Nothing Is Impossible!

STORY CIRCLE - Term 3, Week 5, Friday 18 May 2018

Adapted bu Gill Kirk from The Three Daughters of King O’Hara in “Myths and Folklore of Ireland” by Jeremiah Curtin, 1890

 

Once upon a time there was a King called Coluath O'Hara, and a Queen called Tia and they had three daughters: Cara, Mara and Bridie.

 

One day, Queen Tia was away and King Coulath went out and left his daughters by themselves. And it was at this point that the eldest daughter, Cara, decided that she was very grown up, and with some strange logic , she decided this meant she ought to have a husband.

 

So she went up to the top of the castle, put on her father’s magic wishing cloak, and wished for the most beautiful man under the sun to be her husband.

 

The moment she took off the wishing cloak,  the girls could hear the clatter of horses’ hooves on the road outside. They ran to see what had happened. A golden coach pulled up outside, with four horses, two black and two white. 

 

The coach door opened and out climbed the finest man Cara had ever set her eyes on. And without even saying goodbye to her sisters Mara and Bridie, she got in the strange but handsome man’s coach and rode away.

 

When Mara saw this, she ran back inside and she put on the magic wishing cloak. And what do you think she wished for? 

 

She wished for the next best man in the world as her husband! And as she took off the cloak, there came, in a golden coach with four black horses, a man nearly as handsome as the first, and off she went with him, without even waving goodbye to Bridie. 

 

Bridie went inside. She climbed the stairs. She looked at the magic wishing cloak. She picked it up. Put it on. And wished. 

 

For the best white dog in the world.

 

There was no sound of hooves. There was no great golden carriage. But outside, she heard a bark. She ran downstairs and sure enough, there, waiting for her at the castle door was the best white dog in the whole, wide world. Big and shaggy and happy and healthy. And she climbed on his back and they ran off into the woods.

 

That night, the king came back home. Where's Cara? Where's Mara? Where's Bridie? A young stable-boy, who had seen the daughters leave, told him everything. King O’Hara didn't mind about the strange men with their gold carriages. But he was furious that Bridie had run off with a dog. 

———

 

That night, Cara and her handsome stranger arrived at his house. He smiled at her and said,  “I need you to make a choice. I appeared in your life from a wish, but that is not where I am from. Now you have to choose. How do you want me to look in the daytime?  Like this, a man? Or in my real form? Whichever you choose, I will take my other form by night."

 

“I would like you to be a man in the daytime,” said Cara. So Cara's husband was a handsome man in the daytime; but at night he was a - seal.

 

Mara’s new husband gave her the same choice. What form should I be in the daytime?  And just like her big sister, Mara chose him to be a man by day. And at night, he was a seal, as well.

 

When Bridie and the white dog reached his home, he asked her the same question as the men had asked Cara and Mara: “I need you to make a choice, Bridie. I appeared in your life from a wish, but that is not where I am from. Now you must choose. How do you want me to appear in the daytime?  Like this? Or in my real form? Whichever you choose, I will take my other shape by night."

 

And Bridie replied, "As you are now in the day.” So the white dog was a dog in the daytime, but at night he was a kind and thoughtful man.

-------

 

After a while, Bridie and her husband had a baby boy. One day, when the dog-husband was going out to hunt, he warned Bridie that if anything happened to their child, whatever she did, she must not shed a single tear. 

 

That day, while he was gone, a big grey crow came and carried the baby away. Bridie fought the crow but it was too strong and she watched it carry the baby far above the tree tops and out of sight. She was beside herself with sadness, but she remembered the warning; it sounded important. And although it was hard, she did not cry a single tear.

 

A wee while later, Bridie and her dog husband had another son. And again, every time her dog husband went hunting, he would warn her: “if anything should happens to our baby, you must not shed a single tear.”  And again, one day the big, grey crow came. And again Bridie fought it. And again, it carried her baby far, far away over the tree tops. And again, she remembered the warning, and refused to cry even a single tear. 

 

A year passed and Bridie and her dog husband had a third baby, a little girl this time. And again, the crow came. And Bridie fought as hard as she could but she was not strong enough. But this time, she could not help it: a single tear fell from her eye. She quickly caught it in her hankie, and wiped her eye and put the hankie back in her pocket. 

 

When her dog husband came home from hunting she told him what had happened and he asked, “Did you shed a tear?” “I did,” said Bridie, “Just one.” 

 

And her dog husband looked sad and said, “You're a very brave woman and we still have each other,” and they hugged. 

___________

 

Soon it was winter, and King and Queen O’Hara invited their daughters and their families to come to a feast at the castle. They were very glad that Cara and Mara had rich and handsome husbands (because he had no idea that they were seals at night!) But they were annoyed that Bridie was still living with her big, white dog and hadn't “settled down with a nice, rich, young prince”. 

 

Bridie’s dog husband was worried. "I must stay with you, Bridie," he said. "If they make me stay in the yard with the other dogs, I fear for my safety!"

 

"Don't worry," said Bridie, "I will keep you with me. I will protect you."

 

Bridie was good as her word and kept her dog husband with her at all times, no matter how often her father and mother and sisters made jokes or were rude about him or just seemed not to notice he was there.

 

After the feast, everyone went to bed. 

 

Now Queen Tia was a loving mother, and she missed her daughters very much. She had been very sad that all three of them had left the castle without waiting to say goodbye (for their handsome husbands and a white dog) and she couldn’t work out why. 

 

The truth of it was that she showed her love through being nosy. Can you believe it? To her, knowing everything about a person meant you loved them. And when Cara, Mara and Bridie were growing up, they never had a moment of privacy - they never had a moment for themselves. They never had a secret den, or a secret diary, or even a friend for themselves - because every time they tried, their mother Queen Tia always wanted to know what they were doing. She never left them alone.  And that was why, when they grew up, Cara, Mara and Bridie had all run off with their wishing cloak husbands without saying goodbye.

 

So after the feast, when Queen Tia was full of love and happiness at having her family all around her, she did a very foolish thing. She decided she would watch her children sleep. Except they weren’t children, were they? They were grown-ups! 

 

First of all, she peeked into Cara's bedroom. She smiled at her oldest daughter lightly snoring in her bed. Then she peeked in a bit further to watch Cara’s handsome husband snoring, too. But can you guess what she saw? Was it a handsome man? No! It was a seal! 

 

Queen Tia staggered out of the bedroom in shock. “I must be seeing things,” she said to herself. “Perhaps I drank too much wine. Or the fish finger trifle has given me food poisoning and I’m having a funny dream. Yes, that must be it.” But did the nosy Queen learn her lesson? No! She was still nosy and she tiptoed her way to Mara’s bedroom, to have a nosy peek at her while she slept. 

 

Very carefully and quietly, the nosy old queen opened the door. OH NO! Mara was lying in bed with a seal as well! Queen Tia nearly fainted with surprise. She was almost sick right there on the spot and it was all she could do to keep the fish finger trifle inside her tummy! Urgh!

 

You would have thought she would have learnt that being so nosy was not doing her any good at all, but no. Of course not. “I’ll just check Bridie is safe with that horrible big white dog of hers. At least a dog is a dog and cannot turn out to be a seal!” she muttered to herself, vowing never to have fish finger trifle ever again. 

 

And she crept over to Bridie’s bedroom door and opened it, creak by cratchetty creak: creeee-aaaaak…. And while she had expected to see bridie fast asleep with her dog by the fireside, perhaps, or even lying across the botto of the bed, it wasn’t what she got. Obviously. Because the dog was nowhere to be seen and lying next to Bridie was a snoring, and handsome young man!  

 

Confused as confused can be, the foolish nosy Queen began to tiptoe backwards out of the room. But then her eye caught sight of something big and white and shaggy on the floor. It was the dog husband’s dog skin!

 

She picked it up. “What is this smelly old thing?” she said, and took it downstairs. She went into the kitchen where a great fire was burning and threw the skin on the fire.  The skin caught fire and made such a loud CRACKING that it woke everyone in the castle, as well as everyone for miles around.

 

The dog husband leapt out of bed! “No no no!” 

“What is it?” asked Bridie, very worried.

“I haven't told you everything,” he said.

“You haven't told me anything,” said Bridie. 

 

"I have to leave straight away,” he said.  “The Queen of Tír na nÓg, the land of youth, put a spell on me so that I am a dog by day and a man by night. or the other way around. The only way to break it is to spend 3 nights in the home of my wife’s family. This was the first night. But if anyone or anything ever destroys my dog skin, I have to marry the Queen of Tír na nÓg. And your mother has just burnt my skin. I have to go.” And with great sadness, he hugged Bridie and turned to walk away. 

 

"Are you giving up? Just like that?" said Bridie. 

"I don't have a choice," said the dog husband. And he started his walk towards Tír na nÓg and his wedding to the Queen of the Land of Youth.  "Well, I fancy a walk, too, " said Bridie and she followed him. 

 

——————

 

All day and all night, Bridie walked beside her dog husband. "Stop following me, you'll only get into danger and make yourself sad," he said.

“It’s not for you, don’t worry,” said Bridie. “I want a walk - a long one," she said. And it was true.  She needed a big, long walk, so she could do some big, long thinking.

 

Night came and they saw a house. The dog husband said, "You stay in this house. I'll sleep outside and keep guard." 

 

So Bridie knocked at the house and asked for shelter. The lady who lived there was kind and happily took her in. While the lady made up a bed for her, a little boy ran up to Bridie and said, “Mummy!" And gave her a great big hug.  The lady of the house smiled and told the boy to go back to bed.  Then she sat down with Bridie and she said, "I have a present for you. Here are some magic scissors. If you see someone in ragged clothes, use these scissors to cut a piece off their rags, and immediately, the rags will turn to cloth of gold."

"Thank you," said Bridie and, a little confused at such generosity, went to bed. 

 

The next morning, she got up early and caught her dog husband trying to leave without her. “Oh, no you don't," she said. “I have more thinking to do. I will keep walking.”  So they walked all day and at night time, they reached a second house. Again the dog husband said: "You go in; I'll sleep outside ’til morning."

 

The woman in the second house was also very welcoming and after Bridie had eaten a meal, a second little boy came out, ran to Bridie’s knee, and said, "Mummy!" The lady of the house smiled and told the child to go back to bed.  

 

"I have a present here for you, " she said to Bridie and she handed her a comb.  "If you meet anyone with a painful head, comb their hair with this comb three times and it will heal them and cover their head with the most beautiful hair anyone has ever seen."

 

Bridie took the comb, again, confused but grateful and went to bed. And again, in the morning, she got up just in time to catch her dog husband trying to leave without her.  “Please go home, Bridie - this isn’t a safe journey for you,” he said.

"I have some more thinking to do," said Bridie. And on they went.

 

At the end of the third day, they reached another little house. And again, the dog husband slept outside and Bridie went inside. And she was made very welcome and a third child ran up to her. “Mummy!" cried a little girl, who had only one eye. 

 

Bridie was shocked to see the little girl’s eye. After all her thinking, she was starting to think these children were the babies the crow had taken. 

 

She put her hand into her pocket and pulled out her hankie. The one that had caught the single tear that fell when the crow took her baby girl. And in the hankie was an eye! She pressed the hankie to the girl’s eye and the eye grew back into place. The girl and the lady of the house smiled and the little girl hugged Bridie and went back to bed.

 

"Thank you," said the woman. “I have saved a special gift for you. Take this whistle. Whenever you put it to your mouth and blow on it, all the birds of the air will come to you from all over the world. Be careful how you use it, because it is very powerful.” "Thank you," said Bridie and went to bed.

 

This time, in the morning, she was up before her dog husband and she woke him up, saying, "Today we will reach Tír na nÓg, won't we? And you must marry the queen?” "I must," said the dog husband. He kissed her and then walked through a bush. And vanished. So she followed him. And now they were in the land of Tír na nÓg.

-----------

 

As soon as they entered Tír na nÓg, Bridie lost sight of her dog husband. This was a magical place and Bridie knew she had to be wise and careful. 

 

She saw a huge castle and a small house at the bottom. She knocked on the house door and a washer-woman, who did other people's laundry, opened the door. Bridie asked if she could please stay the night.  The washerwoman was very kind and said yes. And the next morning to repay her kindness, Bridie helped her with her jobs. And at the very same time, the Queen of Tír na nÓg married her new husband…

 

That afternoon, the washerwoman’s farmer friend came round with one of her little girls. The girls clothes were ragged and dirty. So when the adults weren't looking, Bridie used her magic scissors and turned them into gold cloth. 

 

When she saw what had happened, the child ran to her mother, the farmer, and told her what Bridie had done. The farmer went straight to the Queen of Tír na nÓg and said: "There is a strange woman here with magic scissors. She is very powerful and will take your new husband away if you're not careful!" 

 

The Queen of Tír na nÓg didn’t like anyone else having magical powers, so she sent a message to Bridie to say that unless she gave her the scissors, she would cut off Bridie’s head. So Bridie said she would do a swap: the Queen  could have the scissors if Bridie could spend an evening with the Queen’s new husband.

 

Annoyed and grumpy, but determined to be the boss of everything, the Queen agreed, but put a sleeping potion into the dog husband’s food. When Bridie arrived to see him he was fast asleep and when she left at dawn, he was still snoring.

 

The next day, the farmer’s other daughters came to play at the washerwoman’s house. The girl had sores in her hair and looked in so much pain. Bridie combed her hair three times with the magic comb. The girl’s head healed and her hair was the shiniest you could ever imagine. 

 

Again, the farmer hurried to the Queen of Tír na nÓg and said: "That strange woman has a comb with wonderful curing power; she'll take your husband from you if you don't get rid of her!”  So the Queen sent another message to Bridie: “give me the comb, or I’ll take your life”. And again, Bridie said that was fine, if she could spend another evening with the Queen’s new husband. And again, the queen agreed, and cheated and put more sleeping potion in the dog husband’s dinner. And again, Bridie spent the evening watching a man snore.

 

On the third day Bridie went for a walk in the woods with the washerwoman and both the farmer’s daughters and her magic whistle. She blew it and the birds all flocked to her. Amongst them was a bird of song and stories.  Bridie turned to this bird and said, "How can I save my dog husband from the Queen of Tír na nÓg?" And the bird sang her this secret: 

 

“Only the Queen's husband can stop her. And he has to want to. 

 

“Inside a holly-tree in front of the castle is a ram. In the ram is a duck. In the duck is an egg. And in that egg is the heart of the Queen of Tír na nÓg. 

 

“No man in Tír na nÓg can cut that holly-tree - except the Queen’s own husband."

 

So Bridie thought and she blew the whistle again. A fox and a hawk came to her. The washerwoman put them into two boxes, and they took them home.

 

When the farmers daughters went home, they told their mother about the whistle. And the farmer ran to the Queen, and said: "That woman has a whistle that brings together all the birds of the air, and she'll have your husband yet, unless you stop her."

 

"I'll take the whistle from her,'' said the Queen. And she sent for the whistle. And again Bridie made the same offer of a swap- a night with her dog husband in exchange for the whistle. And of course the queen put sleeping potion in his food. And again, Bridie watched her dog husband snore all night. 

 

BUT THIS TIME, she had brought a book and got lots of reading done. And she also brought paper and pen and wrote her dog husband a letter which she popped into his shirt pocket for when he woke up. 

As soon as he woke, the dog husband read the letter. It told him that Bridie had come to save him, about the sleeping potions and that if he really wanted to, he could break the spell, by finding the life of the queen in an egg, the egg in a duck, the duck in a ram, and the ram in a holly-tree, in front of the castle. But only he could break into the tree, and only if he truly wanted to. 

 

The dog husband stood up straight away, found an axe, and went to the holly-tree. When he got there, there was Bridie, waiting for him, with her friend the washerwoman, and their two boxes with the fox and the hawk.

 

He picked up the axe and struck the holly tree. It split wide open, and out sprang the ram. 

 

The ram ran only twenty paces before the fox caught him and bit him. From inside the ram flew the duck! As fast as it could it flapped its wings for freedom. But it hadn’t managed fifteen wing-beats when the hawk caught her and made the duck lay its egg in terror. The egg fell to the ground and smashed. 

 

That very instant, the Queen of Tír na nÓg died and the spell was broken.

 

The dog husband kissed and hugged Bridie and she hugged and kissed him.  They gave a great feast; and when the feast was over, they turned Tír na nÓg into a happy place that was safe for everyone who lived there.

 

The End

 

Let’s think!

 

1. Who believed in happy endings? 

2. Who believed in Bridie?

3. What number kept appearing in the story?

4. Who gave up?

5. Who thought being nosy was loving?

6. Does love come from knowing everything about someone or by magic?