Conall and The Thunder Hag
One day during the height of summer, the Thunder Hag came to Scotland in a black chariot drawn by ferocious red hounds amidst heavy clouds.
By Joanne Fong
The Thunder Hag is one of the hags who served under Beira, the Queen of Winter.
But when Angus began to reign over the lands of Scotland, the Thunder Hag fled to a remote island across the ocean where she plotted her vengeance on man and beast, for they had dared to rejoice when Beira was defeated.
One day during the height of summer, the Thunder Hag came to Scotland in a black chariot drawn by ferocious red hounds amidst heavy clouds. The sky began to darken with the Thunder Hag’s approach, and the clattering of her chariot’s wheels and the howling of her hounds sounded incredibly loud and formidable. She rode from coast to coast, over hills and grasslands, and throwing fireballs as she went, setting forest fires in her wake. The next day, she rode over the land again in her chariot, setting any dry land ablaze with her flames.
Terror began to spread throughout Scotland.
The king was troubled by this news, and decided to send forth his chief warriors to slay the Thunder Hag. However, as soon as they saw her chariot draw near, they fled with dread and fear, allowing the hag to return for a third day.
The king then decided to call for the aid of Conall Curlew, who was a fearless hero of Scotland, saying, “My kingdom will perish if the hag is not slain. I need your help, O brave and noble one.”
“I shall go out against the hag, O king, and if I do not slay her this day, I may slay her on the morrow,” Conall replies.
And so the hero went forth, and on seeing and hearing the hag’s chariot drawing near, he climbed up to the summit of a high mountain, poised himself to attack her. But the hag cunningly kept herself hidden in the clouds that surrounded her chariot, leaving Conall to return to the king having not being able to slay her.
“I could not see the hag because of the dark cloud,” he reported to the king.
“If she comes again tomorrow, you may fare better,” the king responded.
So Conall made preparations for the coming of the hag the next day; he went into the fields close to the royal castle and separated all the lambs from the sheep, the calves from the cows, and the foals from the mares. And when morning came, there was great turmoil amongst the animals.
Never before had such commotion arisen in the lands of Scotland; the bleating of sheep, the lowing of cattle, and the neighing of mares coupled with the crying of their young whom had been taken from their mothers. The men were full of wonder for what Conall had done, though they could not understand his reasoning for it, and the women wept when they heard the cries of the young animals, so touched were their hearts at the piteous cries.
That morning was filled with wailing and sorrow when the Thunder Hag’s chariot rolled in amidst the cloud it was still hiding in. The cloud caused the sky to darken, and the hag’s fireballs set the trees aflame, making all the people flee before the cloud to conceal themselves in nearby caves and holes in the ground. But the warriors braced themselves for the hag’s approach, though they were trembling and pale faced where they stood.
And Conall stood on a green knoll, alone, with his spear in hand.
When the hag’s concealed chariot came over the valley where the royal castle resided, the hag heard the loud cries of the animals, and her curiosity was so immense that she had to look over the edge of her black cloud.
Great fear fell upon the warriors when they saw her terrible face, but Conall did not know fear, and had been waiting for the hag to reveal herself. With one swift draw of his arm, Conall threw his spear, swifter than any bird in flight.
The hag was wounded, sinking down inside her chariot. “Race quickly!” she called out to her formidable hounds, and they ran on into the west, drawing the chariot behind them until the sound of its clattering wheels faded into the distance. The clouds that the hag passed over in her hasty flight were split asunder, and rain fell in downpours, quenching all the fires the hag had started previously.
Then, with Conall’s mighty deed done, the people of the land rejoiced, and the king gave the hero a golden ring, armlet and necklace in order to honour his monumental feat.
And so peace and prosperity followed in the lands of Scotland after that for the Thunder Hag did not return, so great was her dread for Conall Curlew, the hero of heroes.
Source: Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend by Donald A. Mackenzie