5 Minute Irish Stories  Set 3:  65-94 
Set 1: 1-30 Set 2:32-64 Set 3 65-94 Set 4:95-121 Set 5:123-156 Set 6:157-192
65. The Cow that Ate the Piper 

There were three spalpeens coming home to Kerry from Limerick one time after working there . On their way, they met a piper on the road.  “I’ll go along with ye,” said the piper. “All right,” they said.  The night was very cold, freezing hard, and they were going to perish. They saw a dead man on the road with a new pair of shoes on his feet. 
“By heavens! “ said the piper. “I haven’t a stitch of shoes on me.  Give me that spade to see can I cut off his legs.” 
“Twas the only way he could take off the shoes.  They were held on by the frost.  So he took hold of the spade and cut off the two feet at the ankles.  He took them along with him.  They got lodgings at a house where three cows were tied in the kitchen. “Keep away from that gray cow,” said the servant girl, “or we’ll eat your coats.  Keep out from her..” 
They all went to sleep.  The three spalpeens and the piper stretched down near the fire.  The piper heated the shoes and the dead man’s feet at the fire and got the shoes off.  He put on the shoes and threw the 
feet near the gray cow’s head.  Early next morning he left the house  wearing his new pair of shoes.  When the servant girl got up, she looked at the door.  It was bolted, and the three spalpeens were asleep near the fire. 
“My God!” she cried. “There were four of ye last night, and now there are only three.  Where did the other man go?” “We don’t know,” they said. “How would we know where he went?” 
She went to the gray cow’s head and fond the two  feet. “Oh my! She cried.  “He was eaten by her.” She called the man of the house .”The gray cow has eaten one of the men,” said she. “What’s that you’re saying?” asked the farmer. “I’m telling the truth “ she said “There’s only his feet left. The rest of him is 
eaten”.  The farmer got up. “There were four of ye   there last night, men,” said he. “There were,” said one of the spalpeens, “and our comrade has been eaten by the cow.” “Don’t cause any trouble about it,” said the farmer. “Here’s five pounds for ye. Eat your breakfast and be off. Don’t say a word.” They left when they had the breakfast eaten. And they met the piper some distance from the house, and he dancing on the road. Such a thing could happen!- 
return to the top 

66.A prophecy 

It is likely there will be a war at the end of the two thousand, that was always foretold.  And I hear the English are making ships that will drive the same as diving ducks under the  water.  But as to the Irish Americans, they would sweep the entire  world; and England is afraid of America, it being a neighbor. 

67. She’s the White Flower of the Blackberry 

She’s the white flower of the blackberry, she’s the sweet flower of the rasbery, she’s the best herb in excellence for the sight of the eyes. 

She’s my pulse, she’s my secret, she’s the scented flower of the apple, she’s summer in the cold time between Christmas and Easter. 
-Irish, folksong before 1789 J 

68. The English Law 

A man at Duras was telling me that the English will not be put down till the time the sea will get dry, and it is as well, for without their law in the country the Irish would have one another ate and killed.  But the Germans are like starlings going through the air, and the prophecy of Columcille is coming true that the time would come when an old man would be turned three times in the bed to know could he show garrison duties in the barracks  and to know  could he go to the war when the  best soldiers would be gone.  In the Crimea it was in a song that the Russians were coming on ahead, and in no dread, but that the English would put them to fear in no time. 

69. The Man from Kilmacoliver 

Now the Cross at Ahenny is in the graveyard, and a man from Kilmacoliver was passing by one day (and he was so mean that his soul was as narrow as a knitting needle, and if you had a cold in the head he would grudge it to you) --well, when he saw the cross he said to himself:”That would make a grand hone for my scythe, if I sawed off an arm of it.” He went home and got his saw and he began to saw it off, and he looked up and saw his house on the opposite hill at Kilmacoliver was on fire, and he dropped his saw and ran to save his house, and when he got there it was no fire, only the setting sun shining on the windows.  Still and all, he would not be warned, and he called his son, who was a young lad, to go back with him. And the young lad was to carry back the arm of the Cross when it was sawed off.  And they went back, and he picked up the saw, and began to saw again in the same notch, and as he sawed, drops of blood f ell from the notch he had made and fell on him, and he gave one mighty  skirl that was heard  as far as Mullinahone, and the echo of it as far as Grangemockler and Toor, and  even to Kilcash, and he fell down  with the falling sickness, and the young lad ran off for help.  And when the people came, he was wriggling like an eel, but no matter how he twisted, the blood drops still fell on him, and each place they dropped on was burned through to the bone, and in the latter end he died and it  was as well. 

70. An Old Man’s Prophecy (1923) 

I tell you the English will be back again and this Government put out.  It is certain they will come back. It is in Columcille’s prophecy.  There was a Lord one time was with  O’Brien in Dromoland, and O’Brien promised him whatever he would ask and he said, “Give me the house of Dromoland and the lands.” So he agreed to that.  But then he said he had some request to make, and the Lord said he would give it. And he said, “Give me the house and the lands of Dromoland back again”; and he had to give it.  That will be the way with the English.  They gave up Ireland, but they have their two eyes fixed on it, till they will get it back again. 

71.The Four leafed Shamrock and the Cock 

There was a great fair being held in Dingle one day long ago.  Tis a good many years ago, I think.  All of the people were gathered there as usual.  Whoever else was there, there was a showman there, and the trick that he had was ac cock walking  down the street ahead of him drawing a big, heavy beam tied to his leg.  At least, all the people thought that it was a beam, and everyone was running after him, and as he went from street to street, the crowd was getting bigger all the time .  Each new  person who saw the cock and the beam  joined in the procession.  Then there came up the street a small old man carrying a load of rushes on his back.  He wondered what all the people were looking at.  All that he could see was a wisp of straw being dragged along by a cock.  The thought that everybody had gone mad, and he asked them why they were following the cock like that. 
Some of them answered him, “Don’t you see the great wonder?” they said. “That great beam of wood being dragged after him by that cock, and he’s able to pull it through every street he travels and it tied to his leg ?” 
“All that he’s pulling is a wisp of straw,” replied the old man.  The showman overheard him saying this.  Over to him he went, and he asked him how much he wanted for the load of rushes he had on his back.  The old man named some figure--to tell the truth, I can’t say how much he wanted for the load of rushes he had on his back--but whatever it was, the showman gave it to him.  He would have given him twice as much. As soon as the showman took the load of rushes off the old man’s back,   the old man followed after the crowd, but all that he could see was the cock pulling a heavy beam tied to his leg.  He followed him all over Dingle. 
What happened was that the old man had a four -leafed shamrock, unknown to himself, tied up in the load of rushes.  That’s what made what he saw different from what the people  saw, and that’s why the showman paid him three times the value for the rushes.  He told the people, and they gave up the chase.  I heard that story among the people, and it could be true, because the four-leafed shamrock has that power.--OS41 

72.The Wolf’s Prophecy 

It chanced one day not long after the coming of the Gall from England into Ireland there was a priest making his way through a wood of Meath. And there came a man fornest him and bade him for the love of God to come with him to confess his  wife that was lying sick near that place. So the priest turned with him and it was not long before he heard groaning and complaining as would be heard form a woman but when he  came where she was lying it was a wolf he saw before him on the ground.  The priest was afeared when he saw that and he turned away; but the man and wolf s poke with him and bade him not to be afeared but to turn and confess her.  Then the priest took heart and blessed him and sat down beside her.  And the wolf spoke to him and made her  confession to the priest and he anointed her.  And when they had that done, the priest began to thinking in himself that she that had that mislikeness upon her and had grace to speak, might likely have grace and the gift of knowledge in other things; and he asked her about the strangers  that were come into Ireland, and what way it would be with them. 
And it was what the wolf said:” It was through the sin of the people of this country Almighty God was displeased with them and sent that race to bring them in to bondage, and so they must be until the Gall themselves will be encumbered with sin.  And  at that time the people of Ireland will have power to put on them the same wretchedness for their sins.” 

73. Young Lad of the Braided Hair 

Young lad of the braided hair, with whom I was a while together, you went this way last night and did not come to see me; I thought it would do you no harm if you came to seek me, and that a little kiss of yours would give me comfort if I were in the midst of a fever. 

If I had wealth and money in my pocket I should have a short cut made to the door of my love’s house, hoping to God I should hear the sweet sound of his shoe; and fort many a day I have not slept but in hopes for the taste of your  kiss. 

And I thought my sweetheart, that you were the moon and the sun and I thought after that that you were the snow on the mountain, and I thought after that the at you were lightening from God, or that your were the Pole Star going before and behind me. 

You promised me silk and satin, hoods and shoes with high heels, and you promised after that you would follow me swimming; I am not like that, but like a hawthorn in the gap every evening and every morning watching my mother’s house. 
-Irish Traditional Song J 

74. The Three Questions 

It was this codger and he was hired as a heardsboy to a bishop.  Things were bad in Ireland at the time: the enemy had come and conquered the country and took the land and was killing before them, priest and people.  So this evening the heardsboy come home and he seen the bishop walking up and down and looking very down-in-the-mouth.  “My Lord Bishop,” says the herdsboy, “what ails you?  You look very downhearted?” “I’m to die in the morning,” says the bishop.  “How is that? Says the herdsboy. “I’m to lose me head,” says the bishop. “The chief that took over this country” he says, “sent  for me this morning and give me three questions to answer by the morra morning and if I’m not fit he’s to take the head off me. “ “What’s the three questions, my lord?” says the herdsboy. “I might be fit to help.” “You could not, “ says the bishop. “You might only  lose your own head as well.”  Anyway he got the bishop to tell him, and the herdsboy said that he would go in place of the bishop next morning and to leave all to him.   “You’ll  only lose your  head, too “ says the bishop.  Morning come and the herdsboy set off and meets this big fellow and stands before him.   “How are you?” says  he.  “I’m herdsboy to the Lord Bishop,” says he.  “Why didn’t he come himself?” says he. “The Lord Bishop didn’t think it worth his while,” says he, “to come himself to answer three simple questions.”  “Then if you’re not fit to answer them you ‘ll lose your head,” says this big fellow.  “Fair enough,” says the herdsboy.  “Here’s my first question then,” says the big fellow.  “What’s the first thing I think of in the morning when I rise?” “What you’ll eat,” says the herdsboy.  “That’s right,” says he.  “Now here’s  me second question: How many loads of sand are there round the shores of Ireland?” “One,” says the herdsboy, “if you had a cart big enough to hold it.” “Right, says the big  fellow. “And now here’s my third and last question: How much am I worth?” “Twenty-nine pieces of silver,” says the herdsboy. “How do you make that out?” “Well,  our Lord God Himself was sold for thirty pieces,” says the herdsboy, “and you can’t be as good as Him.” And he got him and the bishop off. 

75. The Child from the Sea 

One day in the olden times, a fisherman from Errismore was fishing for gurnet.  The day was very fine, and fish were plentiful.  Toward evening, the fisherman felt a great weight on his line and thought that he had hooked a heavy fish.  He started to haul it in, and when he had it on board, what had he caught but a male child!  His hair was as red as the coat of a fox.  The hook was stuck into his cheek.  The fisherman was very proud of his catch. The boy ran up under the forward half of the boat and stayed there. 
The fisherman took him home, but as soon as he let him down on the floor, the boy rushed in under a bed, and even a man with a pitchfork couldn’t get him out.   There he stayed until the following day.  They tried by every means to get him to eat and drink, but it was no use.  The man went to the priest and told him what had happened. 
“You must take him out again, as close as you can to the spot where you caught him,” said the priest,  “and put him back into the sea again.” 
The fisherman took him in the boat next day and rowed toward the place where he had caught him.  When they were near the spot the boy gave a big laugh.  He jumped, legs up, out of the boat, dived down like a  cormorant, and was seen no more.--OS33 
 return to the top 

76. A Vain Pilgrimage 

Coming to Rome, much labour and little profit! The King whom you seek here, unless you bring Him with you will not find Him. 
-Irish 9th century.J 

77. The Magic Pigs of Cruachu 

...Out of (the magic cave of Cruachu)it also came these pigs. Neither corn nor grass nor leaf would grow for seven years in any place that they frequented. Wherever they would be counted, they would not stay, but if anyone tried to count them they would go to another land.  They were never completely counted; but “There are three”, said one; “More seven” said another; “There are nine” said another; Eleven pigs; Thirteen pigs”. In that way it was impossible to count them.  Moreover, they could not be killed, for if they were shot at they would disappear. Once upon a time Medhbh of Cruachu and Ailill went to count them, in Magh Mucraimhe.  The were counted by them then.  Medhbh was in her chariot; one of the pigs leaped over the chariot.  “That pig is one too many, Medhbh” s aid everyone. “Not this one” said Medhbh, seizing the pig’s leg, so that its hide split on its forehead and it left the hide in her hand with the leg; and it is not known where they went after that. Hence it is called Magh Mucraimhe...(Plain of Pig-counting) 
-Irish 9th 10th century J 

78. The Hour of Death 

The old people used to say that in the olden times everybody knew  the exact time when he would die. 
There was a man who knew that he would die in autumn.   He planted his crops the previous spring, but instead of building a fine firm fence around them, all he did was to plant a make shift hedge of a  few rushes and ferns to guard the crops.  It so happened that God (praise and glory to Him!) sent an angel down on earth to find out how the people were getting on.  The angel came to this man and asked him what he was doing.  The  man told him. “ And why haven’t you a better fence than that makeshift to protect your crops?” asked  the angel.  “It will do me,” said the man, “until I have the crop stored. Let those who succeed  me look after their own fences.  I’ll die this autumn.” 
 The angel returned and told the Almighty what had happened. And from that day on, people lost foreknowledge of the hour of death--OS25 

79. The Monk’s Mistress 
The sweet little bell that is rung on a windy night, I would rather go to meet it than to meet a wanton woman. 
-Irish 9th Century J 

80. Imperial Caesar Dead and Turned to Clay 

The world has laid low, and the wind blows away like ashes Alexander, Caesar, and all who were in their trust; grass-grown is Tara, and see Troy now how it is--and the English themselves, perhaps they too will pass! 
-Irish 17th-18th century J 

81. The Sailor and the Rat 

Long ago there were people who were able to banish rats, if they were doing damage.  The used to have a charm for it, called the charm of the rats. 
There was once a sailor on a ship, and he had a very fine, costly suit of clothes in a trunk.  One day when he opened the trunk to put on the suit, or to air it, what did he find but that it was torn and eaten to rags by a rat. 
He made no delay but took out his razor and laid it edge upward on the deck.  The razor was not long on the deck when out came a rat, rubbed its mouth along the edge of the razor and kissed it.  Then it ran back to where it had come from.  Other rata followed, one by one; each of them rubbed its mouth along the edge of the razor, kissing it, and then ran away again.  After a few score of them had done that, there finally came out a rat, screaming loudly.  She went up to the razor and rubbed her neck along its edge, 
until she fell dead beside it. 
The captain of the ship had been watching what was going on from the first rat to the last, which had cut its throat on the razor.  He went straight to his cabin ,took out his book, and  called the sailor to him.  He paid him whatever wages were due to him and ordered him to leave the ship. 
“You could have done that trick to any man on board,” said he. “As easily as you did it to the rat”.--OS39 

82. The Air Ship 

One day the monks of Clonmacnoise were holding a meeting on the floor of the church, and as they were at their deliberations there they saw a ship sailing over them in the air, going as if it were on the sea.  When the crew of the ship saw the meeting and the inhabited place below them, they dropped anchor, and the anchor came right down on to the floor of the church, and the priests seized it.  A man came down out of the ship after the anchor, and he was swimming as if he were in the water, till he reached the anchor; and they were dragging him down then.  “For God’s sake let me go! Said he, “for you are drowning me.” Then he left them, swimming in the air as before, taking his anchor with him. 
-Irish 14th - 15th century J 

83. The Girl and The Sailor 

Long ago a lot of women and girls used to go to Catherciveen to sell buttermilk.   There  would often be ten or twelve churns of the milk at the Cross and great demand for it. 
I heard that on one day the women and girls were at the cross as usual selling the milk.  Among them was a girl from Rinnard, who had a churn in a donkey cart.   She was standing in the cart with a measure in her hand to sell to anybody who came to her.  Below at the pier, a ship was tied up while her cargo was being unloaded. Two of the crew walked up toward the Cross where the women were, and one of them turned to the girl from Rinnard and asked here what price the buttermilk was. 
“A penny a quart,” said she.” All right,” said the sailor.  “Give me a quart of it. I’m thirsty.” She handed him the quart of milk, and he gave her a penny.  He put the saucepan to his mouth and drank the m ilk while the other sailor looked on.  When he had finished, he handed the saucepan back to her. He was standing near the cart in which she was, and he wiped his mouth with a corner of her apron.  The two sailors then went off down the street.  What did the girl do but jump off the cart and away with her down the street after the man who had wiped his mouth with her apron. She left the ass and the cart and the churn behind her.  Some relatives of hers who were  on the street tried to stop her and get her to return to the cart, but if they did, she paid no heed to them.  Whenever the sailors went into a public house, she followed them and stood near the sailor who had touched her apron.  It was idle for her relatives to try to separate them. 
Later on in the day, a relative of hers heard what had happened.  He went along the street and into a public house where the three of them were standing at the counter.  The girl had her back to him when he entered. He went up behind her, took out his  knife, and cut the string of her apron.  It fell on the floor.  No sooner did it fall than the girl went off  out  the door of her own accord and went back to her cart and churn. 
The man who had cut the strings picked up the apron, took it into the kitchen, and shoved it into the center of the fire.   He stood there until it was burned. 
All that were at the fair couldn’t separate her from the sailor until the apron was taken off her. May God guard us all.!--OS40 

84. The Burial of the Priest’s Concubine 

This is a tale about a priest’s concubine when she died, 
Many people came to her to carry her away to bury her, and they could not lift her because she was heavy. 
And they all wondered greatly at this, and everyone said, “O One God Almighty Father, how shall she be taken to be buried?” And they consulted a cunning professor and the Professor said to them as follows: “Bring two priest’s concubines to us to carry her away to the church.” And they were  brought, and they carried her away very lightly to the church; and the people wondered greatly at this, and the professor said to them, “ There is no cause for you to wonder at their actions, O people; that is, that two devils should carry off one devil with them” Finit. 
-Irish 14th-15th Century J 

85. Drowned Giantess 

A woman, whose breasts had not grown, was cast up on a sea shore in Europe.  She was fifty feet tall, that is from her shoulders to her feet, and her chest was seven feet across.  There was a purple cloak on her.  Her hands were tied behind her back and her head had been cut off; and it was in this way that the wave cast  her up on land. Finit. 
Another woman was cast up from the sea in Scotland and she was a hundred and ninety-tow feet long; there were seventeen feet between her breasts, an sixteen was the length of her hair and seven the length of the finger of her hand.  Her nose was seven feet long, and there were two feet between her eyebrows.  Every limb of her was as white as the swan of the foam of the wave. 
-Irish 14-15th  century/ second paragraph 9th century J 

86. Froech in the Dark Pool 

...He went to come out of theater then. “Do not come out, said Ailill, “till you bring me a branch of that mountain-ash on the bank of the river. Beautiful I think its berries.” He went away then and broke a spray from the tree, and carried it on his back through the water.  And this was what Findabhair used to say afterwards of any beautiful thing which she saw, that she thought it more beautiful to see Froech across the dark pool; the body so white and the hair so lovely, the face so shapely , the eye so blue, and he a tender youth without fault or blemish, with face narrow below and broad above, and he straight and spotless, and the branch with the red berries between the throat and the white face... 
-Irish 8th century J 

87. Columcille’s Coffin 

After Colm was sentenced to exile, he sailed away from Derry for Scotland.  He wasn’t even allowed to look back as he went.  He came to Iona and spent his life converting pagans over there . 
Colm had a lovely big white horse of which he was very fond and when Colm grew old and lay on his deathbed, the horse came into the house and over to the bed where he lay.  It sniffed  and nosed all around him and then went out again.  Colm died that night.  But before he died, he asked that his name be put on his coffin and that the coffin should be cast out into the sea.   And so it was done.  Down at the lower end of Inishowen, there was a man who had a lot of cattle and he had a boy hired to heard them.  The boy used to take them down to the shore every day to graze.  But there was one cow which never ate any grass and was forever down on the sands licking at something or other.  The boy never paid much attention to her, but the farmer noticed that this particular cow was beginning to give more and more milk, far more than the rest of them, so much so, in fact, that there weren’t enough vessels about the place to hold it all.  “What’s that cow eating more than any of the rest of them?” asked the farmer.  “She’s not eating anything at all,” said the boy.  “But she’s always d own on the sands licking at something or other.” 
Down they went to see  w hat the cow was licking and, sure enough, there was Columcille’s coffin sticking up out of the sand on the shore with his name on the lid and orders for him to be buried  in Downpatrick. And so it was done----Gp.63 

88. Froech and the Fairy Women 

...They heard a sound of wailing throughout Cruachu; and three times fifty women were seen with purple tunics and green hoods, and silver bracelets round their arms.  People went to meet them to find out why they were lamenting “For Froech son of Idhath” said one of the women, “the darling boy of the king of the fairy hills of Ireland”. Then Froech heard their wail. “Take me out,” said he to his followers, “that is the wail of my mother and of the womenfolk of Boann.” He was taken out thereupon and brought to them.  The women came round him, and took him away to the fairy hill of Cruachu.  The next evening they saw him come back, with fifty women around him, whole and hale without blemish or wound.  All the women were of like age and shape and  like loveliness and like beauty and like straightness and like figure, in the dress of the fairy women, so that there was no telling one from the other.  The people  were almost smothered 
in crowding round them.  They departed at the gateway of the courtyard. As they went away, they gave forth their cry, so that the people who were in the court were thrown prostrate.  Hence it is that the musicians of Ireland have got the tune “the Wail of the Fairy Women.... 
-Irish 8th century 

89. Sunshine through the Window 

Pleasant to me is the glittering of the sun today upon these margins because it flickers so 
-Irish  9th century J 

90. Midhir’s Invitation to the Earthly Paradise 

“Fair woman, will you go with me to a wonderful land where music is ? The hair is like the primrose tip there, and the whole body is the colour of snow. 

There, there is neither “mine” nor “thine”; white are the teeth there, black  the  eyebrows; a delight to the eye is the full number of our hosts; every cheek there is the colour of the foxglove. 

The ridge of every moor is purple, a delight to the eye are the blackbird’s eggs; thought the plain of Ireland is fair to see, it is like a desert once you know the Great Plain. 

Fine though you think the ale of Ireland, the ale of the Great Land is more heady ; a wonderful land is the land I tell of, the young do not die there before the old. 

Sweet mild streams flow through the land, choice mead and wine; matchless people without blemish, conception without sin, without guilt. 

We see everyone on all sides and no one sees us; it is the darkness of Adam’s trespass that screens us from being counted. 

Woman, if you come to my mighty people a crown of gold shall be on your head; honey wine, ale, fresh milk, and beer you shall have there with me, fair woman.” 
-Irish 9th Century J 

91. Iubhdh/an’s Fairy House 

I have a house in the land to the north, one half of it of red gold, the lower half of silver. 

Its porch is of white bronze and its threshold of copper, and of the wings of white-yellow birds is its thatch, I think. 

Its candlesticks are golden, with a candle of great purity, with a gem of precious stone in the very middle of the house. 

But for myself and the high-queen, none of us are sad; a household there without old age, with yellow curly-created hair. 

Every man is a chess-player, there are good companies there without exclusion; the house is not closed against man or woman going to it. 
-Irish 12th -13th century.J 

92. At the Battle of Magh Mucraimhe 

...Moreover, the air above them was black meanwhile with devils waiting for the wretched souls, to drag them to Hell.  There were no angels there, except only two and they were above the head of Art wherever he went in the army because of the just character of that rightful prince.  Then either of the two armies made for the other.  Fierce was the onslaught they made on either side. Bitter sights were seen there-- the white fog of chalk and lime going up to the clouds from the shields and targets as they were struck with the edges of swords and the points of spears and arrows which were skillfully parried by the heroes; the bleating and shattering of the bosses, as they were belabored with swords and stones; the noise of the pelting weapons; the gushing and shedding of blood and gore from the limbs of the champions and the sides of the warriors... 
-Irish 9th 10th century J 

93. Eating a Mouse Includes its Tail 

...”That is true,” said the king.  “This is Lughaidh, and it is through fear of me that they do not name themselves”....”Well Now”,  said the king, “kill me a batch of mice”. Then he put a mouse in the food served to each man, raw and bloody, with the hair on, and this was set before them; and they were told they would be killed unless they ate the mice.  They grew very pale at that.  Never had a more distressing vexation been put upon them.  “How are they ?” said the king. “They are miserable, with their plates before them”. ...”Tell them they shall be killed unless they eat.” Bad luck to him who decreed it, “ said Lughaidh, putting the mouse in his mouth, while the king watched him.  At that al the men put them in.  There was one poor wretch of them who gagged as he put the tail of the mouse to his mouth.  “A sword across your throat” , said Lughaidh, “eating a mouse includes its tail.” Then he swallowed the mouse’s tail. “They do as you tell them,” said the king from the door.  “I do as they tell me, too,” said Lughaidh. “Are you Lughaidh?” said the king. “That is my name” said Lughaidh... 
-Irish 9th-10th century.J 

94. The Guest House at the Monastery of Cork 

...The guest house was open when he arrived. That day was a day of three things- wind and snow, and rain in its doorway; so that the wind left not a straw from the thatch nor a speck of ash that it did not sweep through the opposite door, under the beds and couches and partitions of the royal house.  The blanket of the guest house was rolled up in a bundle on its bed, and was full of lice and fleas.  That was natural because it was never aired by day nor turned by night, since it was rarely unoccupied when it might be turned.  The guest house bath had last night’s water in it, and with its heating-stones was beside the doorpost.  The scholar found no one to wash his feet, so he himself took off his shoes and washed his hands and feet in that dirty washing-water, and soaked his shoes in it afterwards.  He hung his book-satchel on the peg in the wall, put up his shoes and tucked his arms together into the blanket and wrapped it round his legs.  But as multitudinous as the sands of the sea or sparks of fire or as dew drops on a May-day morning or as the stars of heaven were the lice and the fleas biting his feet, so that he grew sick at them. And no one came to visit him nor to wait on him.. 
-Irish 12th century. 

To the top of this section 

Return to the Main 5 minute story page
Return to the Irish Studies Pages