Fair, Brown, and Trembling - An Irish
King Hugh Curucha lived in Tir Conal,
and he had three daughters,
whose names were Fair, Brown, and Trembling. Fair and Brown
dresses, and went to church every Sunday. Trembling was
kept at home
to do the cooking and work. They would not let her go out
house at all; for she was more beautiful than the other
they were in dread she might marry before themselves.
They carried on in this way for seven years. At the end
years the son of the king of Emania fell in love with the
One Sunday morning, after the other two had gone to church,
henwife came into the kitchen to Trembling, and said: "It's
church you ought to be this day, instead of working here
"How could I go?" said Trembling. "I
have no clothes good enough to
wear at church; and if my sisters were to see me there,
me for going out of the house."
"I'll give you," said the henwife, "a
finer dress than either of
them has ever seen. And now tell me what dress will you
"I'll have," said Trembling, "a
dress as white as snow, and green
shoes for my feet."
Then the henwife put on the cloak of darkness, clipped
a piece from
the old clothes the young woman had on, and asked for the
robes in the world and the most beautiful that could be
found, and a
pair of green shoes.
That moment she had the robe and the shoes, and she brought
Trembling, who put them on. When Trembling was dressed
the henwife said: "I have a honey-bird here to sit
on your right
shoulder, and a honey-finger to put on your left. At the
a milk-white mare, with a golden saddle for you to sit
on, and a
golden bridle to hold in your hand."
Trembling sat on the golden saddle; and when she was ready
the henwife said: "You must not go inside the door
of the church,
and the minute the people rise up at the end of Mass, do
off, and ride home as fast as the mare will carry you."
When Trembling came to the door of the church there was
inside who could get a glimpse of her but was striving
to know who
she was; and when they saw her hurrying away at the end
they ran out to overtake her. But no use in their running;
away before any man could come near her. From the minute
the church till she got home, she overtook the wind before
outstripped the wind behind.
She came down at the door, went in, and found the henwife
ready. She put off the white robes, and had on her old
dress in a
When the two sisters came home
the henwife asked: "Have
you any news
to-day from the church?"
"We have great news," said they. "We
saw a wonderful grand lady at
the church-door. The like of the robes she had we have
never seen on
woman before. It's little that was thought of our dresses
what she had on; and there wasn't a man at the church,
from the king
to the beggar, but was trying to look at her and know who
The sisters would give no peace till they had two dresses
robes of the strange lady; but honey-birds and honey-fingers
not to be found.
Next Sunday the two sisters went to church again, and
youngest at home to cook the dinner.
After they had gone, the henwife
came in and asked: "Will
you go to
"I would go," said Trembling, "if
I could get the going."
"What robe will you wear?" asked
"The finest black satin
that can be found, and red shoes for my
"What colour do you want
the mare to be?"
"I want her to be so black
and so glossy that I can see myself in
The henwife put on the cloak of darkness, and asked for
and the mare. That moment she had them. When Trembling
the henwife put the honey-bird on her right shoulder and
finger on her left. The saddle on the mare was silver,
and so was
When Trembling sat in the saddle and was going away, the
ordered her strictly not to go inside the door of the church,
rush away as soon as the people rose at the end of Mass,
home on the mare before any man could stop her.
That Sunday, the people were more astonished than ever,
and gazed at
her more than the first time; and all they were thinking
of was to
know who she was. But they had no chance; for the moment
rose at the end of Mass she slipped from the church, was
silver saddle, and home before a man could stop her or
talk to her.
The henwife had the dinner ready. Trembling took off her
and had on her old clothes before her sisters got home.
"What news have you to-day?" asked
the henwife of the sisters when
they came from the church.
"Oh, we saw the grand strange
lady again! And it's little that any
man could think of our dresses after looking at the robes
that she had on! And all at church, from high to low, had
mouths open, gazing at her, and no man was looking at us."
The two sisters gave neither rest nor peace till they
got dresses as
nearly like the strange lady's robes as they could find.
they were not so good; for the like of those robes could
found in Erin.
When the third Sunday came, Fair and Brown went to church
black satin. They left Trembling at home to work in the
told her to be sure and have dinner ready when they came
After they had gone and were out of sight, the henwife
came to the
kitchen and said: "Well, my dear, are you for church
"I would go if I had a new
dress to wear."
"I'll get you any dress
you ask for. What dress would you like?"
asked the henwife.
"A dress red as a rose from
the waist down, and white as snow from
the waist up; a cape of green on my shoulders; and a hat
on my head
with a red, a white, and a green feather in it; and shoes
feet with the toes red, the middle white, and the backs
The henwife put on the cloak of darkness, wished for all
things, and had them. When Trembling was dressed, the henwife
the honey-bird on her right shoulder and the honey-finger
left, and, placing the hat on her head, clipped a few hairs
lock and a few from another with her scissors, and that
most beautiful golden hair was flowing down over the girl's
shoulders. Then the henwife asked what kind of a mare she
ride. She said white, with blue and gold-coloured diamond-shaped
spots all over her body, on her back a saddle of gold,
and on her
head a golden bridle.
The mare stood there before the door, and a bird sitting
ears, which began to sing as soon as Trembling was in the
and never stopped till she came home from the church.
The fame of the beautiful strange lady had gone out through
world, and all the princes and great men that were in it
church that Sunday, each one hoping that it was himself
her home with him after Mass.
The son of the king of Emania forgot all about the eldest
and remained outside the church, so as to catch the strange
before she could hurry away.
The church was more crowded than ever before, and there
times as many outside. There was such a throng before the
that Trembling could only come inside the gate.
As soon as the people were rising at the end of Mass,
slipped out through the gate, was in the golden saddle
instant, and sweeping away ahead of the wind. But if she
prince of Emania was at her side, and, seizing her by the
ran with the mare for thirty perches, and never let go
beautiful lady till the shoe was pulled from her foot,
and he was
left behind with it in his hand. She came home as fast
as the mare
could carry her, and was thinking all the time that the
would kill her for losing the shoe.
Seeing her so vexed and so changed in the face, the old
"What's the trouble that's on you now?" "Oh!
I've lost one of the
shoes off my feet," said Trembling.
"Don't mind that; don't be vexed," said the
henwife; "maybe it's the
best thing that ever happened to you."
Then Trembling gave up all the things she had to the henwife,
her old clothes, and went to work in the kitchen. When
came home, the henwife asked: "Have you any news from
"We have indeed," said they, "for
we saw the grandest sight to-day.
The strange lady came again, in grander array than before.
herself and the horse she rode were the finest colours
of the world,
and between the ears of the horse was a bird which never
singing from the time she came till she went away. The
is the most beautiful woman ever seen by man in Erin."
After Trembling had disappeared from the church, the son
of the king
of Emania said to the other kings' sons: "I will have
that lady for
They all said: "You
didn't win her just by taking the shoe off her
foot; you'll have to win her by the point of the sword;
to fight for her with us before you can call her your own."
"Well," said the son of the king of Emania, "when
I find the lady
that shoe will fit, I'll fight for her, never fear, before
her to any of you."
Then all the kings' sons were uneasy, and anxious to know
she that lost the shoe; and they began to travel all over
know could they find her. The prince of Emania and all
went in a great company together, and made the round of
went everywhere,--north, south, east, and west. They visited
place where a woman was to be found, and left not a house
kingdom they did not search, to know could they find the
shoe would fit, not caring whether she was rich or poor,
of high or
The prince of Emania always kept the shoe; and when the
saw it, they had great hopes, for it was of proper size,
large nor small, and it would beat any man to know of what
it was made. One thought it would fit her if she cut a
her great toe; and another, with too short a foot, put
the tip of her stocking. But no use; they only spoiled
and were curing them for months afterwards.
The two sisters, Fair and Brown, heard that the princes
of the world
were looking all over Erin for the woman that could wear
and every day they were talking of trying it on; and one
Trembling spoke up and said: "Maybe it's my foot that
the shoe will
"Oh, the breaking of the
dog's foot on you! Why say so when you were
at home every Sunday?"
They were that way waiting, and scolding the younger sister,
the princes were near the place. The day they were to come,
sisters put Trembling in a closet, and locked the door
on her. When
the company came to the house, the prince of Emania gave
the shoe to
the sisters. But though they tried and tried, it would
"Is there any other young woman in the house?" asked
"There is," said Trembling, speaking up in the
closet; "I'm here."
"Oh! we have her for nothing but to put out the ashes," said
But the prince and the others wouldn't leave the house
till they had
seen her; so the two sisters had to open the door. When
came out, the shoe was given to her, and it fitted exactly.
The prince of Emania looked at
her and said: "You
are the woman the
shoe fits, and you are the woman I took the shoe from."
Then Trembling spoke up, and
said: "Do you stay here
till I return."
Then she went to the henwife's house. The old woman put
on the cloak
of darkness, got everything for her she had the first Sunday
church, and put her on the white mare in the same fashion.
Trembling rode along the highway to the front of the house.
saw her the first time said: "This is the lady we
saw at church."
Then she went away a second time, and a second time came
back on the
black mare in the second dress which the henwife gave her.
saw her the second Sunday said: "That is the lady
we saw at church."
A third time she asked for a short absence, and soon came
the third mare and in the third dress. All who saw her
time said: "That is the lady we saw at church." Every
satisfied, and knew that she was the woman.
Then all the princes and great men spoke up, and said
to the son of
the king of Emania: "You'll have to fight now for
her before we let
her go with you."
"I'm here before you, ready for combat," answered
Then the son of the king of Lochlin stepped forth. The
began, and a terrible struggle it was. They fought for
and then the son of the king of Lochlin stopped, gave up
and left the field. Next day the son of the king of Spain
hours, and yielded his claim. On the third day the son
of the king
of Nyerfói fought eight hours, and stopped. The
fourth day the son
of the king of Greece fought six hours, and stopped. On
day no more strange princes wanted to fight; and all the
kings in Erin said they would not fight with a man of their
land, that the strangers had had their chance, and, as
came to claim the woman, she belonged of right to the son
king of Emania.
The marriage-day was fixed, and the invitations were sent
wedding lasted for a year and a day. When the wedding was
king's son brought home the bride, and when the time came
a son was
born. The young woman sent for her eldest sister, Fair,
to be with
her and care for her. One day, when Trembling was well,
and when her
husband was away hunting, the two sisters went out to walk;
they came to the seaside, the eldest pushed the youngest
A great whale came and swallowed her.
The eldest sister came home alone,
and the husband asked, "Where
"She has gone home to her
father in Ballyshannon; now that I am
well, I don't need her."
"Well," said the husband, looking at her, "I'm
in dread it's my wife
that has gone."
"Oh! no," said she; "it's
my sister Fair that's gone."
Since the sisters were very much alike, the prince was
That night he put his sword between them, and said: "If
you are my
wife, this sword will get warm; if not, it will stay cold."
In the morning when he rose up, the sword was as cold
as when he put
It happened, when the two sisters were walking by the
a little cowboy was down by the water minding cattle, and
push Trembling into the sea; and next day, when the tide
came in, he
saw the whale swim up and throw her out on the sand. When
she was on
the sand she said to the cowboy: "When you go home
in the evening
with the cows, tell the master that my sister Fair pushed
the sea yesterday; that a whale swallowed me, and then
threw me out,
but will come again and swallow me with the coming of the
then he'll go out with the tide, and come again with to-morrow's
tide, and throw me again on the strand. The whale will
cast me out
three times. I'm under the enchantment of this whale, and
leave the beach or escape myself. Unless my husband saves
I'm swallowed the fourth time, I shall be lost. He must
shoot the whale with a silver bullet when he turns on the
his back. Under the breast-fin of the whale is a reddish-brown
My husband must hit him in that spot, for it is the only
which he can be killed."
When the cowboy got home, the eldest sister gave him a
oblivion, and he did not tell.
Next day he went again to the sea. The whale came and
on shore again. She asked the boy "Did you tell the
master what I
told you to tell him?"
"I did not," said he; "I
"How did you forget?" asked
"The woman of the house
gave me a drink that made me forget."
"Well, don't forget telling
him this night; and if she gives you a
drink, don't take it from her."
As soon as the cowboy came home, the eldest sister offered
drink. He refused to take it till he had delivered his
told all to the master. The third day the prince went down
gun and a silver bullet in it. He was not long down when
came and threw Trembling upon the beach as the two days
had no power to speak to her husband till he had killed
Then the whale went out, turned over once on the broad
of his back,
and showed the spot for a moment only. That moment the
He had but the one chance, and a short one at that; but
he took it,
and hit the spot, and the whale, mad with pain, made the
around red with blood, and died.
That minute Trembling was able to speak, and went home
husband, who sent word to her father what the eldest sister
done. The father came, and told him any death he chose
to give her
to give it. The prince told the father he would leave her
death with himself. The father had her put out then on
the sea in a
barrel, with provisions in it for seven years.
In time Trembling had a second child, a daughter. The
prince and she
sent the cowboy to school, and trained him up as one of
children, and said: "If the little girl that is born
to us now
lives, no other man in the world will get her but him."
The cowboy and the prince's daughter lived on till they
married. The mother said to her husband "You could
not have saved me
from the whale but for the little cowboy; on that account
grudge him my daughter."
The son of the king of Emania and Trembling had fourteen
and they lived happily till the two died of old age.