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

Gilla na Grakin and Fin MacCumhail

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"If you let me go," said the Gruagach, "I'll tell you what happened to me, and why I have but the one hair on my head."

Gilla set him free, then the two sat down together, and the Gruagach began:—

"I was living here, without trouble or annoyance from any man, till one day a hare ran in, made an unseemly noise under that table there, and insulted us. I was here myself at the time with my wife and my son and my daughter; and we had a hound, a beagle, and a black horse.

"The hare ran out from under the table, and I made after the hare, and my wife and son and daughter, with the horse and the two dogs, followed me.

"When the hare was on the top of a hill, I had almost hold of his hind legs, but I never caught him.

"When night was near, the hare came to the walls of a great castle, and as he was jumping over, I hit him a blow on the hind leg with a stick, but in he went to the castle.

"Out came an old hag, and screamed, 'Who is it that worried the pet of this castle!'

"I said it was myself that did it. Then she faced me, and made at me and the fight began between us. We fought all that night, and the next day till near evening. Then she turned around and pulled a Druidic rod out of herself, ran from me and struck my wife and son and daughter and the two hounds and the horse with the Druidic rod and made stones of them.

"Then she turned on me again and there wasn't but the one hair left on my head from the desperate fighting, and she looked at me, and said:

"'I'll let you go this time but I'll give you a good payment before you leave.' She caught hold of me then in the grip of her one hand and with the other she took a sharp knife and stripped all the skin and flesh off my back, from my waist to my heels. Then, taking the skin of a rough shaggy goat, she clapped it on to me in place of my own skin and flesh, and told me to go my way.

"I left the old hag and the castle behind, but the skin grew to me and I wear it to this day." And here the Gruagach turned to Gilla na Grakin and showed him the goatskin growing on his body in place of his own skin and flesh.

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