The Battle of the Birds
I will tell you a story about the wren.
There was once a farmer who
was seeking a servant, and the wren met him and said: "What
"I am seeking a servant," said
the farmer to the wren.
"Will you take me?" said
"You, you poor creature,
what good would you do?"
"Try me," said the
So he engaged him, and the first work he set him to do
in the barn. The wren threshed (what did he thresh with?
Why a flail
to be sure), and he knocked off one grain. A mouse came
out and she
"I'll trouble you not to do that again," said
He struck again, and he struck off two grains. Out came
and she eats them. So they arranged a contest to see who
strongest, and the wren brings his twelve birds, and the
"You have your tribe with you," said
"As well as yourself," said
the mouse, and she struck out her leg
proudly. But the wren broke it with his flail, and there
pitched battle on a set day.
When every creature and bird was gathering to battle,
the son of the
king of Tethertown said that he would go to see the battle,
he would bring sure word home to his father the king, who
king of the creatures this year. The battle was over before
arrived all but one fight, between a great black raven
and a snake.
The snake was twined about the raven's neck, and the raven
snake's throat in his beak, and it seemed as if the snake
the victory over the raven. When the king's son saw this
the raven, and with one blow takes the head off the snake.
raven had taken breath, and saw that the snake was dead,
"For thy kindness to me this day, I will give thee a
sight. Come up
now on the root of my two wings." The king's son put
his hands about
the raven before his wings, and, before he stopped, he
took him over
nine Bens, and nine Glens, and nine Mountain Moors.
"Now," said the raven, "see
you that house yonder? Go now to it. It
is a sister of mine that makes her dwelling in it; and
I will go
bail that you are welcome. And if she asks you, Were you
battle of the birds? say you were. And if she asks, 'Did
you see any
one like me,' say you did, but be sure that you meet me
morning here, in this place." The king's son got good
and right good
treatment that night. Meat of each meat, drink of each
water to his feet, and a soft bed for his limbs.
On the next day the raven gave him the same sight over
six Bens, and
six Glens, and six Mountain Moors. They saw a bothy far
though far off, they were soon there. He got good treatment
night, as before--plenty of meat and drink, and warm water
feet, and a soft bed to his limbs--and on the next day
it was the
same thing, over three Bens and three Glens, and three
On the third morning, instead of seeing the raven as at
times, who should meet him but the handsomest lad he ever
gold rings in his hair, with a bundle in his hand. The
asked this lad if he had seen a big black raven.
Said the lad to him, "You
will never see the raven again, for I am
that raven. I was put under spells by a bad druid; it was
you that loosed me, and for that you shall get this bundle.
said the lad, "you must turn back on the self-same
steps, and lie a
night in each house as before; but you must not loose the
which I gave ye, till in the place where you would most
The king's son turned his back to the lad, and his face
father's house; and he got lodging from the raven's sisters,
he got it when going forward. When he was nearing his father's
he was going through a close wood. It seemed to him that
was growing heavy, and he thought he would look what was
When he loosed the bundle he was astonished. In a twinkling
the very grandest place he ever saw. A great castle, and
about the castle, in which was every kind of fruit and
stood full of wonder and regret for having loosed the bundle--for
was not in his power to put it back again--and he would
this pretty place to be in the pretty little green hollow
opposite his father's house; but he looked up and saw a
coming towards him.
"Bad's the place where you have built the house,
king's son," says
"Yes, but it is not here
I would wish it to be, though it happens to
be here by mishap," says the king's son.
"What's the reward for putting
it back in the bundle as it was
"What's the reward you would ask?" says
the king's son.
"That you will give me the
first son you have when he is seven years
of age," says the giant.
"If I have a son you shall have him," said
the king's son.
In a twinkling the giant put each garden, and orchard,
and castle in
the bundle as they were before.
"Now," says the giant, "take
your own road, and I will take mine;
but mind your promise, and if you forget I will remember."
The king's son took to the road, and at the end of a few
reached the place he was fondest of. He loosed the bundle,
castle was just as it was before. And when he opened the
he sees the handsomest maiden he ever cast eye upon.
"Advance, king's son," said the pretty maid; "everything
is in order
for you, if you will marry me this very day."
"It's I that am willing," said
the king's son. And on the same day
But at the end of a day and seven years, who should be
to the castle but the giant. The king's son was reminded
promise to the giant, and till now he had not told his
"Leave the matter between me and the giant," says
"Turn out your son," says the giant; "mind
"You shall have him," says the king, "when
his mother puts him in
order for his journey."
The queen dressed up the cook's son, and she gave him
to the giant
by the hand. The giant went away with him; but he had not
when he put a rod in the hand of the little laddie. The
"If thy father had that
rod what would he do with it?"
"If my father had that rod
he would beat the dogs and the cats, so
that they shouldn't be going near the king's meat," said
"Thou'rt the cook's son," said
the giant. He catches him by the two
small ankles and knocks him against the stone that was
The giant turned back to the castle in rage and madness,
and he said
that if they did not send out the king's son to him, the
stone of the castle would be the lowest.
Said the queen to the king, "We'll
try it yet; the butler's son is
of the same age as our son."
She dressed up the butler's son, and she gives him to
the giant by
the hand. The giant had not gone far when he put the rod
"If thy father had that rod," says the giant, "what
would he do with
"He would beat the dogs
and the cats when they would be coming near
the king's bottles and glasses."
"Thou art the son of the butler," says
the giant and dashed his
brains out too. The giant returned in a very great rage
The earth shook under the sole of his feet, and the castle
all that was in it.
"OUT HERE WITH THY SON," says the giant, "or
in a twinkling the
stone that is highest in the dwelling will be the lowest." So
had to give the king's son to the giant.
When they were gone a little bit from the earth, the giant
him the rod that was in his hand and said: "What would
thy father do
with this rod if he had it?"
The king's son said: "My
father has a braver rod than that."
And the giant asked him, "Where
is thy father when he has that brave
And the king's son said: "He
will be sitting in his kingly chair."
Then the giant understood that he had the right one.
The giant took him to his own house, and he reared him
as his own
son. On a day of days when the giant was from home, the
the sweetest music he ever heard in a room at the top of
house. At a glance he saw the finest face he had ever seen.
beckoned to him to come a bit nearer to her, and she said
was Auburn Mary but she told him to go this time, but to
be sure to
be at the same place about that dead midnight.
And as he promised he did. The giant's daughter was at
his side in a
twinkling, and she said, "To-morrow you will get the
choice of my
two sisters to marry; but say that you will not take either,
My father wants me to marry the son of the king of the
but I don't like him." On the morrow the giant took
out his three
daughters, and he said:
"Now, son of the king of
Tethertown, thou hast not lost by living
with me so long. Thou wilt get to wife one of the two eldest
daughters, and with her leave to go home with her the day
"If you will give me this pretty little one," says
the king's son,
"I will take you at your word."
The giant's wrath kindled, and
he said: "Before thou
thou must do the three things that I ask thee to do."
"Say on," says the
The giant took him to the byre.
"Now," says the giant, "a
hundred cattle are stabled here, and it has
not been cleansed for seven years. I am going from home
if this byre is not cleaned before night comes, so clean
golden apple will run from end to end of it, not only thou
get my daughter, but 'tis only a drink of thy fresh, goodly,
beautiful blood that will quench my thirst this night."
He begins cleaning the byre, but he might just as well
baling the great ocean. After midday when sweat was blinding
the giant's youngest daughter came where he was, and she
"You are being punished,
"I am that," says the
"Come over," says Auburn Mary, "and
lay down your weariness."
"I will do that," says he, "there
is but death awaiting me, at any
rate." He sat down near her. He was so tired that
he fell asleep
beside her. When he awoke, the giant's daughter was not
to be seen,
but the byre was so well cleaned that a golden apple would
end to end of it and raise no stain. In comes the giant,
"Hast thou cleaned the byre,
"I have cleaned it," says
"Somebody cleaned it," says
"You did not clean it, at all events," said
the king's son.
"Well, well!" says the giant, "since
thou wert so active to-day,
thou wilt get to this time to-morrow to thatch this byre
down, from birds with no two feathers of one colour."
The king's son was on foot before the sun; he caught up
his bow and
his quiver of arrows to kill the birds. He took to the
moors, but if
he did, the birds were not so easy to take. He was running
them till the sweat was blinding him. About mid-day who
but Auburn Mary.
"You are exhausting yourself, king's son," says
"I am," said he.
"There fell but these two
blackbirds, and both of one colour."
"Come over and lay down your weariness on this pretty
the giant's daughter.
"It's I am willing," said
He thought she would aid him this time, too, and he sat
her, and he was not long there till he fell asleep.
When he awoke, Auburn Mary was gone. He thought he would
go back to
the house, and he sees the byre thatched with feathers.
giant came home, he said:
"Hast thou thatched the
byre, king's son?"
"I thatched it," says
"Somebody thatched it," says
"You did not thatch it," says
the king's son.
"Yes, yes!" says the giant. "Now," says
the giant, "there is a fir
tree beside that loch down there, and there is a magpie's
its top. The eggs thou wilt find in the nest. I must have
my first meal. Not one must be burst or broken, and there
in the nest."
Early in the morning the king's son went where the tree
that tree was not hard to hit upon. Its match was not in
wood. From the foot to the first branch was five hundred
king's son was going all round the tree. She came who was
bringing help to him.
"You are losing the skin
of your hands and feet."
"Ach! I am," says he. "I
am no sooner up than down."
"This is no time for stopping," says the giant's
daughter. "Now you
must kill me, strip the flesh from my bones, take all those
apart, and use them as steps for climbing the tree. When
climbing the tree, they will stick to the glass as if they
out of it; but when you are coming down, and have put your
each one, they will drop into your hand when you touch
them. Be sure
and stand on each bone, leave none untouched; if you do,
stay behind. Put all my flesh into this clean cloth by
the side of
the spring at the roots of the tree. When you come to the
arrange my bones together, put the flesh over them, sprinkle
water from the spring, and I shall be alive before you.
forget a bone of me on the tree."
"How could I kill you," asked the king's son, "after
what you have
done for me?"
"If you won't obey, you and I are done for," said
Auburn Mary. "You
must climb the tree, or we are lost; and to climb the tree
do as I say." The king's son obeyed. He killed Auburn
Mary, cut the
flesh from her body, and unjointed the bones, as she had
As he went up, the king's son put the bones of Auburn
against the side of the tree, using them as steps, till
under the nest and stood on the last bone.
Then he took the eggs, and coming down, put his foot on
then took it with him, till he came to the last bone, which
near the ground that he failed to touch it with his foot.
He now placed all the bones of Auburn Mary in order again
side of the spring, put the flesh on them, sprinkled it
from the spring. She rose up before him, and said: "Didn't
you not to leave a bone of my body without stepping on
it? Now I am
lame for life! You left my little finger on the tree without
touching it, and I have but nine fingers."
"Now," says she, "go
home with the eggs quickly, and you will get
me to marry to-night if you can know me. I and my two sisters
be arrayed in the same garments, and made like each other,
at me when my father says, 'Go to thy wife, king's son;'
will see a hand without a little finger."
He gave the eggs to the giant.
"Yes, yes!" says the giant, "be
making ready for your marriage."
Then, indeed, there was a wedding, and it _was_ a wedding!
Giants and gentlemen, and the son of the king of the Green
in the midst of them. They were married, and the dancing
was a dance! The giant's house was shaking from top to
But bed time came, and the giant
said, "It is time
for thee to go to
rest, son of the king of Tethertown; choose thy bride to
thee from amidst those."
She put out the hand off which the little finger was,
and he caught
her by the hand.
"Thou hast aimed well this
time too; but there is no knowing but we
may meet thee another way," said the giant.
But to rest they went. "Now," says she, "sleep
not, or else you are
a dead man. We must fly quick, quick, or for certain my
Out they went, and on the blue grey filly in the stable
mounted. "Stop a while," says she, "and
I will play a trick to the
old hero." She jumped in, and cut an apple into nine
shares, and she
put two shares at the head of the bed, and two shares at
the foot of
the bed, and two shares at the door of the kitchen, and
at the big door, and one outside the house.
The giant awoke and called, "Are
"Not yet," said the
apple that was at the head of the bed.
At the end of a while he called again.
"Not yet," said the
apple that was at the foot of the bed.
A while after this he called
again: "Are your asleep?"
"Not yet," said the
apple at the kitchen door.
The giant called again.
The apple that was at the big door answered.
"You are now going far from me," says
"Not yet," says the
apple that was outside the house.
"You are flying," says
the giant. The giant jumped on his feet, and
to the bed he went, but it was cold--empty.
"My own daughter's tricks are trying me," said
the giant. "Here's
after them," says he.
At the mouth of day, the giant's daughter said that her
breath was burning her back.
"Put your hand, quick," said she, "in
the ear of the grey filly, and
whatever you find in it, throw it behind us."
"There is a twig of sloe tree," said
"Throw it behind us," said
No sooner did he that, than there were twenty miles of
wood, so thick that scarce a weasel could go through it.
The giant came headlong, and there he is fleecing his
head and neck
in the thorns.
"My own daughter's tricks are here as before," said
the giant; "but
if I had my own big axe and wood knife here, I would not
making a way through this."
He went home for the big axe and the wood knife, and sure
he was not
long on his journey, and he was the boy behind the big
axe. He was
not long making a way through the blackthorn.
"I will leave the axe and the wood knife here till
I return," says
"If you leave 'em, leave 'em," said
a hoodie that was in a tree,
"we'll steal 'em, steal 'em."
"If you will do that," says the giant, "I
must take them home." He
returned home and left them at the house.
At the heat of day the giant's daughter felt her father's
burning her back.
"Put your finger in the
filly's ear, and throw behind whatever you
find in it."
He got a splinter of grey stone, and in a twinkling there
twenty miles, by breadth and height, of great grey rock
The giant came full pelt, but past the rock he could not
"The tricks of my own daughter
are the hardest things that ever met
me," says the giant; "but if I had my lever and
my mighty mattock, I
would not be long in making my way through this rock also."
There was no help for it, but to turn the chase for them;
and he was
the boy to split the stones. He was not long in making
through the rock.
"I will leave the tools
here, and I will return no more."
"If you leave 'em, leave 'em," says the hoodie, "we
will steal 'em,
"Do that if you will; there
is no time to go back."
At the time of breaking the watch, the giant's daughter
she felt her father's breath burning her back.
"Look in the filly's ear,
king's son, or else we are lost."
He did so, and it was a bladder of water that was in her
time. He threw it behind him and there was a fresh-water
twenty miles in length and breadth, behind them.
The giant came on, but with the speed he had on him, he
was in the
middle of the loch, and he went under, and he rose no more.
On the next day the young companions were come in sight
father's house. "Now," says she, "my father
is drowned, and he won't
trouble us any more; but before we go further," says
she, "go you to
your father's house, and tell that you have the likes of
me; but let
neither man nor creature kiss you, for if you do, you will
remember that you have ever seen me."
Every one he met gave him welcome and luck, and he charged
father and mother not to kiss him; but as mishap was to
be, an old
greyhound was indoors, and she knew him, and jumped up
to his mouth,
and after that he did not remember the giant's daughter.
She was sitting at the well's side as he left her, but
son was not coming. In the mouth of night she climbed up
into a tree
of oak that was beside the well, and she lay in the fork
tree all night. A shoemaker had a house near the well,
mid-day on the morrow, the shoemaker asked his wife to
go for a
drink for him out of the well. When the shoemaker's wife
well, and when she saw the shadow of her that was in the
thinking it was her own shadow--and she never thought till
she was so handsome--she gave a cast to the dish that was
hand, and it was broken on the ground, and she took herself
house without vessel or water.
"Where is the water, wife?" said
"You shambling, contemptible
old carle, without grace, I have stayed
too long your water and wood thrall."
"I think, wife, that you
have turned crazy. Go you, daughter,
quickly, and fetch a drink for your father."
His daughter went, and in the same way so it happened
to her. She
never thought till now that she was so lovable, and she
"Up with the drink," said
"You home-spun shoe carle,
do you think I am fit to be your thrall?"
The poor shoemaker thought that they had taken a turn
understandings, and he went himself to the well. He saw
of the maiden in the well, and he looked up to the tree,
and he sees
the finest woman he ever saw.
"Your seat is wavering, but your face is fair," said
"Come down, for there is need of you for a short while
at my house."
The shoemaker understood that this was the shadow that
his people mad. The shoemaker took her to his house, and
that he had but a poor bothy, but that she should get a
share of all
that was in it.
One day, the shoemaker had shoes ready, for on that very
king's son was to be married. The shoemaker was going to
with the shoes of the young people, and the girl said to
shoemaker, "I would like to get a sight of the king's
son before he
"Come with me," says the shoemaker, "I
am well acquainted with the
servants at the castle, and you shall get a sight of the
and all the company."
And when the gentles saw the pretty woman that was here
her to the wedding-room, and they filled for her a glass
When she was going to drink what is in it, a flame went
up out of
the glass, and a golden pigeon and a silver pigeon sprang
out of it.
They were flying about when three grains of barley fell
floor. The silver pigeon sprung, and ate that up.
Said the golden pigeon to him, "If
you remembered when I cleared the
byre, you would not eat that without giving me a share."
Again there fell three other grains of barley, and the
sprung, and ate that up as before.
"If you remembered when
I thatched the byre, you would not eat that
without giving me my share," says the golden pigeon.
Three other grains fall, and the silver pigeon sprung,
and ate that
"If you remembered when
I harried the magpie's nest, you would not
eat that without giving me my share," says the golden
lost my little finger bringing it down, and I want it still."
The king's son minded, and he knew who it was that was
"Well," said the king's son to the guests at
the feast, "when I was
a little younger than I am now, I lost the key of a casket
had. I had a new key made, but after it was brought to
me I found
the old one. Now, I'll leave it to any one here to tell
me what I am
to do. Which of the keys should I keep?"
"My advice to you," said one of the guests, "is
to keep the old key,
for it fits the lock better and you're more used to it."
Then the king's son stood up
and said: "I thank you
for a wise
advice and an honest word. This is my bride the daughter
giant who saved my life at the risk of her own. I'll have
her and no
So the king's son married Auburn Mary and the wedding
and all were happy. But all I got was butter on a live
porridge in a basket, and they sent me for water to the
the paper shoes came to an end.