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THE BLACK BULL OF NORROWAY
(from Scotland)

 

In Norroway, long ago, there lived a lady, and she had three daughters. The eldest of them said to her mother:

"Mother, bake me an bannock [oatcake], and roast me a portion, for I'm going away to seek my fortune."

Her mother did so, while her daughter went to an old fortune-teller and asked her what she should do. The fortune-teller told her to look out of the back door to see what she could see.

She saw nothing the first day, and she saw nothing the second day. But on the third day she looked out again and saw a coach and six coming along the road. She ran in and told the fortune-teller.

"Well," said the old wife, "that's for you."

So she stepped into the coach, and off she went.

The second daughter then said to her mother:

"Mother, bake me an bannock, and roast me a portion, for I'm going away to seek my fortune."

Her mother did so, and away she went to the old fortune-teller, just as her sister had done. The fortune-teller told her to look out of the back door to see what she could see. She saw nothing the first day, and she saw nothing the second day, but on the third day she looked out and saw a coach and four coming along the road.

"That's for you," said the old wife. The lass was taken into the coach and off they went. Then the third daughter went to her mother, and said:

"Mother, bake me an bannock, and roast me a portion, for I'm going away to seek my fortune."

Her mother did so, and away she went to the old fortune-teller, who told her to look out of the back door to see what she could see.

She saw nothing the first day, and she saw nothing the second day. But on the third day she looked again, and came back and told the old wife she could see nothing but a great Black Bull coming roaring along the road.

"Well," said the old wife, "that's for you."

When she heard this the poor lass was almost out of her mind with grief and terror. But she was lifted up, set on the Black Bull's back, and away they went.

Long they travelled, and on they travelled, till the lass grew faint with hunger.

"Eat out of my right ear," said the Black Bull, "drink out of my left ear, and set aside your leavings."

She did as he said, and was refreshed.

Long they travelled, and hard they travelled, till they came in sight of a castle.

"That is where we must be this night," said the Bull, "for my brother lives there."

Soon they reached the castle. Servants lifted the lass off the Bull's back, took her in, and sent him into a field for the night.

In the morning, when they brought the Bull to the castle, they took the lass into a fine room and gave her an apple. They told her not to break it open till she was in the greatest danger a mortal could be in, then it would help her.

Again she was lifted on to the Bull's back, and after they had ridden far, and far, and farther than I can tell, they came in sight of another castle, farther away than the last.

"That is where we must be this night," said the Bull, "for my second brother lives there."

Soon they reached the castle. Servants lifted her down, took her in, and sent the Bull to a field for the night.

In the morning, the lass was taken into a fine rich room and given a pear. They told her not to break open the pear until she was in the greatest difficulty a mortal could be in, and then it would help her.

Once more she was lifted up and set on the Bull's back, and away they went. Long they rode, and hard they rode, till they came in sight of the grandest castle they had yet seen.

"That is where we must be tonight," said the Bull, "for my youngest brother lives there."

They were there directly. Servants lifted her down, took her in and sent the Bull to a field for the night.

In the morning the lass was taken into the finest room of all, and given a plum. She was told not to break it open until she was in the greatest danger a mortal could be in, and then it would help her. After that, she was set on the Bull's back, and away they went.

Long they rode, and on they rode, till they came to a dark and ugly glen. There they stopped and she alighted. At that moment she noticed a pin sticking in the hide of the Bull. She pulled it out and at once the Bull changed into the most handsome young knight she had ever seen. He thanked her for breaking his cruel enchantment.

"But alas," said he, "you must stick the pin back into my skin, for before I can be finally released from this cruel spell, I must go and fight the devil. While I'm away, you must sit here on this stone and never move either your hands or your feet till I return. If everything about you changes to blue, I'll have won and this spell will be broken for ever, but if everything turns red, the devil will have conquered me and we'll never meet again."

So the maiden did as the knight had told her, and stuck the pin into his skin. At once he changed back into the Black Bull and galloped off. She sat on the stone, and by and by everything around her turned blue. Overcome with joy, she lifted one foot and crossed it over the other.

The Black Bull returned and looked for the lass, but he could not find her.

Long she sat, and wept, until she was wearied. At last she got up and sadly went away, not knowing where she was going. On she wandered till she came to a great hill of glass that she tried to climb, but could not. Round the bottom of the hill she went, looking for a path over the hill, till at last she came to a smithy. The blacksmith promised, if she would serve him for seven years, to make her a pair of iron shoes, and with these she would be able to climb over the glass mountain.

At the end of seven years she was given the iron shoes. She climbed the glass hill, and came to an old washerwoman's cottage. The washerwoman told of a gallant young knight who had given her some blood stained shirts to be washed. He said that she who washed his shirts clean would be his bride.

The old wife had washed and washed until she was tired, and then she had let her daughter to it. They had both washed, and washed, and washed, in hope of winning the young knight: but do what they might, they had not been able to take out a single stain.

So they set the stranger lass to work and, as soon as she began, the stains came out, leaving the shirts clean and white. But the old wife told the knight that her daughter had washed the shirts.

So the young knight and the washer-woman's daughter were to be married. The stranger lass was distracted by the thought of it, for she had recognized the knight at once. It was he she had known as the Black Bull. Then she remembered her apple, and breaking it open, she found it full of precious gold and precious jewelry, the richest she had ever seen.

"All these," she said to the washer-woman's daughter, "I will give you, if you put off your marriage for one day, and allow me to go into his room alone tonight.'

The daughter agreed but told her mother, who prepared a sleeping draught and gave it to the knight. He drank it, and slept until the next morning. All night long the poor lass wept and sang at his bedside:

"Seven long years I served for you,
The glassy hill I climbed for you,
The blood-stained shirts I washed for you,
Will you not waken and turn to me?"

But the knight did not waken, and next day she did not know what to do. Then she remembered the pear, so she broke it, and she found it filled with jewelry richer than before. With these she bargained with the washerwoman's daughter to be a second night in the young knight's room. But the old wife gave him another sleeping draught, and he slept till morning. He did not hear the lass as she sat by his side all night and sang:

"Seven long years I served for you,
The glassy hill I climbed for you,
The blood-stained shirts I washed for you,
Will you not waken and turn to me?"

Still he slept, and she nearly lost hope. But that day, when he was out hunting, someone asked him what sad singing and moaning it was they had heard all night in his room. He had not heard a sound himself, but he made up his mind to keep awake this night.

The poor lass, between hope and despair, broke open her plum and it held the richest jewels of the three. She bargained with the washerwoman's daughter as before, and the old wife took the sleeping draught to the knight. But this time he said he wouldn't drink it without sweetening. While she went to fetch the honey, he poured out the drink, and then pretended he had already drunk it.

That night, when everyone was in bed, the young lass went to the knight's room and sat by his bed and sang:

"Seven long years I served for you,
The glassy hill I climbed for you,
The blood-stained shirts I washed for you,
Will you not waken and turn to me?"

The knight heard and turned to her. She told him all that had happened to her, and he told her all that had happened to him. After the washerwoman and her daughter had been punished, the knight and the lass were married and lived happily ever after.

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