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


"Here on my head," said the king's son, putting up his hand to get it; but the comb was gone. "I'm done for now," said the king's son; "my head will be on the last spike to-day unless I have the comb for the princess."

"Here it is for you," said Shaking-head, taking the comb out of his pocket. "And now," said he, "the whole kingdom is coming to this castle to-day to see your head put on the last spike in the garden of King Behind the Gold, for all men think the same will happen to you that has happened to every king's son before you. Go up on your steed and ride to the summer-house where the king and his daughter are sitting, and give her the comb."

The king's son did as Shaking-head bade him. When he saw the comb the king said, "Now you have my daughter two-thirds won." But her face went from the princess entirely, she was so vexed that any man should know of her dealings with the giant.

The third night when he was going to bed the princess said to the king's son, "If you will not have at my father's castle to-morrow morning the head I will kiss to-night, you'll die to-morrow, and your own head will be put on the last spike in my father's garden." Later in the night she came to the bedside of the king's son with a draught, which he drank, and before she was back in her chamber, he slept. Then she made such music all over the castle that not a soul was awake when the music had ceased. That moment she hurried away with her maid to the eastern world; but Shaking-head followed her in his cloak of darkness. This time he carried with him the two-handed sword that never failed a blow.

When she came to the rock in the eastern world and entered the house of the giant, the princess said, "You let my two gifts go with the son of the king in Erin, and he'll have me won to-morrow if he'll have your head at my father's castle in the morning."

"Never fear," said the giant, "there is nothing in the world to take the head off me but the double-handed sword of darkness that never fails a blow, and that sword belongs to my brother in the western world.

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