THROUGH THE THREE WOODS AND TO THE KING'S CASTLE
HEN she woke up it was evening; the crickets were
singing in the ashes on the hearth, the rush-candle was
lighted, and the Woman of a Thousand Years was sitting
on the other side of the fire supping her whey.
She heard a clatter before the door, and then a strange
creature came in. The look of him made Maid-alone
afeard, but the Woman of a Thousand Years said, "Take
no heed of him; he is the Gruagach that we call
 He had horse's legs, but for all that he was not as
tall as a horse would be if it stood up. He had the
ears of a horse too, but he had the face of a
poor-spirited man. He sidled to the dresser, and he
took down a brass plate and the tin covers, and he
began to polish them with a napkin that was hanging on
the line. He sidled to the fire then and sat before
it, his horse's legs folded under him like a tailor's.
He wore a long coat that was made of plaited rushes,
and he had hairy arm, and big hands that he clasped
behind his neck when he sat down.
No one spoke to him and he spoke to no one, and in a
while he got up and took the pail and went out. When
he was gone the Woman of a Thousand Years said, "If you
can catch him while he is doing some stint of work, and
lay your command on him, he will carry you through the
Three Woods. But you will have to come upon him and
speak to him while he is doing some task."
Trouble-the-House brought back a pail full of water and
then went out of the door. Maid-alone heard the
clatter of his hoofs outside, and
 the Woman of a Thousand Years told her he had gone off
to sleep in the middle of a field of furze-bushes.
"Catch him to-morrow while he's doing some task," she
said, "and he will carry you to the place you would
Then the Woman of a Thousand Years took off her Cloak
of crow-feathers, and she wrapped herself in a quilt of
small birds' feathers and gave another quilt to
Maid-alone, and they spread out the rushes and the
moss, and they laid down and went to sleep.
Maid-alone dreamt of her step-mother's goats, and of
the Giant and his beasts, and then she wakened. When
she went to sleep again she was happy that she was in a
quiet house with only the stir of the crickets to
trouble her rest.
The Woman of a Thousand Years rose first, and she went
out to wash her face in the dew of the morning. When
she came back her eyes were bright and her step was
quick. "Maid-alone," said she, "I have thought of what
is to befall you. You must make no delay but go to the
King's Castle. Find Trouble-the-House and lay the
 command on him that he is to take you there through the
Maid-alone, without waiting to eat her crust, went out
to look for Trouble-the-House. He was in the field of
furze-bushes where he had slept the night. His coat of
plaited rushes was off, and he was brushing off his
hide the thorns and prickles of the furze. Maid-alone
went strait to him, but he rose up and went clattering
She went back to the house of the Woman of a Thousand
Years and ate her crust and drank her bowl of
elder-berry wine. Again she went to find
Trouble-the-House, and she came upon him as he was
grinding oats at the quern-stone. When he saw her on
her way he rose and betook himself to the field of the
furze-bushes. For the rest of the day he did no work,
and every time Maid-alone came on him he was lying on
his back, idling his time.
This is what the Woman of a Thousand Years told her to
do: she was to sit by the fire with the Crow-feather
Cloak about her so that Trouble-the-House would think
that only the woman was there.
 And when he was fixing the fire she was to catch hold
of his rush-plaited coat and lay her command on her to
carry her through the Three Woods and to the King's
So Maid-alone put on the Cloak of crow-feathers and the
Woman of a Thousand Years put on her brown habit and
sat with her back to the brown wall; in the little
light made by the rush-candle she wasn't to be seen at
Then Trouble-the-House came clattering to the door. He
went to the dresser and took down the brass plate and
the tin covers and he polished them with the napkin
that was hanging on the line. He threw side-looks at
the fire, and when he saw that it was burning low he
came to it, and squatting down before it put kindlings
in. Maid-alone laid her hands on his coat of plaited
rushes and she said: "You must carry me through the
Three Woods and to the King's Castle this very night."
"I'll carry you, I'll carry you since so you'll have
it," said the Glashan, and he rose up and went out.
 "Go to him now," said the Woman of a Thousand Years.
"You'll find him where he's taking a drink of water at
the well. Through the Three Woods you will go: the
Wood of Bronze, the Wood of Silver, and the Wood of
Gold. Pluck a twig in each wood no matter what the
Gruagach says to you, and make him carry whatever the
twig turns into. When you come to the King's Castle go
into it by the least grand way, wearing the
Crow-feather Cloak that I now bestow on you.
The rush-candle went out, and Maid-alone saw no more of
the Woman of a Thousand Years. She went out of the
door, and to the well, and she saw the Gruagach there
taking a drink of water. She bade him take her to the
King's Castle, through the Three Woods, and to make
good speed. He stooped down and she got upon his back.
They went on and on until they came to the Wood of
Bronze. The moon was clear in the sky and it showed
the glitter of the leaves and the twigs and the
branches. One wakeful blackbird was flying and crying
through that wood as Maid-alone and the Gruagach went
 Then remembering what the Woman of a Thousand Years had
told her to do, Maid-alone put up her hand and broke
off a glittering twig with its glittering leaves. The
Gruagach pinched her hands saying: "Beaten I'll be
coming back through is wood for the thing you have
done, girl. Break off no more twigs or I'll leave you
on the ground."
But the twig she had broken off turned into a
glittering dress, with a glittering veil and a pair of
glittering shoes, and Maid-alone forgot the pinches
that the Gruagach gave her, such delight was hers.
They came to a second wood. Still the moon was clear
in the sky and the leaves and twigs shone white and
bright. A wakeful cuckoo was crying in the wood, and
as they went on Maid-alone broke off a silver twig with
It turned into a silver dress with a silver veil and a
pair of silver shoes. Maid-alone left it on the
Gruagach's shoulders with the dress of glittering
bronze. But Trouble-the-House, when he knew what she
had done, shook her until she was dizzy.
 "Beaten I'll be when I come back through this wood for
the thing you have done," said he. "Break off no more
twigs, break off no more twigs, or I'll leave you down
to go your way by yourself." Maid-alone forgot the
shaking he gave her, such delight was hers at the sight
of the silver dress beside the bronze one.
They came into the third wood. The moon was still
clear in the sky, and it showed leaves soft as candle
flames and twigs that were rods of brightness. A
nightingale sang in that wood, and its song was like
the moonlight on the leaves.
Maid-alone was afeard that the Gruagach would leave her
alone in that wood if she broke off a twig with leaves,
and for a long time she would not put up her hand to
break one off. But she might not leave that wood
without taking a golden twig with its golden leaves.
Then, as they were coming out of the thick of the wood
she reached up and broke off a shining twig with its
The Gruagach slapped her with his great hands.
 "Beaten I'll be in every wood I go through for what you
have done, Girl."
But Maid-alone did not heed the beating he gave her.
For the twig and the leaves turned into a shining
dress, with a shining veil and a pair of shining shoes.
This dress, too, she put across the Gruagach's
shoulders, and the two went on.
After they came out of the Three Woods, they went
across seven ridges, but Maid-alone did not heed the
distance they traveled, for her mind was on the three
fine dresses that were before her, the gleaming, and
glittering, and shining dresses. They came to a white
river and they heard cocks crowing, more cocks that
ever Maid-alone heard crow together before. And
looking hard in the direction that the cocks were
crowing she saw the roofs of the King's Castle.
The Gruagach put her down on the ground and he left her
dresses beside her. Then he loosened his coat of
plaited rushes, took it off, and putting it across his
shoulder started running back along the way they had
come. Maid-alone was left standing beside a great
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