The Orange Fairy Book
How Ian Direach Got the Blue Falcon
Long ago a king and queen ruled over the islands of the west, and they had one
son, whom they loved dearly. The boy grew up to be tall and strong and
handsome, and he could run and shoot, and swim and dive better than any lad of
his own age in the country. Besides, he knew how to sail about, and sing songs
to the harp, and during the winter evenings, when everyone was gathered round
the huge hall fire shaping bows or weaving cloth, Ian Direach would tell them
tales of the deeds of his fathers.
So the time slipped by till Ian was almost a man, as they reckoned men in those
days, and then his mother the queen died. There was great mourning throughout
all the isles, and the boy and his father mourned her bitterly also; but before the
new year came the king had married another wife, and seemed to have forgotten
his old one. Only Ian remembered.
On a morning when the leaves were yellow in the trees of the glen, Ian slung his
bow over his shoulder, and filling his quiver with arrows, went on to the hill in
search of game. But not a bird was to be seen anywhere, till at length a blue
falcon flew past him, and raising his bow he took aim at her. His eye was straight
and his hand steady, but the falcon's flight was swift, and he only shot a feather
from her wing. As the sun was now low over the sea he put the feather in his
game bag, and set out homewards.
'Have you brought me much game to-day?' asked his stepmother as he entered
'Nought save this,' he answered, handing her the feather of the blue falcon,
which she held by the tip and gazed at silently. Then she turned to Ian and said:
'I am setting it on you as crosses and as spells, and as the fall of the year! That
you may always be cold, and wet and dirty, and that your shoes may ever have
pools in them, till you bring me hither the blue falcon on which that feather grew.'
'If it is spells you are laying I can lay them too,' answered Ian Direach; 'and you
shall stand with one foot on the great house and another on the castle, till I come
back again, and your face shall be to the wind, from wheresoever it shall blow.'
Then he went away to seek the bird, as his stepmother bade him; and, looking
homewards from the hill, he saw the queen standing with one foot on the great
house, and the other on the castle, and her face turned towards whatever
tempest should blow.
On he journeyed, over hills, and through rivers till he reached a wide plain, and
never a glimpse did he catch of the falcon. Darker and darker it grew, and the
small birds were seeking their nests, and at length Ian Direach could see no
more, and he lay down under some bushes and sleep came to him. And in his
dream a soft nose touched him, and a warm body curled up beside him, and a
low voice whispered to him: