The Celtic Dragon Myth, by J.F. Campbell, , at sacred-texts.com
36. He thought that he could not lodge in so fine a house, and he looked out into the darkness and saw a little light afar off. But if it was far off he was soon there, and he knocked at a low door. It was the lowliest house of all the place and the house of the herd. He tied his horse outside and in he went.
"May I have leave to stay here to-night?" said he to the herd's wife. But she gave him no answer. Now that herd had no children. He did not know whether to go or stay, or where to go if he went away, so he stayed where he was.
Between then and a while the herd himself came home.
"Whose horse is that at my door?" said he.
"It's mine," said the lad.
"Wife, did you give the wayfarer food?" said the man.
"I gave him none," she said. "He never asked it."
"Then make ready a meal for him at once," said the herd.
So the churlish wife began to make ready, and the two men began their tales.
"What news from the big town?" said the wife.
"If there were news we know that you would know it," said the man, "but mayhap the stranger does not know our news. A dragon comes out of the sea every year, and every year he must have a maiden from our land to take away. The king has neither son nor daughter but the one daughter, and the lot has fallen on her this year. If he is not at the strand with his only daughter to give her to the dragon that comes out of the sea, the highest stone in his castle will be lowest and the lowest highest, and all the realm will be ravaged by the beast. He has gathered all the
people of this realm together to see if he can find ever a man of any kind or condition to guard his girl and gain her and half the realm while the king lives, and all the realm when the king dies, and he has found no man to go to the strand but a cock-eyed, carrotty-headed cook who was carving meat within with a big knife."
37. "Well," said the lad, "you may need a herd and I am seeking service; will you take me and let me live here and earn my meat."
"Yes," said the herd. "I need a lad to mind the king's cattle, and you will serve my turn well enough. It was fortune herself that sent you here, for the herd that I had before left me last night."
The lad took service with the king's herd, and there he lodged.
38. In the morning the herd gave him charge of the cows, and he said: "Watch them well, but take good care that you do not let them into the closed park with the boarded gate; no herd ever put cattle into it that came alive out, and we should lose herd and herdsman."
"I'll take care of both," said the lad, and off he set wrapped in a gray garment.
39. There was an old brown cow that belonged to a widow and led the herd, and the herdsman followed with his horse and hound, but the pastures were bare.
40. So the herd went up to the park gate, and saw the finest grass he had ever seen. He opened
the gate, and the brown cow led the cattle in, and there they stayed all day.
41. But as the evening drew on and milking time, he heard a noise. Firum Farum, little stones going under, Firum Farum great gravel going over, and he saw a great giant with seven heads and humps and seven necks coming roaring down the park. He took three of the beasts by the tail and cast them on the very shower-top 1 of his shoulder and off he strode.
The herd thought it was better to suffer death than lose the beasts; so he ran to the park door and shut the gate.
"Mannikin, open the park gate," said the giant.
"I won't," said he.
42. Then the giant gripped the herd, and they fell to fighting with might and main. They made mire of rocks and rocks in mire; when least they sank they reached their knees, where most they sank they reached their eyes. At last the herd began to think he was far from friends and near his foes, and he thought of the wolf, and he was a wolf. And he gave the giant a little light easy lift and tossed him up and knocked him down and stood upon him.
43. "Death is upon you, giant," said the herd. "What's your éric?" 2
"Oh, that's much," said the giant. "I have a copper castle and a copper whistle, and a ruddy russet-brown
servant. I have a red dress, and a red horse that can fly through the air, meat and drink, and much treasure. Half to be yours while we live, and me to be your faithful comrade in good and evil: all to be yours when I die."
"That's mine and your life," said the herd. And he killed the giant.
44. Then he searched in the giant's pouch, and found the whistle and rode up to the copper castle and blew a blast. And the ruddy russet-brown servant came out, and he said:
"Well, now, I cannot but think that my master must be dead."
"I'll be your master and not a whit worse," said the lad, and he asked for food and drink. That he got, and then he said:
"Don't let a pin's worth go hence till I come again."
"I won't, master," said the ruddy russet-brown servant who was in the copper castle.
45. The herd left the copper castle and gathered the skirt of his gray garment, and took the brown cow, and the rest followed him home. The old herd met him sauntering on, and he said:
"You have come back alive."
"Yes," said he.
"Did you see any man to harm or frighten you?"
"No," said he, "no one."
46. When the cattle were milked and all about the king's house were pleasedfor they had not enough
of milk-pails to hold the milkthey had to send for carpenters to make moreall the dairymaids and the old herd made much of the new herd, and gave him a good supper and lots to drink.
47. The lad lived with the herd, and every day he went to the grass park and the copper castle till the pasture grew bare. Then he thought he had better go further a-field, and he went in till he came to a second gate of boards and a second park, where the grass was as high as his knees. He opened the gate and let in the cows and there he stayed.
48. But he had not been there long when he heard a greater and a louder clatter than ever. Firum, Farum, little gravel going under; Firum, Farum, greater gravel going over; and he saw a big man coming. If no greater than the other he was no less, and he had seven heads and seven humps and seven throttles.
49. He came roaring into the park, and he seized six cows by the tails and slung them on to the shower-top of his shoulder and the ridge of his back.
50. The herd thought it better to suffer death than lose the cattle, so he ran to the gate of the park and shut it, and put his shoulder against it.
"Impudent elf, open the gate of my park," roared the giant. "I am not sure but that you may be the slayer of my brother, but I cannot think that such a mannikin did it."
51. He slung down the cows and sprang to the gate, and seized the lad with the gray garment; and then began a fight worse than the first. The lad was
hard pressed; it seemed that he was near his foe and far from friends, and he thought once more of the wolf. Then he was a wolf, and he gave the giant a little gentle, cheery, easy lift, and he tossed him up and threw him down, and gave his heart and ribs a bump against the earth.
"Mine is your lying down and rising up, death is upon you," said the lad. "What's your éric?"
52. "That's much," said the giant. "I have a silver whistle and a silver castle, and a fine, fair, white servant in it. I have a white steed that can fly through air, or the sky; all is the same to her. I have a white dress, meat and drink, and much treasure; half to be yours while we live, all to be yours when I die, and I will be your faithful comrade and ally as long as I live."
"That's mine, and your death," said the lad.
Then he tucked up the tail of his gray garment and slew the giant.
53. Then he searched in the giant's pouch and found the silver whistle and rode to the silver castle and blew a shrill blast. Out came the fine, fair, white servant, and when he saw the herd he said:
"I do believe that my master must have died."
"I'll be master to you and no whit worse," said the lad; "quickly fetch me food and drink."
He got that, and then he said:
"Take care of all that is here till I come again."
"I'll do that, master," said the fine, fair, white servant that was in the silver castle.
54. Then the lad tucked up the tail of his gray garment, and took the brown cow, and the rest followed home.
55. The old herd met him and counted the cows and they were all there.
"Saw you anything to vex or frighten you?" said he.
"No," said the lad. "What should I see?" And he sauntered home.
"My best blessing will I give you," said the herd, "so safe as my cattle come home they never have come before."
56. And when the cattle came to be milked they had to send for more carpenters to make more milk-pailssuch milk had never been seen in the king's dairy.
57. And all the maids made much of the herd, and gave him lots to eat and drink.
58. And the lad led the cows day by day to the park, and went to the silver castle and came home at night, and lived in the herd's house till the pasture began to fail.
59. One morning if the sun rose early he rose earlier still, and off he went to the third park far away. He opened the gate and went in, and found grass up to his waist, and there he laid himself out to bask in the sun.
60. But soon he heard a louder clatter than ever, rocks shaking, and stones flying; and a giant sprang into the park and seized more of the cows by the
tail, and slung them on the shower-top of his shoulder and on the lofty ridge of his broad back. He had seven heads and seven humps and seven throttles like the others, and if he was no bigger than the other two, he certainly was no less.
61. Then the herd thought it were better to suffer death than lose the cattle, and he sprang up and shut the park gate and set his back to it.
"Open the gate, you insolent imp," said the giant. "Many a king's son and many a ritter have I cut heads off, and I will take off yours too."
"Two-thirds of your terror be on yourself and one-third on me. I know not why I should fear unless I must," said the lad.
62. Then the giant slung down the cows, and at each other they went till the herd fell on his knee.
"A king's son on his knee!" roared the giant. "He who went on his knee will go on his elbow."
Then the lad thought he was far from friends and near his foe, and he thought of his friends the beasts. And he was a wolf and a hawk and a fox all at once and turn about, and he was up and down, over and under, and all round the giant till he felled him and knocked the case of his heart and the side of his ribs bump against the hard earth.
"Death is upon you, giant," he said. "What's your éric?"
63. "That's much," said the old giant. "I have a golden whistle and a golden castle, a brave yellow-faced russet servant in the castle, a yellow
palfrey that can fly through air or sky, a green dress, meat and drink, and much treasure: half to be yours while we live, all to be yours when I die, and I will be your faithful friend so long as I live."
"It's all mine, and your death to boot," said the lad, and he slew him.
64. Then the Gray Lad sought in the giant's pouch, and found the golden whistle. He gathered the skirts of his gray garment and shut the park gate, and up he went to the golden castle, and he played on the whistle and blew a blast, and the braw, yellow-faced russet servant came out of the castle, and said he:
"I really do think that my master must have died."
"I'll be your master," said the herd, "and no whit worse," and he got meat and drink.
"Keep all that is here for me till I come again." Then he went back and found the brown cow at the gate, and she led the herd home as before.
65. The herd met him, and counted the cows, and they were all there, and he said:
"Did you see anything to vex or frighten you to-day?"
"No," said the herd, "What should I see?"
And he sauntered home in his gray garment with the cows.
66. That night the carpenters had to send for more wood to make more pails for the milk; there was so much.
67. And the dairymaids were well pleased with the herd boy.
68. Next morning the herd went back to the park to see what he could find in the golden castle. He had not been long there when he saw a fearful great carlin coming, and she screamed out:
"You have killed my sons, and you have slain my husband, and now a draught of your blood shall quench my thirst."
She had a tooth for a staff and a tooth to stir the fire, and when she gaped, heart, liver, and lights could be seen through her open maw. The Gray Lad thought he had better flee, for so gruesome a carlin had never been seen.
69. He thought of the fox, and he thought of the hawk, and he was a hawk, and he flew to the top of the high tree.
"Come down till I eat you," said the carlin.
"Open your gab, then," said the herd, "till I jump down your throat."
70. The old carlin gaped wide, and the herd thrust his iron staff down her throat, and it came out at a mole in her breast, and down she fell.
Down jumped the herd upon her, and held her fast for fear she should get the staff out again. stomach g
"Death's upon you, carlin," said he, "what's your éric?"
"That's not little," said the carlin, "if so be that you get it."
71. I have three great coffers: one under the
foot-board full of gold and silver, two in the upper end of the castle full of all the wealth and wonderful treasure that man can think of.
72. I have a golden comb. When used, there falls a golden shower from one side and a silver shower from the other. Whoso combs his hair with the coarse side is hideous, but whoso uses the fine side is handsome as man can be.
73. I have a golden basin. Whoso washes in it becomes the most beautiful man on earth.
I have a cloth 1 on which one can have any kind of meat.
I have a cup 1 in which one can have any kind of drink.
74. I have a glittering glass 2 dress.
I have a pretty blue pacing palfrey that can fly through the sky.
Though that's but little, said the lad, it's mine, and your death, and he killed the carlin with his glittering steel blade.
75. Up he went to the castle and played upon the golden whistle, and the braw, yellow-russet servant came out.
He went into the golden castle, and found all the marvellous things that the carlin had.
He combed his head with the golden comb, and showers of gold and silver fell from his hair. He
washed in the golden basin and put on the glittering glass garment, and never was seen so handsome a man since the world began. He ate and drank. Never did hungry herd taste such a meal. Then when all was ended he laid his braveries bye, and gave them to his braw, yellow-russet servant to keep. He combed his head with the coarse side of the golden comb and he was shaggy and swarthy, sun-burnt, rough and scabby as he was before. He tucked up the skirts of his gray garment and went to the park gate, let out the brown cow, and sauntered home as usual.
48:1 Fras-mhullaich, G. H.
48:2 Éric means the worth of a man; his ransom or the fee paid for man-slaying, the same as the blood-fine of Icelandic law.
56:1 I. F. C. has scored these two out.
56:2 "Glass" is the translation, but anything that shines may be the meaning, say, polished armour.