The Red Fairy Book
The Black Thief and Knight Of the Glen
IN times of yore there was a King and a Queen in the south of Ireland who had three
sons, all beautiful children; but the Queen, their mother, sickened unto death when they
were yet very young, which caused great grief throughout the Court, particularly to the
King, her husband, who could in no wise be comforted. Seeing that death was drawing
near her, she called the King to her and spoke as follows:
`I am now going to leave you, and as you are young and in your prime, of course after my
death you will marry again. Now all the request I ask of you is that you will build a tower
in an island in the sea, wherein you will keep your three sons until they are come of age
and fit to do for themselves; so that they may not be under the power or jurisdiction of
any other woman. Neglect not to give them education suitable to their birth, and let them
be trained up to every exercise and pastime requisite for king's sons to learn. This is all I
have to say, so farewell.'
The King had scarce time, with tears in his eyes, to assure her she should be obeyed in
everything, when she, turning herself in her bed, with a smile gave up the ghost. Never
was greater mourning seen than was throughout the Court and the whole kingdom; for a
better woman than the Queen, to rich and poor, was not to be found in the world. She was
interred with great pomp and magnificence, and the King, her husband, became in a
manner inconsolable for the loss of her. However, he caused the tower to be built and his
sons placed in it, under proper guardians, according to his promise.
In process of time the lords and knights of the kingdom counselled the King (as he was
young) to live no longer as he had done, but to take a wife; which counsel prevailing,
they chose him a rich and beautiful princess to be his consort--a neighbouring King's
daughter, of whom he was very fond. Not long after, the Queen had a fine son, which
caused great feasting and rejoicing at the Court, insomuch that the late Queen, in a
manner, was entirely forgotten. That fared well, and King and Queen lived happy
together for several years.
At length the Queen, having some business with the hen-wife, went herself to her, and,
after a long conference passed, was taking leave of her, when the hen-wife prayed that if
ever she should come back to her again she might break her neck. The Queen, greatly
incensed at such a daring insult from one of her meanest subjects, demanded immediately
the reason, or she would have her put to death.
`It was worth your while, madam,' says the hen-wife, `to pay me well for it, for the reason
I prayed so on you concerns you much.'
`What must I pay you?' asked the Queen.
`You must give me,' says she, `the full of a pack of wool, and I have an ancient crock
which you must fill with butter, likewise a barrel which you must fill for me full of
`How much wool will it take to the pack?' says the Queen.