biodh cuimhn’ agad ‘nuair a chreach mi nead na pioghaid, cha ‘n ‘itheadh tu siud gun mo chuid a thoirt dhomhsa,)

says the golden pigeon;

“I lost my little finger bringing it down, and I want it still.”

(Chaill mi ‘n lủdag ‘gad’ thabhairt a nuas, agus tha i dhìth orm fathast.)

The king’s son  minded, and he knew who it was he had got. He sprang where she was, and kissed her from hand to mouth. And when the priest came they married a second time. And there I left them.

 

1  Na Cathair Shìomain. Heather ropes are used for binding thatch on Highland cottages.
2  The principal Gaelic vowels bear some resemblance to the cawing of a hoodie. They are all broad A.
3  Tràill, a slave.
4  Peillag, felt, coarse cloth.

3 thoughts on “II. The Battle of the Birds, pp.25-38.

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