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Source-Celtic Magazine,

xiii. pp.69, seq. I have abridged somewhat, made the sons of Fergus all faithful instead of two traitors, and omitted an incident in the house of the wild men called here "strangers." The original Gaelic was given in the Transactions of the Inverness Gaelic Society for 1887, p.241, seq., by Mr. Carmichael. I have inserted Deirdre's "Lament" from the Book of Leinster.

Parallels. - This

is one of the three most sorrowful Tales of Erin, (the other two, Children of Lir and Children of Tureen, are given in Dr. Joyce's Old Celtic Romances), and is a specimen of the old heroic sagas of elopement, a list of which is given in the Book of Leinster. The "outcast child " is a frequent episode in folk and hero-tales: an instance occurs in my English Fairy Tales, No. xxxv., and Prof. Kohler gives many others in Archiv. f Slav. Philologie, i. 288. Mr. Nutt adds tenth Century Celtic parallels in Folk-Lore, vol. ii. The wooing of hero by heroine is a characteristic Celtic touch. See "Connla" here, and other examples given by Mr. Nutt in his notes to Maclnnes' Tales. The trees growing from the lovers' graves occurs in the English ballad of Lord Lovel and has been studied in Melusine.


The "Story of Deirdre" is a remarkable instance of the tenacity of oral tradition among the Celts. It has been preserved in no less than five versions (or six, including Macpherson's "Darthula") ranging from the twelfth to the nineteenth century. The earliest is in the twelfth century, Book of Leinster, to be dated about 1140 (edited in facsimile under the auspices of the Royal Irish Academy, i. 147, seq.). Then comes a fifteenth century version, edited and translated by Dr. Stokes in Windisch's Irische Texte II., ii. '09, seq., "Death of the Sons of Uisnech." Keating in his History of Ireland gave another version in the seventeenth century. The Dublin Gaelic Society published an eighteenth century version in their Transactions for 1808. And lastly we have the version before us, collected only a few years ago, yet agreeing in all essential details with the version of the Book of Leinster. Such a record is unique in the history of oral tradition, outside Ireland, where, however, it is quite a customary experience in the study of the Finn-saga. It is now recognised that Macpherson had, or could have had, ample material for his rechauffe of the Finn or "Fingal" saga. His "Darthula" is a similar cobbling of our present story. I leave to Celtic specialists the task of settling the exact relations of these various texts. I content myself with pointing out the fact that in these latter days of a seemingly prosaic century in these British Isles there has been collected from the lips of the folk a heroic story like this of "Deirdre," full of romantic incidents, told with tender feeling and considerable literary skiH. No other country in Europe, except perhaps Russia, could provide a parallel to this living on of Romance among the common folk. Surely it is a bounden duty of those who are in the position to put on record any such utterances of the folk imagination of the Celts before it is too late.




I have combined the Irish version given by Dr. Hyde in his Leabhar Sgeul., and translated by him for Mr. Yeats' Irish Folk and Fairy Tales, and the Scotch version given in Gaelic and English by Campbell, No. viii.


Two English versions are given in my Eng. Fairy Tales, No. iv., "The Old Woman and her Pig," and xxxiv., "The Cat and the Mouse," where see notes for other variants in these isles. M. Cosquin, in his notes to No. xxxiv., of his Contes de Lorraine, t. ii. pp.35-41, has drawn attention to an astonishing number of parallels scattered through all Europe and the East (cf, too, Crane, Ital. Pop. Tales, notes, 372-5). One of the earliest allusions to the jingle is in Don Quixote, pt. I, c. xvi.: "Y asi como suele decirse el gato al rato, el rato a la cuerda, la cuerda al palo, daba el arriero a Sancho, Sancho a la moza, Ia moza a el, el ventero a la moza." As I have pointed out, it is used to this day by Bengali women at the end of each folk-tale they recite (L. B. Day, Folk-Tales of Bengal, Pref.).

Remarks. -

Two ingenious suggestions have been made as to the origin of this curious jingle, both connecting it with religious ceremonies (I) Something very similar occurs in Chaldaic at the end of the Jewish Hagada, or domestic ritual for the Passover night. It has, however, been shown that this does not occur in early MSS. or editions, and was only added at the end to amuse the children after the service, and was therefore only a translation or adaptation of a current German form of the jingle; (2) M. Basset, in the Revue des Traditions poplaires, 1890, t. v. p.549, has suggested that it is a survival of the old Greek custom at the sacrifice of the Bouphonia for the priest to contend that he had not slain the sacred beast, the axe declares that the handle did it, the handle transfers the guilt further, and so on. This is ingenious, but fails to give any reasonable account of the diffusion of the jingle in countries which have had no historic connection with classical Greece.



Source.- Celtic Magazine,

xiii. 213-8, Gaelic and English from Mr. Kenneth Macleod.


.- Mr. Macleod heard another version in which "Gold Tree (anonymous in this variant) is bewitched to kill her father's horse, dog, and cock. Abroad it is the Grimm's Schneewitchen (No. 53), for the Continental variants of which see Kohler on Gonzenbach, Sicil. Marchen, Nos. 2-4, Grimm's notes on 53, and Crane, Ital. Pop. Tales, 331. No other version is known in the British Isles


It is unlikely, I should say impossible, that this tale, with the incident of the dormant heroine, should have arisen independently in the Highlands: it is most likely an importation from abroad. Yet in it occurs a most "primitive" incident, the bigamous household of the hero: this is glossed over in Mr. Macleod's other variant. On the "survival" method of investigation this would possibly be used as evidence for polygamy in the Highlands. Yet if, as is probable, the story came from abroad, this trait may have come with it, and only implies polygamy in the original home of the tale.




S. Lover's Stories and Legends of the. Irish Peasantry.


is really a moral apologue on the benefits of keeping your word. Yet it is told with such humour and vigour, that the moral glides insensibly into the heart.




The Mabinogi of Kulhwych and Olwen from the translation of Lady Guest, abridged.


Prof. Rhys,Hibbert Lectures, p 486, considers that our tale is paralleled by Cuchulain's "Wooing of Emer," a translation of which by Prof. K. Meyer appeared in the Archaeolgical Review, vol.i. I fail to see much analogy. On the other hand in his Arthurian Legend, p.41, he rightly compares the tasks set by Yspythadon to those set to Jason. They are indeed of the familiar type of the Bride Wager (on which see Grimm-Hunt, i. 399). The incident of the three animals, old, older, and oldest, has a remarkable resemblance to the Tettira Jataka (ed. Fausboll, No.37, transl. Rhys Davids, i. p.310 seq.) in which the partridge, monkey, and elephant dispute as to their relative age, and the partridge turns out to have voided the seed of the Banyan-tree under which they were sheltered, whereas the elephant only knew it when a mere bush, and the monkey had nibbled the topmost shoots. This apologue got to England at the end of the twelfth century as the sixty-ninth fable, "Wolf, Fox, and Dove," of a rhymed prose collection of "Fox Fables" (Mishle Shu'alim), of an Oxford Jew, Berachyah Nakdan, known in the Records as "Benedict le Puncteur" (see my Fables of Aesop, i. p.170). Similar incidents occur in "Jack and his Snuff-box " in my English Fairy Tales, and in Dr. Hyde's "Well of D'Yerree-in-Dowan." The skilled companions of Kulhwych are common in European folk-tales (Cf. Cosquin, i. 123-5), and especially among the Celts (see Mr. Nutt's note in Maclnnes' Tales, 445-8), among whom they occur very early, but not so early as Lynceus and the other skilled comrades of the Argonauts.


-The hunting of the boar Trwyth can be traced back in Welsh tradition at least is early as the ninth century. For it is referred to in the following passage of Nennius' Historia Britonum ed. Stevenson, p; 60," Est aliud miraculum in regione quae dicitur Buelt [Builth, Co. Brecon] Est ibi cumulus lapidum et unus lapis super-positus super congestum cum vestigia canis in eo. Quando venatus est porcum Troynt [var. lec. Troit] impressit Cabal, qui erat canis Arthuri militis, vestigiurn in lapide et Arthur postea congregavit congestum lapidum sub lapide in quo erat vestigium canis sui et vocatur Carn Cabal." Curiously enough there is still a mountain called Cam Cabal in the district of Builth, south of Rhayader Gwy in Breconshire. Still more curiously a friend of Lady Guest's found on this a cairn with a stone two feet long by one foot wide in which there was an indentation 4 in. x 3 in. x 2 in. which could easily have been mistaken for a pawprint of a dog, as maybe seen from the engraving given of it (Mabinogion, ed. 1874, p.269).

The stone and the legend are thus at least one thousand years old. "There stands the stone to tell if I lie." According to Prof. Rhys (Hibbert Lect. 486-97) the whole story is a mythological one, Kulhwych's mother being the dawn, the clover bossoms that grow under Olwen's feet being comparable to the roses that sprung up where Aphrodite had trod, and Yspyddadon being the incarnation of the sacred hawthorn. Mabon, again (l.c. pp.21, 28-9), is the Apollo Maponus discovered in Latin inscriptions at Ainstable in Cumberland and elsewhere (Hqbner, Corp. Insc. Lat. Brit. Nos. 218, 332, 1345). Granting all this, there is nothing to show any mythological significance in the tale, though there may have been in the names of the dramatis personae. I observe from the proceedings of the recent Eisteddfod that the bardic name of Mr. W. Abraham, M.P., is 'Mabon'. It scarcely follows that Mr. Abraham is in receipt of divine honours nowadays.




- Kennedy's Legendary Fictions of the Irish Celts.


- This is the fullest and most dramatic version I know of the Grimm's "Town Musicians of Bremen" (No. 27). I have given an English (American) version in my English Fairy Tales, No. 5, in the notes to which would be found references to other versions known in the British Isles (eg. Campbell, No. II) and abroad. Cf. remarks on No. vi.




- Curtin, Myths and Folk-Lore of Ireland, p. 114 seq . I have shortened the earlier part of my tale, and introduced into the latter a few touches from Campbell's story of "Fionn's Enchantment," in Revue Celtique, t. i., 193 seq.


The early part is similar to the beginning of The Sea-Maiden" (No. xvii., which see). The latter part is practically the same as the story of "Fionn's Enchantment," just referred to. It also occurs in MacInnes' Tales, No. iii., "The King of Albainn" (see Mr. Nutt's notes, 454). The head-crowned spikes are Celtic, cf.. Mr. Nutt's notes (Maclnnes' Tales, 453).


-         Here again we meet the question whether the folk-tale precedes the hero-tale about Finn or as derived from it, and again the probability seems that our story has the priority as a folk-tale, and was afterwards applied to the national hero, Finn. This is confirmed by the fact that a thirteenth century French romance, Conte du Graal has much the same incidents, and was probably derived from a similar folk-tale of the Celts. Indeed, Mr. Nutt is inclined to think that the original form of our story (which contains a mysterious healing vessel) is the germ out of which the legend of the Holy Grail was evolved (see his Studies in the Holy Grail, p.202 seq.).