From Kenneth MacLennan, Pool Ewe.
THERE was a king over Eirinn once, who was named King Cruachan, and he had a son who was called Connal MacRigh Cruachan, The mother of Connal died, and his father married another woman. She was for finishing Connal, so that the kingdom might belong to her own posterity. He had a foster mother, and it was in the house of his foster mother that he made his home. He and his eldest brother were right fond of each other; and the mother was vexed because Connal was so fond of her big son. There was a bishop in the place, and he died; and he desired that his gold and silver should be placed along with him in the grave. Connal was at the bishop's burying, and he saw a great bag of gold being placed at the bishop's head, and a bag of silver at his feet, in the grave. Connal said to his five foster brothers, that they would go in search of the bishop's gold; and when they reached the grave, Connal asked them which they would rather; go down into the grave, or hold up the flagstone. They said that they would hold up the flag. Connal went down; and whatever the squealing was that they heard, they let go the flag and they took to their soles home. Here he was, in the grave on top of the bishop. When the five of foster brothers
reached the house, their mother was somewhat more sorrowful for Connal than she would have been for the five. At the end of seven mornings, there went a company of young lads to take the gold out of the bishop's grave, and when they reached the grave they threw the flag to the side of the further wall; Connal stirred below, and when he stirred they went, and they left each arm and dress they had. Connal arose, and he took with him the gold, and arms and dress, and he reached his foster mother with them. They were all merry and lighthearted as long as the gold and silver lasted.
There was a great giant near the place, who had a great deal of gold and silver in the foot of a rock; and he was promising a bag of gold to any being that would go down in a creel. Many were lost in this way; when the giant would let them down, and they would fill the creel, the giant would not let down the creel more till they died in the hole.
On a day of days, Connal met with the giant, and he promised him a bag of gold, for that he should go down in the hole to fill a creel with the gold. Connal went down, and the giant was letting him down with a rope; Connal filled the giant's creel with the gold, but the giant did not let down the creel to fetch Connal, and Connal was in the cave amongst the dead men and the gold.
When it beat the giant to get another man who would go down in the hole, he sent his own son down into the hole, and the sword of light in his lap, so that he might see before him.
When the young giant reached the ground of the cave, and when Connal saw him he caught the sword of light, and he took off the head of the young giant.
Then Connal put gold in the bottom of the creel, and he put gold over him; and then he hid in the midst of the creel, and, he gave a pull at the rope. The giant drew the creel, and when he did not see his son, he threw the creel over the top of his head. Connal leaped out of the creel, and the black back of the giant's head (being) towards him, he laid a swift hand on the sword of light, and he took the head off the giant. Then he betook himself to his foster mother's house with the creel of gold and the giant's sword of light.
After this, he went one day to hunt on Sliamh na leirge. He was going forwards till he went into a great cave. He saw, at the upper part of the cave, a fine fair woman, who was thrusting the flesh stake at a big lump of a baby; and every thrust she would give the spit, the babe would give a laugh, and she would begin to weep. Connal spoke, and he said,--"Woman, what ails thee at the child without reason?" "Oh," said she, "since thou art an able man thyself, kill the baby and set it on this stake, till I roast it for the giant." He caught hold of the baby, and he put a plaid that he had on about the babe, and he hid the baby at the side of the cave.
There were a great many dead bodies at the side of the cave, and he set one of them on the stake, and the woman was roasting it.
Then was heard under. ground trembling and thunder coming, and he would rather that he was out. Here he sprang in the place of the corpse that was at the fire, in the very midst of the bodies, The giant came, and he asked, "Was the roast ready?" He began to eat, and he said, "Fiu fau hoagrich; it's no wonder that thy own flesh is tough; it is tough on thy brat."
When the giant had eaten that one, he went to count the bodies; and the way he had of counting them was, to catch hold of them by the two smalls of the leg, and to toss them past the top of his head; and he counted them back and forwards thus three or four times and as he found Connal somewhat heavier, and that he was soft and fat, he took that slice out of him from the back of his head to his groin. He roasted this at the fire, and he ate it, and then he fell asleep. Connal winked to the woman to set the flesh stake in the fire. She did this, and when the spit grew white after it was red, he thrust the spit through the giant's heart, and the giant was dead.
Then Connal went and he set the woman on her path homewards, and then he went home himself. His stepmother sent him and her own son to steal the whitefaced horse from the King of Italy, "Eadailt;" and they went together to steal the whitefaced horse, and every time they would lay hand on him, the whitefaced horse would let out an ialt (neigh?). A "company" came out, and they were caught. The binding of the three smalls was laid on them straitly and painfully. "Thou big red man," said the king, "wert thou ever in so hard a case as that?" "A little tightening for me, and a loosening for my comrade, and I will tell thee that," said Connal.
The Queen of the Eadailt was beholding Connal.
Then Connal said:--
"Seven morns so sadly mine,
As I dwelt on the bishop's top,
That visit was longest for me,
Though I was the strongest myself.
At the end of the seventh morn
An opening grave was seen, p. 151
And I would be up before
The one that was soonest down.
They thought I was a dead man,
As I rose from the mould of earth
At the first of the harsh bursting
They left their arms and their dresses,
I gave the leap of the nimble one,
As I was naked and bare.
'Twas sad for the, a vagabond,
To enjoy the bishop's gold."
"Tighten well, and right well," said the king; "it was not in one good place that he ever was; great is the ill he has done." Then he was tightened somewhat tighter, and somewhat tighter and the king said, "Thou great red man, wert thou ever in a harder case than that?" "Tighten myself, and let a little slack with this one beside me, and I will tell thee that."
They did that. "I was," said he,
"Nine morns in the cave of gold;
My meat was the body of bones,
Sinews of feet and hands.
At the end of the ninth morn
A descending creel was seen;
Then I caught hold on the creel,
And laid gold above and below;
I made my biding within the creel,
I took with me the glaive of light,
The luckiest turn that I did."
They gave him the next tightening, and the king asked him, "Wert thou ever in case, or extremity, as hard as that?" "A little tightening for myself, and a slack for my comrade, and I will tell thee that."
They did this.
"On a day on Sliabh na leirge,
As I went into a cave, p. 152
I saw a smooth, fair, mother-eyed wife,
Thrusting the stake for the flesh
At a young unreasoning child. 'Then,' said I,
'What causes thy grief, oh wife,
At that unreasoning child?'
'Though he's tender and comely,' said she,
'Set this baby at the fire.'
Then I caught bold on the boy,
And wrapped my 'maundal' around;
Then I brought up the great big corpse
That was up in the front of the heap;
Then I heard, Turstar, Tarstar, and Turaraich,
The very earth mingling together
But when it was his to be fallen
Into the soundest of sleep,
There fell, by myself, the forest fiend
I drew back the stake of the roast,
And I thrust it into his maw."
There was the Queen, and she was listening to each thing that Connal suffered and said; and when she heard this, she sprang and cut each binding that was on Connal and on his comrade: and she said, "I am the woman that was there;" and to the king, "thou art the son that was yonder."
Connal married the king's daughter, and together they rode the whitefaced horse home; and there I left them.
From HECTOR URQUHART, June 27, 1859. Recited by KENNETH MACLENNAN of Turnaig, Pool Ewe, Ross-shire, aged 70, who learned it from an old man when he was a boy.
Recited by Kenneth MacLennan, Turnaig, Pool Ewe, Ross-shire. Written by Hector Urquhart, June 27, 1859.
4. Another story, which seems to be a fragment of this tale made reasonable, forms part of a collection very well written in the Gaelic of Gearrloch, Ross-shire, from the telling of old men,
by Mr. Thomas Cameron, schoolmaster, at the request of Osgood H. MacKenzie, Esq., July 1859.
ALEXANDER MACDONALD, INVERASDALE, tells how Uisdean Mor MacIlle Phadraig, a local here, famous for slaying "Fuathan" (bogles), in a winter that was very cold, on a day of hailing and snowing (sowing and winnowing) was taking the way of "A BHRAIGHE MHOIR" (the great top), and was determined to reach as far as Lochbhraoin. Coming through a place called Lead leachaeachan mu Thuath (na Fuath?), he fell in with a woman, and he soon fell in with a new-born child. No house was near, so he killed his horse, put the mother and child inside, and left them in the snow. He went for help, and when he came back he found them warm and well. He took care of them till the woman could do for herself, and the child grew to be an able lad. He was named "MacMhuirich a curach an Eich," which name has stuck to his race to this day.
After this Uisdean came to poverty. On a cold winter's night of hailing and snowing, he was going on a street in Dun Edin (Edinburgh), a woman put her head out of a window and cried, "It is cold this night on Leathad leachachan mu Thuath." "It is," said he. When she heard his Gaelic, she thought she was not far wrong, and asked him in. "What is the hardest 'Cath' that ever befel thee?" said the woman. He repeated the story, and ended with,--"And though I am this night in Dun Edin, many is the hard fight that I have wrestled with." "I am the woman that was there, and this is the child," said she; and she offered him shelter for the rest of his days.
Surely these are Connal, the robber; and the king and his mother; and the king's horse put to a new use, transferred to the Cowgate from Eirinn and Lochlann, and the forests of Germany; brought down from the days of Sindbad, or of Ulysses, or from the fifteenth century, from the age of romance to the nineteenth century and to prose.
5. I have another version of this story, called AN GADAICHE DUBH, The Black Robber, told by Alexander MacNeill, fisherman in Barra, and written by Hector MacLean in August 1859. It varies much from the others. The outline is nearly the same, but the pictures are different. I hope to find room for it.
The story resembles--
1st. The Robber and his Sons, referred to in Grimm's third volume, as taken from a MS. of the fifteenth century. An old
robber desires to become an honest man, but his three sons follow their profession, and try to steal the queen's horse. They are caught, and the old robber tells three stories of his own adventures to rescue them.
In the first he is caught by a giant and about to be eaten, but escapes by putting out the giant's eyes with "destructive ingredients." He gets out of a cave by putting on the skin of a sheep. He puts on a gold ring which the giant gave him, which forces him to call out "here I am." He bites off his own finger, and so escapes.
Next--In a wilderness, haunted by strange creatures, he finds a woman about to kill her child as a dinner for some wild men. He makes her cook a hanged thief instead; hangs himself on a tree in place of the cooked thief, and has a slice cut from his side.
Lastly, the giants, frightened by a clap of thunder, run away; he returns to a civilized country, and the queen, as a reward for his stories, liberates the three sons.
2d. Part of this is manifestly the same as the Adventures of Ulysses in the Cave of the Cyclop.--(Odyssey, book ix.)
3d. And the adventure of Sindbad with the giants and dwarfs, on his third voyage (Arabian Nights). The Cat adventure, in the Islay version, may be compared with Sindbad's meeting with the serpents and with the elephants. And
4th. With a Highland story, of some laird of Rasa, whose boat was upset by a company of cats, headed by one large black cat; supposed to be a troop of witches headed by their master.
(There is no fifth item given by Campbell--JBH)
6. The incident of being buried in a treasure cave with the dead, is common to the Arabian Nights. See Sindbad's Fourth Voyage, and Aladdin; and also,
7. To the Decameron, second day, novel 5; where a man, after a number of adventures, is lowered into a well by two thieves. He is hauled up with a wheel and a rope by the watch, who are frightened and run away, leaving their arms.
The three meet once more; go to the cathedral, and raise up a marble slab laid over the grave of an archbishop. When "Andreuccio" has gone in and robbed the grave, they send him back for a ring, and drop the slab. The priests come on the same errand as the thieves; he frightens them, gets out with the ring, and returns to Perugia from Naples--"having laid out his money on a ring, whereas the intent of his journey was to have bought horses."
To all these, Greek, Italian, Arabic, German, and Gaelic, there is a general resemblance, but nothing more.
I have given three versions of the same story together, as an illustration of the manner in which popular tales actually exist: and as specimens of language, The men who told the story live as far apart as is possible in the Highlands, I heard one of them tell it; each has his own way of telling the incidents; and each gives something peculiar to himself, or to his locality, which the others leave out. Ewan MacLachlan, in discussing the MSS. in the Advocates' Library in 1812, referring to Dean MacGreggor's MS., written about 1526, says:--"MacDougall is compared to MacRuslainn, the Polyphemus of our winter tales." It would seem, then, that this story has been long known, and it is now widely spread in the Highlands.
The manners and customs of the king and his tenant are very highland, so far as they can be referred to the present day. Probably they are equally true pictures of bygone days. The king's sons probably visited their vassals, and got into all manner of scrapes. The vassals in all probability resented insults, and rebelled, and took to the wild wood and became outlaws. So the mill was probably the resort of idlers and the place for news, as it still is. The king, in all likelihood, lived very near his own stable, for there are no ruins of palaces; and it seems to have been the part of a brave man to submit, without flinching, to have his wrists and ankles tied to the small of his back, and be "tightened" and tortured; and then to recite his deeds as an Indian brave might do,
It seems, too, that, "Lochlann," now Scandinavia, was once within easy sail of England and Ireland; and that the King of Lochlann knew the tenants of the neighbouring king. From the history of the Isle of Man, it, appears that there really was a king called "Crovan," who is also mentioned by Worsaae (page 287) as the Norwegian Godred Crovan who conquered Man, A.D. 1077. Anil in this, the stories are probably true recollections of manners and events, so far as they go. When it comes to giants, the story is just as likely to be true in the same sense. There probably was a race of big man-eating savages somewhere on the road from east to west, if not all along the route; for all popular tales agree in representing giants and wild men as living in caves, hoarding wealth, eating men, and enslaving women.
In these stories the caves are described from nature. When
[paragraph continues] Conal walks along the top of the high shore, "rough with eaves and goes," and falls into a cave which has an opening below, he does that which is not only possible but probable. I know many caves on the west coast, where a giant might have walked in with his goats from a level sandy beach, near a deep sea, and some where a man might fall into the further end through a hole in a level green sward, and land safely; many are full of all that belongs to a sheep-fold, or a shelter used by goats and cattle, and by the men who take care of them.
I know one where a whole whisky distillery existed not very long ago; I first landed in it from a boat to pick up a wild pigeon; I afterwards scrambled into it from the shore; and I have looked down into it from smooth green turf, through a hole in the roof, into which there flowed a little stream of water. An active man might drop into the far end on a heap of fallen earth.
And here again comes the notion, that the so-called giants had swords so bright, that they shone in the dark like torches, and that they owned riches hid underground in holes.
Perhaps we may believe the whole as very nearly true. It may be that there were really such people, and that they were miners and shepherds; when those who now tell stories about them, were wandering huntsmen armed with stone weapons.
The third version is remarkable as an instance of the way in which poems of greater merit used to be commonly, and still are occasionally recited. "Cuchullin" was partly told, partly recited, by an old man near Lochawe, within the memory of a clergyman who told me the fact. I heard Patrick Smith, in South Uist, and other men, so recite stories in alternate prose and verse, in 1859; and it appears that the Edda was so composed. Poems of the same nature as "the poems of Ossian," if not the poems themselves, were so recited by an old man in Bowmore more than sixty years ago, when my friend Mr. John Crawford, late Governor of Singapore, and a well-known linguist, was a school boy, who spoke little but Gaelic; and when it was as rare to find a man amongst the peasantry in Islay who could speak English, as it is now remarkable to find one who cannot.