The Five Sons of King Eochaid

Pre-Raphaelites-crop

A story, for example, is told of the five sons of the Irish king Eochaid: of how, having gone one day ahunting, they found themselves astray, shut in on every hand. Thirsty, they set off, one by one, to look for water. Fergus was the first: “and he lights on a well, over which he finds an old woman standing sentry. The fashion of the hag is this: blacker than coal every joint and segment of her was, from crown to ground; comparable to a wild horse’s tail the grey wiry mass of hair that pierced her scalp’s upper surface; with her sickle of a greenish looking tusk that was in her head, and curled till it touched her ear, she could lop the verdant branch of an oak in full bearing; blackened and smoke-bleared eyes she had; nose awry, wide-nostrilled; a wrinkled and freckled belly, variously unwholesome; warped crooked shins, garnished with massive ankles and a pair of capacious shovels; knotty knees she had and livid nails. The beldame’s whole description is fact was disgusting. ‘That’s the way it is, is it?’ said the lad, and ‘that’s the very way,’ she answered. ‘Is it guarding the well thou art?’ he asked, and she said: ‘it is’. ‘Dost thou licence me to take away some water?’ ‘I do,’ she consented, ‘yet only so that I may have of thee one kiss on my cheek.’ ‘Not so,’ said he. ‘Then water shall not be conceded by me.’ ‘My word I give, ‘he went on, ‘that sooner than give thee a kiss I would perish of thirst!’ Then the young man departed to the place where his brethren were, and told them that he had not gotten water.”

 

Olioll, Brian, and Fiachra, likewise, went on the quest and equally attained to the identical well. Each solicited the old thing for water, but denied her the kiss.

 

Finally it was Niall who went, and he came to the very well. “‘let me have water, woman!’ he cried. ‘I will give it,’ said she, ‘and bestow on me a kiss.’ He answered: ‘forby giving thee a kiss, I will even hug thee!’ Then he bends to embrace her, and gives her a kiss. Which operation ended, and when he looked at her, in the whole world was not a young woman of gait more graceful, in universal semblance fairer than she: to be likened to the last-fallen snow lying in trenches every portion of her was, from crown to sole; plump and queenly forearms, fingers long and taper, straight legs of a lovely hue she had; two sandals of the white bronze betwixt her smooth and soft white feet and the earth; about her was an ample mantle of the choicest fleece, pure crimson, and in the garment a broach of white silver; she had lustrous teeth of pearl, great regal eyes, mouth as red as the rowanberry. …

 

– Joseph Campbell (1949, P 116-8). The Hero with a Thousand Faces

 

 

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