This is the story of Caoilte with the long feet. In the old days, there was a couple who lived in Grâin-leathan near Baile-an-Iocha, in County Roscommon. They had been married for over twenty years without having children.
Caoilte with long feet
One morning, Diarmuid (the husband) went out to see if he could kill a hare. There was a lot of snow on the land and a dark fog that was so thick you couldn't see anything within two poles of you. Diarmuid knew the terrain well inch by inch to mile around, but nonetheless he wandered off. He was trying to get to a place full of heather on the edge of the bog where the hares were. He went and he went again for many hours and he could not find the edge. In the end, he thought about going home, but he couldn't. He walked until he was tired and went to sit down when he saw an old hare coming to him. Diarmuid stretched out his hand and thought to give it a kick, but the hare jumped aside and said:
- Hold your hand, Diarmuid, and don't hit your friend.
Diarmuid fell into weakness and when he came to himself the black hare was in front of him and said to him:
- Don't be afraid of me; it is not to hurt you, but it is to do you good that I came to you this time. Have courage and listen to me. You are lost now; you stepped on the mound of confusion and you would have died in the snow if I had not taken pity on you. I know you killed a lot of my race, and they didn't hurt you. But after the evil you have done, I will do you good. Tell me now what is the greatest desire you have in your heart except heaven and I will give it to you.
Diarmuid thought for a moment and said:
- I have been married for more than twenty years without having a single child and neither I nor my wife will have anyone in the world to help us in our old age, to lie down [on the funeral table] and lament after our death. Here is the greatest desire in my heart and in my wife's heart: that we have a child, but I am afraid that we are too old.
- In truth, you are not, said the hare, your wife will have a child in three quarters from today and we will not be able to find her like on the earth of the world. Now follow my trail in the snow, it will lead you home. But whoever you see, don't tell anyone alive that you saw me, and promise me that you won't kill a hare from now on.
- I promise you, said Diarmuid. So the hare went ahead of him until they came to the foot of the house.
- Now here is your house, said the hare, come in!
When Diarmuid entered, Rose, his wife, welcomed him and said:
- Where have you been all day? I was thinking of going looking for you. You are frozen with cold and half-starved.
- In truth, you are lucky that I was not drowned in a bog pool or swallowed up in a sand pit. I walked on the mound of bewilderment and got lost. But take my word and I won't go looking for a hare as long as I'm alive!
It was good and it was not bad. Diarmuid did not think of anything other than the heir promised to him. When he saw that Rose would surely give him an heir, there was no one in the world as happy as him. he had a cradle made and all kinds of things prepared for the young heir who was to come. When the neighbors noticed that Rose was in this condition, they said it was a wonder above all, for Rose was over fifty years old and didn't have a lump of flesh on her, but she was as parched as she was. 'a seventy-year-old woman. Everyone was talking about Rose and Diarmuid. When the three terms were over, Rose had a son. Diarmuid invited the old women of the village to a meal and a party on the day the child was baptized; but he would have done better to leave them where they were. When the child was born, he was not like another little child; he was four feet high; he was as thin as a stick and his feet were over a foot long. The women, young and old, were amazed, for they had never seen a child like this before. Diarmuid gave them brandy and they sang the praises of the child until everything was drunk. So they began to laugh at him.
- Isn't it Diarmuid that he is called? said an old woman who was half drunk.
- Yes, said an old woman, but it is not fair to call him Diarmuid; it is the name of Caoilte
(caol-thin) with long feet that it would be fair to give her.
"And that's the name we'll give it," said the first old woman.
Rose was listening to this conversation and it made her angry. She called Diarmuid; she whispered in his ear that the women spoke badly about young Diarmuid and told him to drive them out of the house. Diarmuid approached the women to put them out and there had never been a quarrel in Grâin-leathan like the one between Diarmuid and the women. They did not give up a step, and it was necessary for Diarmuid to give them a jug of breast before they moved.
But whatever the case, the name of "Caoilte aux Long pieds" remained with the young Diarmuid all his life.
When young Diarmuid was ten years old, he was over six feet tall, but he was as thin as a Gaul fishing and his feet from the ankle were a foot and a half long and they were as thin as your thumb; and there was no greyhound or dog in Ireland which he did not reach in the race. He rarely went out because people made fun of him. When we played lacrosse, Caoilte didn't ask for a stick, he pushed the ball with his feet and if he found it in front of him, no one could reach him. As the years passed, Caoilte grew; when he was twenty-one he was over seven and a half feet tall and he was not a bit bigger than when he was ten and there was no more flesh on him than on a pair of tongs, although he had enough to eat and drink and ate more than seven. People said that he was not a real man, but an old lorgadân and that he had no guts at all; but Diarmuid and Rose thought there was not a young man in the country half as handsome as he; they thought that he would become fat and fat when he stopped growing, and that flesh would come to him; but she did not come.
One day, once, Caoilte was with his father on the bog making piles of peat, when they saw a hare running as fast as he could and a weasel following him. The weasel was hugging him close and he was screaming as loud as he could. Caoilte ran after the hare and took it before the weasel reached it. A great anger seized the weasel and it attacked Caoilte; she tore it up and scratched it; she threw saliva in his right eye which it blinded. Then she left and entered a pile of peat. The hare, meanwhile, was in Caoilte's bosom, and when the weasel was gone, the hare said to him:
- Thank you, Caoilté, you saved my life this time, but you yourself are in danger. The weasel is an old witch, you are one-eyed now; but put your hand in my right ear, there you will find a little bottle of oil; coat your eye with it and your eyesight will be as good as it was before.
He did and his eye regained sight. Then the hare said to him:
– Let me go now and whenever you want to raise a hare for the hunters, come to the mound of rushes by the lake and I will be there. There is no greyhound or dog in the world capable of reaching me, and you can take me any time, but, as far as you have ever seen, do not book not to dogs and hunters. Now be on your guard tonight. The weasel will come find you tonight and cut your throat if you don't have Brighid Ni Mathghamhain's cat in your bed. You will hear a voice say:
It is Brighid Ni Mathgh'ûin's cat Who ate the bacon.
It is Brighid Ni Mathgh'ûin's cat Who ate the bacon.
When you hear it for the third time, let go of the cat; and you will have no danger to fear.
Caoilte let the hare go, returned to his father and told him everything that had happened.
- Ah! ah! said the father, the hare is your best friend; take his advice, but be careful of yourself; do not tell the neighbors anything in the world about themselves or give them something to talk about; if you tell them this story, you will not be able to stay in this parish or in the seven closest parishes.
- In truth, I am not so stupid, said Caoilte, I have not been talkative since I was born, but I ask you not to say a word about it to my mother.
He went out that evening to go to Brighid Ni Mathghamhain's to borrow the cat from him and when he was near the house he saw a fox stealing Brighid Ni Mathghamhain's gander. Caoilte ran after him and as he hugged him closely, the fox dropped the gander and entered a small wood which was nearby. Caoilte led the gander to the house of Brighid Ni Mathghamhain and said to him:
- It was on the fox's shoulder when I took it away.
- Thank you very much, she said, do you need something? you don't come often to visit.
- I come to ask you to borrow your cat, our bag of flour is damaged by the mice.
"Take it, and gladly," she said, "and keep it until it has killed all the mice in the house, it's a boy who can hunt them."
Caoilte carried the cat home and went to bed, but sleep did not come over his eyes. About half an hour before midnight he heard the song:
It is the cat of Brighid Ni Mathghamhain Who ate the bacon.
It is the cat of Brighid Ni Mathghamhain Who ate the bacon.
It is the cat of Brighid Ni Mathghamhain Who ate the bacon.
The third time he heard these words, the voice was near him, but the cat was clever; he jumped to the ground and said:
- Lying witch, it's not me, but you who stole it.
And he attacked the weasel; such a battle with teeth and claws and such cries no one ever heard. Poor Rose was mad with fear and she couldn't say a word except:
- Shh, the cat outside! And she repeated it to the point of becoming hoarse.
The fight continued until dawn and then the weasel gave up the fight and entered the hole of a lime kiln. The poor cat had no hair or skin at that time and when Caoilte thought to catch him, he said:
- Coat me with the oil you found in the hare's ear.
Caoilte did and it healed him and made him as good as he was the day before.
- Now, he said to Caoilte, your enemy is dead, fear him no longer.
Caoilte took some milk and gave it to the cat, then the cat returned home. Caoilte took a broom and pushed the hair and skin out; but there were blood stains on the ground and not all the water in the lake would have washed them away.
One day once there was a big hunt in County Roscommon and the deer headed for Grâin-leathan. Caoilte was outside and he saw the fallow deer and the greyhounds and the horsemen coming after him. Caoilte began to run after the deer and one of the hunters said:
- If you can deflect it before it crosses the river, I'll give you a yellow gold coin.
While chatting with Caoilte, the deer had gone far ahead, but Caoilte wasted no time in gaining speed and he deflected him.
He then paused until the hunter came, and the hunter gave him a gold coin. The fallow deer moved towards the lake, and as the greyhounds hugged him closely, he jumped into the lake and swam to the other side and the greyhounds would not follow him. When the hunters arrived at the lake, they said to each other:
- The deer has gone far from us and we will not be able to see it again today; he is going to Loch-'Glinn wood.
Caoilte listened and said:
- I would bet my head against a tenpence piece that I will get the deer and bring it back to you before it has come halfway to Loch-Ghlinn; if it's your will to wait half an hour here, I will turn the deer back or give you permission to cut my head off.
- That's good, they said, we'll wait half an hour.
Thereupon, Caoilte left as fast as he could and he reached the fallow deer at Brêuna-Môr hill.
He turned it away and it didn't take long to bring it back to the lake again. When the hunters saw the deer coming, and Caoilte on his rear, they were astonished and they said that Caoilte was a leprechaun and that it would be right to chase him from the place, but they did not have time for anything do it this time, because the dogs left after the deer and they had to follow them. The deer left in front of them and walked towards Caisleân Riabhach (Castlerea), he entered a little wood near Baile-an-locha [Ballinlough] and they lost him. The hunters entered Castlerea and that ended the hunt that day. Caoilte went to his house, very satisfied with the gold coin he had for all his work for the day. He gave it to his father and told him everything that had happened.
About a week after that, Caoilte was on the bog pulling some heather to make litter for the cow, when the hunters came back this way and asked him if he had seen a hare.
'I haven't seen one,' said the latter, 'but I know where the hare is.
- Raise it for us, said one of them, we will give you the price of a pair of shoes.
- This is something I have never worn; he said, but give me the price of a pair of pants.
- We will give it to you, they said.
"Give it to me," said the latter. I won a ten pence coin from the hunters last week and they haven't given it to me yet. If I am strange to look at, I am no fool.
They gave him the five coins and told him to lift the hare. He walked over to the rush mound by the lake and he lifted his friend the hare. The dogs and the hunters set off in pursuit of him; he walked towards the bog and they couldn't reach him. The hunters came five days in a row and Caoilte raised their hare every day, but they could not reach it. On the sixth day, they told Caoilte that he was a wizard and that it was an enchanted hare that he raised to them.
"If that's your idea, find a hare yourself," said Caoilte.
With that, they tried to grab him, but he was too fast for them. They followed him to his home and asked his father and mother to bring him to them to be killed.
- What did he do to you? said the father.
"He's an enchanted leprechaun," they said.
When Rose heard this, she ran out and was sure she ran her tongue. But there was no point in her talking; they said that if Caoilte did not come out, they would set the house on fire. When Caoilte heard this, he grabbed the handle of the spade, Diarmuid took the tweezers and Rose the rack. Caoilte ran out and attacked them with the handle and threw them at his feet; while he threw them on the ground, his father and mother hit them with the tongs and the rack, so that they were all lying on the ground, without being able to strike a blow. As they came to themselves they would leave and finally the last one was gone. After two days, they went to find the parish priest and complained strongly about Caoilte, his father and his mother.
- I will go find Diarmuid, said the priest, and I will get information on this matter.
In the morning, the next day, the priest went to Diarmuid and learned the subject of the battle. He returned home, sent for the people who had lodged the complaint and said to them:
- Diarmuid, his wife, nor his son are not wrong. They wouldn't have hurt you if you hadn't started, and my advice is to leave them alone.
They were not satisfied with the priest's advice, and they formed a plot to burn Diarmuid's house down at night, while he, his wife, and his son slept. Caoilte was going that day to the bog to bring home a basket of peat when he met the hare who said to him:
- Caoilte, a troop of men will come tonight to burn the house, with you, your father and your mother, but I will put a mist on their eyes; they will go astray and will not find their way to your house or to theirs until morning, and if they make a second attempt against you, they will be drowned in the lake.
That evening, the order was carried from house to house that the troop which was going to burn the house of Diarmuid to be at the crossroads before midnight. About twenty men gathered there and made their way to Diarmuid's house, but they could not succeed. So they thought of going home, but they could not find their homes or any other homes until the white ring of the day came. So they found themselves in the same crossroads after walking all night. From that night on, they no longer troubled Caoilte, his father, or his mother, but they avoided him as they would have avoided a spy or a thief.
One day, once, Diarmuid was alone on the bog and the old black hare came to him, the same one that had come to him the morning he had strayed twenty-two years before.
- Now, he said, I have come to tell you that the time is short that you have your wife and you to be in this world, and if you have something to settle, do it quickly, because all you have to do is 'a week to be in this world.
- And what will Caoilte do? said Diarmuid, with no one to look after him.
- Don't worry about Caoilte, he said, he's from my tribe, Caoilte; I will take him to my house and on my word he will be happier there than if he were among his neighbors. You don't have to keep this secret to yourself. You can tell it to whoever you want.
Diarmuid was going home and very grieved, when he met his brother's son, and he told him the story from beginning to end.
- In truth, if you tell this story to any other, your family will be dishonored and we will not find anyone to put you in the grave.
"I won't tell it to anyone in the world," said Diarmuid, "except to Rose and the priest."
He went to his house and told the story to Rose. When he was done she had a fit of a cough that choked her. Diarmuid and Caoilte buried him. At the end of the same week Diarmuid himself died and on the evening of the day he was buried Caoilte left and has not been heard from since.
The son of Diarmuid's brother did not keep it a secret, and soon after that the story went word to mouth across the land as I told you. Many people subsequently said that they often saw Caoilte by the lake.
That is! But we are hopeful that they are in Heaven.