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Main > Irish folktales > Fairy tale "Gilla na Grakin and Fin MacCumhail"

Gilla na Grakin and Fin MacCumhail


Fin went to the castle, called up Gilla na Grakin, and said:

"You must go for me now to the eastern world, to know what was it that left the Gruagach with the one hair on his head."

"Well," said Gilla, "I never knew that you wanted to put me to death till this minute; I know it now. But still so long as I'm in your service I can't refuse to do your work."

Then Gilla na Grakin stepped out of the castle door, and away he went to the eastern world. He took a glen at a step, a hill at a leap, and lochs and seas at a bound till he entered the Gruagach's house in the eastern world.

"What is your errand to me," asked the Gruagach, "and why have you come to my house?"

"I have come," said Gilla, "to know what was it that left you with the one hair on your head."

"Sit down here and rest yourself to-night, and if you are a good man, I'll tell you to-morrow," said the Gruagach.

When bedtime came the Gruagach said: "There is an iron harrow there beyond, with teeth on both sides of it; go now and stretch yourself on that harrow, and sleep till morning."

When daylight came, the Gruagach was on his feet, and asked Gilla was he up.

"I am," said he. After they had eaten breakfast, the Gruagach went to another room and brought out two iron loops. One of these he put on Gilla's neck, and the other on his own, and then they began to jerk the loops and pull one another and they fought till late in the afternoon; neither had the upper hand, but if one man was weaker than the other, that man was Gilla na Grakin.

"And now," thought he to himself, "the Gruagach will take my life, and my wife will never know what became of me." The thought gave him strength and power, so up he sprang, and with the first pull he gave he put the Gruagach to his knees in the ground, with the second he put him to his waist, with the third to his shoulders.

"Indeed," said Gilla, "it would be easier for me to strike the head off you now, than to let you go; but if I took your head I shouldn't have my master's work done.

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