Monday, March 24, 2014

More Celtic Fairy Tales: The Vision of MacConglinney

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 Vision of MacConglinney




CATHAL, King of Munster, was a good king and a great warrior. But there came to dwell within him a lawless evil beast that afflicted him with hunger that ceased not and might not be satisfied, so that he would devour a pig, a cow, and a bull calf and three-score cakes of pure wheat, and a vat of new ale, for his breakfast, whilst as for his great feast, what he ate there passes account or reckoning. He was like this for three half-years, and during that time it was the ruin of Munster he was, and it is likely he would have ruined all Ireland in another half-year.

Now there lived in Armagh a famous young scholar, and his name was Anier MacConglinney. He heard of the strange disease of King Cathal, and of the abundance of food and drink, of whitemeats, ale and mead, there were always to be found at the king's court. Thither then was he minded to go to try his own fortune and to see of what help he could be to the king.

He arose early in the morning and tucked up his shirt and wrapped him in the folds of his white cloak. In his right hand he grasped his even-poised knotty staff and, going right-hand-wise round his home, he bade farewell to his tutors and started off.

He journeyed across all Ireland till he came to the house of Pichan. And there he stayed and told tales and made all merry.

But Pichan said: "Though great thy mirth, son of learning, it does not make me glad."

"And why?" asked MacConglinney.

"Knowest thou not, scholar, that Cathal is coming here to-night with all his host. And if the great host is troublesome, the king's first meal is more troublesome still, and troublesome though the first be, most troublesome of all is the great feast. Three things are wanted for this last: a bushel of oats, and a bushel of wild apples, and a bushel of flour cakes."

"What reward would you give me if I shield you from the king from this hour to the same hour to-tnorrow ?"

"A white sheep from every fold between Cam and Cork."

"I will take that," said MacConglinney.

Cathal, the king, came with the companies and a host of horse of the Munster men. But Cathal did not let the thong of his shoe be half loosed before he began supplying his mouth with both hands from the apples round about him. Pichan and all the men of Munster looked on sadly and sorrowfully.

Then rose Macconglinney, hastily and impatiently, and seized a stone, against which swords were used to be sharpened ; this he thrust into his mouth and began grinding his teeth against the stone.

"What makes thee mad, son of learning?" asked Cathal.

"I grieve to see you eating alone," said the scholar.

Then the king was ashamed and flung him the apples, and it is said that for three half-years he had not performed such an act of humanity.

"Grant me a further boon," said MacConglinney.

"It is granted, on my troth," said the king.

"Fast with me the whole night," said the scholar.

And grievous though it was to the king, he did so, for he had passed his princely troth, and no King of Munster might transgress that.

In the morning MacConglinney called for juicy old bacon, and tender corned beef, honey in the comb, and English salt on a beautiful polished dish of white silver. A fire he lighted of oak wood without smoke, without fumes, without sparks. And sticking spits into the portion of meat, he set to work to roast them.

Then he shouted, "Ropes and cords here." Ropes and cords were given to him, and the strongest of the warriors.

And they seized the king, and bound him securely, and made him fast with knots and hooks and staples. When the king was thus fastened, MacConglinney sat himself down before him and, taking his knife out of his girdle, he carved the portion of meat that was on the spits, and every morsel he dipped in the honey, and, passing it in front of the king's mouth, put it in his own.

When the king saw that he was getting nothing, and he had been fasting for twenty-four hours, he roared, and bellowed, and commanded the killing of the scholar. But that was not done for him.

"Listen, King of Munster," said MacConglinney. "A vision appeared to me last night, and I will relate it to you."

He then began his vision, and as he related it he put morsel after morsel past Cathal's mouth into his own.

A lake of new milk I beheld
In the midst of a fair plain;
Therein a well-appointed house,
Thatched with butter.
Puddings fresh boiled,
Such were its thatch-rods,
Its two soft door posts of custard,
Its beds of glorious bacon.
Cheeses were the palisades,
Sausages the rafters.
Truly 'twas a rich filled house,
In which was great store of good feed.

"Such was the vision I beheld, and a voice sounded into my ears. 'Go now, thither, MacConglinney, for you have no power of eating in you.' ' What must I do,' said I, for the sight of that had made me greedy. Then the voice bade me go to the hermitage of the Wizard Doctor, and there I should find appetite for all kinds of savoury tender sweet food, acceptable to the body."



(1000 words)



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