CELT document T307002

The Shining Sword and the Knowledge of the Cause of the one Story about Women


An Cloidheamh Soluis agus fios fáth an aon sgeil ar na mnáibh

Edited by Daniel O'Foharta

The Shining Sword and the Knowledge of the Cause of the One Story about Women



There was a man here long since, and long since it was, such a man was Murrogh, son of Brian Boru. One day he went to the chase and hunt, when he met a man whose head was out through his hat, his elbows through his coat, his knees through his breeks, and his feet through his brogues: his mouth open and his chest bare.


He asked Murrogh if he would play a game with him. Murrogh answered that he had not brought with him from home a single thing of play. “I will tell the great hosts of the world”, quoth the Hard-cheeked Warrior, “that you refused to play a game with me.” “Sooner than you should do that, I will play a game with you”, says Murrogh.


They played, and the first game went against the warrior. “Your award now, Murrogh, son of Brian Boru.” “I give as my award and demand, to have the sight of my eyes in cattle and sheep before me; a palace beautiful and delightful, and the finest woman in the world as wife.” On looking around he had all those things.


“Be here on the morrow”, said the Hard-cheeked Warrior. “For any sake”, said Murrogh's wife, “do not leave tomorrow without me, or if you go, there is not a thing he gave you yesterday, but he will take from you to-morrow.”


On the morrow he waited till it was time to go. His wife was asleep and he did not like to waken her, and so went alone. They began to play, and Murrogh lost. “Your award now, Hard-cheeked Warrior”, said Murrogh. “My award is that whatever I gave you yesterday be given back to me to-day.” It was done.


But as the woman was walking away with the warrior, she solemnly bound him not to make her his wife till the end of seven years.


Murrogh went home and begged his mother quickly to prepare food for him that he might go after the woman.


On the next day he left early in the morning and was walking all day until the end and close of day came upon him. He drew out his fire things, struck sparks of fire out of them, lit a fire, got ready his supper and began to eat. Then came to him a little hawk and begged a little crust or a small bone — “a bit by itself, or an equal bit for myself and my little hawks.” “A little crust and a small bone, a bit by itself or an equal bit,” (said M.) “and the devil a taste I'll eat till you come and  p.486 share with me.” “Is it the like of an ugly draggled hawk like me that would get a share with the like of a king like you? That 's much better than the Hard-cheeked Warrior who passed this way yesterday, who would eat a pig and an ox, and would not ask his beautiful wife if she had a mouth to her. But wherever any time you be in straits, call the Little Hawk of the Grey Wood, and I'll be with you.”


He walked the second day till the end and close of the day was coming; he made a fire as he had done the first day, prepared his supper and began to eat, when the Otter of the Endless Tempests came and begged as the hawk did, and he got. As he went off, he said: “Wherever any time you be in straits, call on me, and I'll be with you. This is much better than the Hard-cheeked Warrior who passed this way yesterday and would not ask the beautiful woman who was with him, if she had a mouth to her.”


He walked the third day until the end and close of the day came. He laid hold of his fire-things, made a fire, prepared his supper, and was about to eat it, when the Fox of the Pleasant Crag came and begged him for a little crust or a small bone, “a bit by itself or an equal bit for myself and my little foxes.” “A little crust and a small bone, a bit by itself or an equal bit for you and your little foxes: so come here and eat with me.” “Is it the like of an ugly draggled fox like me that would get a share with the like of a son of a king like you? That is much better than the Hard-cheeked Warrior who passed this way last night, and would not ask of the beautiful woman that was with him, if she had a mouth to her. But wherever in the world you be in straits, call on the Fox of the Pleasant Crag, and I'll be with you.”


When supper was eaten, the Fox said to him: “You had better come with me till morning. I will put lamb-skins under your head and bird's feathers to your feet.” Murrogh went with him; he prepared his bed and he fell asleep. When he awoke in the morning, the Fox was gone and his shoes and provisions with him. Murrogh had to walk bare-foot through soft drowned peat ground, the soles of his feet cut by the frost, until he came to the brink of a river, where he saw the Fox dancing in the brogues. “It is an ill trick you did me”, says Murrogh, “after the good you did me.” “It is I that did what was best for you”, answered the Fox. “Your brogues are now warm and comfortable to put on your feet, and at twelve you will be at  p.487 the place you are going to.”


Murrogh went his way towards the house and found the woman whom the Hard-cheeked Warrior had taken from him. She welcomed him and rose from her seat, she smothered him with her kisses, she drowned him with tears, she dried him with soft silken cloths and with the hair of her own head. That day they spent joyously, satisfied and at ease, until the end and close of the day came and the giant was coming home. She then put Murrogh in hiding.


As the giant approached the door, he said: “Fu! fa! feasog! I get the smell of a lying thieving Irishman.” “You knew very well”, said the woman, “that you would get on me the smell of an Irishwoman, for I am Irish. I may as well take off a year of our engagement from you.”


“Why” said he, “is your satin and silk on the tree outside?” “Don't you remember” (said she) “that you told me that your soul was there?” “My soul is not there, but in an egg that is inside a duck that is inside a ram that is in the middle of a beam which is in the cellar below, and I am fated never to be killed until a man is found who will be able to seize yon big crowbar and put it down with one effort, raise it and the beam, and split it with a single blow. The ram will run out, and if seized, the duck will run out of him, and if she is caught, the egg will come out and make for the loch and will become an eel. If it is caught, it will not be possible for me to be killed, until I am struck by it on the mole which is under my left breast.”


On the morrow in the morning when he had gone away, she told Murrogh the way that it was possible to kill the giant. Murrogh seized the crowbar, put it down and lifted the beam with one spring and split it with one blow. Out runs the ram. “Where are you now, Fox of the Pleasant Crag?” “Here I am, and the ram in my grip.” Out came the duck from inside the ram. “Where are you now, Hawk from the Grey Wood?” “Here I am, and the duck in my grip.” And there was the egg running towards the loch. “Where are you now, Otter of the Endless Tempests?” “Here am I, and the egg for you.” Murrogh seized the egg. The Hard-cheeked Warrior was making for him, for he had heard the first bleating that the ram made. With the egg Murrogh struck him on the mole, and he fell. As he was dying, he said: “I solemnly bind you never to sleep a second night in one bed, nor to eat a second meal off one table, until you bring here the Shining Sword which is in  p.488 the world eastward, and the knowledge of the cause of the one Story about women.”


To Murrogh his wife said: “You might as well have perished yesterday as to-morrow. My brother's son has those things and there is not in his garden a single spike on which there is not the skull of a king's son begotten of a queen, except one spike only, which is there for yourself. Rest a while till you have put off your weariness. You are tired, and you must strengthen yourself before you go.” He did so.

At last he said: “It is as well to be going.” “Go out and catch my odd shaggy pony and take him with you.” Out he went, but though he were running after the horse ever since, he would not have caught him. She then went out herself and pulled a little bridle out of her pocket, and the horse came and thrust his head into it. “Face him towards the palace and see whether he will take it three times running, you on his back.” He put his face to the palace, and he took it. “Whatever else you do, you will do the riding at all events”, said the woman.


“Never stop until you reach my father's house, and do not sit on any chair until you sit on my golden chair, which is in the highest chamber in the house. They will hardly allow you to do it.” He went, and seven times would he have overtaken the March wind that was before him, ere the wind behind him overtook him once.


One of the servants came out and said: “Devil a picture of the mistress' odd shaggy pony did you ever see like the horse coming from the west.” “Dont be speaking of her”, said another of them, “we are long enough uneasy, don't mention her name among us.” They came out a second time, and then they knew quite well that it was the pony. When he came into the stable, every other horse there went down on its knees making welcome before him. Murrogh went into the house and stopped not until he reached the top of the house and sat down in the golden chair in which his wife bade him sit. “Gently, my gentleman”, said the man of the house, “don't sit there. No one has been allowed to sit in it since my own daughter went.” “I will sit in it”, said Murrogh, “for it is I myself that have the best right to it.”


He then told him the knowledge and cause of his journey, that he came in search of the Shining Sword and of the knowledge and cause of the one story about women. “A son of mine has these things. There is not in his garden a spike on which there is not the skull of  p.489 a king's son begotten by a queen, except one spike only, and I am certain it is for your head. But it can't be helped. Take with you to-night the black slender horse, and go to the door and bid the whoreson bring out the sword. Dont spare whip and spur until you are back here again with me.”


He did so. The man ran after him, sword in hand, until he reached his father's house. “My son, is it not possible that you come to my house without being angry?” “I cannot, father”, said the son, drawing his sword and making two halves of the horse. “No help for it”, said the father. “A man's life is better than that. “Go out to-night and take with you the slender white horse. Keep him in the heat of his blood, and if you made haste last night, make twice the haste to-night”, said his father.”


He went upon his slender white horse, and bade the whoreson bring him out the Shining Sword, and hastily departed from the castle. The man followed him, taking the Shining Sword, until he came to the door of his father's house. “Is it not possible, son, that you come to my house without being angry?” “I cannot, father.” On that he drew the Shining Sword and cut off the horse's tail. “That can be healed”, said the father. “Take with you to-night your own odd shaggy little pony, take off your brogues and go in your stockings. Perhaps, as he has not slept for two nights together, you may find him asleep tonight, and if you do, go in in your stockings, and you will find the Shining Sword hung over the other swords. Lay hold of it and bring it with you, and then he himself will follow you.”


He went and found him asleep. He took the Shining Sword with him, and its owner followed him to his father's house. “Now you have the Shining Sword, but it is impossible for you to get the knowledge of the cause of the story about women until my wife comes to the fore and until I am tied as fast and tight as are the flaming hounds, until my small toe makes whispers to my ear, and until the drop which is in the top of my head is forced through my great toe; until the dropping of a king's candle 1 is brought on me, so that it goes from the marrow to the smintan and from the smintan to the smantan.”


Then he went to meet the woman, and they brought her into his presence. “I was married to my own wife in great love, and she began to give a smile to the swineherd. She took a little magical rod with her and made of me a bull among the  p.490 cattle. As I had human sense, there was no day at all but three or four of the best cattle were dead by me. To her it was a great concern what I was killing of the cattle, and she made an old white garran of me. I was working for every body; then he whom I liked, I would do his work satisfactorily, but him whom I did not like I would drive him wild. I would throw down the garden walls and let the beasts in. Then she made of me a wolf on the hill. I was killing the sheep on her, and every day there were six or seven heads of the best sheep dead by me.”


To her it was a great matter, the sheep I was killing, and she visited her father and said that there was a wolf on the hill killing the sheep, telling him he should gather the hounds and set the hunt on him. He took the hounds with him and went on the hunt in the hope of killing me. As there was the sense of a human creature in me, when the hounds were coming up with me, I went on my knees in the king's presence. He lifted me up between his arms and did not allow the hounds to kill me. Then he took me with him to his own house. At this she was quite beside herself with him, when he did not kill me at once. Her father then told her he would not kill me and he would thank no man who would do anything to him, and he himself on his knees asking pardon, and got it from him.


There was a big giant in his neighbourhood, and not a son was born to the king whom he did not snatch away the night he was born. And this was the work that was for them when they got any strength at all — they were put over goats. A son was born to him the night he took the little wolf home. The giant came and thought to take away the child, but the little wolf made a grip at his arm and pulled the arm off the shoulder. He then took the arm and the child under the bed. The king had fallen asleep and begun dreaming that the wolf had the child under the bed. When he awoke, he told his dream to his daughter, and asked a candle that he might search under the bed. She said to him that there was never a day yet that he had not been silly. However, he must get a light, and he found the wolf and the child between its feet, and the giant's arm under the bed with him. Whatever love he had for the little wolf at first, he had twice as much then.


To her it was a great concern the love her father had for the little wolf, and she took the child to another house to be reared. She  p.491 rubbed blood on the little wolf's lips and told her father that he had killed the child; the thing he had done was strange, to bring a wolf from the hill without killing it, and that he ought to kill it now. He said he would never kill it, but that he would send it away. Then he sent the wolf away.


On he went until he met the three sons that had been taken from the king, set over goats, and crying. He asked them what was wrong. They told him that the arm had been cut off the giant in the king's house last night, and that he was going to kill themselves that night.


“If there is any good in you and you can help me, we will settle the giant.” He then began to kill the goats and to flay them, until he had killed and flayed four. He put the skins of the goats on himself and on them, and said: “When the giant calls the goats in, I will run in and strike his eye with my horn. He will then call on you to see whether you are inside. Then he will call the goats, as there is a name for each of them. Be you on the outside at first, for he will not recognise you, as you have the goatskins on. I will be out after you. He will then pull the pole which keeps up the house, the house will fall down on himself and on the goats as well, and they will be killed.”


In the evening he called the goats, and they went into the giant's house. He asked if the three herds were in. They told him they were. He then began to call the goats and to let them out. When the whole of them was out, he pulled the pole that was keeping up the house, which fell on his pate, and he was killed. The three sons came home to the king, and he had a great feast there for them.


The little wolf told them there was a pretty little rod in the chest, and they should get it. They asked it, but not getting it they began crying and crying, until the chest had to be opened and the rod given them. He who got the rod had a bit of bread in his hand, the little wolf leaped up to get the bread and was struck by the rod, and the magic was struck out of him. And he was a gentleman as he was at the first.


So now you have the story of the Shining Sword and the knowledge of the cause of the one story about women.


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Title (uniform): The Shining Sword and the Knowledge of the Cause of the one Story about Women

Title (original, Irish): An Cloidheamh Soluis agus fios fáth an aon sgeil ar na mnáibh

Author: unknown

Editor: Daniel O'Foharta

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Electronic edition compiled by: Beatrix Färber

Funded by: University College, Cork, School of History

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1. First draft.

Extent: 4035 words

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Publisher: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts: a project of the Department of History, University College, Cork

Address: College Road, Cork, Ireland — http://www.ucc.ie/celt

Date: 2016

Distributor: CELT online at University College, Cork, Ireland.

CELT document ID: T307002

Availability: Available with prior consent of the CELT programme for purposes of academic research and teaching only.

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  • Volume 1 of the Zeitschrift für celtische Philologie is available in pdf. format on http://www.archive.org.

The edition used in the digital edition

‘An Cloidheamh Soluis agus fios fáth an aon sgeil ar na mnáibh’ (1897). In: Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie‍ 1. Ed. by Daniel O’Foharta, pp. 485–492.

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  editor 	 = {Daniel O'Foharta},
  title 	 = {An Cloidheamh Soluis agus fios fáth an aon sgeil ar na mnáibh},
  journal 	 = {Zeitschrift für Celtische Philologie},
  number 	 = {1},
  address 	 = {Halle/Saale},
  publisher 	 = {Max Niemeyer},
  date 	 = {1897},
  pages 	 = {485–492}


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Project description: CELT: Corpus of Electronic Texts

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The present electronic text covers Daniel O'Foharta's edition on pp. 4485–492. The Irish original is available in a separate file, G307002.

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Correction: Text has been proof-read twice.

Normalization: The electronic text represents the edited text. The numbering is faulty and has been brought into line with that in the irish text. One editorial note on the 'sileadh na rae-choindle' has been removed from p. 492 and added to section 21.

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Creation: By Daniel O'Fotharta or Daniel Faherty (Domnahll Ó Fotharta)

Date: c.1896-1897

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  • Some words are in Irish. (ga)
  • The translation and editor's note are in English. (en)

Keywords: folklore; prose; 19c; folktale; animal helpers; external soul; translation

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  1. 2016-08-08: File parsed and validated; SGML and HTML files created. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  2. 2016-08-08: Text proof-read (1,2); new structural and content markup inserted; TEI header constructed. (ed. Beatrix Färber)
  3. 2016-08-08: Text scanned in. (ed. Beatrix Färber)

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G307002: An Cloidheamh Soluis agus fios fáth an aon sgeil ar na mnáibh (in Irish)

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  1. Sileadh na rae-choindle. This phrase was thus explained by a neighbour of mine. A candle used to be lighted for the punishment of wicked people after their death, each drop of which, as it fell on the head of the wicked, burnt its way through the soul until it came out at the lowest part. Even to this day in parts of Connemara, when a person is in extreme agony, they say: “Atá ag sileadh na rae-choindle air.” 🢀


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