More Celtic Fairy Tales: The Ridere of Riddles (cont.)

This story is part of the Celtic Fairy Tales (2) unit. Story source: More Celtic Fairy Tales by Joseph Jacobs with illustrations by John D. Batten (1895).

The Ridere of Riddles (cont.)

They were thus a while with the Ridere, and try as he might, he could not guess the riddle. On a day of days came one of the maidens who were with the knight's daughter to the gillie and asked him to tell her the question. He took her plaid from her and let her go, but he told her nothing. The same thing happened to the twelve maidens, day after day, and the gillie said to the last one that no creature had the answer to the riddle but his master down below.

One day after this came the knight's daughter to the eldest brother and, looking her finest and handsomest, she asked him to tell her the question. And now there was no refusing her, and he told her, but he kept her plaid. The Knight of Riddles sent for him, and he gave him the answer of the riddle.

And the knight said that he had two choices to lose his head, or to be set adrift in a crazy boat without food or drink, without oar or scoop. The elder brother spoke, and he said, " I have another riddle to put to thee before all these things happen."

"Say on," said the knight.

"Myself and my gillie were one day in the forest shooting. My gillie fired at a hare, and she fell, and he took her skin off, and let her go, and so he did to twelve: he took their skins off and let them go. And at last came a great fine hare, and I myself fired at her, and I took her skin off, and I let her go."

"Indeed thy riddle is not hard to solve, my lad," said the knight, and he knew the lad knew he had not really guessed the riddle, but had been told the answer.

So he gave him his daughter to wife to make him hold his peace, and they made a great hearty wedding that lasted a day and a year. The youngest one went home now that his brother had got so well on his way, and the eldest brother gave him every right over the kingdom that was at home.

Now there were near the march of the kingdom of the Knight of Riddles three giants, and they were always murdering and slaying some of the knight's people and taking spoil from them. On a day of days the Knight of Riddles said to his son-in-law that if the spirit of a man were in him, he would go to kill the giant, as they were always bringing such losses on the country. Well, so it was, he went, and he met the giants, and he came home with the three giants' heads, and he threw them at the knight's feet.

"Thou art an able lad doubtless, and thy name hereafter is the Hero of the White Shield." The name of the Hero of the White Shield went far and near.

Meanwhile, the brother of the Hero of the White Shield had wandered afar in many countries, and after long years had come to the land of the giants where the Hero of the White Shield was now dwelling, and the knight's daughter with him. His brother came and he asked to make a covrag or fight as a bull with him. The men began at each other, and they took to wrestling from morning till evening.

At last and at length, when they were tired, weak, and spent, the Hero of the White Shield jumped over a great rampart, and he asked the stranger to meet him in the morning.

This leap put the other to shame, and he said to him, "Well may it be that thou wilt not be so supple about this time to-morrow."

The young brother now went to a poor little bothy that was near to the house of the Hero of the White Shield, tired and drowsy, and in the morning they dared the fight again. And the Hero of the White Shield began to go back, till he went backwards into a river.

"There must be some of my blood in thee before that was done to me."

"Of what blood art thou?" said the youngest.

"'Tis I am son of Ardan, great King of the Albann."

"'Tis I am thy brother."

It was now they knew each other. They gave luck and welcome to each other, and the Hero of the White Shield now took him into the palace, and she it was that was pleased to see him — the knight's daughter.

He stayed a while with them, and after that, he thought that he would go home to his own kingdom, and when he was going past a great palace that was there, he saw twelve men playing at shinny over against the palace. He thought he would go for a while and play shinny with them, but they were not long playing shinny when they fell out, and the weakest of them caught him and shook him as he would a child. He thought it was no use for him to lift a hand amongst these twelve worthies, and he asked them to whom they were sons. They said they were children of the one father, the brother of the Hero of the White Shield, who had not been heard of for many years.

"I am your father," said he, and he asked them if their mother was alive. They said that she was. He went with them till he found the mother, and he took her home with him and the twelve sons, and I don't know but that his seed are kings on Alba till this very day.

(1000 words)

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