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Main > Irish folktales > Fairy tale "The Big Poor People"

The Big Poor People

He gave her a magic wand and went on his way.

"Then she rose from her bed and took the four children with her in her chariot and set out for her father's castle. On the way she ordered the driver of the chariot to kill the children, but he refused. Then they passed near a lake, and the step-mother told the children to go into the water and bathe. But Fair-shoulder believed that she meant them some harm, and she refused to go, and begged her brothers not to go. So the step-mother called her men, and she and they forced the children out of the chariot and pushed them into the water. Then she touched each of them on the head with the Druid's wand, and they were changed into four beautiful white swans.

"After she had done that, she went on to her father's castle. When her father had welcomed her, he said, 'Where are your husband's children?'

"'They are at home,' she answered, 'in their father's castle.'

"'And are they well?'

"'They are well.'

"Now the King himself was a Druid, and more powerful than the one who had given his daughter the wand. More than that, he was a good man, and the other was a wicked one. He did not believe what his daughter told him about the children, and so he put her into a magic sleep. When she was asleep he said to her, 'Where are your husband's children?'

"And she answered, 'They are in the lake which we passed by the way as we came here.'

"'And what did you do to them?'

"'I changed them into white swans.'

"'Why did you do that?'

"'Because my husband loved them more than he loved me.'

"He woke her out of the magic sleep and called all his people together. Before them all he told her that she should be punished for her wickedness, and then he changed her, by his Druidic power, into a gray vulture. Then he said to the people: 'This creature that was my daughter has laid a wicked enchantment on her husband's children. She has changed them into swans. They must keep that shape for many hundreds of years; they must swim in the lakes and the seas and fly over the land, and they must travel far and must suffer much.

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