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

Shaking-head

When the second day had passed, and the king's son was going to bed, the princess gave him a comb to keep, and said: "If you don't have this for me in the morning, your head will be put on the spike that's left in my father's garden."

The king's son took the comb with him, wrapped it in a handkerchief, and tied it to his head.

In the night the princess came with a draught which she gave him, and soon he was asleep. Going back to her own chamber, she struck the maid with her rod of enchantment, and made a great yellow cat of her. Then she caused such music of fifes and trumpets to sound throughout the castle that every soul was in a deep sleep before the music was over, and that moment she sent the cat to the chamber of the king's son. The cat worked the handkerchief off his head, took out the comb and ran with it to the princess, who turned her into a maid again.

The two set out for the eastern world straightway; but as they did, Shaking-head followed them in his cloak of darkness, till they came to the house of the giant in the great rock at the end of the road, at the sea. The princess gave the giant the comb, and said: "The thimble that I gave you to keep last night was taken from you, for the king's son in Erin brought it back to me this morning, and has done one third of the work of winning me, and I didn't expect you'd serve me in this way."

When the giant heard this, he was raging, and threw the comb into the sea behind him. Then with Druidic spells he raised thunder and lightning and wind. The sea was roaring with storm and rain; but the comb had not touched the water when Shaking-head caught it.

When her talk was over the princess gave the giant a kiss, and home she went with the maid; but Shaking-head followed them step by step.

In the morning Shaking-head went to the king's son, roused him, and asked: "What was your task last night?"

"The princess gave me a comb to have for her this morning," answered the king's son.

"Where is it now?" asked Shaking-head.

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