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Main > Irish folktales > Fairy tale "Shaking-head"


There was once a king of a province in Erin who had an only son. The king was very careful of this son, and sent him to school for good instruction.

The other three kings of provinces in Erin had three sons at the same school; and the three sent word by this one to his father, that if he didn't put his son to death they would put both father and son to death themselves.

When the young man came home with this word to his father and mother, they were grieved when they heard it. But the king's son said that he would go out into the world to seek his fortune, and settle the trouble in that way. So away he went, taking with him only five pounds in money for his support.

The young man travelled on till he came to a grave-yard, where he saw four men fighting over a coffin. Then he went up to the four, and saw that two of them were trying to put the coffin down into a grave, and the other two preventing them and keeping the coffin above ground. When the king's son came near the men, he asked: "Why do you fight in such a place as this, and why do you keep the coffin above ground?"

Two of the men answered, and said: "The body of our brother is in this coffin, and these two men won't let us bury it."

The other two then said: "We have a debt of five pounds on the dead man, and we won't let his body be buried till the debt is paid." The king's son said: "Do you let these men bury their brother, and I will pay what you ask."

Then the two let the brothers of the dead man bury him. The king's son paid the five pounds, and went away empty-handed, and, except the clothes on his back, he had no more than on the day he was born. After he had gone on his way awhile and the grave-yard was out of sight he turned and saw a sprightly red-haired man (fear ruadh) hurrying after him. When he came up, the stranger asked: "Don't you want a serving man?"

"I do not," answered the king's son, "I have nothing to support myself with, let alone a serving man."

"Well, never mind that," said the red-haired man; "I'll be with you wherever you go, whether you have anything or not.

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Kate Crackernuts
Category: English folktales
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