Folk Tales of Breffny | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Dark Oath, The

IN THE ancient times there was a young lad, and he gifted with a temper was a fright to the world of man. He never controlled his speech but took delight in letting great oaths and curses out of him, they rising continually in his heart like water in a spring well.

               There were few of the neighbours had a mind to make free with himself, sure it was an odious dread came upon them and they regarding the villainy of his heart lepping out at his mouth with the words speaking. All the time he was middling great with another gosoon of the one age who would not be warned from his company.

               The two would be travelling the roads and roaming the fields of Connacht from the screech of dawn to dark. But for all their diversions together they fell out on a summer's day, and it was blows they gave one another until a strong perspiration ran down from them and the air moved before their eyes like the stars of heaven on a frosty night. Neither could gain the mastery, and at long last they be to quit striving for they were bone weary and feeble as an infant child.

               The one was hasty in his speech let a dark oath that he would be the death of his companion, evenly if the power of the lonesome grave itself was set between them to hold him from the fulfilment of his vow.

               In three days from the time the words were spoken he died of a strange, sudden sickness.

               The other had a great satisfaction on him, he having no dread of a man was rotting in the clay, where rich and poor are alike and the strong have no mastery above the weak. But in a short while a warning came to the lad in a dream, the way he walked the world in fear from that out:--

               He seen a field where he was standing by his lone to confront a black bull was charging down. The eyes of the beast were glowing red as burning fire, and it was no right thing surely. There was such a fluttering of dread on the boy that he could not endeavour for to run, but he stood like a growing rush does be waving with the breeze. Three times the likeness of the great black bull came down against him, wounding him with the curved and lengthy horns were upon it; with that he awoke.

               "The devil will be gifting the spirit of the dead with the form of a living beast, the way he'll get bringing me the dark destruction he promised, and I looking fearful at the flames are burning in his eyes," thinks the lad.

               Sure enough, in a month's time, he was in a field, and the appearance of the black bull came against him. Three times it struck him, the way he was tormented with the agony of the goring horns. With that the likeness of the living beast faded from the place leaving the young lad sore and sorry but alive.

               He had peace for a short space only to be thinking on his escape. Didn't a second warning come in the night to restore the cold fear to his heart:--

               He seen a black goat come at him in standing leps, and the eyes of it were glowing like a turf in the heart of a strong fire.

               "It is less power the devil be's giving him this time," thinks the lad. "All the while 'tis an ill hour stands before me: the like of yon beast will be middling weighty and it striking me in a standing lep with no one of its four feet upon the ground."

               All came about as it was put on his eyes in the vision. Not a many days went by before the likeness of the great black goat threw its strength against him in the field. Three sore batterings he be to endure, the way he was left lying on the grass with every bone of him tormented in pain and a cold fear at his soul.

               When the wounds were healed on his body and the passing of time restored his mind to a better peace, didn't he behold a third dream of the night:--

               He stood in the lane between his house and the field, and the appearance of a great turkey cock flew down upon him from the sky.

               At that he let a hearty laugh, and he roused up in his bed.

               "Sure the devil has little wit to be thinking I'll take my death from the like," says he. "And how would it be possible a fine, stout-hearted lad could be scared by the fowls of the sky!"

               He laughed that night, and he laughed at the noon of day when the bird flew against him in the lane. But the appearance of the turkey cock opened the joining of his skull with one blow of the beak like a sharpened knife was upon it. The second stroke and the third dashed the brains from his head and scattered them grey on the brown and dusty path.

               And that is the how he came to a bad death as his companion promised him, and the dark oath was accomplished no spite of the power of the grave.

               We that are yet in this world know well where we are, but ignorance is on us of where we be to repair. Sure the passing of the spirit is the strangest and awfullest thing was ever devised or heard tell of. It was said in the ancient times and is well known to this present that the soul quits the body by the joining of the skull. The eyes have seen evil, the ears have heard it, and the mouth has made laughter and speech of the same: how then would they be a right and a fitting doorway for the feet of the spirit to pass! Moreover, I have heard tell that the skull of man and the skull of woman are different one from another--and it is the soul of herself has the sorest departure from the flesh.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Dark Oath, The
Tale Author/Editor: Hunt, Bampton
Book Title: Folk Tales of Breffny
Book Author/Editor: Hunt, Bampton
Publisher: Macmillan and Co.
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1912
Country of Origin: Ireland
Classification: unclassified

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