There was once a tailor in Galway, and he was sewing cloth. He saw a flea springing up out of the cloth, and he threw his needle at it and killed it. Then he said:
“Am I not a fine hero when I was able to kill that flea?”
Then he said that he must go to Blackleea (Dublin), to the king’s court, to see would he be able to build it. That court was a’ building for a long time; but as much of it as would be made during the day used to be thrown down again during the night, and for that reason nobody could build it up. It was three giants who used to come in the night and throw it. The day on the morrow the tailor went off, and brought with him his tools, the spade and the shovel.
He had not gone far till he met a white horse, and he saluted him.
“God save you,” said the horse. “Where are you going?”
“I am going to Dublin,” said the tailor, “to build a court for the king, and to get a lady for a wife, if I am able to do it;” for the king had promised that he would give his own daughter, and a lot of money with her, to whoever would be able to build up his court.
“Would you make me a hole,” said the old white garraun (horse) “where I could go a’ hiding whenever the people are for bringing me to the mill or the kiln, so that they won’t see me, for they have me perished doing work for them?”
“I’ll do that, indeed,” said the tailor, “and welcome.”
He brought the spade and shovel, and he made a hole, and he said to the old white horse to go down into it till he would see if it would fit him. The white horse went down into the hole, but when he tried to come up again he was not able.
“Make a place for me now,” said the white horse, “by which I’ll come up out of the hole here, whenever I’ll be hungry.”
“I will not,” said the tailor; “remain where you are until I come back, and I’ll lift you up.”
The tailor went forward next day, and the fox met him.
“God save you,” said the fox.
“God and Mary save you.”
“Where are you going?”
“I’m going to Dublin, to try will I be able to make a court for the king.”
“Would you make a place for me where I’d go hiding?” said the fox. “The rest of the foxes do be beating me, and they don’t allow me to eat anything along with them.”
“I’ll do that for you,” said the tailor.
He took with him his axe and his saw, and he cut rods, until he made, as you would say, a thing like a cleeve (creel), and he desired the fox to get into it till he would see whether it would fit him. The fox went into it, and when the tailor got him down, he clapped his thigh on the hole that the fox got in by. When the fox was satisfied at last that he had a nice place of it within, he asked the tailor to let him out, and the tailor answered that he would not.
“Wait there until I come back again,” says he.
The tailor went forward the next day, and he had not walked very far until he met a modder-alla (lion?) and the lion greeted him, and asked him where was he going.
“I’m going to Dublin till I make a court for the king, if I’m able to make it,” said the tailor.
“If you were to make a plough for me,” said the lion, “I and the other lions could be ploughing and harrowing until we’d have a bit to eat in the harvest.”
“I’ll do that for you,” said the tailor.
He brought his axe and his saw, and he made a plough. When the plough was made, he put a hole in the beam of it, and he said to the lion to go in under the plough till he’d see was he any good of a ploughman. He placed the tail in the hole he had made for it, and then clapped in a peg, and the lion was not able to draw out his tail again.
“Loose me out now,” said the lion, “and we’ll fix ourselves and go ploughing.”
The tailor said he would not loose him out until he came back himself. He left him there then, and he came to Dublin.
When he came to Dublin he put forth a paper, desiring all the tradesmen that were raising the court to come to him, and that he would pay them; and at that time workmen used only to be getting one penny in the day. A number of tradesmen gathered the next day, and they began working for him. They were going home again after their day, when the tailor said to them “to put up that great stone upon the top of the work that they had done.” When the great stone was raised up, the tailor put some sort of contrivance under it, that he might be able to throw it down as soon as the giant would come as far as it. The work people went home then, and the tailor went in hiding behind the big stone.
When the darkness of the night was come he saw the three giants arriving, and they began throwing down the court until they came as far as the place where the tailor was in hiding up above, and a man of them struck a blow of his sledge on the place where he was. The tailor threw down the stone, and it fell on him and killed him. They went home then, and left all of the court that was remaining without throwing it down, since a man of themselves was dead.
The tradespeople came again the next day, and they were working until night, and as they were going home the tailor told them to put up the big stone on the top of the work, as it had been the night before. They did that for him, went home, and the tailor went in hiding the same as he did the evening before.
When the people had all gone to rest, the two giants came, and they were throwing down all that was before them, and as soon as they began they put two shouts out of them. The tailor was going on manœuvring until he threw down the great stone, and it fell upon the skull of the giant that was under him, and it killed him. There was only the one giant left in it then, and he never came again until the court was finished.
Then when the work was over he went to the king and told him to give him his wife and his money, as he had the court finished, and the king said he would not give him any wife, until he would kill the other giant, for he said that it was not by his strength he killed the two giants before that, and that he would give him nothing now until he killed the other one for him. Then the tailor said that he would kill the other giant for him, and welcome; that there was no delay at all about that.
The tailor went then, till he came to the place where the other giant was, and asked did he want a servant-boy. The giant said he did want one, if he could get one who would do everything that he would do himself.
“Anything that you will do, I will do it,” said the tailor.
They went to their dinner then, and when they had it eaten, the giant asked the tailor “would it come with him to swallow as much broth as himself, up out of its boiling.”
The tailor said: “It will come with me to do that, but that you must give me an hour before we begin on it.” The tailor went out then, and he got a sheepskin, and he sewed it up till he made a bag of it, and he slipped it down under his coat. He came in then and said to the giant to drink a gallon of the broth himself first. The giant drank that, up out of its boiling.
“I’ll do that,” said the tailor. He was going on until he had it all poured into the skin, and the giant thought he had it drunk. The giant drank another gallon then, and the tailor let another gallon down into the skin, but the giant thought he was drinking it.
“I’ll do a thing now that it won’t come with you to do,” said the tailor.
“You will not,” said the giant. “What is it you would do?”
“Make a hole and let out the broth again,” said the tailor.
“Do it yourself first,” said the giant.
The tailor gave a prod of the knife, and he let the broth out of the skin.
“Do that you,” said he.
“I will,” said the giant, giving such a prod of the knife into his own stomach, that he killed himself. That is the way he killed the third giant.
He went to the king then, and desired him to send him out his wife and his money, for that he would throw down the court again, unless he should get the wife. They were afraid then that he would throw down the court, and they sent the wife out to him.
When the tailor was a day gone, himself and his wife, they repented and followed him to take his wife off him again. The people who were after him were following him till they came to the place where the lion was, and the lion said to them: “The tailor and his wife were here yesterday. I saw them going by, and if ye loose me now, I am swifter than ye, and I will follow them till I overtake them.” When they heard that they loosed out the lion.
The lion and the people of Dublin went on, and they were pursuing him, until they came to the place where the fox was, and the fox greeted them, and said: “The tailor and his wife were here this morning, and if ye will loose me out, I am swifter than ye, and I will follow them, and overtake them.” They loosed out the fox then.
The lion and the fox and the army of Dublin went on then, trying would they catch the tailor, and they were going till they came to the place where the old white garraun was, and the old white garraun said to them that the tailor and his wife were there in the morning, and “loose me out,” said he; “I am swifter than ye, and I’ll overtake them.” They loosed out the old white garraun then, and the old white garraun, the fox, the lion, and the army of Dublin pursued the tailor and his wife together, and it was not long till they came up with him, and saw himself and the wife out before them.
When the tailor saw them coming he got out of the coach with his wife, and he sat down on the ground.
When the old white garraun saw the tailor sitting down on the ground, he said: “That’s the position he had when he made the hole for me, that I couldn’t come up out of, when I went down into it. I’ll go no nearer to him.”
“No!” said the fox, “but that’s the way he was when he was making the thing for me, and I’ll go no nearer to him.”
“No!” says the lion, “but that’s the very way he had, when he was making the plough that I was caught in. I’ll go no nearer to him.”
They all went from him then and returned. The tailor and his wife came home to Galway. They gave me paper stockings and shoes of thick milk. I lost them since. They got the ford, and I the flash; they were drowned, and I came safe.
- ↑ Flash, in Irish, lochán, i.e., little lake, or pool of water. Most story-tellers say, not, “I got the lochán,” but the “clochán,” or stepping-stones.