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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Roma/Gypsy Myth: The Magic Shirt & The Fox

Brian, the son of the king of Greece, fell in love with the hen-wife's daughter, and he would marry no other but she. His father said to him on a day of days, before that should happen that he must get first for him the most marvellous bird that there was in the world. Then here. went Brian, and he put the world under his head, till he came much further than I can tell, or you can think, till he reached the house of the Carlin of Buskins. 1 He got well taken to by the carlin that night; and in the morning she said to him, It is time for thee to arise. The journey is far.'

When he rose to the door, what was it but sowing and winnowing snow. He looked hither and thither, and what should he see but a fox drawing on his shoes and stockings. 'Sha! beast,' said Brian, 'thou hadst best leave my lot of shoes and stockings for myself.'

'Och!' said the fox, 'it's long since a shoe or a stocking was on me; and I'm thinking that I shall put them to use this day itself.'

'Thou ugly beast, art thou thinking to steal my foot-webs, and I myself looking at thee?'

'Well,' said the fox, 'if thou wilt take me to be thy servant, thou shalt get thy set of shoes and stockings.'

'O poor beast!' said he, 'thou wouldst find death with me from hunger.'

'Ho! hoth!' said the fox, 'there is little good in the servant that will not do for his own self and for his master at times.'

'Yes, yes,' said he, 'I don't mind; at all events thou mayst follow me.'

They had not gone far on their journey when the fox asked him if he was good at riding. He said he was, if it could be known what on.

'Come on top of me a turn of a while,' said the fox.

'On top of thee! Poor beast, I would break thy back.'

'Ho! huth! son of the king of Greece,' said the fox, thou didst not know me so well as I know thee. Take no care but that I am able to carry thee.'

But never mind. When Brian went on top of the fox, they would drive spray from each puddle, spark from each pebble. And they took no halt nor rest till they reached the house of the Giant of Five Heads, Five Humps, and Five Throttles.

'Here's for thee,' said the fox, 'the house of the giant who has the marvellous bird. And what wilt thou say to him when thou goest in?'

'What should I say but that I came to steal the marvellous bird?'

'Hu! hu!' said the fox, 'thou wilt not return. 'But,' said the fox, 'take thou service with this giant to be a stable-lad. And there is no sort of bird under the seven russet rungs of the world that he has not got. And when he brings out the marvellous bird, say thou, "Fuith! fuith! the nasty bird, throw it out of my sight. I could find braver birds than that on the middens at home."'

Brian did thus.

'S’tia!' said the big one, 'then I must go to thy country to gather a part of them.'

But Brian was pleasing the giant well. But on a night of the nights Brian steals the marvellous bird, and drags himself out with it. When he was a good bit from the giant's house, 'S’tia!' said Brian to himself, 'I don't know if it is the right bird I have after every turn.' Brian lifts the covering off the bird's head, and he lets out one screech, and the screech roused the giant.

'Oh! oh! son of the king of Greece,' said the giant, 'that I have coming to steal the marvellous bird. The prophet was saying that he would come to his gird.'

Then here the giant put on the shoes that could make nine miles at every step, and he wasn't long catching poor Brian. They returned home to the giant's house, and the giant laid the binding of the three smalls on him, and he threw Brian into the peat-corner, and he was there till the morning on the morrow's day.

'Now,' said the giant, 'son of the king of Greece, thou hast thy two rathers--Whether wouldst thou rather thy head to be on yonder stake, or go to steal the White Glaive of Light that is in the realm of Big Women?'

'A man is kind to his life,' said Brian. 'I will go to steal the White Glaive of Light.'

But never mind. Brian had not gone far from the giant's house when the fox met with him. ' O man without mind or sense, thou didst not take my counsel, and what will now arise against thee? Thou art going to the realm of Big Women to steal the White Glaive of Light. That is twenty times as hard for thee as the marvellous bird of that carl of a giant.'

'But what help for it now but that I must betake myself to it?' said poor Brian.

'Well, then,' said the fox, 'come thou on top of me, and I am in hopes thou wilt be wiser the next time.'

They went then further than I can remember, till they reached the knoll of the country at the back of the wind and the face of the sun, that was in the realm of Big Women.

'Now,' said the fox, 'thou shalt sit here, and thou shalt begin at blubbering and crying; and when the Big Women come out where thou art, they will lift thee in their oxters; and when they reach the house with thee, they will try to coax thee. But never thou cease of crying until thou get the White Glaive of Light; and they will leave it with thee in the cradle the length of the night, to keep thee quiet.'

Worthy Brian was not long blubbering and crying when the Big Women came, and they took Brian with them as the fox had said. And when Brian found the house quiet, he went away with the White Glaive of Light. And when he thought he was a good way from the house, he thought he would see if he had the right sword. He took it out of the sheath, and the sword gave out a ring. This awoke the Big Women, and they were on their soles. 'Whom have we here,' said they, 'but the son of the king of Greece coming to steal the White Glaive of Light.'

They took after Brian, and they were not long bringing him back. They tied him roundly (like a ball), and they threw him into the peat-corner till the white morrow's day was. When the morning came, they asked him to be under the sparks of the bellows, 1 or to go to steal the Sun Goddess, daughter of the king of the gathering of Fionn.

'A man is kind to his life,' said Brian. 'I will go steal the Sun Goddess.'

Never mind. Brian went, but he was not long on the path when the fox met him. 'O poor fool,' said the fox, 'thou art as silly as thou wert ever. What good for me to be giving thee counsel? Thou art now going to steal the Sun Goddess. Many a better thief than thou went on the same journey, but ever a man came never back. There are nine guards guarding her, and there is no dress under the seven russet rungs of the world that is like the dress that is on her but one other dress, and here is that dress for thee. And mind,' said the fox, 'that thou dost as I ask thee, or, if thou dost not, thou wilt not come to the next tale.'

Never mind. They went, and when they were near the guard, the fox put the dress on Brian, and he said to him to go forward straight through them, and when he reached the Sun Goddess to do as he bid him. 'And, Brian, if thou gettest her out, I will not be far from you.'

But never mind. Brian took courage, and he went on, and each guard made way for him, till he went in where the Sun Goddess, daughter of the king of the gathering of Fionn, was. She put all-hail and good-luck on him, and she it was who was pleased to see him, for her father was not letting man come near her. And there they were.

'But how shall we get away at all, at all?' said she in the morning.

Brian lifted the window, and he put out the Sun Goddess through it.

The fox met them. 'Thou wilt do yet,' said he. 'Leap you on top of me.'

And when they were far, far away, and near the country of Big Women, 'Now, Brian,' said the fox, 'is it not a great pity for thyself to give away this Sun Goddess for the White Glaive of Light?'

'Is it not that which is wounding me at this very time?' said Brian.

'It is that I will make a Sun Goddess of myself, and thou shalt give me to the Big Women,' said the fox.

'I had rather part with the Sun Goddess herself than thee.'

'But never thou mind, Brian, they won't keep me long.'

Here Brian went in with the fox as a Sun Goddess, and he got the White Glaive of Light. Brian left the fox with the Big Women, and he went forward. In a day or two the fox overtook them, and they got on him. And when they were nearing the house of the big giant, 'Is it not a great pity for thyself, O Brian, to part with the White Glaive of Light for that filth of a marvellous bird?'

'There is no help for it,' said Brian.

'I will make myself a White Glaive of Light,' said the fox; 'it may be that thou wilt yet find a use for the White Glaive of Light.'

Brian was not so much against the fox this time, since he saw that he had got off from the Big Women.

'Thou art come with it,' said the big man. 'It was in the prophecies that I should cut this great oak-tree at one blow, which my father cut two hundred years ago with the same sword.'

Brian got the marvellous bird, and he went away. He had gone but a short distance from the giant's house when the fox made up to him with his pad to his mouth.

'What's this that befell thee?' said Brian.

'Oh! the son of the great one,' said the fox, 'when he seized me, with the first blow he cut the tree all but a small bit of bark. And look thyself, there is no tooth in the door of my mouth which that filth of a Bodach has not broken.'

Brian was exceedingly sorrowful that the fox had lost the teeth, but there was no help for it. They were going forward, walking at times, and at times riding, till they came to a spring that there was by the side of the road. 'Now, Brian,' said the fox, 'unless thou dost strike off my head with one blow of the White Glaive of Light into this spring, I will strike off thine.'

'S’tia,' said Brian, 'a man is kind to his own life.'

And he swept the head off him with one blow, and it fell into the well. And in the wink of an eye what should rise up out of the well but the son of the king that was father to the Sun Goddess.

They went on till they reached his father's house. And his father made a great wedding with joy and gladness, and there was no word about marrying the hen wife's daughter when I parted from them.

'There was a king and a knight, as there was and will be, and as grows the fir-tree, some of it crooked and some of it straight; and he was a king of Eirinn,' said the old tinker, and then came a wicked stepmother, who was incited to evil by a wicked hen-wife. The son of the first queen was at school with twelve comrades, and they used to play at shinny every day with silver shinnies and a golden ball. The hen-wife, for certain curious rewards, gave the step-dame a magic shirt, and she sent it to her stepson, 'Sheen Billy,' and persuaded him to put it on. He refused at first, but complied at last, and the shirt was a great snake about his neck. Then he was enchanted and under spells, and all manner of adventures happened; but at last he came to the house of a wise woman who had a beautiful daughter, who fell in love with the enchanted prince, and said she must and would have him.

'It will cost thee much sorrow,' said the mother.

'I care not,' said the girl, 'I must have him.'

'It will cost thee thy hair.'

'I care not.'

'It will cost thee thy right breast.'

'I care not if it should cost me my life,' said the girl.

And the old woman agreed to help her to her will. A caldron was prepared and filled with plants; and the king's son was put into it and stripped to the magic shirt, and the girl was stripped to the waist. And the mother stood by with a great knife, which she gave to her daughter. Then the king's son was put down in the caldron; and the great serpent, which appeared to be a shirt about his neck, changed into its own form, and sprang on the girl and fastened on her; and she cut away the hold, and the king's son was freed from the spells. Then they were married, and a golden breast was made for the lady.

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