The Son of the King of Eirin

On the morrow the son of the King of Eirin saw the King of the World, who said to him, “I have five swans, and you shall go to keep them; if you let them away you shall be hanged, but if you keep them you shall get my daughter.”

The Rev D. Macinnes

The King of Eirin had an only son who was very fond of hunting. He was one day hunting, and killed a big black raven. He took the raven up in his hands and looked at it. The blood was coming form its head where the lead had entered it; and he said to himself, “I will never marry any woman except one whose hair will be as black as the raven’s feathers, and whose cheek will be as red as the raven’s blood.”
When he went home in the evening his father said to him, “Had you good sport to-day?”
The lad said to him, “I had not; I killed only one raven. I said to myself that I would not marry any woman except one whose hair would be as black as the raven’s feathers, and whose cheek would be as red as the raven’s blood.”
His father said to him, “It is not so easy to find the like of her.”
The lad said, “I will travel through all places to try if I can see the like of her.”
His father said, “It is foolish of you to do such a thing.”
His son said, “Be that as it will, I will go, at any rate.”
He then bade his father good-bye, and went away. As he was going on, and making inquiry, he was informed where the like of her was to be found. He was told that the youngest of the three daughters of the King of the Great World was such a person. He went on his way, and arrived at a smithy in which a smith was working, and knocked at the door. The smith opened the door, and said to him, “Oh! Come in; you will be a lucky man.”
The lad said, “Really I do not know. How do you know that I shall be lucky?”
“I will tell you that,” said the smith. “I am working here at a big needle; and it defied me to put the eye in it till you knocked at the door; but when you knocked I managed to form the eye. Be seated, and tell me your news. Whence have you come, and to whom do you belong?”
The lad said to him, “I am a son of the King of Eirin.”
The Smith said to him, “Where are you going?”
The lad said to him, “I will tell you that. I have heard of the daughter of the King of the Great World, and I am going in quest of her that I may get a sight of her, and that I may speak to her father to see if he will give her to me in marriage.”
“Oo!” Said the smith; “Everyone knows that the son of the King of Eirin would get the daughter of the King of the Great World. I have told you already that you will be lucky. The needle at which I am working is for the King of the Great World; and you will get across to-morrow with his people. I myself will ask them to ferry you. Remain with me to-night, and you shall not lack either food or bed.”
He spent that night cheerily and comfortably with the smith. On the morrow the King of the Great World’s boat came for the needle’ and the smith asked those in charge to take the young man across. They said that they would.
“We are very much pleased,” said they, “that the needle was ready when we came, and that we did not require to wait for it.”
They then returned home to the house of the King of the Great World, and gave him the needle. When the king saw the son of the King of Eirin, he knew that he did not belong to the palace, and he asked him what he wanted. The lad said to him that he came to ask one of his daughters in marriage.
The King said to him, “to whom do you belong, and whence have you come? You must be of nobler rank than I suppose, when you have come to ask my daughter.”
The lad said, “I am the song of the King of Eirin.”
The King of the Great World said, “I thought that you were nobly come when you took upon you to ask my daughter. You shall get my daughter, but you have three things to do before you get her.”
The son of the King of Eirin said, “I will do these things if I can”; and he asked him what they were.
The King of the Great World said, “I have a big byre in which there are seven couples; and you must put out today the filth that is in it; and it must be so clean that a gold ball will run form end to end of it.”
The King brought him to the byre and showed it to him. He then began to clean it out, but twice as much would come in as he would put out. He kept working at it, and was distressed with the toil; but he could not clean the byre; and he said to himself, “I wish that I had never come to ask the daughter of the King of the Great World.”
About twelve o’clock in the day the king’s three daughters came the way to take a walk; and the eldest of them said to him, “You are harassed, son of the King of Eirin.”
“Yes,” said he.
“If I thought,” said she, “that it was for me that you came, I would clean the byre for you.”
The middle one said the same; but the young one said, “Whether it was for me that you came or not I will clean the byre, son of the King of Eirin.” She then said, “Clean, clean, crooked graip, put out shovel.” The byre was cleaned so thoroughly that a gold ball would run from end to end of it. The king’s three daughters returned home, and left the son of the King of Eirin at the byre.
That same day the king came to the byre and said, “Son of the King of Eirin, is the byre clean?”
“Oo yes!” Said the son of the King of Eirin.
“I am very much pleased with you for making it so clean,” said the King.
The son of the King of Eirin then said, “Shall I get your daughter now?”
The King of the Great World said, “You have more to do to-morrow. You have to thatch the byre to-morrow with birds’ feathers. The stem of each feather shall be inwards, and its point shall be outwards. A slender silk thread shall be keeping the covering on the roof of the house.”
The son of the King of Eirin said, “Will you give me the feathers?”
“No,” said the king, “You must gather them yourself wherever you can find them.”
On the morrow he began to gather the feathers on the shore. When he would gather a handful, and put it on the byre, a breeze of wind would come and sweep it away. He said to himself, “I wish I had never come to ask the daughter of the King of the World.”
About twelve o’clock in the day the three daughters of the King of the World came his way to take a walk. The eldest of them said, “Son of the King of Eirin, you are harassing yourself thatching the byre. If I thought that It was for me that you came, I would thatch the byre for you.” The middle one said the same.
The young one said, “Whether it was for me that you came or not, son of the King of Eirin, I will thatch the byre for you.” She put her hand in her pocket, and took out a whistle, and blew it; and the birds came and shook themselves over the byre; and it was thatched with the birds’ feathers. The stem of each feather was inwards and its tip was outwards. A slender silk threat was keeping the covering on the roof.
The king’s children returned home, and left him at the byre. That same day the king came where he was, and said to him, “Son of the King of Eirin, I see that you have thatched the byre. I am much obliged to you; but I am not pleased with your teacher.”
The son of the King of Eirin said to the king, “Will you give me your daughter now?”
“You shall not get her to-day yet,” said the king; “you have more to do to-morrow.” The king then returned home.
On the morrow the son of the King of Eirin saw the King of the World, who said to him, “I have five swans, and you shall go to keep them; if you let them away you shall be hanged, but if you keep them you shall get my daughter.”
He went to herd the swans, but it defied him to keep them; they ran off from him. In his plight he sat down, saying to himself, “It is a pity that I left my father’s house to seek the woman. Everything has prospered with me till now; but this thing has gone against me.”
About twelve o’clock in the day the king’s three daughters came his way to take a walk; and the eldest of them said, “The swans have run away from you, son of the King of Eirin.”
“Yes,” said he, “and I cannot find them; they have gone out on the sea in spite of me.”
She then said to him, “Well, son of the King of Eirin, if I thought that it was for me that you came, I would find the swans for you.”
The middle one said the same. The young one said, “Whether it was for me that you came or not, I will find the swans for you.”
With this she blew her whistle, and the swans returned home.
As the King of Eirin’s son was keeping them the King of the World came to him in the course of the day, and said to him, “I see that you have managed to keep the swans, son of the King of Eirin.”
“Oo! Yes,” said he, “Shall I get your daughter now?”
“No,” said the king; “you have a small thing to do yet; and when you do it you shall get her.”
They then returned home to the palace. The King of the World said to the son of the King of Eirin, “I am going to fish to-morrow, and you must clean and boil for me the fish that I catch.”
On the morrow the king caught a fish, and gave it to the son of the King of Eirin to clean and boi.
“I am going to sleep for a while,” said the King of the World, “and you must have the fish boiled when I waken.”
He began to clean the fish; and as the scales came off it twice as many went on it: and he was beat. Then the eldest of the daughters came, and said to him, “If I thought that it was for me that you came, I would clean the fish for you.” and the middle one said the same.
The young one said, “Whether it was for me that you came or not I will clean the fish for you.”
She cleaned the fish, and it was put on the fire. She then took the King’s son aside and said to him, “You and I must take to flight together before my father wakens.” A steed each was found for them from the King’s stable and they fled together. The young daughter said to the son of the King of Eirin that her father would kill them both as soon as he would waken.
When the king awoke, he asked where the son of the King of Eirin and his daughter were. He was told that they had fled together. They went on as fast as their steeds’ legs would carry them. The King went after them to see if he could overtake them. Hearing a great noise behind him, the King’s daughter said to the son of the King of Eirin, “Look, see if you can see anything in the steed’s ear.”
He said, “I see in it a little bit of thorn.”
“Throw it behind you,” said she. He did so and the little bit of thorn formed a great wood seven miles long and three miles wide. The son of the King of Eirin was on the one side of it, and the King of the World was on the other. The wood was so thick that the king could not get through it. He had to return home to get an axe to cut a path through it. He succeeded in making a path with the axe.
The son of the King of Eirin and the young daughter perceived the King pursuing them again. Being tired, they had rested for a while; and thus the King had more time to overtake them. When they noticed him coming they set off. When he was drawing pretty near them the daughter said to the son of the King of Eirin, “Try what you can find in the steed’s ear.”
“I see a small stone in it,” said he.
“Throw it behind you,” said she. He did so: and the stone became a big high rock seven miles long and a mile high. The King was at the foot of the rock, and they were on top of it. They looked over the edge of the rock to see how it would fare with him. He looked up, and when he saw that he could make nothing of it he returned home. They pursued their journey back to Eirin. When they got across to Eirin and were but a short distance from the palace of the King of Eirin, the King’s daughter said “I will not go to the house for a while. When you go home the dog will be leaping up to your breast with joy. Try to keep it off you; for if it touches your face you will forget you ever saw me.”
They then bade each other good-bye and she went to reside with the smith that was in the palace. Having bought men’s clothes and put them on, she went to the smith, and asked him if he was in want of a servant. The smith said that he was, the servant that he had having left him on the previous day. The new servant then began to learn the smith trade, and made excellent progress, and everyone remarked how fine-looking he was. He was working with the smith for a year. The smith never had a servant so apt at leaning, and so good in every way.
Word came that the son got the King of Eirin was going to marry the daughter of the King of Farafohuinn. Among those invited to the wedding was the smith, and he insisted on his servant accompany him. The servant said to the smith, “I have something to make in the smithy that I wish to have with me when I go. Will you give me the smithy tonight?”
The smith consented; and the servant made a gold hen and a silver cock. On the day of the wedding the smith and he went to the wedding. Before going he put grains of what in his pocket. When they arrived at the wedding-house, the king’s palace, there was a roomful of people before them. Many of them knew the smith, and welcomed him. They asked him if he could make sport to pass the time.
“I cannot,” said he; “but perhaps my servant here will afford us diversion for a while.”
They asked him if he could do so; and he said that he would try. He then put out on the floor the gold hen and the silver cock, and threw three grains of wheat to them. The cock picked up two of them, and the hen got but one. Then the hen said, “Gok! Gok!” And the cock said, “What is the matter with you?”
The hen said to the cock, “Do you remember the day when I cleaned the byre for you?”
The company began to laugh and make fun. The smith’s servant threw out other three grains. The cock picked up two of them, and the hen got but one. “Gok! Gok!” Said the hen.
“What is the matter with you?” Said the cock.
The hen said to the cock, “If you remembered the day when I thatched the byre for you with birds feathers, the set of each feather being inwards and its tip outwards, and a slender silk threat keeping the cover on the roof, you would not eat two grains while I had one.”
The King’s son looked at the smith’s servant and said to him, “Try if you have more to throw to them.”
He recollected at once how it fared with him when he went to ask the King’s daughter, and he said to himself, “If I get another proof of the matter I shall be more assured.”
The servant then threw out more grains; and the cock picked up two of them, and the hen got but one. The hen said, “Gok! Gok!” And the cock said, “What is the matter with you?”
The hen said, “Do you remember the day when I found the swans for you? If you did you would not eat two grains while I had but one.”
The King’s son, perceiving how the matter stood, went over and put his two hands round the smith’s servant, and said, “Dearest of women, it is you”
Without further delay, she was taken to another room and had a dress put on her. A gold chain was put about her neck, a gold ring was put on her finger, and an old watch was given to her.
He said to the woman that he was going to marry, “This is the woman that I went in quest of; and I will take none but her, because I passed through many trials on her account. If you choose to stay you may, and you will participate in the wedding amusements; but if you do not so choose you may go, for you have no hold on me.”
She whom he was going to marry first, taking the treatment that she received as an affront, was deeply offended, and went away. The son of the King of Eirin and the daughter of the King of the World were married on that day by the minister that was in the house.

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