Folk Tales of Breffny | Annotated Tale

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

Nallagh's Child

IN THE ancient days there were a power of the Good People travelling the land of Breffny. It was easy knowing they were middling proud and conceity in themselves, for they rode upon what appeared to be horses and had music with them, no less! Children were changed by the fairies too, and no matter what way they were reared the like never grew to be right things.

               There was once a man the name of Nallagh, lived in a tidy little place beyond the river. The wife and himself had one child, a gosoon, that could never be learned to speak, nor walk, nor stand upright, nor evenly to crawl upon the floor. The whole time the creature had all his makes and shapes natural and good only for a powerful great head was on him.

               The mother had her own times minding the youngster. Evenly when he was right big she'd be lifting him out of the bed, at the morning of the day, and fixing him up in a chair. There he'd sit, watching the fire until the fall of night, seemingly contented and in the best of humour. He had great observation for all that would be doing in the place, and if the least thing went astray he'd have an odious cor on him. The fire was his whole delight, when a turf fell and the sparks flew he'd open his mouth until you'd swear he was going to let a crow out of him. But never a sound came at all.

               It happened one time that Nallagh and the wife went to market, leaving the servant boy and servant girl to mind the place.

               "Let you keep up a good fire for the youngster, the way he will not be lonesome, and he looking on the glowing turf is his whole delight. Let you attend to your business the same as if myself was standing by to bid you do all things particular and tasty," says the mistress, and she going out at the door.

               Not a long were the two by their lone before they quit working and began for to play themselves through the kitchen.

               Says the servant boy: "We'd do well to be making a little feast, considering herself is not in it, and the wee coley but a silent creature will not be clashing on us at all."

               With that they brought the best of butter, cream and the like from the dairy, and the girl mixed all in a meskin for to make a butter cake. They built the fire with turf enough to roast the dinner of a giant, set the pot-hooks in the ears of the pan and let down the crook for to hang it on. "With the help of the Living Powers, that'll be the luscious bit," says the servant girl, putting down the batter for to bake.

               The whole time they were at their diversions Nallagh's child never quit watching the pair. Maybe it's in expectation he was of getting his taste of the feast.

               The butter cake was doing nicely, turning a grand colour and a lovely smell rising off it. The two heroes were in the best of humour, chatting other and funning, when all of a sudden the servant boy chanced to look out over the half door. "I declare to man, we're destroyed entirely," says he. "Himself and the mistress are without!"

               Sure enough it was Nallagh and the wife were after delaying in the market but a short space only. The girl, hearing tell of them coming in on her sooner nor they were expected, had the wit to whip the butter cake off the fire, and she slipped it in under the chair where the child was all times sitting.

               "It's the queer old cor he's putting on his countenance," says she. "But what about it, considering he is unable for to clash on us!"

               With that the father and mother came into the kitchen. And the four near fell dead with wonderment and fear, for when he seen the parents the wee lad cried out:

               "Hot, hot under my chair!"

               The servants were in odious dread, full sure they'd be found out and hunted from the place. For the butter cake was steaming mad from the fire, and the child never quit shouting:

               "Hot, hot under my chair!"

               He didn't let another word out of him but only the one thing, saying it maybe a hundred times after other:

               "Hot, hot under my chair."

               Well, if he was to say it a hundred times, or a thousand itself, Nallagh and the wife could not know what in under the shining Heaven he was striving for to tell. They were all of a tremblement with the wonder of the speech coming to him, and they never thought to consider was there sense in the words at all. It was a great miracle, surely, to hear the creature that never made a sound before, and he roaring out:

               "Hot, hot under my chair!"

               The old people were that put about they never thought to look round the place to see was anything astray; and I promise you the two heroes didn't ask to clash on themselves.

               The whole house was left through other until the fall of night, and every person in it was weary to the world with the dread and surprise was on them. After dark the mother puts the son to bed, fixing him up right comfortable. But it was not a sweet rest was laid out for the people of that house.

               In the darkness of the black midnight, a powerful great storm shook the place. It was like as if the four winds of Heaven were striving together, and they horrid vexed with one another. There were strange noises in it too, music and shouting, the way it was easy knowing the Good People were out playing themselves, or maybe disputing in a war.

               Thinking the child might be scared at the commotion, herself took a light in her hand and went over to his bed.

               "Is all well with you, sonny?" says she, for she had a fashion of speaking with him, evenly if it was no answers he'd give.

               But the little fellow was not in it at all, he was away travelling the world with the Fairy horsemen were after coming for him.

               The whole disturbance died out as speedy and sudden as it came. The music dwined in the far distance and the wind was still as the dawn of a summer's day. Sure it was no right tempest at all but an old furl blast the Good People had out for their diversion.

               The child was never restored to Nallagh and the wife. The fairies left them in peace from that out; they never heard the music on the distant hills, nor the regiments of horsemen passing by. The whole time it was lonesome they'd be, and they looking on the empty chair where the strange child delighted to sit silent, watching the turf was glowing red.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Nallagh's Child
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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