Emerald Isle

The White Trout

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Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales tales of Ireland

The strange tale of a long lost love from misty times of yore

They do say that once upon a time, long ago, there lived a lady of great beauty in a castle on a lake, and her hair was fair as gold, shining in the summer sun. She had been promised to a king's son, the lord of a nearby kingdom, but as he was coming to see her one dark November evening, who should come upon him but the warriors of a jealous lord who fancied the lady for himself, and they murdered him on the spot!

They cast his body into the lake and made no secret of their wicked deed, boasting of it in their own halls, until sure enough, the lady heard tell and was struck with grief and sorrow. The story goes, she went out of her mind pining after him, for she was tender hearted as well as lovely, and was in the end taken away by the fairies of the loch.

In due course of time, the Seanchaí have it that a strange trout was seen in the stream beyond, and people didn't know what to make of it, for a white trout was never before heard of. For years and years the trout lived there, beyond the memory of the oldest folk alive today.

At last the people began to think it must be some kind of fairy itself, for what else could it be? And no hurt nor harm was put to the white trout, until one day some wicked soldiers from a different land came to those parts, and laughed at all the people.

A grand merry joke they thought it, this reverence for a fish, and they jibed and jeered at the local people for thinking it. One of them in particular reckoned he'd put an end to this superstition by catching the trout and eating it for his dinner!

Sure enough, he caught the trout, and and away home with him where he put on the frying pan and dropped the trout into it. The trout gave a human screech, and the soldier near to split his sides laughing, for he was a hardened villain, and when he thought one side was done, he flipped it over and fried the other.

But what do you know, and not a singe was to be seen on the trout, which showed no ill from its predicament, save only the squealing! And the soldier thought it a queer trout indeed that couldn't be fried.

“But,” he thought, “I'll give it another turn till we see,” never thinking what was in store for him.

Eventually he thought that side was done, and he turned the trout over, but again, the side he thought done was uncooked!

“Bad luck to me,” said the soldier, “but that beats the world. I'll try you again my darling, as cunning as you think yourself!”

And with that he turned it over and over, but never a sign of fire was on the pretty trout.

“Well,” said the villain, “my jolly little trout, maybe you're fried enough, although you don't seem over well dressed, but you may be better than you look, like a singed cat, and a morsel after all.”

So he took his knife and fork and jabbed the knife into the fish, when there was a murderous screech that you'd think would turn your hair white, and away jumped the trout from the frying pan into the middle of the floor! And in that spot where it fell, up rose a lovely lady, the most beautiful creature that eyes had ever seen, dressed in white with a band of gold on her hair, and a stream of blood running down her arm.

“Look where you cut me, you blackguard!” said she, and you'd think the sight would have left his eyes in shock.

“Couldn't you leave me cool and comfortable in the river where you snared me, and not disturb my duty?” said she.

Well I can tell you he trembled like a dog in a wet sack, and at last he stammered out his apologies and begged for his life, asking her pardon, saying he didn't know she was on duty and he didn't know not to meddle with her.

“I was on duty,” said the lady, “I was watching for my true love that is coming by the water to me. If he comes while I'm away and I miss him, I'll turn you into a sprat and hunt you up and down forever more, while grass grows and water runs.”

The soldier's life near left him in terror, and he begged for his life, and with that the lady said

“Renounce your wicked ways, you blaggard, or you'll repent it too late, and get yourself into confession regularly. Now, take me back and put me into the river again, where you found me.”

“Oh my lady,” he said, “but how could I have the heart to drown a beautiful lady like you?”

But before he could say another word, the lady had vanished, and there he saw the little trout on the ground! Well, he put it on a clean plate and away he ran for the bare life of him, for fear her lover passed while she was away, and he ran and ran until he got to the stream. There he threw the trout into the water, and watched as it all turned red for a minute, before washing away.

From that day forward the soldier was a changed man, reformed in his ways, fasting three times a week – although not on fish, since fish never sat right in his stomach after that – and going to confession regularly.

And they say he used to pray evermore for the soul of the white trout.

The trout was taken and returned somewhere in the vicinity of Cong, marked on the map below.


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