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


Every year, on the 1st of May, just as the sun is rising, he rides across the lake on his beautiful white horse. He is not always seen, but sometimes a few can see him. And it always brings good luck to see O'Donoghue riding across the lake on May morning. And I saw him."

Again there was a pause, but she had no look of dreaming now. Her eyes were open and she seemed to be looking at something wonderful and beautiful that was far off. Slowly and softly she began speaking again. "I was a girl then. My father lived by the Lakes of Killarney. On that May morning I was standing at the door as the sun was rising. I was looking out upon the lake, far away to the east. The first that I saw was that the water, far off toward the sun, was ruffled, and then all at once a great, white-crested wave rose, as if a strong wind had struck the water, only all the air was still, and no wind ever raises such a wave as that on the lake. The wave came swiftly toward me, and I drew back, in a kind of dread, though I knew that it could not reach me where I stood. But still I looked—and then I saw him.

"Through the flying water and foam and mist I saw the old King, on his white horse, following the great wave across the lake. The sun made all his armor gleam like the silver of the lake itself, and the plume of his helmet streamed away behind him like the spray that a strong wind blows back from the crest of a breaker. After him came a train of glowing, beautiful forms—spirits of the lake or of the air, or some of the Good People—I do not know. They wore soft, flowing garments, that were like the morning mists; they carried chains of pearls and they scattered other pearls about them, that glistened like the drops of a shower when the sun is shining through it. They had garlands of flowers, and they plucked the flowers out and threw them high in the air, so that they fell before the King. They looked like flecks of foam from the waves, turned rosy and violet by the rising sun, but they were flowers.

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