Voyages from I to Thou.

Location: Skellig Michel, Ireland

Monday, February 07, 2005

Wave Story (from the Aran Islands)

"There was one night a man going fishing out from the Claddagh in Galway. This man was going out with his three sons, and they had no one else for a crew. They were waiting a long time on the others. The old man didn't know what he should do; he hadn't enough help to go to sea. 'Twasn't long till he saw a man making toward him on the strand, and he riding a white horse. He shouted to the sons that there was a stranger coming riding and that he didn't know who he was. The horseman came as far as them and spoke and asked were they going fishing or where were they going. The boatman said they were going fishing.

" 'You are a stranger here,' says he. 'I don't know you. Who are you?'

" 'Yes, indeed, I'm a stranger,' says the man of the white horse, land if ye are going to sea tonight, take with ye three things: an axe, a hook and a knife.'

" 'When he had said that and they turned around, the man of the white horse had disappeared.

"'Why do ye think he said that to us?' asked the old man, of his sons.

" 'I don't know,' says one of them. 'But what harm can it do to us to take them with us till we see?'

"One of the sons went to the house and brought with him an axe, a hook and a knife. They had their nets boarded and they shoved out the boat and went to sea. There were a lot of other boats out before them. The night was very calm. But before long there came a great squall of wind. The old man said that it was time to be pulling for the land, that he was afraid the night was going to harden, for the sky was bad-looking and the sooner they made shore the better.

" 'We may as well pull for home,' says the sons, 'as we haven't the help.'

"They started to row and they weren't long rowing when the sea rose, and they saw the mighty wave coming toward them.

" 'This will put us to the bottom, 'tis so big,' shouted one of the sons. 'The boat will not carry it.'

"'Throw out the hook, see will it be any help,' says the old man. 'We may as well take the stranger's advice.'

"When the wave was almost on top of them the son threw out the hook. The wave split in two and passed on either side of them without doing any damage. They battled on and battled on as well as the were able-and strong men they were - and soon they saw the second wave coming, as high as a hill.

"'Heave out the axe!' shouted the father.

"One of the sons threw it out and the minute he did the wave split in two at either side of the boat and did no harm. They pulled on another while-getting bad the night was with gale and heavy rain. They didn't know what to do -twas so dark that they couldn't see where they were going. On came another wave, as high as a hill, and they were sure that this would finish them.

"'Throw out the knife!' says the old man.

"One of the sons threw it out, and the wave split in two and passed on either side with a sweep that threw the boat up on the strand. They were safe. Whatever way one of the men looked around, he saw an oar being washed in, and a piece of a boat.

"'There has been a drowning for sure,' says the father.

"The wind was so high and the night so bad that they weren't able to shove the boat up for a while, but they got it up a little and tied it with a big pelt of a rope and filled the boat with stones. They made for home, and the gale was taking the cornstooks and stacks. It was a good while later before it got calmer. They ate their supper when they got home-'twas very late then-and then they heard someone at the door.

"'Who's there?" the old man shouted.

" 'Open!' shouts the person outside. I want to go in.'

"One of the sons opened the door, and who should be there but the man of the white horse.

" 'Are your sons asleep?' says he.

"'No,' says the old man.

"'Tell them come out - I want them,' says the horseman.

"The three sons went outside the door.

"'jump up here on the horse, men,' says be

"'There's not room,' says one of them.

"'There will be,' says the horseman. 'I'll walk, and the horse can take ye all.'

"They mounted the horse and set off, the stranger walking and they riding, and didn't feel until they were in a big to". They were terrified when they didn't know where they were; they saw big crowds of people, men and women coming from a dance, and they up and down the street together, holding one another, and having great sport and pastime.

" 'Now,' says the horseman, "don't take any notice of them. Come along with me to the top of the street. There's a big house there - that's where we're going. When ye go in, don't speak a word or answer any question till ye come out to me again.'

"He reached the door, and it was opened by a man that was standing inside.

" 'In ye go now, boys,' says the horseman. 'Ye are needed inside: They went in,

"'Go you up to the top room,, says the doorman to the eldest son. 'There's somebody waiting there for you.'

"He went up to the room, and when he opened the door he saw a parlor the like of which he had never seen before, 'twas so fine and well done up. When he looked around what should he see but a young woman stretched on a bed, a woman so beautiful that he had never seen her like with the light of his two eyes before. Stuck in her forehead was the axe!"

"'Come over here,' says the young woman, 'and pull the axe out of my forehead. That's your handiwork tonight.'

"He pulled out the axe, and came down to the kitchen without saying a word.

"The doorman then spoke to the second son. 'Now 'tis your turn to go up to the room,' says he. 'You're needed there.'

"He went up and what should he see but a woman stretched on a bed there and the hook stuck in her shoulder.

" 'Come over here, , says she, 'and pull out this hook. This is the result of your handiwork tonight.'

"He pulled it out, and pretended not to hear what she was saying, and when he had it pulled she sat up in the bed and looked at him for a while, and when he thought she was looking at him too much he walked off down into the kitchen. The two brothers were there waiting for him. The doorman then spoke to the youngest brother.

" 'Your turn to go up now,' says he.

"Up he went and he saw the most beautiful queen he ever saw in his life, before or after, and a knife stuck in her head behind her ear.

"'Come over here,' says she, 'and pull out this knife. My blessing on you and my curse on those who have given you orders. There isn't a young woman in the town tonight, except the three of us, who hasn't got a husband. We're three sisters. My curse on the man of the white horse. Only for him we would have got the three of ye tonight. He's outside waiting for ye now, but we'll have our revenge on him.'

"He left the room and the three of them went out to the man of the white horse where he was waiting for them.

"'Up on the horse with ye now,' says he, I and don't ye speak for ever again about what ye have seen or heard tonight. Don't ever again go to sea-if ye do, I don't want to say what may happen to ye.'

"The three mounted the white horse and weren't long on their journey till they reached home again. Yet the journey back took them seven times longer than the journey there.

"'Go in home now,' says the man of the white horse, 'and I forbid ye ever again to go on the sea. If ye do ye will be taken by the women of the host. There were thirty-one men drowned tonight and ye saw them up and down the street with their women. 'Tisn't how they were drowned but taken away. I'm leaving ye now,' he said, ' ye won't see me any more. Only for me ye would be where ye'er comrades are.'"

from The People of the Sea: A Journey In Search of the Seal Legend, David Thompson


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