There was a king’s son in Ireland long ago, and he went out and took with him his gun and his dog. There was snow out. He killed a raven. The raven fell on the snow. He never saw anything whiter than the snow, or blacker than the raven’s skull, or redder than its share of blood,[1] that was a’pouring out.

He put himself under gassa[2] and obligations of the year, that he would not eat two meals at one table, or sleep two nights in one house, until he should find a woman whose hair was as black as the raven’s head, and her skin as white as the snow, and her two cheeks as red as the blood.

There was no woman in the world like that; but one woman only, and she was in the eastern world.

The day on the morrow he set out, and money was not plenty, but he took with him twenty pounds. It was not far he went until he met a funeral, and he said that it was as good for him to go three steps with the corpse. He had not the three steps walked until there came a man and left his writ down on the corpse for five pounds. There was a law in Ireland at that time that any man who had a debt upon another person (i.e., to whom another person owed a debt) that person’s people could not bury him, should he be dead, without paying his debts, or without the leave of the person to whom the dead man owed the debts. When the king of Ireland’s son saw the sons and daughters of the dead crying, and they without money to give the man, he said to himself: “It’s a great pity that these poor people have not the money,” and he put his hand in his pocket and paid the five pounds himself for the corpse. After that, he said he would go as far as the church to see it buried. Then there came another man, and left his writ on the body for five pounds more. “As I gave the first five pounds,” said the king of Erin’s son to himself, “it’s as good for me to give the other five, and to let the poor man go to the grave.” He paid the other five pounds. He had only ten pounds then.

Not far did he go until he met a short green man, and he asked him where was he going. He said that he was going looking for a woman in the eastern world. The short green man asked him did he want a boy (servant), and he said he did, and [asked] what would be the wages he would be looking for? He said: “The first kiss of his wife if he should get her.” The king of Ireland’s son said that he must get that.

Not far did they go until they met another man and his gun in his hand, and he a’levelling it at the blackbird that was in the eastern world, that he might have it for his dinner. The short green man said to him that it was as good for him to take that man into his service if he would go on service with him. The son of the king of Ireland asked him if he would come on service with him.

“I will,” said the man, “if I get my wages.”

“And what is the wages you’ll be looking for?”

“The place of a house and garden.”

“You’ll get that if my journey succeeds with me.”

The king of Ireland’s son went forward with the short green man and the gunner, and it was not far they went until a man met them, and his ear left to the ground, and he listening to the grass growing.

“It’s as good for you to take that man into your service,” said the short green man.

The king’s son asked the man whether he would come with him on service.

“I’ll come if I get the place of a house and garden.”

“You will get that from me if the thing I have in my head succeeds with me.”

The son of the king of Ireland, the short green man, the gunman, and the earman, went forward, and it was not far they went until they met another man, and his one foot on his shoulder, and he keeping a field of hares, without letting one hare in or out of the field. There was wonder on the king’s son, and he asked him “What was the sense of his having one foot on his shoulder like that.”

“Oh,” says he, “if I had my two feet on the ground I should be so swift that I would go out of sight.”

“Will you come on service with me?” said the king’s son.

“I’ll come if I get the place of a house and garden.”

“You’ll get that if the thing I have in my head succeeds with me.”

The son of the king of Ireland, the short green man, the gunman, the earman, and the footman, went forward, and it was not far they went till they came to a man and he turning round a wind-mill with one nostril, and his finger left on his nose shutting the other nostril.

“Why have you your finger on your nose?” said the king of Ireland’s son.

“Oh,” says he, “if I were to blow with the two nostrils I would sweep the mill altogether out of that up into the air.”

“Will you come on hire with me?”

“I will if I get the place of a house and garden.”

“You’ll get that if the thing I have in my head succeeds with me.”

The son of the king of Ireland, the short green man, the gunman, the earman, the footman, and the blowman went forward until they came to a man who was sitting on the side of the road and he a’ breaking stones with one thigh, and he had no hammer or anything else. The king’s son asked him why it was he was breaking stones with his half (i.e., one) thigh.

“Oh,” says he, “if I were to strike them with the double thigh I’d make powder of them.”

“Will you hire with me?”

“I will if I get the place of a house and garden.”

“You’ll get that if the thing I have in my head succeeds with me.”

Then they all went forward together—the son of the king of Ireland, the short green man, the gunman, the earman, the footman, the blowman, and the man that broke stones with the side of his thigh, and they would overtake the March wind that was before them, and the March wind that was behind them would not overtake them, until the evening came and the end of the day.

The king of Ireland’s son looked from him, and he did not see any house in which he might be that night. The short green man looked from him, and he saw a house, and there was not the top of a quill outside of it, nor the bottom of a quill inside of it, but only one quill alone, which was keeping shelter and protection on it. The king’s son said that he did not know where he should pass that night, and the short green man said that they would be in the house of the giant over there that night.

They came to the house, and the short green man drew the coolaya-coric (pole of combat), and he did not leave child with woman, foal with mare, pigeen with pig, or badger in glen, that he did not turn over three times with the quantity of sound he knocked out of the coolaya-coric. The giant came out, and he said: “I feel the smell of the melodious lying Irishman under (i.e., in) my little sod of country.”

“I’m no melodious lying Irishman,” said the short green man; “but my master is out there at the head of the avenue, and if he comes he will whip the head off you.” The short green man was growing big, growing big, until at last he looked as big as the castle. There came fear on the giant, and he said: “Is your master as big as you?”

“He is,” says the short green man, “and bigger.”

“Put me in hiding till morning, until your master goes,” said the giant.

Then he put the giant under lock and key, and went out to the king’s son. Then the king of Ireland’s son, the gunman, the earman, the footman, the blowman, and the man who broke stones with the side of his thigh, came into the castle, and they spent that night, a third of it a’ story-telling, a third of it with Fenian tales, and a third of it in mild enjoyment(?) of slumber and of true sleep.

When the day on the morrow arose, the short green man brought with him his master, the gunman, the earman, the footman, the blowman, and the man who broke stones with the side of his thigh, and he left them outside at the head of the avenue, and he came back himself and took the lock off the giant. He told the giant that his master sent him back for the black cap that was under the head of his bed. The giant said that he would give him a hat that he never wore himself, but that he was ashamed to give him the old cap. The short green man said that unless he gave him the cap his master would come back and strike the head off him.

“It’s best for me to give it to you,” said the giant; “and any time at all you will put it on your head you will see everybody and nobody will see you.” He gave him the cap then, and the short green man came and gave it to the king of Ireland’s son.

“They were a’going then. They would overtake the March wind that was before them, and the March wind that was behind them would not overtake them, going to the eastern world. When evening and the end of the day came, the king of Ireland’s son looked from him, and he did not see any house in which he might be that night. The short green man looked from him, and he saw a castle, and he said: “The giant that is in that castle is the brother of the giant with whom we were last night, and we shall be in this castle to-night.”

They came to the castle, and he left the king’s son and his people at the head of the avenue, and he went to the door and pulled the coolaya-coric, and he did not leave child with woman, foal with mare, pigeen with pig, or badger in glen, within seven miles of him, that he did not knock three turns out of them with all the sound he knocked out of the coolaya-coric.

The giant came out, and he said, “I feel the smell of a melodious lying Irishman under my sod of country.”

“No melodious lying Irishman am I,” says the short green man; “but my master is outside at the head of the avenue, and if he comes he will whip the head off you.”

“I think you large of one mouthful, and I think you small of two mouthfuls,” said the giant.

“You won’t get me of a mouthful at all,” said the short green man, and he began swelling until he was as big as the castle. There came fear on the giant, and he said:

“Is your master as big as you?”

“He is, and bigger.”

“Hide me,” said the giant, “till morning, until your master goes, and anything you will be wanting you must get it.”

He brought the giant with him, and he put him under the mouth of a douac (great vessel of some sort). He went out and brought in the son of the king of Ireland, the gunman, the earman, the footman, the blowman, and the man who broke stones with the side of his thigh, and they spent that night, one-third of it telling Fenian stories, one-third telling tales, and one-third in the mild enjoyment of slumber and of true sleep until morning.

In the morning, the day on the morrow, the short green man brought the king’s son and his people out of the castle, and left them at the head of the avenue, and he went back himself and asked the giant for the old slippers that were left under the head of his bed.

The giant said that he would give his master a pair of boots as good as ever he wore; and what good was there in the old slippers?

The short green man said that unless he got the slippers he would go for his master to whip the head off him.

Then the giant said that he would give them to him, and he gave them.

“Any time,” said he, “that you will put those slippers on you, and say ‘high-over!’ any place you have a mind to go to, you will be in it.”

The son of the king of Ireland, the short green man, the gunman, the earman, the footman, the blowman, and the man who broke stones with the side of his thigh, went forward until evening came, and the end of the day, until the horse would be going under the shade of the docking, and the docking would not wait for him. The king’s son asked the short green man where should they be that night, and the short green man said that they would be in the house of the brother of the giant with whom they spent the night before. The king’s son looked from him and he saw nothing. The short green man looked from him and he saw a great castle. He left the king’s son and his people there, and he went to the castle by himself, and he drew the coolaya-coric, and he did not leave child with woman, foal with mare, pigeen with pig, or badger in glen, but he turned them over three times with all the sound he struck out of the coolaya-coric. The giant came out, and he said: “I feel the smell of a melodious lying Irishman under my sod of country.”

“No melodious lying Irishman am I,” said the short green man; “but my master is standing at the head of the avenue, and if he comes he shall strike the head off you.”

And with that the short green man began swelling until he was the size of the castle at last. There came fear on the giant, and he said: “Is your master as big as yourself?”

“He is,” said the short green man, “and bigger.”

“Oh! put me in hiding; put me in hiding,” said the giant, “until your master goes; and anything you will be asking you must get it.”

He took the giant with him, and he put him under the mouth of a douac, and a lock on him. He came back, and he brought the king of Ireland’s son, the gunman, the earman, the footman, the blowman, and the man who broke stones with the side of his thigh, into the castle with him, and they spent that night merrily—a third of it with Fenian tales, a third of it with telling stories, and a third of it with the mild enjoyment of slumber and of true sleep.

In the morning, the day on the morrow, he brought the son of the king of Ireland out, and his people with him, and left them at the head of the avenue, and he came back himself and loosed out the giant, and said to him, that he must give him the rusty sword that was under the corner of his bed. The giant said that he would not give that old sword to anyone, but that he would give him the sword of the three edges that never left the leavings of a blow behind it, or if it did, it would take it with the second blow.

“I won’t have that,” said the short green man, “I must get the rusty sword; and if I don’t get that, I must go for my master, and he shall strike the head off you.”

“It is better for me to give it to you,” said the giant, “and whatever place you will strike a blow with that sword, it will go to the sand (i.e., cut to the earth) though it were iron were before it.” Then he gave him the rusty sword.

The son of the king of Ireland, the gunman, the earman, the footman, the blowman, and the man who broke stones with the side of his thigh, went forward after that, until evening came, and the end of the day, until the horse was going under the shade of the docking, and the docking would not wait for him. The March wind that was behind them would not overtake them, and they would overtake the wind of March that was before them, and they were that night (arrived) in the eastern world, where was the lady.

The lady asked the king of Ireland’s son what it was he wanted, and he said that he was looking for herself as wife.

“You must get me,” said she, “if you loose my geasa[3] off me.”

He got lodging with all his servants in the castle that evening, and in the night she came and said to him, “Here is a scissors for you, and unless you have that scissors for me to-morrow morning, the head will be struck off you.”

She placed a pin of slumber under his head, and he fell into his sleep, and as soon as he did, she came and took the scissors from him and left him there. She gave the scissors to the King of Poison,[4] and she desired the king to have the scissors for her in the morning. Then she went away. When she was gone the King of Poison fell into his sleep; and when he was in his sleep the short green man came, and the old slippers on him, and the cap on his head, and the rusty sword in his hand, and wherever it was the king had left the scissors out of his hand, he found it. He gave it to the king of Ireland’s son, and when she (the lady) came in the morning, she asked; “Son of the king of Ireland, have you the scissors?”

“I have,” said he.

There were three scores of skulls of the people that went to look for her set on spikes round about the castle, and she thought that she would have his head on a spike along with them.

On the night of the next day she came and gave him a comb, and said to him unless he had that comb for her next morning when she would come, that the head should be struck off him. She placed a pin of slumber under his head, and he fell into his sleep as he fell the night before, and she stole the comb with her. She gave the comb to the King of Poison, and said to him not to lose the comb as he lost the scissors. The short green man came with the old slippers on his feet, the old cap on his head, and the rusty sword in his hand; and the king did not see him until he came behind him and took away the comb with him.

When the king of Ireland’s son rose up the next morning he began crying for the comb, which was gone from him. “Don’t mind that,” said the short green man: “I have it.” When she came he gave her the comb, and there was wonder on her.

She came the third night, and said to the son of the king of Ireland to have for her the head of him who was combed with that comb, on the morrow morning. “Now,” said she, “there was no fear of you until this night; but if you lose it this time, your head is gone.”

The pin of slumber was under his head, and he fell into his sleep. She came and stole the comb from him. She gave it to the King of Poison, and she said to him that he could not lose it unless the head should be struck off himself. The King of Poison took the comb with him, and he put it into a rock of stone and three score of locks on it, and the king sat down himself outside of the locks all, at the door of the rock, guarding it. The short green man came, and the slippers and the cap on him, and the rusty sword in his hand, and he struck a stroke on the stone rock and he opened it up, and he struck the second stroke on the King of Poison, and he struck the head off him. He brought back with him then the comb to the king’s son, and he found him awake, and weeping after the comb. “There is your comb for you,” said he; “she will come this now,[5] and she will ask you have you the comb, and tell her that you have, and the head that was combed with it, and throw her the skull.”

When she came asking if he had the comb, he said he had, and the head that was combed with it, and he threw her the head of the King of Poison.

When she saw the head there was great anger on her, and she told him he never would get her to marry until he got a footman (runner) to travel with her runner for three bottles of the healing-balm out of the well of the western world; and if her own runner should come back more quickly than his runner, she said his head was gone.

She got an old hag—some witch—and she gave her three bottles. The short green man bade them give three bottles to the man who was keeping the field of hares, and they were given to him. The hag and the man started, and three bottles with each of them; and the runner of the king’s son was coming back half way on the road home, while the hag had only gone half way to the well. “Sit down,” said the hag to the foot-runner, when they met, “and take your rest, for the pair of them are married now, and don’t be breaking your heart running.” She brought over a horse’s head and a slumber-pin in it, and laid it under his head, and when he laid down his head on it he fell asleep. She spilt out the water he had and she went.

The short green man thought it long until they were coming, and he said to the earman, “Lay your ear to the ground and try are they coming.”

“I hear the hag a’ coming,” said he; “but the footman is in his sleep, and I hear him a’ snoring.”

“Look from you,” said the short green man to the gunman, “till you see where the foot-runner is.”

The gunman looked, and he said that the footman was in such and such a place, and a horse’s skull under his head, and he in his sleeping.

“Lay your gun to your eye,” said the short green man, “and put the skull away from under his head.”

He put the gun to his eye and he swept the skull from under his head. The footman woke up, and he found that the bottles which he had were empty, and it was necessary for him to return to the well again.

The hag was coming then, and the foot-runner was not to be seen. Says the short green man to the man who was sending round the windmill with his nostril: “Rise up and try would you put back that hag.” He put his finger to his nose, and when the hag was coming he put a blast of wind under her that swept her back again. She was coming again, and he did the same thing to her. Every time she used to be coming near them he would be sending her back with the wind he would blow out of his nostril. At last he blew with the two nostrils and swept the hag back to the western world again. Then the foot-runner of the king of Ireland’s son came, and that day was won.

There was great anger on the woman when she saw that her own foot-runner did not arrive first, and she said to the king’s son: “You won’t get me now till you have walked three miles, without shoes or stockings, on steel needles.” She had a road three miles long, and sharp needles of steel shaken on it as thick as the grass, and their points up. Said the short green man to the man who broke stones with the side of his thigh: “Go and blunt those.” That man went on them with one thigh, and he made stumps of them. He went on them with the double thigh, and he made powder and prashuch of them. The king of Ireland’s son came and walked the three miles, and then he had his wife gained.

The couple were married then, and the short green man was to have the first kiss. The short green man took the wife with him into a chamber, and he began on her. She was full up of serpents, and the king’s son would have been killed with them when he went to sleep, but that the short green man picked them out of her.

He came then to the son of the king of Ireland, and he told him: “You can go with your wife now. I am the man who was in the coffin that day, for whom you paid the ten pounds; and these people who are with you, they are servants whom God has sent to you.”

The short green man and his people went away then, and the king of Ireland’s son never saw them again. He brought his wife home with him, and they spent a happy life with one another.


  1. ↑ This is an idiom in constant use in Gaelic and Irish; but to translate it every time it occurs would be tedious. In Gaelic we say, my share of money, land, etc., for my money, my land.
  2. ↑ In Irish, geasa—mystic obligations.
  3. ↑ Geasa, pronounced gassa, means “enchantment” in this place.
  4. ↑ Or “the King of N’yiv.”
  5. ↑ An ordinary Connacht expression, like the Scotch “the noo.”