HERE was once a poor old fisherman, and one year he was not
getting much fish. On a day of days, while he was fishing,
there rose a sea-maiden at the side of his boat, and she
asked him, "Are you getting much fish?" The old man answered
and said, "Not I." "What reward would you give me for
sending plenty of fish to you?
"Ach!" said the old man, "I have not much to spare."
"Will you give me the first son you have?" said she. "I
would give ye that, were I to have a son," said he.
"Then go home, and remember me when your son is twenty years
of age, and you yourself will get plenty of fish after
this." Everything happened as the sea-maiden said, and he
himself got plenty of fish; but when the end of the twenty
years was nearing, the old man was growing more and more
sorrowful and heavy hearted, while he counted each day as it
He had rest neither day nor night. The son asked his father
one day, "Is any one troubling you?"
 man said, "Some one is, but that's nought to do with
you nor any one else." The lad said, "I must know what it
is." His father told him at last how the matter was with him
and the sea-maiden.
"Let not that put you in any trouble," said the son; "I will
not oppose you."
"You shall not; you shall not go, my son, though I never get
fish any more."
"If you will not let me go with you, go to the smithy, and
let the smith make me a great strong sword, and I will go
seek my fortune."
His father went to the smithy, and the smith made a doughty
sword for him. His father came home with the sword. The lad
grasped it and gave it a shake or two, and it flew into a
hundred splinters. He asked his father to go to the smithy
and get him another sword in which there should be twice as
much weight; and so his father did, and so likewise it
happened to the next sword—it broke in two halves. Back
went the old man to the smithy; and the smith made a great
sword, its like he never made before. "There's thy sword for
thee," said the smith, "and the fist must be good that plays
this blade." The old man gave the sword to his son; he gave
it a shake or two. "This will do," said he; "it's high time
now to travel on my way."
On the next morning he put a saddle on a black horse that
his father had, and he took the world for his pillow. When
he went on a bit, he fell in with the carcass of a sheep
beside the road. And there were a great black dog, a falcon,
and an otter, and they were quarrelling over the spoil. So
they asked him to divide it for them. He came down off the
horse, and he divided the carcass amongst the three. Three
shares to the dog, two shares to the otter,
 and a share to
the falcon. "For this," said the dog, "if swiftness of foot
or sharpness of tooth will give thee aid, mind me, and I
will be at thy side." Said the otter, "If the swimming of
foot on the ground of a pool will loose thee, mind me, and I
will be at thy side." Said the falcon, "If hardship comes on
thee, where swiftness of wing or crook of a claw will do
good, mind me, and I will be at thy side."
On this he went onward till he reached a king's house, and
he took service to be a herd, and his wages were to be
according to the milk of the cattle. He went away with the
cattle, and the grazing was but bare. In the evening when he
took them home they had not much milk, the place was so
bare, and his meat and drink was but spare that night.
On the next day he went on further with them; and at last he
came to a place exceedingly grassy, in a green glen, of
which he never saw the like.
But about the time when he should drive the cattle
homewards, who should he see coming but a great giant with
his sword in his hand? "HI! HO!! HOGARACH!!!"
giant. "Those cattle are mine; they are on my land, and a
dead man art thou."
"I say not that," says the herd; "there is no knowing, but
that may be easier to say than to do."
He drew the great clean-sweeping sword, and he neared the
giant. The herd drew back his sword, and the head was off
the giant in a twinkling. He leaped on the black horse, and
he went to look for the giant's house. In went the herd, and
that's the place where there was money in plenty, and
dresses of each kind in the wardrobe with gold and
and each thing finer than the other. At the mouth of night
he took himself to the king's house, but he took not a thing
from the giant's house. And when the cattle were milked this
night there was milk. He got good feeding this night, meat
and drink without stint, and the king was hugely pleased
that he had caught such a herd. He went on for a time in
this way, but at last the glen grew bare of grass, and the
grazing was not so good.
So he thought he would go a little further forward in on the
giant's land; and he sees a great park of grass. He returned
for the cattle, and he put them into the park.
They were but a short time grazing in the park when a great
wild giant came full of rage and madness.
"HI! HAW!! HOGARAICH!!!"
said the giant. "It is a drink of thy blood
that will quench my thirst this night."
"There is no knowing," said the herd, "but that's easier to
say than to do." And at each other went the men.
shaking of blades! At length and at last it seemed as if
the giant would get the victory over the herd. Then he
called on the dog, and with one spring the black dog caught
the giant by the neck, and swiftly the herd struck off his
He went home very tired this night, but it's a wonder if the
king's cattle had not milk. The whole family was delighted
that they had got such a herd.
Next day he betakes himself to the castle. When he reached
the door, a little flattering carlin met him standing in the
door. "All hail and good luck to thee, fisher's son; 'tis I
myself am pleased to see thee; great is the honour for this
kingdom, for thy like to be come into it—thy coming
 in is
fame for this little bothy; go in first; honour to the
gentles; go on, and take breath."
"In before me, thou crone; I like not flattery out of doors;
go in and let's hear thy speech." In went the crone, and
when her back was to him he drew his sword and whips her
head off; but the sword flew out of his hand. And swift the
crone gripped her head with both hands, and puts it on her
neck as it was before. The dog sprung on the crone, and she
struck the generous dog with the club of magic; and there he
lay. But the herd struggled for a hold of the club of magic,
and with one blow on the top of the head she was on earth in
the twinkling of an eye. He went forward, up a little, and
there was spoil! Gold and silver, and each thing more
precious than another, in the crone's castle. He went back
to the king's house, and then there was rejoicing.
He followed herding in this way for a time; but one night
after he came home, instead of getting "All hail" and "Good
luck" from the dairymaid, all were at crying and woe.
He asked what cause of woe there was that night. The
dairymaid said "There is a great beast with three heads in
the loch, and it must get some one every year, and the lot
had come this year on the king's daughter, and at midday
to-morrow she is to meet the Laidly Beast at the upper end of
the loch, but there is a great suitor yonder who is going to
"What suitor is that?" said the herd.
"Oh, he is a great General of arms," said the dairymaid,
"and when he kills the beast, he will marry the king's
daughter, for the
 king has said that he who could save his
daughter should get her to marry."
But on the morrow, when the time grew near, the king's
daughter and this hero of arms went to give a meeting to the
beast, and they reached the black rock, at the upper end of
the loch. They were but a short time there when the beast
stirred in the midst of the loch; but when the General saw
this terror of a beast with three heads, he took fright, and
he slunk away, and he hid himself. And the king's daughter
was under fear and under trembling, with no one at all to
save her. Suddenly she sees a doughty handsome youth, riding
a black horse, and coming where she was. He was marvellously
arrayed and full armed, and his black dog moved after him.
"There is gloom on your face, girl," said the youth; "what
do you here?"
 "Oh! that's no matter," said the king's daughter.
"It's not long I'll be here, at all events."
"I say not that," said he.
"A champion fled as likely as you, and not long since," said
"He is a champion who stands the war," said the youth. And
to meet the beast he went with his sword and his dog. But
there was a spluttering and a splashing between himself and
the beast! The dog kept doing all he might, and the king's
daughter was palsied by fear of the noise of the beast! One
of them would now be under, and now above. But at last he
cut one of the heads off it. It gave one roar, and the son
of earth, echo of the rocks, called to its screech, and it
drove the loch in spindrift from end to end, and in a
twinkling it went out of sight.
"Good luck and victory follow you, lad!" said the king's
daughter. "I am safe for one night, but the beast will come
again and again, until the other two heads come off it." He
caught the beast's head, and he drew a knot through it, and
he told her to bring it with her there to-morrow. She gave
him a gold ring, and went home with the head on her
shoulder, and the herd betook himself to the cows. But she
had not gone far when this great General saw her, and he
said to her, "I will kill you if you do not say that 'twas I
took the head off the beast."
"Oh!" says she, " 'tis I will say it; who else took the
head off the beast but you!" They reached the king's house,
and the head was on the General's shoulder. But here was
rejoicing, that she should come home alive and whole, and
this great captain with the beast's head full of blood in
his hand. On the morrow they went away, and
 there was no
question at all but that this hero would save the king's
They reached the same place, and they were not long there
when the fearful Laidly Beast stirred in the midst of the
loch, and the hero slunk away as he did on yesterday, but it
was not long after this when the man of the black horse
came, with another dress on. No matter; she knew that it was
the very same lad. "It is I am pleased to see you," said
she. "I am in hopes you will handle your great sword to-day
as you did yesterday. Come up and take breath." But they
were not long there when they saw the beast steaming in the
midst of the loch.
At once he went to meet the beast, but there was
Cloopersteich and Claperstich, spluttering, splashing,
raving, and roaring on the beast! They kept at it thus for
a long time, and about the mouth of night he cut another
head off the beast. He put it on the knot and gave it to
her. She gave him one of her earrings, and he leaped on the
black horse, and he betook himself to the herding. The
king's daughter went home with the heads. The General met
her, and took the heads from her, and he said to her, that
she must tell that it was he who took the head off the beast
this time also. "Who else took the head off the beast but
you?" said she. They reached the king's house with the
heads. Then there was joy and gladness.
About the same time on the morrow, the two went away. The
officer hid himself as he usually did. The king's daughter
betook herself to the bank of the loch. The hero of the
black horse came, and if roaring and raving were on the
beast on the days that were passed, this day it was
 horrible. But no matter, he took the third head off the
beast, and drew it through the knot, and gave it to her. She
gave him her other earring, and then she went home with the
heads. When they reached the king's house, all were full of
smiles, and the General was to marry the king's daughter the
next day. The wedding was going on, and every one about the
castle longing till the priest should come. But when the
priest came, she would marry only the one who could take the
heads off the knot without cutting it. "Who should take the
heads off the knot but the man that put the heads on?" said
The General tried them, but he could not loose them and at
last there was no one about the house but had tried to take
the heads off the knot, but they could not. The king asked
if there were any one else about the house that
 would try to
take the heads off the knot. They said that the herd had not
tried them yet. Word went for the herd; and he was not long
throwing them hither and thither. "But stop a bit, my lad,"
said the king's daughter; "the man that took the heads off
the beast, he has my ring and my two earrings." The herd put
his hand in his pocket, and he threw them on the board.
"Thou art my man," said the king's daughter. The king was
not so pleased when he saw that it was a herd who was to
marry his daughter, but he ordered that he should be put in
a better dress; but his daughter spoke, and she said that he
had a dress as fine as any that ever was in his castle; and
thus it happened. The herd put on the giant's golden dress,
and they married that same day.
They were now married, and everything went on well. But one
day, and it was the namesake of the day when his father had
promised him to the sea-maiden, they were sauntering by the
side of the loch, and lo and behold! she came and took him
away to the loch without leave or asking. The king's
daughter was now mournful, tearful, blind-sorrowful for her
married man; she was always with her eye on the loch. An old
soothsayer met her, and she told how it had befallen her
married mate. Then he told her the thing to do to save her
mate, and that she did.
She took her harp to the sea-shore, and sat and played; and
the sea-maiden came up to listen, for sea-maidens are fonder
of music than all other creatures. But when the wife saw the
sea-maiden she stopped. The sea-maiden said, "Play on!" but
the princess said, "No, not till I see my man again." So the
sea-maiden put up his head out of the loch. Then the
princess played again, and stopped till
 the sea-maiden put
him up to the waist. Then the princess played and stopped
again, and this time the sea-maiden put him all out of the
loch, and he called on the falcon and became one and flew on
shore. But the sea-maiden took the princess, his wife.
Sorrowful was each one that was in the town on this night.
Her man was mournful, tearful, wandering down and up about
the banks of the loch, by day and night. The old soothsayer
met him. The soothsayer told him that there was no way of
killing the sea-maiden but the one way,
and this is it—"In the island
that is in the midst of the loch is the
white-footed hind of the slenderest legs and the swiftest
step, and though she he caught, there will spring a hoodie
out of her, and though the hoodie should be caught, there
will spring a trout out of her, but there is an egg in the
mouth of the trout, and the soul of the sea-maiden is in the
egg, and if the egg breaks, she is dead."
Now, there was no way of getting to this island, for the
sea-maiden would sink each boat and raft that would go on
the loch. He thought he would try to leap the strait with
the black horse, and even so he did. The black horse leaped
the strait. He saw the hind, and he let the black dog after
her, but when he was on one side of the island, the hind
would be on the other side. "Oh! would the black dog of the
carcass of flesh were here!" No sooner spoke he the word
than the grateful dog was at his side; and after the hind he
went, and they were not long in bringing her to earth. But
he no sooner caught her than a hoodie sprang out of her.
"Would that the falcon grey, of sharpest eye and swiftest
wing, were here!" No sooner said he this than the falcon was
after the hoodie, and she was not
 long putting her to earth;
and as the hoodie fell on the bank of the loch, out of her
jumps the trout. "Oh! that thou wert by me now, oh otter!"
No sooner said than the otter was at his side, and out on
the loch she leaped, and brings the trout from the midst of
the loch; but no sooner was the otter on shore with the
trout than the egg came from his mouth. He sprang and he put
his foot on it. 'Twas then the sea-maiden appeared, and she
said, "Break not the egg, and you shall get all you ask."
"Deliver to me my wife!" In the wink of an eye she was by
his side. When he got hold of her hand in both his hands, he
let his foot down on the egg, and the sea-maiden died.
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