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

Shaking-head

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The princess gave the giant a kiss at parting; and as she hurried away with her maid the giant turned to look at her. His head was covered with an iron cap; but as he looked he laid bare a thin strip of his neck. Shaking-head was there near him, and said in his mind: "Your brother's sword has never been so close to your neck before;" and with one blow he swept the head off him. Then began the greatest struggle that Shaking-head ever had, to keep the head from the body of the giant. The head fought to put itself on again, and never stopped till the body was dead; then it fell to the ground. Shaking-head seized, but couldn't stir the head,—couldn't move it from its place. Then he searched all around it and found a (bar an suan) pin of slumber near the ear. When he took the pin away he had no trouble in carrying the head; and he made no delay but came to the castle at daybreak, and threw the head to a herd of pigs that belonged to the king. Then he went to the king's son, and asked:

"What happened to you last night?"

"The princess came to me, and said that if I wouldn't bring to her father's castle this morning the head she was to kiss last night, my own head would be on the last spike to-day."

"Come out with me now to the pigs," said Shaking-head.

The two went out, and Shaking-head said: "Go in among the pigs, and take the head with you to the king; and a strange head it is to put before a king."

So the king's son went on his steed to the summer-house, and gave the head to the king and his daughter, and turning to the princess, said:

"This is the head you kissed last night, and it's not a nice looking head either."

"You have my daughter won now entirely," said the king, "and she is yours. And do you take that head to the great dark hole that is out there on one side of my castle grounds, and throw it down."

The king's son mounted his steed, and rode off with the head till he came to the hole going deep into the earth. When he let down the head it went to the bottom with such a roaring and such a noise that every mare and cow and every beast in the whole kingdom cast its young, such was the terror that was caused by the noise of the head in going to the bottom of the hole.

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