The King of Ireland's Son
'The King of Ireland's Son' Summary
This is one of the classics of Irish children's literature, its magical stories winding in and out of each other from the start in a long, epic and complex narrative.
When the careless King of Ireland's son goes out,
His hound at his heel,
His hawk on his wrist,
A brave steed to carry him whither he list,
The blue sky above him,
The green grass below him
he meets an eccentric old man full of harmlessness and duplicity who invites him to a game of chess for whatever stake the winner might like. Characters like Flann, otherwise known as Gilly the Goat-Boy, the proud and heartless Lasarfhiona or Flame-of-Wine, the magical Spae-Woman and the vicious farmer who takes on Flann as a farmhand make this an entrancing, funny and always-remembered story.
In the first segment, Fedelma, the Enchanter's Daughter, the oldest son of the King of Ireland loses a wager against his father's enemy and should find him in a year and a day's time. He is advised by a talking eagle to spy on three swan maidens that will descend on a lake. They are the daughters of the Enchanter of the Black Back-Lands, the wizard the prince is looking for. The prince is instructed to hide the swanskin of the swan with a green ribbon, who is Fedelma, the Enchanter's youngest daughter. After arriving at the Enchanter's kingdom, he promises marriage to Fedelma, resisting her sisters', Aefa and Gilveen, advances, and is forced to fulfill three difficult tasks to the Enchanter.
In the chapter The Unique Tale, the Spae-Woman tells the heroes the following story: a queen wishes for a blue-eyed, blonde-haired daughter, and carelessly wishes her sons to "go with the wild geese". As soon as the daughter (named Sheen, 'Storm') is born, the seven princes change into gray wild geese and fly away from the castle. It is later revealed that Sheen changed her name to Caintigern and became Queen when she married the King of Ireland, who, in turn, is the father of two of the main characters: the King of Ireland's Son and Gilly of the Goatskin (Gilla Na Chreck An Gour). The seven wild geese are, thus, their uncles.
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