Emerald Isle

An Unexpected Guest

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

Be careful what you wish for in case it comes knocking

It wasn't a bad life for Fergus O'Hara in Owenmore, for all that himself and his wife Rose had little, the little they had was enough for them. Some goats, pigs and poultry ranged far and wide about their few acres, and a field of oats and potatoes kept them busy for the harvest and brought in a few pennies.

It so happened that there lay nearby a deep well of great age, which was said to lead to the land of the fairies in that part of Ireland, should you be brave enough to jump in! But Fergus being neither so brave nor so foolish contented himself with casting a straw poppet made from the harvest's last sheaf into the well for good luck every Samhain's eve, as was the custom.

Well, one year on Samhain night Fergus and his wife were sitting before a turf fire with her mother Norah as the wind whispered secrets outside and a small pot of potatoes bubbled, when Fergus sat back, looked around at their mean dwelling and said:

“I wish, you know, that we could have our own way with the world, for we'd do well given the chance.”

And with that three notes from a pipe chirped from above their heads, and a shrill and reedy voice spoke out:

“Your timing is right, oh Fergus, for here stands a man of the Danann who will grant one wish to each of you three, so choose wisely!”

They leaped from their chairs, knocking them over, and stared up to find a wizened man with sharp features and glittering eyes smiling from one mouselike ear to the other looking back down at them. He sat in the roof beams and wore a dark hood, and silver pipes were crooked in his arm.

After their consternation settled down, the three held council to decide on what to do, but the more they talked the more it seemed they grew confused, until at last in perplexity Rose blurted out:

“Do you know since we're to be rich and have what we want, I wish I'd bought that fine slice of dripping hog's pudding in Kitty Flanagan's shop today when I sold my two hens, for it would do nicely filling the frying pan for our dinner this evening!”

No sooner had she said it than it was done, and the house filled with the delicious smell of savoury ham pudding. Fergus looked aghast at the menu's addition and all but started tearing his hair out!

“Are ye off your head,” he bellowed, “of all the things you could have wished for and you demanded a pudding! Isn't that a great wish, that will be eaten by tomorrow! What manner of amadan have I been yoked with! Why I wish one end of that hog's pudding was stuck to your nose, to teach you a lesson!”

On the instant the pudding leaped smoking from the frying pan and glued itself fixedly to Rose's nose, and the poor woman jumped about the house in agony, shrieking as spatters of hot fat sprayed on her. Like a strange elephant she howled and leaped, for the pork was scalding hot.

Much alarmed, her mother Norah's eyes narrowed, and she berated Fergus, saying “Well aren't you some kind of man to treat your poor wife so! You ought to feel ashamed of yourself, and I only wish the other end of that pig's pudding was stuck to your own nose, and that would serve you right enough!”

The third wish was spent, and let me tell you – if Rose was making a racket, she had nothing on Fergus, who yelled and shrieked in anguish fit to break the windows wide! Around and around the house the pair of them staggered, knocking over everything and going from one foot to the other, and when Norah the mother of Rose tried to pull off the pudding, she burned her own fingers and joined them in their capering!

Above them the strange man chortled and danced a jig, and began making merry music on his pipes, dancing amid the roofbeams with great cheer in his beady little eyes. On like this they went for a full quarter of an hour until the three below collapsed in exhaustion, at which the twisted man bowed cackling and backflipped up and out of a crack in the roof, through which the moon beamed in after.

As soon as he was gone Norah's wits returned to her and she cut the pudding off with two quick strokes of a bread knife, leaving behind only a small ringlike mark on the ends of their noses, and that was that. The three agreed never to speak of it again, but they must have said something in quarrel at the market, for before too long the story got around, and folks would look at them askance, knowing the reason for their marked appendages.

The cabin of Fergus O'Hara was known to be around Tullaghan bay, which is marked on the map below.

Further Folk and Faerie Tales of Ireland

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