National Folklore Collection
The story on this page has been taken from the Dúchas web site, page www.duchas.ie/en/cbes/5082122/5037782 and pages following. An image of the original manuscript can be viewed on the Dúchas page as well as more detailed information about the informant and recorder of the story.
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Once upon a time there lived a man and his wife on a very remote part of Ireland in the mountains:
The fathers name was Manus, and the mother's name was Mona. They had three sons, Diarmaid, Parthalon, and Jack. The eldest was Diarmuid and the youngest was Jack. They all lived by the chase and grew corn enough to keep them in " oat-cake " and they had dumplings to eat with the venison and wild-pig pork.
One day Manus and Diarmuid went out on a hunting tour, and when they separated they had their bow's and arrows and good hunting spears with them. Diarmuid was very fleet of foot and always went for the deer. Manus came across a herd of wild pigs and killed five young ones, and was waiting for Diarmund to return to help him to carry them home but while he was waiting the sow was in search of her young ones, and when she saw that they were dead, she got so enraged that she attacked Manus with her tusks, which protruded four or five inches outside her mouth. She dashed at Manus, but he defended himself with his spear, but as she
was a big animal she got in on Manus, and gore his legs with his sharp tusks. Then Manus got one chance and set a straight drive to her breast and drove the spear into her heart. Then came the boar in a terrible rage and attacked him. The great beast made a spring at Manus who took him under the shoulder, and broke the spear at the head. So being helpless, he shouted for Diarmund, and then the boar made a great spring, and Manus thrust the shaft down his throat and he lay dead.
Diarmund came running to his father's rescue, but he was not in time to save his father the wounds he got. He carried his father home but after living for some weeks he died.
His wife, Maura (Mona) was in great grief and was lamenting what she would do when Manus was gone.
" Well, Mother " said Diarmund
" while I have a spear, and a bow and arrow, and there is a dew on the mountain, or a wild pig in the valley, you will not want for venison, or wild-pig pork, and you will never want corn while I am able to sow, and cut it and twist a quern to make oat-cakes and dumplings. ''
Jack was never considered any use and was let alone, so he did nothing in the way
of work. He got up and said,
" Mother I'll go and push my fortune. "
" Aye indeed, " said his mother,
" a tenderfoot like you push your fortune, " you that never left the ashes. "
" Well mother, luck's a king and luck's a beggar, I might bring you a couple of handfuls of gold before seven years."
" Well, be sure and don't steal it, for I don't know how you would get it by earning it but sure enough the like of you is often lucky.
so start as soon as you like, and I'll give you my blessing. "
" That's just all I want Mother and a few weeks of oaten bread, and a horn of milk. " There were no bottles in those days.
The cows had such long horns, that one of them would hold a pint of milk. They fitted a bottom of wood in the big end and cut a little off the point, and put a cork of wood in it. So Jack got his oatcakes, and his horn of milk, and started. He kissed his mother, and his two brothers were laughing at the idea of his making a fortune. He bade them good-bye, and set out, not knowing where he was going. He travelled on for a day until he came to a forest as night was falling.
Said Jack to himself, there is a great place to stay for the night. so he took some of his bread, and milk and lay down and
slept well till morning, and was on his way at day-light. The roads were very hard-if they were roads atall. He travelled on, and no lack of hope but he would meet with some thing good. When evening was approaching, he found himself in view of the sea.
" By this and by that " says Jack
" there's the sea I'm not going to cross it.
" Green Slieve Castle can't be far away, if I could make my way to it I'd try my luck with the old blood thirsty rascal. He puts men's heads on the heads of the spears of the battlements, if they are not able to do all that he asks them to do.
Jack was pondering to know which way to turn when he beheld a most beautiful lady coming towards him. " By this and by that " says Jack she must be a queen, and she is not afraid of me. She came up to Jack, He pulled off his caubeen and says, " Good-day to your ladyship's lovely sweet face, "
" You flatter me,"
" No then beauty look into the clearest spring well, and it would not do you justice to your beaming beauty. Maybe you can tell me where Green Slieve Castle is.? " Indeed I can Jack " says she " Oh thunder and turf " says Jack, " how did you
know my name, ''?
" I just guessed it '',
" Well, introth, you are a good guess "
" But whereabouts is the castle? "
" Not far from here, but what
do you want to know about Green Slieve Castle? ''
" I want to live with him and earn my bread. ''
" Oh, Jack you don't know what you're doing, for if ever you fail to do what he tells you to do, he will behead you and put your head on the spear of his castle " " Begorra ''says Jack, " he's a lad but I'll chance him anyway, I might be able for him. "
" Well if your are guided by me, you will escape his bloody hands. "
" Well my lovely lady I'll do whatever you tell me, I hope you are nothing to him your'e so pretty , and he such a blood-thirsty villian. "
" No, I'm no friend of his. "
And might I make bold to ask who are you. "
" Well I'm the queen of the sea, The sailors call me the witch of the waves for they think that is is I that raises the storm because they sometimes see me out on the waves, when the storm rises. I come up from my coral cave to enjoy the heaving of the waves in my sea-chair. " Well- begorra " says Jack it's powerful, and you live down in the bottom of the sea, ''
" yes and I come on land just like now. ''
" Troth and I wish you would never leave it, for you are an ornament in the country, if you could make up your mind to stay on land. ''
" Oh, I can't do that, my house
is in the sea. ''
Well it is a queer place to live in where there
(* * * sally = willow * * * )
is no one to admire you, my
charmer. " But about the old castle ''?
Well Jack you are a friendly fellow, and I will do something for you. ''
She took from her pouch, that she carried at her side a " bangle " or cord of green colour, and as thick as a " sally " wattle and gave it to Jack.
" Now Jack, keep this about you, and whoever or whatever you throw it at, it will dull on their neck , and you can do whatever you like with them even if they are over seven times as strong as you. "
Jack took the bangle and said
" Thank you my good lady, for you are the best find that ever I met, and if old Green Slieve goes to behead me I will be able for him - so goodbye to you pretty face.
Do you think I will ever see you again. For I'd like to show more gratitude for your kindness. "
" Oh Jack I want for nothing-there are heaps of gold in the sea, and I would not lift it. ''
Well here goes for Green Slieve, I'll see if he will hire me " So Jack started and so did the queen of the sea. Jack went on as the queen told him, and soon came to the gate of the castle. To Jack's horror he saw the head of a man stuck on one of the spires of the gate." Begorra " says Jack this looks a sharp place. I think I ought to
turn back, but I came too far not to see it out now. So he rang the bell and a fellow came dressed in a brass jacket and brass helmet. He carried a great sword , and a hatchet in his belt.
" Who are you, and what do you want? " he said, I want to live with Lord or King Green Slieve. ''
" Come on " said the man in the brass jacket, " and I think your term will be short." " Do you see that head over on the gate spire? " " Indeed I do, "
" Well it was I that cut off that head, and put it up there: that's my business. "
" Troth and it's a mean occupation : I wouldn't do that if I never ate bread."
" Don't be impudent coming in here, for one word from the king sends you to the block, and be beheaded for nothing. " Faith I must see about that, you good-for-nothing dwarf. I think I shall cut off your head without the King's order at all. ''
" Well, withal, you are as big as I am, and I tell you across the teeth that I would not let you . " The big fellow drew his sword and before he had time to give it a cut, Jack had him in the loop of his cangle, gave him a haul and had him on the ground. Jack took the sword from him, and pointed it at his heart. " Now my big bully, let you have manners with strangers. ''
" Oh, " said the big fellow,
" spare my life. "
" Well get up and pull up the blade of yours and if you draw it again, your head will go on the spire instead of mine. Bring me to the King at once. " and so he did, meekly.
When Jack saw the King, he thought the Eng man was bad enough, but the King was worse. He had long black hair hanging down his back his ears went went up above his head. He had two eyes of a greenish colour, and his teeth came outside his mouth, for a full inch. He was very big and ugly. He said to Jack What do you want? " I want to live with you if you take me, "
" I will take you for I want a man to mind cattle. "
" That's just the job for me, " says Jack.
" Well understand if you fail me you mind then your head will go on that spire. "
" That's hard enough " says Jack " but I'll try it any how. " Jack was shown where the cattle were to graze. He started next day and drove his herd into a beautiful place where there was fruit of all kinds, apples, peaches and grapes. Jack's cows were feeding well and Jack was eating fruit when he saw an awful looking monster, in the shape of a man, with long black hair from his head to the ground and great long arms
as thick as gateposts. He had one of the cows by the neck, dragging her away. Jack jumped to his feet and he shouted, " Drop that cow " let her out. " He looked round at Jack and Jack got a full view of his face. He had one eye almost in the centre of his forehead. Jack ran up to him he let out the cow and said, " You dwarf from Ireland, I'll soon put you into pulp, just with one of my hands, you little wretch. "
" Two can play at that game " says Jack. The giant grinned at Jack with contempt, and made a dash for him to crush him just like a fly. Just then Jack's bangle was flying towards the awful looking giant and it dropped round his neck. Jack gave a pull on the nose and it tightened so that he put out his tongue for five or six inches. Another pull brought him down to the ground, and Jack cut off his head with the sword, and axe that Green Slieve gave him. That ended Jack's trouble for that day. When the time came for returning Jack drove home his herd, and they never got as much milk for the herd before. Green Slieve ordered Jack it be brought in, thinking that he had lost some of the cows, as was always the case before, but when he found he had all his cows safe, he brought Jack up to his
own room and asked him what he would like." Oh " says Jack, " I want nothing I got my supper. "
" Well Jack you are the best boy ever I had, and sure you'll never leave me. "
" Never " says Jack. Jack slept well that night, and set out for the same place next day. He was not long there till he heard dreadful roaring. Jack listened for a while
" Oh by this and by that " says Jack " I'm in for it now. Here comes another of the cow stealers. " With that a giant more furious than the other one, and seven times as ugly, with his teeth reaching down to his chest from his upper jaw appeared. With that he let a roar that nearly frightened Jack, and he ran at him saying, " you creeping little grass-hopper, it was you that killed my brother, but you'll not make a mouthful for me: He was tearing at Jack with his long bare arms out-stretched, and his long hair flying behind him.
" Oh won't I crush the life out of you. "
" Will you " says Jack, and the same moment the cangle dropped over the giant's head. Jack gave a very sharp jerk, and the great teeth reaching to his chest were smashed to bits. The bangle closed in on his neck, and with the next haul the big fellow came to the ground, " Oh more power to the Queen of the Sea, our bangle is better than all the swords and arrows in the world. "
you witch spare my life " cried the giant.
" I will " says Jack,
" the way you would mine " So Jack cut off his head and threw it along with the other one. " By this and by that " says Jack, " but that is the biggest and ugliest thing ever I saw in the shape of a man. " Jack drove his cattle and so manal was asked up to the state room.
" Well Jack did you lose any of your cattle? " " No " says Jack " Not one ''
" I can't know it is you lose none. "
" Oh " says Jack, I'll tell you some day how it is, Well you are the best boy I ever had, and promise me you will never leave me . "
" I never will, Master. " Well the cows gave such a flow of milk that they had to get new vessels to hold it. Next day Jack set out to the pasture, and was thinking of taking a rest, when he heard the weirdest scream, and he sees an old hag coming towards him. Her hair was trailing the ground, the nails of her fingers were six inches long, and her teeth were growing outside her mouth, like the tusks of a wild boar. " Oh you imp from the infernal regions, it was you that killed my two sons, but i'll not let you escape." She made a rush at Jack, with her long nailed claws, but Jack made a quick spring, and escaped the dreadful nails.
The old hag was active for her age, but as
soon as Jack got a little space between them he flung the bangle, and it settled over her head and round her neck. Jack was well pleased for he was a little scared at the appearance of the awful old giant's mother. As the bangle fell on her she was still coming towards Jack, and so near that she got a mere scrape at him with her long arms, and dreadful nails. She was not near enough to reach his flesh, but she tore the clothes off one side, like so many knives. That put Jack on his mettle so he gave the silken rope a quick jerk so that she let a scream, that could be heard a mile away.
But this was the last of her, and the last of the savage tribe, for Jack cut off her head and threw it along with the others, and covered them with moss. " Now " said he there's three of the ugliest faces ever I saw. ''
So the strife was over in that place.
When Jack , went home with his cows, the king, as he was called said to him, " How is it that you lost none of my cattle? "
" Ask me no questions, and I'll tell you no lies, ''Master. " Well you are the best boy I ever had and you'll never leave me. " " Never as long as we agree but do you ever go for a walk? If you come with me to the pasture I will show
you something that will surprise you, " " All right says Green Slieve, I'll go with you tomorrow. ''
so they next day they started with the cattle and when they came to the pasture, Jack brought him to where the heads were lying. He pulled the cover off them. " Now " says Jack there's plenty of heads for the spear, " " And it was you that killed those giants? "
" yes it was, and you can send anyone to herd the cows now, it was they who were taking your cattle, that you beheaded many a good boy for losing. They said nothing to the boy as long as he did not ask to stop them. But I didn't let them take a cow, and they tried to kill me but I killed them instead. "
" Well Jack you are a wonderful man, I would not face one of them for the world. " " No " says Jack,
" for that old hag would tear the ear off you with her nails. "
" you are too good a man to be kept herding cows and now that you have put all dangers away I hope that you will stay with me."
" As long as we can agree " says Jack.
" Well now, since you have done so much, I want you to catch, a beautiful wild horse that comes into my lawn every day. I put twenty men to catch him, and he broke through them all you
are so clever that I think you could catch him and if you do I will give you a gold crown. ''
" I'll do my best. When does he come? " says Jack ' Oh every day. They must be poor men that could not catch a horse. Why, man dear, I have a brother at home, and he can run down a deer. Come and show me where he mostly comes. ''
Green slieve brought Jack and showed him where the horse used to like best to be, " What time of day ? ''
says Jack. " About noon ''. How many men will you want ? "
" None at all, but I'll want a good halter or a bridle. " Next day Jack passed himself one side of the gap and thatched himself with long grass, so as to cut off the appearance of a man, for if the horse saw a real man he was off like the wind. Jack had not long to wait.
He heard the drumming of his hooves on the ground. Jack prepared his bangle with the wonderful loop. Jack peeped through the shrubs, and the shine of the horse's coat dazzled his eyes. " Well my noble stud, that's the last time you will go through that gap without a bit of steel in your mouth if I don't mistake. " The great animal came
and he was galloping so swift, his beautiful mane was flying over and fluttering in the wind, and his long tail flying behind him just as he entered, the loop of the bangle flew out in the front of him, and his head went into it. Jack gave a sharp cluck to the bangle and the grand horse stood up on his hind feet. Jack gave a strong pull with all his strength, and down came the horse on his side. Jack ran with his halter, and had it on him in less than a minute. " Like the fox " says Jack,
" as long as you ran you are caught at last. Get up my little beauty and come along with me. " and so he did, but Jack didn't take the dull of his neck, and so he walked home with him as quiet as an ass. Jack led him into the circular yard that Green Slieve had for training young horses. The king as he was called, came out in the greatest astonishment " Oh Jack " says he, " where did you come from, you are worth your weight in gold and you have won your crown of gold that I promised you, and better than all you have removed from me the witches spell that is on me for years. She struck me with her wand before I thought, and she said " wild pigs " lugs you'll wear, and eyes of bottle green, you'll be cruel
and blood, thirsty all your life, for I'm the witche's queen. " So by the catching of the wild horse you have broken her spell and now I'll place your crown on your head for you earned it well and now Jack there is one more great work I want you to do, and if you can do that all my ugliness will disappear."
" Troth and if it can be done I'll do it, for it put a bad taste in my mouth looking at you, and if I can make you natural looking I'll be very glad to do it.
" What is the job ? " I want you to go over to the Laughing Knight's Island, and ask him what is the reason he did not laugh this seven years. "
" By this and by that but that is a simple thing. " says Jack.
" Oh its not as simple as you think, the Laughing Knight is a great man, and very cross and cruel if you vex him. "
" Begorra " says Jack, I'm not going to vex him if I can help it, but how am I to get there? "
" I'll give you the best horse in my stable. "
" Oh no, you will not, but you'll give me the worst one , some old nag that's no use. " Very well Jack your way and not mine for you are great. " So next day Jack picked out an old nag that could carry him and no more. Jack started on his old nag, and travelled till he came to the sea-
shore. Jack put his hand over his eyes, and looked across and could see land, but far away. So he said " Old chap, you'll have to swim, " but the horse would not go into the water, so he began to whip him, and it was no use, when all of a sudden , who should come at the scene just the Queen of the Sea.
" Stop whipping that old horse. " Jack didn't see her at this time, but he looked round to his great surprise and joy, he saw her and got down off his horse and ran to her saying " My beauty, my queen, my darling , what nice name or title will I give you for you are wonderful and beautiful. Where did you come from ? ''
" Oh Jack I'm always at hand when I want to help-I'm glad to see you ''
" Troth and my beauty you have only the half of it , for I'm gladder to see you than the flowers of May.
" But do you think that old horse would swim across that arm of the sea? " Well " says Jack I see no other way to get over to the Laughing Knight's Island. ''
" That's where you are going " says the queen of the sea,
" It is indeed. ''
" Well you'll never get to it that way. ''
" And what way my dear queen? " I'll tell you take and kill that old horse and skin him,
Jack drew his hatchet that he always carried and struck the old horse in the face, and he fell on the shore then he fell to skinning him, not knowing what was meat. When he had him skinned, " Now " says the queen,
" there is a great white eagle in the Knight's Island, and she has young ones, and she comes over here looking for prey for her young ones. You will have to lie down in the skin, and I will sew you up in it. You be here and don't move or she will tear you to pieces, for she is as big as he horse you killed just now, " you'll not be long there till she comes. "
" But maybe " says Jack she will take the carcase of the old horse instead of me "
" Oh, I'll see to that, just help me to roll him over to the water, and that's all you have to do till I sew you up in the skin. Now I warn you when she comes, she will lift you up quite easily . Don't move for she can grasp the whole bundle with her great claws, and there is a little island between this and the Laughing Knight's Island, where she will lay you down, to nest, or don't move or she will flitter you to bits,
" So in with you now, ''
Jack lay down, and it was wonderful how quickly she sewed him up. Jack was not long there till
he heard the flapping of wings, and in another minute he was flying through the air at great speed. When she came to the little island she rested for five or six minutes, took her load and away again. Jack had his knife in his hand all the time, and when he was let down the second time, and when he was let down the second time he waited till the eagle was a good way off, for he heard the scream of calling her young ones to have a feed, but when they came there was nothing but the skin of the old horse. The eagle soared about to see what took her hard earned prey from her, but saw no enemy. So in great rage she tore up the hide into shreds, and they swallowed some of it, but they were sadly disappointed. Jack travelled on for that day and slept in the wood that night. Next day he started on his journey, and he met a man.
He asked him how far it was to the Laughing Knight's Castle, " It's another days journey; but what are you going there for ? He beheads everyone that vexes him. ''
" Well I'm going to live with him, and I'll please him if I can. ''
Well good luck to you, but I wouldn't like to be in your place. " Jack started on and came to the castle next day. He thought Green Slieve's gate bad, but the Laughing Knight's gate
was worse, for there were three heads on the spears of the gate.
" Well by this and by that, " says Jack,
" its out of the frying pan into the fire with me, but I'll trust to luck as I always did. ''
So he rang the bell, and a man came out and he asked him what he wanted, " I want to see the Laughing Knight. "
" Come with me " said he. He wasn't such a bully as Green Slieve's man.
He brought Jack through a great archway into the great court-yard, surrounded by a very high wall, and the walls were decorated with spears, swords, bows and arrows and some skulls nailed to the wall, and bleached white. " Begorra ''
says Jack, there's some beheading here, too. Out of that he brought Jack into a long passage, lighted by some sort of torches that were spitting fire along the passage, and then up a flight of stairs to a door ornamented with gold and precious stones inlaid in the wood, that sparkled like diamonds.
" Begorra " said Jack to himself , he is a tasty fellow, let him be cruel or not but its all the same to me anyway. " So the man knocked at the door, and it was opened, and a very tall man stood in the door.
" Well what do you want? "
" I came here to see did you want a good man, " The Laughing
Knight put up his hand and stroked down his long whiskers, that reached down to his belt, and said are you a good man? "
" I am " says Jack
" the best you ever employed, and I'll prove it ''.
Jack wanted to get hired by any means. Can you care cattle? "
" That's my job. " " Would you be afraid of a mad cross bull? ''
" I never saw the bull I could not conquer. " " Well says long sandy whiskers, " you are hired with me. ''
" All right your honour, " says Jack.
Be ready tomorrow morning to take charge of my cows and if you lose one of them-your head will go on the spear. Didn't you see the gate and the heads on the spears? "
" I did indeed " says Jack
" but mine won't go on those spears ''
" Don't lose a cow and it won't ''
" It's a bargain " says Jack " and we'll see who is the best man. ''
So next day he started out with his herd and he thought Green Slieve's park's beautiful but they could not compare with the Laughing Knight's
There were great forests, trees, gorgeous flowers and fruit of all kinds and such rich pastures. Jack was admiring the place when he heard a roar like some awful wild beast
" Ho, " says Jack
" war again. " He looked in the direction the roar came from and to his horror he saw an animal the like of which he never saw before.
He had a tail
seven yards long and he was whisking it so that it was like a great flash of wind and two eyes like two balls of fire. A tusk in each, side of his mouth
fully a foot long, and turned slightly back towards the head, just in the right form for ripping a poor helpless cow. " Begorra " says Jack there's no time to be lost with this fellow. "
brute was making for one of the best cows. Jack ran fast and had his bangle ready for the throw. Just as he was within a few yards of the cow he let fly the bangle, and dropped it over his head. The awful brute stood on his hind feet and roared that he could be heard a mile. Jack struck one hole in the ground and gave a powerful jerk to the bangle, and down comes the monster.
" Ha ha, my lad, your days are numbered or rather minutes. ''
Jack ran back and threw the end of the bangle across the bough of a tree, that was near him caught the cangle on the other side and hauled with all his strength, and in a minute he had the beast hanging until he was choked. Then he cut off his head and he looked at him with astonished for he never saw any animal like him before. " I don't know what to call you but I can safely swear that you are the
ugliest brute that I ever saw.
I wonder are there many more like you. If there are I'm in for fun, for looping and hanging lads like you is rare sport. It's time to go home now.''
The Laughing Knight was watching for Jack and when he saw him and all his cows home safe he called Jack and asked him how he got the cows home safe. " Oh " says
Jack. " I'll tell you and show you how."
I got home safe . Well Jack, you are the best boy I ever had, and say " you'll never leave me. Never will I, master, as long as we agree.
" That's fair enough Jack, ''.
So next day Jack set out with his herd. I wonder are there any more of those savage beasts there- if there are, " they're sure to come to see what happened the fellow that did come, " never to go back ''.
That was Jack's thought as he went along.
He soon arrived at the beautiful park, rich with all kinds of fruit and flowers scarlet, white and yellow lilies as wide as a riddler, which perfumed the air, but Jack had something else to watch. He sat down on a soft green bank to rest and look over his bangle when he was made jump with the thundering noise
" Ha " says he, " another of the same family I suppose. " He is some way off, yet but he'll soon be here, " and in a minute he saw the most awful creature that was ever on earth. Jack was pretty well hardened to danger and awful things by this time, but there went a tremor through him at the sight of this fierce monster with red eyes and a head as big as the half of a sack of corn with the same tusks as the other fellow. He had a long body of a greenish colour and four short legs with three long toes with nails or talon's like an eagle's.
His tail swept the ground for a perch behind him. He was going for one of the cows. Jack ran towards him and when he saw Jack he straightened his legs and looked at Jack. He opened his mouth and put out his tongue.
It was a yard long and a purple colour. He made a spring towards Jack, and as he did the cangle was flying and dropped beautifully over his ugly head. Jack was a little frightened at the manoeuvres of the hideous monster, but he soon got
back his wits and he put all his weight on the bangle and tightened it round his neck. The roars of the brute would make anyone weak. There was a tree with extending branches. He ran for the tree and threw his end across the bough, caught it on the other side and ran on. He was a very heavy man.
The beast was still following him, but when he came as far as the branch, Jack gave a pull and lifted him off his front feet, and his neck was pulled against the bough. Jack pulled and then tightened and held on till the brute was choked.
Then Jack released the pull on the bangle and the monster dropped to the ground dead. " Well, by this and by that, but that was a close shave
says Jack " but you'll never kill another cow, you ugly " brute, and long life to the Queen of the Sea, for only for your bangle, " I was done, and now for the beheading. " Jack fell to and cut off his head. It was nearly as thick as a barrel, but with his hatchet and his heavy sword, he got it done in time
to go home that night. The Knight sent for Jack to come to his room.
" Well, Jack says he, how did you " get on to-day? The very best, master.
Well you are the best man on this island.
All the boys I had let my herd go down. Every day there was a cow or two gone, and they said they heard a dreadful roar and they ran away.
They didn't see what took the cows.
" Well, master, I didn't run away, and if you come with me the day after tomorrow I'll show you a sight that you never saw before. ''
" And why not come tomorrow? "
" Well says Jack the job is not finished yet, so wait till after tomorrow and I'll let you come? ''
You'll let me come ? " Can't I come when I like ? "
" You can go tomorrow but there's every chance that you could never come back, for I'm not sure yet if the last of your enemies are gone. ''
" Well says the Laughing Knight I'll do as you say, for you are the most wonderful boy I met. ''
So he waited till the day that Jack appointed.
Jack went with his cows next day and did not expect any more visitors of that ugly kind, and went up a tree, for some of the tempting fruit, he chanced to look over to where the cattle were feeding, and he saw a giant, coming with
a pole in his hand heading for the cows. Jack hastened out of the tree. Says he to himself " if he hits one of the cows with that pole he'll break her back "
So he ran towards the cow, and so did the giant, but Jack got between him and the herd. The giant stood ten feet high, and was a fierce looking fellow.
" Oh, I'm not as big as you, but get away out of this. " Jack said that but he knew well that he wouldn't.
" No " said the big fellow, " until I chew you up in two or three mouthfuls. "
" We'll see about that " says Jack.
" It was you that killed my two fetchers that kept me in beef. ''
" It was " says Jack " and I'll kill you, too. "
" Oh, let me at him, the dwarf, till I squeeze him in my one hand. "
" Come on " says Jack, and before he had the words finished the dull was round his neck, Jack gave the usual jerk of the rope, as we may call it and the great giant fell to the ground.
" That's the last place you'll lie. ''
says Jack. " Are you the last of your tribe? Tell me and I'll let you up. ''
" Oh I'm the last of my tribe. "
" I'm very glad to hear it. So you'll never eat no more of my master's cows, and he drew
the sword across his throat, and with his hatchet he cut off his head.
" Now we'll have peace. " So next day Jack and his master came to the beautiful park. " Now " says Jack
" I'll show you my work, " bringing him to the two monsters.
Those are the boys that were stealing your cows, but I put them from ever taking one more. ''
" And did you encounter these awful brutes? ''
" I did, and conquered them, " says Jack.
Well you are a wonder - you are the greatest man in the world, " It is extra-ordinary to think you did not run away at the sight of these hideous monsters.
And how did you face them at all, and kill them. How did you do it? ''
" With my sword and hatchet - don't you see I cut of their heads, and here is the last of the tribe. ''
" Well Jack you are too good to have minding cattle. I will make you my grand advisor you will have no work to do only tell me what I want to know. ''
" Very well, " says Jack there's something that I want to know, and you can tell me, but I'll not ask you just now. "
" Sure you may as well ask me now as any other time? "
" Very well ask me now as any other time. ''
" Very well master, whats's the reason you did not laugh this seven years? "
" Oh Jack how dare you ask me that question - I put men's heads on
the spear for that. "
" Faith and you'll not put mine on the spear, or you'll have to answer it. ''
" I will not answer it, but I'll put your head on the gate. "
" Will you, indeed?
" Yes, " says the Laughing Knight.
" You have ruined all the great work you have done for me. ''
" Well if I have I'll mend it again, so I repeat my question, what is the reason you did not laugh this seven years?
Come answer, or I'll strangle you in three minutes. " He made a rush to all his body - guards but the bangle, was round his neck in a twinkle.
Jack jerked the bangle, and he took the long whiskers in with his neck, and with the tightening of the loop he was pulling the hair out of the root. " Now are you going to tell me? ''
" Let me out and I'll tell you about it. " So Jack slackened and took off the bangle and says. " Sit down there and tell me all, for you said I destroyed all I did for you, and I say I might mend it all again so go on with the story.
" Well Jack, there comes a golden hare every day, and larks about the lawn, and I had seven sons, all brave fellows as ever mounted a horse, and I had seven packs of hounds, and one son after another hunted the hare to her den, and whatever happened than one of them never came back, not even one so grief and sorrow kept me from laughing and
it hurt me so much to ask me why I didn't laugh that it set me nearly mad and I beheaded them. "
" Well " says Jack, " have you any hounds now. " " I have a pack that seldom sees light. " Well I'll give you a run for her life tomorrow. Where does she appear? "
" Oh, its very easy to see here. I suppose she thinks I would follow her like my boys, and never come back either and I fear you will never come back. ''
" Troth and I'll come back you may depend on it. ''
" Well you can have the best steed in my stable and the best pack of hounds, that I have, or ever will keep, if they don't come back. ''
" Don't fret master all will be well Leave it to me. ''
So next day Jack had his horses, brought by one of the grooms. Jack sounded his horn, and the cry of the hounds to get out the kennel was terrible. So the keeper set them. Away they dashed, and there was no beating the bush to raise the hare.
She was there to be seen and the dogs took up the trail, and she stopped in front of them and such a cry of hounds it would be sweet music to any huntsman.
The hare ran over about seven miles through the island. Some times the hounds would be within a perch of her but never any nearer.
Then she set out for her cave, and the dogs were in such fury they followed her into
the cave, and so did Jack. He jumped off his horse, and down into the cave. When he began to see, for there were little lights, Jack saw an old man, that looked more like a skeleton than a man. " Oh, " he says, " Jack are you the dwarf from Ireland did you come to hunt the golden hare ? " I did, says Jack and to hunt you too. "
" Will you then says the bundle of bones, and lifted his wand up to strike Jack into a man of stone lke all the rest, but Jack was too quick for him. The loop was on his neck in a twinkle, and Jack gave a fierce yank, that brought the old enchanter to the ground.
" Come now " says Jack, give me the seven sons of the Laughing Knight, or I'll hang you in a minute - you have only a minute to decide your fate, be quick. "
" Oh, spare me and I'll give you all.
Take the wand, and I'll strike those statues and you will see, "
" No my old parcel of bones, but you'll do it yourself. " At that he gave a groan " Oh " said he,
" I'm done. " So he hit the stone statues, one after the other, and the eldest son of the Laughing Knight stepped over to Jack, and one after the other, till the seven sons turned into themselves, and thronged round Jack, hugging him with their thanks and glee.
" Wait a while for that " says Jack I have to settle
with that fellow yet - where is my pack of hounds. " Here they are, says he striking a rock, and out dashed the whole pack.
" Throw that wand of yours down on the ground " and Jack lifted it. " I'll bring this with me " says Jack
" Oh kill me at once, or leave the wand. "
" No then " says Jack, I'll not kill you, but I'll have to take the harm out of you - you can do no more harm now. " Come boys we're long enough here. So the seven sons, and seven horses, and seven packs of hounds, came out of the cave, and were at home in a couple of hours. As they went along they chatted. The eldest said to Jack,
" Where from under the sky did you come, for your are the greatest man in the world. "
" I came from old Ireland " says Jack, where the shamrock grows. "
" Well Jack, there must be great men in that country for each and every one of us owes our lives to you. ''
" Don't make any complement of it. " says Jack you'll never get into the same trouble again, for the old skeleton in the cave was the hare himself, and I took the power of enchanting from him I have his wand and will burn it with a fire of witch hazel. The old wizard himself is dead by this time, for I gave him a thrust of my sword, before I left him, and now, we are at
the Castle. The clatter of the horse's hooves, and the baying of the hounds, brought the Laughing Knight to the gate, and when he saw Jack riding in front with his sword, held up in his hand, and his seven sons coming after him, the old Knight fell to his knees, threw up his hands and cried out,
" Jack, Jack, am I dreaming ?
Faith your not for you are wide awake, and his here's your seven sons back to you, and your seven horses, and hounds. " At that they all threw themselves from the saddle, and rushed to their father.
There was great rejoicing and hugging for a long half hour, and then the old Knight turned to Jack and cried out aloud,
" Oh Jack you genius of the world, you are the greatest man that ever lived, you have cured me of my grief, my bad temper and cruelty.
All of which was caused, by the loss of my sons.
I am in the best of humour and spirits. ''
So he gave three great laughs that were heard over the whole island, and Green Slieve heard them in his castle, and he jumped up and shouted
" Jack has won the game I sent him on, now all is well and there will be no more heads on the spear. I hope he will soon come here for I will make him rich. ''
" Jack said the Laughing Knight, I will give you gold, diamonds
and rich rainment for the wonderful work you did for me, and I hope you will never part me. ''
" Oh " says Jack, " My noble master you understand what it is the great glee one feels at meeting them that we thought were lost forever. My mother is pining for me and I must go home to see her but if you like I will come back all right. "
" Jack when I think of my own delight at the restoration of my boys I can't refuse you. " So he filled a bag of gold, and diamonds, and Jack bade farewell to them all, and the sons left him a day's journey with their company and were very sad at parting. So he came to the sea-shore and there was no boat to be seen.
" Faith " says Jack " I'm at the end of my thether as far as I can see. "
He put his hand over his eyes and he looked out to sea, and he thought he saw something floating towards him, but far off.
He looked again and saw that it was nearing him. So he sat down on a stone and watched and soon the thing was on the shore, and to his great surprise and joy it was the " Queen of the Sea. ''
" Oh my dear one it is you, or are my eyes deceiving me ? ''
" They're not Jack, its myself come to help you. "
" Oh more power to your pretty self, you are the greatest Queen in he world, and only for you my head would be on the spear long
ago. Your cangle stood my friend on all occasions. I am going home to see my old mother. What if you and I married, and if you come along with me. I have plenty of gold and diamonds to give you, "
" No, No, I'm never to marry so let that end the subject. ''
" Well I'm sorry you are so beautiful, and how am I to get across this time? "
" You will get into my sea-chair, and I will put you across, so just get in on the back seat, and put your back to my back, and you are all right, and we'll not be long going over. "
" I have to call with, Green Slieve. ''
" Oh yes, he has to pay you for all you did for him, ''
" Well " says Jack " what way will I ever pay you for all you did for me. Only for your goodness to me I would be dead, and my head on the spear. ''
" Well Jack " says she " I like to help the weak, and those that's not thought much about at home. ''
" That's the truth, indeed, but how you know it is a mistery to me for indeed they called me Ashy Pet useless. "
That's why I helped you Jack.
" Well " says Jack that's the most pleasant jaunt I ever got, in this your sea-chair, " and at that time they were near the shore, so in a few minutes more they landed
" We part here " says the ' Queen of the Sea. '
" Oh " says Jack it's myself would like to take you in my arms, and keep you forever. "
" We'll shake hands Jack, and that's all
your will my beautiful Queen, is my pleasure. ''
So they shook hands, and stepped into her chair, and almost flew over the waves out of view.
Jack called with Green Sleive, who wanted him to stay with him for the rest of his life, but Jack was determined on going home to fill his mother's hand with gold, as he had promised.
So as the Laughing Knight gave his three laughs, the pigs' ears vanished and the green scum went off his eyes, all his bad temper and cruelty left him, and the shining horse was as quiet as any other horse. It was under a spell by the old witch too.
" Well Jack I would love to keep you forever for all for all you did, for me than all the men in the world could do. " So he handed Jack his crown of gold, and a bag of gold along with it.
So he started for home.
He was three days on his way home. He was getting hungry on the forth day, as he neard his own old sack, Mona. His mother was out feeding her flock of hens. When she saw Jack coming near the house in his suit of gold lace cloth.
Mona ran into the house,
" Oh Diarmuid by this and by that
here comes a leprecaun or a fairy,
and what will we do? ''
" Begorra I don't know " says Diarmuid, " but let me
see or hear whatever it is.
" By this time Jack was at the door thumping to get in. Diarmuid went to the door and opened it.
" Hello Diarmuid, how are you, my dear boy ? "
" I'm very well, " said he but I don't know any gentleman who knows me. "
" Well " says Jack I'm a gentleman you ought to know me,"
" Ashey Pet Useless as you all called me before I left "
" Oh you are some one playing a trick on me. ''
" No trick about it I'm your brother Jack, home again. ''
His mother was from one faint into another, for fear of the leprecaun bringing away Diarmuid.
Diarmuid, in spite of all the grand costume, began to trace some of the old likeness in Jack, and he threw his arms around Jack,
" Oh my dear brother come into the house and see mother. "
Mona got to her feet and looked, and looked again and at last she began to see some traces of his boyhood. " Are you really Jack my son. " " I am introth mother, and do remember the promise that I made to you that I'd fill your hands with gold. Put our hands down into this bag and lift the full of your hands. " She put her hand into the bag and took the full of it of gold coins, and when she saw the shining gold she sat down on a stool or she would have fainted and fallen with joy.
Parthalon came in and was surprised to see
such a richly dressed gentleman in his house. " I was always fond of Parthalon, and good Jack made a spring with his arms open to embrace his brother, but Parthalon shied back.
" I don't know you, you are a grand man surely, but I don't know you. "
" I'm your brother Jack "
" Can it be possible? "
" It is indeed ''said his mother,
" and he is after giving me a handful of gold, " and then the two brothers embraced. Jack put the gold crown on his mother's head,
" Now mother you are Queen of this house, I crown you. ''
Jack told all his adventures round the fire at night, and showed them the diamonds and the bangle which he never parted with.
They were all rich with Jack's
money, and they lived very nicely and agreeably, and they ate and drank the best of everything every day. And if they didn't live happily ever after that may be.
Informant: B. O Grady
Address: Ballyconnell, Co. Cavan
We are most thankful to Bernadette McGovern who transcribed this and a great many other pages of the The Schools' Collection, from the National Folklore Collection Archives.
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