The Shee an Gannon and the Gruagach Gaire
The Shee an Gannon was born in the
morning, named at noon, and went
in the evening to ask his daughter of the king of Erin.
"I will give you my daughter in marriage," said
the king of Erin;
"you won't get her, though, unless you go and bring
me back the
tidings that I want, and tell me what it is that put a
stop to the
laughing of the Gruagach Gaire, who before this laughed
laughed so loud that the whole world heard him. There are
iron spikes out here in the garden behind my castle. On
the spikes are the heads of kings' sons who came seeking
daughter in marriage, and all of them went away to get
I wanted. Not one was able to get it and tell me what stopped
Gruagach Gaire from laughing. I took the heads off them
they came back without the tidings for which they went,
greatly in dread that your head'll be on the twelfth spike,
do the same to you that I did to the eleven kings' sons
tell what put a stop to the laughing of the Gruagach."
The Shee an Gannon made no answer, but left the king and
to know could he find why the Gruagach was silent.
He took a glen at a step, a hill at a leap, and travelled
till evening. Then he came to a house. The master of the
him what sort was he, and he said: "A young man looking
"Well," said the master of the house, "I
was going tomorrow to look
for a man to mind my cows. If you'll work for me, you'll
have a good
place, the best food a man could have to eat in this world,
soft bed to lie on."
The Shee an Gannon took service, and ate his supper. Then
of the house said: "I am the Gruagach Gaire; now that
you are my man
and have eaten your supper, you'll have a bed of silk to
Next morning after breakfast the Gruagach said to the
Gannon: "Go out now and loosen my five golden cows
and my bull
without horns, and drive them to pasture; but when you
have them out
on the grass, be careful you don't let them go near the
land of the
The new cowboy drove the cattle to pasture, and when near
of the giant, he saw it was covered with woods and surrounded
high wall. He went up, put his back against the wall, and
threw in a
great stretch of it; then he went inside and threw out
stretch of the wall, and put the five golden cows and the
without horns on the land of the giant.
Then he climbed a tree, ate the sweet apples himself,
and threw the
sour ones down to the cattle of the Gruagach Gaire.
Soon a great crashing was heard in the woods,--the noise
trees bending, and old trees breaking. The cowboy looked
saw a five-headed giant pushing through the trees; and
soon he was
"Poor miserable creature!" said the giant; "but
weren't you impudent
to come to my land and trouble me in this way? You're too
one bite, and too small for two. I don't know what to do
you to pieces."
"You nasty brute," said
the cowboy, coming down to him from the
tree, "'tis little I care for you;" and then
they went at each
other. So great was the noise between them that there was
the world but what was looking on and listening to the
They fought till late in the afternoon, when the giant
the upper hand; and then the cowboy thought that if the
kill him, his father and mother would never find him or
set eyes on
him again, and he would never get the daughter of the king
The heart in his body grew strong at this thought. He sprang
giant, and with the first squeeze and thrust he put him
to his knees
in the hard ground, with the second thrust to his waist,
the third to his shoulders.
"I have you at last; you're done for now!",
said the cowboy. Then he
took out his knife, cut the five heads off the giant, and
had them off he cut out the tongues and threw the heads
Then he put the tongues in his pocket and drove home the
That evening the Gruagach couldn't find vessels enough
in all his
place to hold the milk of the five golden cows.
But when the cowboy was on the way home with the cattle,
the son of
the king of Tisean came and took the giant's heads and
princess in marriage when the Gruagach Gaire should laugh.
After supper the cowboy would give no talk to his master,
his mind to himself, and went to the bed of silk to sleep.
On the morning the cowboy rose before his master, and
words he said to the Gruagach were:
"What keeps you from laughing,
you who used to laugh so loud that
the whole world heard you?"
"I'm sorry," said the Gruagach, "that
the daughter of the king of
Erin sent you here."
"If you don't tell me of your own will, I'll make
you tell me," said
the cowboy; and he put a face on himself that was terrible
at, and running through the house like a madman, could
that would give pain enough to the Gruagach but some ropes
untanned sheepskin hanging on the wall.
He took these down, caught the Gruagach, fastened him
by the three
smalls, and tied him so that his little toes were whispering
ears. When he was in this state the Gruagach said: "I'll
what stopped my laughing if you set me free."
So the cowboy unbound him, the two sat down together,
"I lived in this castle
here with my twelve sons. We ate, drank,
played cards, and enjoyed ourselves, till one day when
my sons and I
were playing, a slender brown hare came rushing in, jumped
on to the
hearth, tossed up the ashes to the rafters and ran away.
"On another day he came
again; but if he did, we were ready for him,
my twelve sons and myself. As soon as he tossed up the
ashes and ran
off, we made after him, and followed him till nightfall,
went into a glen. We saw a light before us. I ran on, and
came to a
house with a great apartment, where there was a man named
Face with twelve daughters, and the hare was tied to the
side of the
room near the women.
"There was a large pot over
the fire in the room, and a great stork
boiling in the pot. The man of the house said to me: 'There
bundles of rushes at the end of the room, go there and
sit down with
"He went into the next room
and brought out two pikes, one of wood,
the other of iron, and asked me which of the pikes would
I take. I
said, 'I'll take the iron one;' for I thought in my heart
that if an
attack should come on me, I could defend myself better
with the iron
than the wooden pike.
"Yellow Face gave me the
iron pike, and the first chance of taking
what I could out of the pot on the point of the pike. I
got but a
small piece of the stork, and the man of the house took
all the rest
on his wooden pike. We had to fast that night; and when
the man and
his twelve daughters ate the flesh of the stork, they hurled
bare bones in the faces of my sons and myself. We had to
night that way, beaten on the faces by the bones of the
"Next morning, when we were
going away, the man of the house asked
me to stay a while; and going into the next room, he brought
twelve loops of iron and one of wood, and said to me: 'Put
of your twelve sons into the iron loops, or your own head
wooden one;' and I said: 'I'll put the twelve heads of
my sons in
the iron loops, and keep my own out of the wooden one.'
"He put the iron loops on
the necks of my twelve sons, and put the
wooden one on his own neck. Then he snapped the loops one
another, till he took the heads off my twelve sons and
heads and bodies out of the house; but he did nothing to
"When he had killed my sons
he took hold of me and stripped the skin
and flesh from the small of my back down, and when he had
he took the skin of a black sheep that had been hanging
on the wall
for seven years and clapped it on my body in place of my
and skin; and the sheepskin grew on me, and every year
since then I
shear myself, and every bit of wool I use for the stockings
wear I clip off my own back."
When he had said this, the Gruagach showed the cowboy
covered with thick black wool.
After what he had seen and heard,
the cowboy said: "I
know now why
you don't laugh, and small blame to you. But does that
"He does indeed," said
Both went to the table to play, and they were not long
when the hare ran in; and before they could stop him he
But the cowboy made after the hare, and the Gruagach after
cowboy, and they ran as fast as ever their legs could carry
till nightfall; and when the hare was entering the castle
twelve sons of the Gruagach were killed, the cowboy caught
the two hind legs and dashed out his brains against the
the skull of the hare was knocked into the chief room of
and fell at the feet of the master of the place.
"Who has dared to interfere with my fighting pet?" screamed
"I," said the cowboy; "and
if your pet had had manners, he might be
The cowboy and the Gruagach stood by the fire. A stork
in the pot, as when the Gruagach came the first time. The
the house went into the next room and brought out an iron
wooden pike, and asked the cowboy which would he choose.
"I'll take the wooden one," said the cowboy; "and
you may keep the
iron one for yourself."
So he took the wooden one; and going to the pot, brought
out on the
pike all the stork except a small bite, and he and the
to eating, and they were eating the flesh of the stork
The cowboy and the Gruagach were at home in the place that
In the morning the master of the house went into the next
down the twelve iron loops with a wooden one, brought them
asked the cowboy which would he take, the twelve iron or
"What could I do with the
twelve iron ones for myself or my master?
I'll take the wooden one."
He put it on, and taking the twelve iron loops, put them
necks of the twelve daughters of the house, then snapped
heads off them, and turning to their father, said: "I'll
do the same
thing to you unless you bring the twelve sons of my master
and make them as well and strong as when you took their
The master of the house went out and brought the twelve
again; and when the Gruagach saw all his sons alive and
as well as
ever, he let a laugh out of himself, and all the Eastern
Then the cowboy said to the Gruagach: "It's
a bad thing you have
done to me, for the daughter of the king of Erin will be
day after your laugh is heard."
"Oh! then we must be there in time," said
the Gruagach; and they all
made away from the place as fast as ever they could, the
Gruagach, and his twelve sons.
They hurried on; and when within three miles of the king's
there was such a throng of people that no one could go
a step ahead.
"We must clear a road through this," said the cowboy.
"We must indeed," said
the Gruagach; and at it they went, threw the
people some on one side and some on the other, and soon
they had an
opening for themselves to the king's castle.
As they went in, the daughter of the king of Erin and
the son of the
king of Tisean were on their knees just going to be married.
cowboy drew his hand on the bride-groom, and gave a blow
him spinning till he stopped under a table at the other
side of the
"What scoundrel struck that blow?" asked
the king of Erin.
"It was I," said the
"What reason had you to
strike the man who won my daughter?"
"It was I who won your daughter,
not he; and if you don't believe
me, the Gruagach Gaire is here himself. He'll tell you
story from beginning to end, and show you the tongues of
So the Gruagach came up and told the king the whole story,
Shee an Gannon had become his cowboy, had guarded the five
cows and the bull without horns, cut off the heads of the
headed giant, killed the wizard hare, and brought his own
sons to life. "And then," said the Gruagach, "he
is the only man in
the whole world I have ever told why I stopped laughing,
only one who has ever seen my fleece of wool."
When the king of Erin heard what the Gruagach said, and
tongues of the giant fitted in the head, he made the Shee
kneel down by his daughter, and they were married on the
Then the son of the king of Tisean was thrown into prison,
next day they put down a great fire, and the deceiver was
The wedding lasted nine days, and the last day was better