From Hector Boyd. Learnt this story from Donald M'Kinnon, Laidhinnis, Barra, who died twelve years ago at the age of sixty--Castle Bay, October 4, 1860.
THERE was a woman before now, and she bore a hen in rock by the shore, after she had been driven into banishment in some way or other.
The hen grew big, and she used to be going to the king's house every day to try if she could get something that she might give to her mother. The king came out on a day of these days, and he said to her,
"What, thou nasty little creature, art thou doing standing there upon my door?"
"Well, then, though I be little, and even nasty, I can do a thing that the fine big queen thou hast cannot do," said she.
"What canst thou do?" quoth the king.
"I can spring from spar to spar, with the tongs and the hook for hanging the pot trailing after me."
He went in and he told that to the queen. The hen was tried, and she did it; they tied the pot-hook and the tongs to her, and she sprang over three spars (rafters), and she came down on the ground.
Then they tied the pot-hook and the tongs to the
queen, and she went and she took a spring out of herself, and she cut the edge of her two shanks, and she fell, and the brain went out of her.
He had four queens, and the hen put them all out with this work.
"It would be better for you to marry my mother," quoth the hen; "she is a very fine woman."
"Avoid me," said the king; "thou hast caused me loss enough already, thou nasty creature."
"Well, then, that is not what is best for thee, but to marry her," said the hen.
"Send down thy mother so that we may see her," said the king.
She went where her mother was, and she said to her, "The king is seeking you, mother; I was asking him to marry you."
She went up, and she herself and the king married.
Then there was a Sunday, and they were going to sermon, the king and the queen; and they left within but the hen and the son of the first wife. The hen went when they went away, and she went to a chamber, and she cast off her the husk that was upon her, and the lad went into the room, and he saw the husk that was upon her. He caught hold of it, and he put it into the hot middle of the fire. She came down and she had no tale of the "cochall."
She came where the lad was, and she had a naked sword, and she said to him,
"Get for me my husk, or else I will take the head off thee, against the throat."
The lad took much fear, and he could not say a word to her.
"Thou nasty creature," said she, "it is much for me that thy death should be on my hands; I don't know
what I shall do now; if I get another cochall they will think that I am a witch, and I had better stay as I am."
When the king came home he saw that fine woman within, going about the house, and he had no knowledge what had put her there, and the king must know what sort of a woman she was. She told every whit. She herself and the king's son married, and a great wedding was made for them.
I suspect this is a fragment of some much longer tale. I know nothing like it in any other language.