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Main > Irish folktales > Fairy tale "O'Donoghue"


It was in the West that he ruled, by the beautiful Lakes of Killarney. The rich and the poor among his people were alike in one thing—they all had justice. He punished even his own son when he did wrong, as if he had been a poor man and a stranger.

"He gave grand feasts to his friends, and the greatest and the best men of all Erin came to sit at his table and to hear the wise words that he spoke. And the greatest bards of all Erin came to sing before him and his guests of the brave deeds of the heroes of old days and of the greatness and the goodness of O'Donoghue himself. At one of these feasts, after a bard had been singing of the noble days of Erin long ago, O'Donoghue began to speak of the years that were to come for Ireland. He told of much good and of much evil. He told how true and brave and noble men would live and work and fight and die for their country, and how cowards would betray her. He told of glory and he told of shame. He spoke of riches and honor, and poetry and beauty; he spoke of want and disgrace, and degradation and sorrow.

"Those who sat at his table listened to him in wonder. Sometimes their hearts swelled with pride at the noble lives and deeds of those who were to come after them, sometimes they wept at the sufferings that their children were to feel, and sometimes they hid their faces from each other in shame at the tales of cowardice and of treachery.

"As he finished speaking he rose from the table, crossed the hall, and walked out at the door and down to the shore of the lake. The others followed him and watched him, full of wonder. They saw him go to the edge of the lake and then walk out upon it, as if the water had been firm ground under his feet. He walked far and far out on the bright lake as they stood and gazed at him. Then he turned toward them, he waved his hand in farewell, and he was gone. They saw him no more."

The old woman paused for a moment and the dreaming look came back to her face. Then she went on. "They saw him no more—but others saw him—and I have seen him.

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