The King of Ireland’s Son came
to the place where the river that he followed takes
the name of the River of the Broken Towers. It
is called by that name because the men of the old
days tried to build towers across its course.
The towers were built a little way across the river
that at this place was tremendously wide.
“The Glashan will carry you
across the River of the Broken Towers to the shore
of the Land of Mist,” the Gobaun Saor had said
to the King of Ireland’s Son. And now he
was at the River of the Broken Towers but the Glashan-creature
was not to be seen.
Then he saw the Glashan. He was
leaning his back against one of the Towers and smoking
a short pipe. The water of the river was up to
his knees. He was covered with hair and had a
big head with horse’s ears. And the Glashan
twitched his horse’s ears as he smoked in great
“Glashan, come here,” said the King of
But the Glashan gave him no heed at all.
“I want you to carry me across
the River of the Broken Towers,” shouted the
King of Ireland’s Son. The Glashan went
on smoking and twisting his ears.
And the King of Ireland’s Son
might have known that the whole clan of the Gruagachs
and Glashans are fond of their own ease and will do
nothing if they can help it. He twitched his ears
more sharply when the King’s Son threw a pebble
at him. Then after about three hours he came
slowly across the river. From his big knees down
he had horse’s feet.
“Take me on your big shoulders,
Glashan,” said the King of Ireland’s Son,
“and carry me across to the shore of the Land
“Not carrying any more across,”
said the Glashan. The King of Ireland’s
Son drew the Sword of Light and flashed it.
“Oh, if you have that, you’ll
have to be carried across,” said the Glashan.
“But wait until I rest myself.”
“What did you do that you should
rest?” said the King of Ireland’s Son.
“Take me on your shoulders and start off.”
“Musha,” said the Glashan,
“aren’t you very anxious to lose your life?”
“Take me on your shoulders.”
“Well, come then. You’re not the first
living dead man I carried across.” The Glashan
put his pipe into his ear. The King of Ireland’s
Son mounted his shoulders and laid hold of his thick
mane. Then the Glashan put his horse’s legs
into the water and started to cross the River of the
“The Land of Mist has a King,”
said the Glashan, when they were in the middle of
“That, Glashan, I know,” said the King
of Ireland’s Son.
“All right,” said the Glashan.
Then said he when they were three-quarters
of the way across, “Maybe you don’t know
that the King of the Land of Mist will kill you?”
“Maybe ’tis I who will kill him,”
said the King of Ireland’s Son.
“You’d be a hardy little
fellow if you did that,” said the Glashan.
“But you won’t do it.”
They went on. The water was up
to the Glashan’s waist but that gave him no
trouble. So broad was the river that they were
traveling across it all day. The Glashan threw
the King’s Son in once when he stooped to pick
up an eel. Said the King of Ireland’s Son,
“What way is the Castle of the King of the Land
of Mist guarded, Glashan?”
“It has seven gates,” said the Glashan.
“And how are the gates guarded?”
“I’m tired,” said the Glashan, “and
I can’t talk.”
“Tell me, or I’ll twist the horse’s
ears off your head.”
“Well, the first gate is guarded
by a plover only. It sits on the third pinnacle
over the gate, and when anyone comes near it rises
up and flies round the Castle crying until its sharp
cries put the other guards on the watch.”
“And what other guards are there?”
“Oh, I’m tired, and I can talk no more.”
The King of Ireland’s Son twisted
his horse’s ears, and then the Glashan said
“The second gate is guarded by five spear-men.”
“And how is the third gate guarded?”
“The third gate is guarded by seven swordsmen.”
“And how is the fourth gate guarded?”
“The fourth gate is guarded by the King of the
Land of Mist himself.”
“And the fifth gate?”
“The fifth gate is guarded by the King of the
Land of Mist himself.”
“And the sixth gate?”
“The sixth gate is guarded by the King of the
Land of Mist.”
“And how is the seventh gate guarded?”
“The seventh gate is guarded by a Hag.”
“By a Hag only?” “By
a Hag with poisoned nails. But I’m tired
now, and I’ll talk no more to you. If I
could strike a light now I’d smoke a pipe.”
Still they went on, and just at the
screech of the day they came to the other shore of
the River of the Broken Towers. The King of Ireland’s
Son sprang from the shoulders of the Glashan and went
into the mist.
He came to where turrets and pinnacles
appeared above the mist. He climbed the rock
upon which the Castle was built. He came to the
first gate, and as he did the plover that was on the
third pinnacle above rose up and flew round the Castle
with sharp cries.
He raised a fragment of the ground-rock
and flung it against the gate. He burst it open.
He dashed in then and through the first courtyard of
As he went towards the second gate
it was flung open, and the five spear-men ran upon
him. But they had not counted on what was to face
them the Sword of Light in the bands of
the King of Ireland’s Son.
Its stroke cut the spear heads from
the spear-holds, and its quick glancing dazzled the
eyes of the spear-men. On each and every one of
them it inflicted the wound of death. He dashed
through the second gate and into the third courtyard.
But as he did the third gate was flung
open and seven swordsmen came forth. They made
themselves like a half circle and came towards the
King of Ireland’s Son. He dazzled their
eyes with a wide sweep of his sword. He darted
it swiftly at each of them and on the seven swordsmen
too he inflicted wounds of death.
He went through the third courtyard
and towards the fourth gate. As he did it opened
slowly and a single champion came forth. He closed
the gate behind him and stood with a long gray sword
in his hand. This was the King of the Land of
Mist. His shoulders were where a tall man’s
head would be. His face was like a stone, and
his eyes had never looked except with scorn upon a
When his enemy began his attack the
King of Ireland’s Son had power to do nothing
else but guard himself from that weighty sword.
He had the Sword of Light for a guard and well did
that bright, swift blade guard him. The two fought
across the courtyard making hard places soft and soft
places hard with their trampling. They fought
from when it was early to when it was noon, and they
fought from when it was noon until it was long afternoon.
And not a single wound did the King of Ireland’s
Son inflict upon the King of the Land of Mist, and
not a single wound did the King of the Land of Mist
inflict upon him.
But the King of Ireland’s Son
was growing faint and weary. His eyes were worn
with watching the strokes and thrusts of the sword
that was battling against him. His arms could
hardly bear up his own sword. His heart became
a stream of blood that would have gushed from his breast.
And then, as he was about to fall
down with his head under the sword of the King of
the Land of Mist a name rose above all his thoughts “Fedelma.”
If he sank down and the sword of the King of the Land
of Mist fell on him, never would she be saved.
The will became strong again in the King of Ireland’s
Son. His heart became a steady beating thing.
The weight that was upon his arms passed away.
Strongly he held the sword in his hand and he began
to attack the King of the Land of Mist.
And now he saw that the sword in the
hand of his enemy was broken and worn with the guard
that the Sword of Light had put against it. And
now he made a strong attack. As the light was
leaving the sky and as the darkness was coming down
he saw that the strength was waning in the King of
the Land of Mist. The sword in his hand was more
worn and more broken. At last the blade was only
a span from the hilt. As he drew back to the
gate of the fourth courtyard the King of Ireland’s
Son sprang at him and thrust the Sword of Light through
his breast. He stood with his face becoming exceedingly
terrible. He flung what remained of his sword,
and the broken blade struck the foot of the King of
Ireland’s Son and pierced it. Then the
King of the Land of Mist fell down on the ground before
the fourth gate.
So weary from his battles, so pained
with the wound of his foot was the King of Ireland’s
Son that he did not try to cross the body and go towards
the fifth gate. He turned back. He climbed
down the rock and went towards the River of the Broken
The Glashan was broiling on a hot
stone the eel he had taken out of the river.
“Wash my wound and give me refreshment, Glashan,”
said the King of Ireland’s Son.
The Glashan washed the wound in his
foot and gave him a portion of the broiled eel with
cresses and water.
“To-morrow’s dawn I shall
go back,” said the King of Ireland’s Son,
“and go through the fifth and sixth and seventh
gate and take away Fedelma.”
“If the King of the Land of
Mist lets you,” said the Glashan.
“He is dead,” said the
King of Ireland’s Son, “I thrust my sword
through his breast.”
“And where is his head?” said the Glashan.
“It is on his corpse,” said the King of
“Then you will have another
fight to-morrow. His life is in his head, and
his life will come back to him if you did not cut it
off. It is he, I tell you, who will guard the
fourth and fifth and sixth gate.”
“That I do not believe, Glashan,”
said the King of Ireland’s Son. “There
is no one to guard the gates now but the Hag you spoke
of. To-morrow I shall take Fedelma out of her
captivity, and we will both leave the Land of Mist.
But I must sleep now.”
He laid the Sword of Light beside
him, stretched himself on the ground and went to sleep.
The Glashan drew his horse’s legs under him,
took the pipe out of his ear, and smoked all through
The King of Ireland’s Son rose
in the morning but he was in pain and weariness on
account of his wounded foot. He ate the cresses
and drank the water that the Glashan gave him, and
he started off for the Castle of the King of the Mist.
“’Tis only an old woman I shall have to
deal with to-day,” he said, “and then
I shall awaken Fedelma, my love.”
He passed through the first gate and
the first court-yard, through the second gate and
the second court-yard, through the third gate and the
third courtyard. The fourth gate was closed, and
as he went towards it, it opened slowly, and the King
of the Land of Mist stood there as high,
as stone-faced, and as scornful as before, and in his
hand he had a weighty gray sword.
They fought as they fought the day
before. But the guard the King of Ireland’s
Son made against the sword of the King of the Land
of Mist was weaker than before, because of the pain
and weariness that came from his wound. But still
he kept the Sword of Light before him and the Sword
of the King of the Land of Mist could not pass it.
They fought until it was afternoon. The heart
in his body seemed turned to a jet of blood that would
gush forth. His eyes were straining themselves
out of their sockets. His arms could hardly bear
up his sword. He fell down upon one knee, but
he was able to hold the sword so that it guarded his
Then the image of Fedelma appeared
before him. He sprang up and his arms regained
their power. His heart became steady in his breast.
And as he made an attack upon the King of the Land
of Mist, he saw that the blade in his hand was broken
and worn because of its strokes against the Sword
They fought with blades that seemed
to kindle each other into sparks and flashes of light.
They fought until the blade in the hand of the King
of the Land of Mist was worn to a hand breadth above
the hilt. He drew back towards the gate of the
fifth courtyard. The King of Ireland’s Son
sprang at him and thrust the Sword of Light through
his breast. Down on the stones before the fifth
gate of his Castle fell the King of the Land of Mist.
The King of Ireland’s Son stepped
over the body and went towards the fifth gate.
Then he remembered what the Glashan had said, “His
life is in his head.” He went back to where
the King of the Land of Mist had fallen. With
a clean sweep of his sword he cut the head off the
Then out of the mist that was all
around three ravens came. With beak and claws
they laid hold of the head and lifted it up. They
fluttered heavily away, keeping near the ground.
With his sword in his hand the King
of Ireland’s Son chased the ravens. He
followed them through the fourth courtyard, the third
courtyard, the second and the first. They flew
off the rock on which the Castle was built and disappeared
in the mist.
He knew he would have to watch by
the body of the King of the Land of Mist, so that
the head might not be placed upon it. He sat down
before the fifth gate. Pain and weariness, hunger
and thirst oppressed him.
He longed for something that would
allay his hunger and thirst. But he knew that
he could not go to the river to get refreshment of
water and cresses from the Glashan. Something
fell beside him in the courtyard. It was a beautiful,
bright-colored apple. He went to pick it up, but
it rolled away towards the third courtyard. He
followed it. Then, as he looked back he saw that
the ravens had lighted near the body of the King of
the Land of Mist, holding the head in their beaks and
claws. He ran back and the ravens lifted the
head up again and flew away.
He watched for another long time,
and his hunger and his thirst made him long for the
bright-colored apple he had seen.
Another apple fell down. He went
to pick it up and it rolled away. But now the
King of Ireland’s Son thought of nothing hut
that bright-colored apple. He followed it as
It roiled through the third courtyard,
and the second and the first. It rolled out of
the first gate and on to the rock upon which the Castle
was built. It rolled off the rock. The King
of Ireland’s Son sprang down and he saw the
apple become a raven’s head and beak.
He climbed up the rock and ran back.
And when he came into the first courtyard he saw that
the three ravens had come back again. They had
brought the head to the body, and body and head were
now joined. The King of the Land of Mist stood
up again, and his head was turned towards his left
shoulder. He went to the sixth gate and took up
a sword that was beside it.
They fought their last battle before
the sixth gate. The guard that the King of Ireland’s
Son made was weak, and if the King of the Land of Mist
could have turned fully upon him, he could have disarmed
and killed him. But his head had been so placed
upon his body that it looked The King of the Land
of Mist 237 over his left shoulder. He was able
to draw his sword down the breast of the King of Ireland’s
Son, wounding him. The King’s Son whirled
his sword around his head and flung it at his wry-headed
enemy. It swept his head off, and the King of
the Land of Mist fell down.
The King of Ireland’s Son saw
on the outstretched neck the mark of the other beheading.
He took up the Sword of Light again and prepared to
hold the head against all that might come for it.
But no creature came. And then
the hair on the severed head became loose and it was
blown away by the wind. And the bones of the head
became a powder and the flesh became a froth, and
all was blown away by the wind.
Then the King of Ireland’s Son
went through the sixth courtyard and came to the seventh
gate. And before it he saw the last of the sentinels.
A Hag, she was seated on the top of a water-tank taking
white doves out of a basket and throwing them to ravens
that flew down from the walls and tore the doves to
When the Hag saw the King of Ireland’s
Son she sprang down from the water-tank and ran towards
him with outstretched arms and long poisoned nails.
With a sweep of his sword he cut the nails from her
hands. Ravens picked up the nails, and then,
as they tried to fly away, they fell dead.
“The Sword of Light will take
off your head if you do not take me on the moment
to where Fedelma is,” said the King of Ireland’s
Son. “I am sorry to do it,” said
the Hag, “but come, since you are the conqueror.”
He followed the Hag into the Castle.
In a net, hanging across a chamber, he saw Fedelma.
She was still, but she breathed. And the branch
of hawthorn that put her asleep was fresh beside her.
Strands of her bright hair came through the meshes
of the net and were fastened to the wall. With
a sweep of the Sword of Light he cut the strands.
Her eyes opened. She saw the
King of Ireland’s Son, and the full light came
back to her eyes, and the full life into her face.
He cut the net from where it hung
and laid it on the ground. He cut open the meshes.
Fedelma rose out of it and went into his arms.
He lifted her up and carried her out
into the seventh courtyard. Then the Hag who
had been one of the sentinels came out of the Castle,
closed the door behind her and ran away into the mist,
three ravens flying after her.
And as for Fedelma and the King of
Ireland’s Son, they went through the courtyards
of the Castle and through the mists of the country
and down to the River of the Broken Towers. They
found the Glashan broiling a salmon upon hot stones.
Salmon were coming from the sea and the Glashan went
in and caught more, The King of the Land of Mist 239
broiled and gave them to the King of Ireland’s
Son and Fedelma to eat. The little black water-hen
came out of the river and they fed it. The next
day the King of Ireland’s Son bade the Glashan
take Fedelma on his shoulders and carry her to the
other shore of the River of the Broken Towers.
And he himself followed the little black water-hen
who showed him all the shallow places in the river
so that he crossed with the water never above his
waist. But he was nearly dead from cold and weariness,
and from the wounds on breast and foot when he came
to the other side and found the Glashan and Fedelma
waiting for him.
They ate salmon again and rested for
a day. They bade good-by to the Glashan, who
went back to the river to hunt for salmon. Then
they went along the bank of the river hand in hand
while the King of Ireland’s Son told Fedelma
of all the things that had happened to him in his search
They came to where the river became
known as the River of the Morning Star. And then,
in the distance, they saw the Hill of Horns. Towards
the Hill of Horns they went, and, at the near side
of it, they found a house thatched with the wing of
a bird. It was the house of the Little Sage of
the Mountain. To the house of the Little Sage
of the Mountain Fedelma and the King’s Son now
To the memory
of Beatrice Cassidy colum