Connla of the Golden Hair and the Fairy Maiden

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CONNLA of the Golden Hair was the son of Conn the Hundred-fighter. One day as he stood with his father on the royal Hill of Usna, he saw a lady a little way off, very beautiful, and dressed in strange clothes. She approached the spot where he stood; and when she was near, he spoke to her, and asked who she was, and from what place she had come.

The lady replied: “I have come from the Land of the Living—a land where there is neither death nor old age, nor any breach of law. The inhabitants of earth call us Aes-shee, for we have our dwellings within large, pleasant, green hills. We pass our time very pleasantly in feasting and harmless amusements, never growing old; and we have no fights or arguments.”

The King and his company marveled very much; for though they heard this conversation, no one saw the lady except Connla alone.

“Who is this you are talking to, my son?” said the King.

And immediately she answered for the youth: “Connla is speaking with a lovely, noble-born young lady, who will never die, and who will never grow old. I love Connla of the Golden Hair, and I have come to bring him with me to Moy-mell, the plain of never-ending pleasure. On the day that he comes with me he shall be made King, and he shall reign for ever in Fairyland, without weeping and without sorrow. Come with me, O gentle Connla of the ruddy cheek, the fair, freckled neck, and the golden hair! Come with me, beloved Connla, and you will keep retain the handsomeness and dignity of your form, free from the wrinkles of old age, till the day of judgment.”

King Conn the Hundred-fighter being much troubled, called then on his druid (celtic priest) Coran, to put forth his power against the witchery of the banshee (which is a female ghost): “O Coran of the mystic arts and of the mighty incantations, here is a contest such as I have never been engaged in since I was made King at Tara—a contest with an invisible lady, who is beguiling my son to Fairyland by her evil charms. Her cunning is beyond my skill, and I am not able to withstand her power; and if you, Coran, help not, my son will be taken away from me by the wiles and witchery of a woman from the fairy hills.”

Coran the druid then came forward, and began to chant against the voice of the lady. And his power was greater than hers for that time, so that she was forced to retire.

As she was going away she threw an apple to Connla, who straightway lost sight of her; and the King and his people no longer heard her voice.

The King and the Prince returned with their company to the palace; and Connla remained for a whole month without tasting food or drink except the apple. And though he ate from it each day, it was never lessened, but was as whole and perfect in the end as at the beginning. Moreover, when they offered him anything else to eat or drink he refused it; for while he had his apple he did not deem any other food worthy to be tasted. And he began to be very moody and sorrowful, thinking of the lovely fairy maiden.

At the end of the month, as Connla stood by his father’s side among the nobles, on the Plain of Arcomin, he saw the lady approaching him from the west. And when she had come near, she addressed him in this manner: “A glorious seat, indeed, has Connla among wretched, short-lived mortals, awaiting the dreadful stroke of death! But now, the ever-youthful people of Moy-mell, who never feel age, and who fear not death, seeing you day by day among your friends, in the assemblies of thy fatherland, love you with a strange love, and they will make you King over them if you will come with me.”

When the King heard the words of the lady, he commanded his people to call the druid again to him, saying, “Bring my druid Coran to me; for I see that the fairy lady has this day regained the power of her voice.”

At this the lady said: “Valiant Conn, fighter of a hundred, the faith of the druids has come to little honor among the upright, mighty, numberless people of this land. When the righteous law shall be restored, it will seal up the lips of the false black demon; and his druids shall no longer have power to work their deceitful spells.”

Now the King observed, and marveled greatly, that whenever the lady was present his son never spoke one word to any one, even though they addressed him many times. And when the lady had ceased to speak, the King said: “Connla, my son, has your mind been moved by the words of the lady?”

Connla spoke then, and replied, “Father, I am very unhappy; for though I love my people beyond all, I am filled with sadness on account of this lady!”

When Connla had said this, the maiden again addressed him, and chanted these words in a very sweet voice:

When the maiden had ended her chant, Connla suddenly walked away from his father’s side, and sprang into the curragh, the gleaming, straight-gliding, strong, crystal canoe. The King and his people saw them afar off, and dimly moving away over the bright sea towards the sunset. They gazed sadly after them, till they lost sight of the canoe over the utmost verge; and no one can tell where they went, for Connla was never again seen in his native land.

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