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THERE was a king in Erin once, who had a leash of sons. John was the name of the youngest one, and it was said that he was not wise enough; and this good worldly king lost the sight of his eyes, and the strength of his feet. The two eldest brothers said that they would go seek three bottles of water of the green Isle that was about the heaps of the deep.1 And so it was that these two brothers went away. Now the fool said that he woudl not believe but that he himself would go also. And the first big town he reached in his father’s kingdom, there he sees his two brothers there, the blackguards!
“Oh! my boys,” says the young one, “it is thus you are?”
(O! A bhalacha, an ann mar so a tha sibhse?)
“With swiftness of foot,” said they, “take thyself home, or we will have thy life.”
(Air luathas do chas, thoir an tigh ort air neo bithidh do bheatha againn.)
“Don’t be afraid, lads. It is nothing to me to stay with you.”
(Na mitheadh eagal oirbh romham cha ‘n fhiach leamsa fanachd maille ribh.)
Now John went away on his journey till he came to a great desert of a wood.
“Hoo, hoo!” says John to himself, “It is not canny for me to walk this wood alone.”
(Hu! Huth! Cha ‘neil e cneasda dhòmhsa a’ choille so a choiseachd leam fhéin.)
The night was coming now, and growing pretty dark. John ties the cripple white horse that was under him to the root of a tree, and he wentup in the top himself. He was but a very short time in the top, when he saw a bear coming with a fiery cinder in his mouth.
“Come down, son of the king of Erin,” says he.
(Thig a nuas, a mhic rìgh Eirinn.)
“Indeed, I won’t come. I am thinking I am safer where I am.”
(Gu dearbh, cha d’ thig, tha mi smaointeachadh gu’ bheil mi nis tèaruinte far am bheil mi.)
“But if thou wilt not come down, I will go up,” said the bear.
(Ach mur d’ thig thusa nuas théid mise suas.)
“Art thou, too, taking me for a fool?” says John. “A shaggy, shambling creature like thee, climbing a tree!”
(‘M bheil thusa ‘gam ghabhail ‘nam amadan cuideachd? Creutair robagach, liobarta coltach riutsa a streapadh chraobh!)
“But if thou wilt not come down I will go up,” says the bear, as he fell out of hand to climb the tree.
(Ach mur d’ thig thusa nuas, théid mise suas.)
“Lord! thou canst do that same?” said John; “keep back from the root of the tree, then, and I will go down to talk to thee.”
(‘S dia, ni thu sin fhéin? Fan air t’ ais fo bhun na craoibhe, mata, ‘s théid mi sìos a bhruidhinn riut.)
And when the son of Erin’s king drew down, they came to chatting. The bear asked him if he was hungry.
“Weel! By your leave,” said John, “I am a little at this very same time.”
(Uill le ‘r cead. Tha beagan orm dheth ‘sa cheart am so fein.)
The bear took that wonderful watchful turn and he catches a roebuck.
“Now, son of Erin’s king,” says the bear, “whether wouldst thou like thy share of the buck boiled or raw?”
(A nis, a mhic rìgh Eirinn. Co ‘s feàrr leat do chuid do ‘n bhoc bruich na amh.)
“The sort of meat I used to get would be kind of plotted boiled,” says John; and thus it fell out.
(An seòrsa bìth a b’ àbhairt dhòmhsa fhaotainn, bhitheadh seòrsa plotadh bruich air.)
John got his share roasted.
“Now,” said the bear, “lie down between my paws, and thou hast no cause to fear cold or hunger till morning.”
(A nis, luidh sIos eadar mo spògan-sa, ‘s cha ‘n eagal fuachd no acrais dhuit gu madainn.)
Early in the morning the Mathon (bear) asked,
“Art thou asleep, son of Erin’s king?”
(Am bheil thu ‘d chadal, a mhic rìgh Eirinn?)
“I am not very heavily,” said he.
(Cha ‘n ‘eil anabarrach trom.)
“It is time for thee to be on thy soles then. Thy journey is long – two hundred miles; but art thou a good horseman, John?”
(Tha ‘n t-àm dhuit a bhi air do bhuinn mata, tha ‘n t-astar fada, da cheud mìle; ach am bheil thu ‘nad ‘mharcaiche math, Iain?)
“There are worse than me at times,” said he.
(Tha na’ s miosa na mi air amannan.)
“Thou hadst best get on top of me, then.”
(‘S feàrr dhuit tighinn air mo mhuinn mata.)
He did this, and at the first leap John was to earth.
“Foil! foil!” says John. “What! thou art not bad at the trade thyself. Thou hadst best come back till we try thee again.”
(Fòil! Fòil! Dè ‘cha ‘n ‘eil thu fhein dona air a cheaird! ‘S feàrr dhuit tighinn air t-ais gus am feuch sinn a rithist thu.)
And with nails and teeth he fastened on the Mathon, till they reached the end of the two hundred miles and a giant’s house.
“Now, John,” said the Mathon, “thou shalt go to pass the night in this giant’s house; thou wilt find him pretty grumpy, but say thou that it was the brown bear of the green glen that set thee here for a night’s share, and don’t thou be afraid that thou wilt not get share and comfort.”
(Nis, Iain, théid thu chuir seachad na h-oidhche ann an tigh an fhamhair so. Gheibh thu e gu maith gnò, ach abair thusa gur e mathgamhainn donn a’ ghlinn uaine, a chuir thusa an so air son cuid oidhche, agus na biodh eagal ort nach fhaigh thu cuid ‘us comhnadh.)
And he left the bear to go to the giant’s house.
“Son of Ireland’s King,” says the giant, “thy coming was in the prophecy; but if I did not get thy father, I have got his son. I don’t know whether I will put thee in the earth with my feet, or in the sky with my breath.”
(A mhic rìgh Eirinn, bha ‘san targradh thu bhi tighinn; ach mar d’ fhuair mi t’ athair, fhuair mi ‘mhac. Cha ‘n ‘eil fios agam co dhiu chuireas mi ‘san talamh thu le m’ chasan, no ‘san adhar le m’anail.)
“Thou wilt do neither of either,” said John, “for it is the brown bear of the green glen that set me here.”
(Cha deàn thu aon chuid do ‘n da chuid, oir se mathghamhainn donn a’ ghlinn uaine a chuir mise ‘n so.)
“Come in, son of Erin’s king,” said he, “and thou shalt be well taken to this night.”
(Thig a stigh, a mhic rìgh Eirinn, ‘s gheibh thu gabhail agad gu maith a nochd)
And as he said, it was true. John got meat and drink without stint. But to make a long tale short, the bear took John day after day to the third giant.
“Now,” says the bear, “I have not much acquaintance with this giant, but thou wilt not be long in his house when thou must wrestle with him. And if he is too hard on thy back, say thou, ‘If I had the brown bear of the green glen here, that was thy master.'”
(A nis, cha ‘n ‘eil mòran eòlais agamsa air an fhamhair so, ach cha bhi thu fada ‘na thigh dar a dh’ fheumas tu dol a ghleachd ris, agus ma bhitheas e tullidh ‘s cruaidh air do shon, abair thusa na ‘m biodh agamsa ma’ghan donn a ghlinn uaine, b’e sin do maighstir.)
As soon as John went in –
“Ai! ai!! or ee! ee!!” says the giant, “If I did not get thy father, I have got his son;” and to grips they go.
(Ai! Ai! Mar d’fhuair mi t’ athair, fhuair mi ‘mhac.)
They would make the boggy bog of the rocky rock. In the hardest place they would sink to the knee; in the softest, up to the thighs; and they would bring wells of spring water from the face of every rock. The giant gave John a sore wrench or two.
“Foil! foil!” says he, “if I had here the brown bear of the green glen, thy leap would not be so hearty.”
(Fòil! Fòil! Na’m biodh agamsa an so mathgamhainn donn a’ ghlinn uaine, cha bhiodh do leum co sunndach.)
No sooner spoke he the word than the worthy bear was at his side.
“Yes! yes!” says the giant, “son of Erin’s king, now I know thy matter better than thou dost thyself.”
(Seadh! Seadh! A mhic rìgh Eirinn, tha fios agam a nis air do ghnothach n’ is feàrr na tha agad fhéin.)
So it was that the giant ordered his shepherd to bring home the best wether he had in the hill, and to throw his carcass before the great door.
“Now, John,” says the giant, “an eagle will come and she will settle on the carcass of this wether, and there is a wart on the ear of this eagle which thou must cut off her with this sword, but a drop of blood thou must not draw.”
(A nis, Iain, this iolaire, agus luidhidh I air closach a mhuilt so, agus tha foinneamh air cluais na h-iolaire so, a dh’ fheumas tusa a ghearradh dhi le aon bheum leis a’ claidheamh so, ach deur fola cha ‘n ‘fheud thu tharruinn.)
The eagle came, but she was not long eating when John drew close to her, and with one stroke he cut the wart off her without drawing one drop of blood.
(“Och! is not that a fearful lie?”)
“Now,” said the eagle, “come on the root of my two wings, for I know thy matter better than thou dost thyself.”
(A nis, thig air bhun mo dha sgéithe, bho ‘n a tha fios agam air do ghnothuch n’ is feàrr na th’ agad féin.)
He did this; and they were now on sea, and now on land, and now on the wing, till they reached the Green Isle.
“Now, John,” says she, “be quick and fill thy three bottles; remember that the black dogs are away just now.”
(Nis, Iain, bi ealamh ‘s lìon do bhotuil; cuimhnich gu bheil na coin dhubba air falbh an ceartair.)
(“What dogs?” “Black dogs; dost thou not know that they always had black dogs chasing the Gregorach!“)
When he filled the bottles with the water out of the well, he sees a little house beside him. John said to himself that he would go in, and that he would see what was in it. And the first chamber he opened, he saw a full bottle.
(“And what was in it?” “What should be in it but whisky.“)
He filled a glass out of it, and he drank it; and when he was going, he gave a glance, and the bottle was as full as it was before.
“I will have this bottle along with the bottles of water,” says he.
(Bithidh ‘m botul so agam còmhla ris na botuil uisge.)
Then he went into another chamber, and he saw a loaf; he took a slice out of it, but the loaf was as whole as it was before.
“Ye gods! I won’t leave thee,” says John.
(Dia cha ‘n fhàg mi thus.)
He went on thus till he came to another chamber. He saw a great cheese; he took a slice off the cheese, but it was as whole as ever.
“I will have this along with the rest,” says he.
(Bithidh so agam còmhla ri càch.)
Then he went to another chamber, and he saw laid there the very prettiest little jewel of a woman he ever saw.
“It were a great pity not to kiss thy lips, my love,” says John.
(Bu mhòr am beud gun phòg beòil a thoirt dhuit, a ghaoil.)
Soon after, John jumped on top of the eagle, and she took him on the self same steps till they reached the house of the big giant, and they were paying rent to the guant, and tere was the sight of tenants and giants and meat and drink.
“Well! John,” says the giant, “didst thou see such drink as this in thy father’s house in Erin?”
(Uil! Iain, am fac thu ‘leithid so do dheoch ann an tigh t’ athar an Eirinn.)
“Pooh,” says John, “Hoo! my hero; thou other man, I have a drink that is unlike it.”
(Puth! Hu! A laochain; a dhuine eile, tha deoch agamsa nach ionann.)
He gave the giant a glass out of the bottle, but the bottle was as full as it was before.
“Well! I will give thee myself two hundred notes, a bridle and a saddle for the bottle.”
(Mata, bheir mi fhéin da chèud nott dhuit air son a’ botul, srian, agus dìollaid.)
“It is a bargain then,” says John, “but that the first sweetheart I ever had must get it if she comes this way.”
(‘S bargain e mata, ach gu ‘feum an ceud leannan a bha agamsa fhaotainn ma thig I ‘n rathad.)
“She will get that,” says the giant;
(Gheibh i sin.)
but, to make the long story short, he left each loaf and cheese with the two other giants, with the same covenant that the first sweetheart he ever had should get them if she came the way.
Now John reached his father’s big town in Erin, and he sees his two brothers as he left them – the “blackguardian!”
“You had best come with me, lads,” says he, “and you will get a dress of cloth, and a horse and a saddle and bridle each.”
(‘S feàrr dhuibh tighinn dhachaidh leamsa, ‘illean, ‘s gheibh sibh deis’ eudaich, ‘s each, ‘s dìollaid, ‘s srian am fear.)
And so they did; but when they were near to their father’s house, the brothers thought that they had better kill him, and so it was that they set on him. And when they thought he was dead, they threwhim behind a dike; and they took from him the three bottles of water, and they went home. John was not too long here, when his father’s smith came the way with a cart load of rusty iron. John called out,
“Whoever the Christian is that is there, oh! that he should help him.”
The smith caught him, and he threw John amongst the iron; and because the iron was so rusty, it went into each wound and sore that John had; and so it was, that John became rough skinned and bald. Here we will leave John, and we will go back to the pretty little jewel that John left in the Green Isle. She became pale and heavy; and at the end of three quarters, she had a fine lad son.
“Oh! in all the great world, how did I find this?”
(O! Air an t-saoghail mhòr, cia mar a fhuair mise so?)
“Foil! foil!” says the henwife, “don’t let that set thee thinking. Here’s for thee a bird, and as soon as he sees the father of thy son, he will hop on the top of his head.”
(Fòil! Fòil! Na cuireadh sin smaointeach ort. So dhuit eun, agus co luath sa chi e athair do mhic, leumaidh e air mullach a chinn.)
The Green Isle was gathered from end to end, and the people were put in at the back door and out at the front door; but the bird did not stir, and the babe’s father was not found. Now here, she said she would go through the world altogether till she should find the father of the babe. Then she came to the house of the big giant and sees the bottle.
“Ai! ai!!” said she, “who gave thee this bottle?”
(Ai! ai! Co thug dhuit am botul so?)
Said the giant, “It was young John, son of Erin’s king, that left it.”
(‘Se Iain òg mac rìgh Eirinn a dh’ fhàg e.)
“Well, then, the bottle is mine,” said she.
(Mata ‘s leamsa am botul.)
But to make the long story short, she came to the house of each giant, and she took with her each bottle, and each loaf, and each cheese, til at length and at last she came to the house of the king of Erin. Then the five-fifths of Erin were gathered, and the bridge of nobles of the people; they were put in at the back door and out at the front door, but the bird did not stir. Then she asked if there was one other or any one else at all in Erin, that had not been here.
“I have a bald rough-skinned gillie in the smithy,” said the smith, “but,” –
(Tha gille maol, carrach anns a’ cheàrdach agamsa, ach…)
“Rough on or off, send him here,” says she.
(Car air na dheth, cuir an so e.)
No sooner did the bird see the head of the bald rough-skinned gillie, than he took flight and settles on the bald top of the rough-skinned lad. She caught him and kissed him.
“Thou art the father of my babe.”
(‘S tusa athair mo leinibh.)
“But, John,” says the great king of Erin, “It is thou that gottest the bottles of water for me.”
(Ach, Iain, ‘s tusa a fhuair na botuil uisge dhòmhsa.)
“Indeed, ’twas I,” saays John.
(Ach gu dearbh ‘s mi.)
“Weel, then, what art thou willing to do to thy two brothers?”
(Uil, mata, dè tha thu toileach a dhèanamh ri ‘d’ dhithis bhraithrean?)
The very thing they wished to do to me, do for them;” and that same was done.
(A cheart rud a bha iadsan toileach a dhèanam ormsa, cur as doibh.)
John married the daughter of the king of the Green Isle, and they made a great rich wedding that lasted seven days and seven years, and thou couldst but hear leeg, leeg, and beeg, beeg, solid sound and peg drawing. Gold a-crushing from the soles of their feet to the tips of their fingers, the length of seven years and seven days.
3 thoughts on “IX. The Brown Bear of the Green Glen, pp.168-174.”