This story was written, May 1859, by Hector Urquhart, gamekeeper, from the dictation of Neil Gillies, a fisherman and builder of stone dykes, who lives near Inverary. He is now about fifty-five, and says he learned the story from his father, who used to tell it when he was about sixteen or seventeen.
It has something of many other Gaelic Tales. In particular, one called “Bolgum Mor,” in which there are more gifted men. It has some resemblance to Fortunio; and the part which goes on under ground resembles part of many other popular tales. The Three Giants, with their gold, silver, and copper crowns, are like the Gnomes of the Mine. Similar Giants, ruling over metals, and living in castles made of gold, silver, and copper, are mentioned in a story from South Uist, which resembles the Sea Maiden.
As a whole, No. 16 is unlike anything I know, but nearly every incident has a parallel woven in with something else, and it most resembles Grimm’s Golden Goose.
The Enchanted Ship, which could sail on sea or land, belongs to Norse tales and to Norse mythology. The gods had such a ship.
The Eagle is peculiarly eastern: his is but a genius in another shape; the underground treasures are also eastern; and it is worth remark, that two of the daughters are not provided for at all. The three gentlemen were hanged, and the smith’s servant married the eldest princess with the golden crown, so the two youngest remain spinsters. It is suggested by the author of Norse Tales, that similar incidents may show the change from Eastern to Western manners. there would be no hitch, if it were lawful to marry the three ladies in this story; and in the Norse story of Shortshanks, it is suggested that the second brother is added, to make all things proper. In No. 22, a man marries a round dozen.
The clothes of these giants fit the lad, so they were but underground men.
There is the usual moral. The least becomes the greatest; but there is a dash of character in the pride of the smith’s lad, who will not come till he is taken by the hand by the king’s own confidential servant. And this is characteristic of the race. A Celt can be led anywhere, but he will not be driven. The king, who opens his own coach door, is somewhat like a farmer. The coach and four is but the grandest of the vehicles seen in the neighbourhood – one of which was compared by a friend of mine, to “a packing box upon wheels, lined with an old blanket.” In the mouth of a city narrator, it would have been a lord mayor’s coach, and it probably was a palanquin at one time.
This story may be compared with “The Big Bird Dan,” Norse Tales, No. 55. Gifted men are to be found in “The Master Maid,” No. 11. Such men are also in German, “How six travelled through the World;” and, according to the notes in the third volume of Grimm, the story is widely spread, and common to Italian.