The Orange Fairy Book
Ian, the Soldier's Son
There dwelt a knight in Grianaig of the land of the West, who had three
daughters, and for goodness and beauty they had not their like in all the isles. All
the people loved them, and loud was the weeping when one day, as the three
maidens sat on the rocks on the edge of the sea, dipping their feet in the water,
there arose a great beast from under the waves and swept them away beneath
the ocean. And none knew whither they had gone, or how to seek them.
Now there lived in a town a few miles off a soldier who had three sons, fine
youths and strong, and the best players at shinny in that country. At
Christmastide that year, when families met together and great feasts were held,
Ian, the youngest of the three brothers, said:
'Let us have a match at shinny on the lawn of the knight of Grianaig, for his lawn
is wider and the grass smoother than ours.'
But the others answered:
'Nay, for he is in sorrow, and he will think of the games that we have played there
when his daughters looked on.'
'Let him be pleased or angry as he will,' said Ian; 'we will drive our ball on his
And so it was done, and Ian won three games from his brothers. But the knight
looked out of his window, and was wroth; and bade his men bring the youths
before him. When he stood in his hall and beheld them, his heart was softened
somewhat; but his face was angry as he asked:
'Why did you choose to play shinny in front of my castle when you knew full well
that the remembrance of my daughters would come back to me? The pain which
you have made me suffer you shall suffer also.'
'Since we have done you wrong,' answered Ian, the youngest, 'build us a ship,
and we will go and seek your daughters. Let them be to windward, or to leeward,
or under the four brown boundaries of the sea, we will find them before a year
and a day goes by, and will carry them back to Grianaig.'
In seven days the ship was built, and great store of food and wine placed in her.
And the three brothers put her head to the sea and sailed away, and in seven
days the ship ran herself on to a beach of white sand, and they all went ashore.
They had none of them ever seen that land before, and looked about them. Then
they saw that, a short way from them, a number of men were working on a rock,
with one man standing over them.
'What place is this?' asked the eldest brother. And the man who was standing by