There was once a poor man who lived in the
fertile glen of Aherlow, at the foot of the gloomy Galtee mountains, and he
had a great hump on his back: he looked just as if his body had been rolled up
and placed upon his shoulders; and his head was pressed down with the weight
so much, that his chin, when he. was sitting, used to rest upon his
knees for support.
The country people were rather shy of meeting him in any
lonesome place, for though, poor creature, he was as harmless and as
inoffensive as a new-born infant, yet his deformity was so great, that he
scarcely appeared to be a human being, and some ill-minded persons had set
strange stories about him afloat. He was said to have a great knowledge of
herbs and charms; but certain it was that he had a mighty skillful hand in
plaiting straw and rushes into bats and baskets., which was the way he made
Lusmore, for that was the nickname put
upon him by reason of his always wearing a sprig of the fairy cap, or lusmore
[literally, the great herb - Digitalis purpurea] in his little straw
hat, would ever get a higher penny for his plaited work than any one else, and
perhaps that was the reason why some one, out of envy, had circulated the
strange stories about him.
Be that as it may, it happened that he was
returning one evening from the pretty town of Cahir towards Cappagh, and as
little Lusmore walked very slowly, on account of the great hump upon his back,
it was quite dark when he came to the old moat of Knockgrafton, which stood on
the right hand side of his road. Tired and weary was he, and noways
comfortable in his own mind at thinking how much farther he had to travel, and
that he should be walking all the night; so he sat down under the moat to rest
himself, and began looking mournfully enough upon the moon, which,
"Rising in clouded majesty, at
Apparent Queen, unveil'd her peerless light,
And o'er the dark her silver mantle threw."
Presently there rose a wild strain of
unearthly melody upon the ear of little Lusmore; he listened, and he thought
that he had never heard such ravishing music before. It was like the sound of
many voices, each mingling and blending with the other so strangely, that they
seemed to be one, though all singing different strains, and the words of the
song were these: -
Da Luan, Da Mort,
Da Luan, Da Mort, Da Luan, Da Mort,
when there would be a moment's pause, and
then the round of melody went on again.
Lusmore listened attentively, scarcely
drawing his breath, lest he might lose the slightest note. He now plainly
perceived that the singing was within the moat, and, though at first it had
charmed him so much, he began to get tired of hearing the same round sung over
and over so often without any change; so availing himself of the pause when
the Da Luan, Da Mort, had been sung three times, he took up the tune
and raised it with the words augus Da Cadine, and then went on singing
with the voices inside of the moat, Da Luan, Da Mort, finishing the
melody, when he pause again came, with a'ugus Da Cadine. [correctly
written, Dia Luain, Dia Mairt, agus Dia Ceadaoine, i.e.. e.
Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday.]
The fairies within Knockgrafton,
for the song was a fairy melody, when they heard this addition to their tune,
were so much delighted, that with instant resolve it was determined to bring
the mortal among them, whose musical skill so far exceeded theirs, and little
Lusmore was conveyed into their company with the eddying speed of a whirlwind.
Glorious to behold was the sight that
burst upon him as he came down through the moat, twirling round and round and
round with the lightness of a straw, to the sweetest music that kept time to
his motion. The greatest honour was then paid him, for he was put up above all
the musicians, and he had servants 'tending upon him, and every thing to his
heart's content, and a hearty welcome to all; and in short he was made as much
of as if he had been the first man in the land.
Presently Lusmore saw a great consultation
going forward among the fairies, and, notwithstanding all their civility, he
felt very much frightened, until one, stepping out from the rest, came up to
him, and said, -
Doubt not, nor deplore,
For the hump which you bore
On your back is no more! -
Look down on the floor,
And view it, Lusmore! "
When these words were said, poor little
Lusmore felt himself so light, and so happy, that he thought he could have
bounded at one jump over the moon, like the cow in the history of the cat and
the fiddle; and he saw, with inexpressible pleasure, his hump tumble down upon
the ground from his shoulders.
He then tried to lift up his head, and he did
so with becoming caution, fearing that he might knock it against the ceiling
of the grand hall, where he was; he looked round and round again with the
greatest wonder and delight upon every thing, which appeared more and more
beautiful; and, overpowered at beholding such a resplendent scene, his head
grew dizzy, and his eyesight became dim.
At last he fell into a sound sleep,
and when he awoke, he found that it was broad daylight, the sun shining
brightly, the birds singing sweet; and that he was lying just at the foot of
the moat of Knockgrafton; with the cows and sheep grazing peaceably round
about him. The first thing Lusmore did, after saying his prayers, was to put
his hand behind to feel for his hump, but no sign of one was there on his
back, and he looked at himself with great pride, for he had now become a
well-shaped dapper little fellow; and more than that, he found himself in a
full suit of new clothes, which he concluded the fairies had made for him.
Towards Cappagh he went, stepping out as
lightly, and springing up at every step as if he had been all his life a
dancing-master. Not a creature who met Lusmore knew him without his hump, and
he had great work to persuade every one that he was the same man - in truth he
was not, so far as outward appearance went.
Of course it was not long before the story
of Lusmore's hump got about, and a great wonder was made of it. Through the
country, for miles round, it was the talk of every one, high and low.
One morning as Lusmore was sitting
contented enough at his cabin-door, up came an old woman to him, and asked if
he could direct her to Cappagh?
"I need give you no directions, my
good woman, said Lusmore, " for this is Cappagh; and who do you want
"I have come, said the woman,
"out of Decie's country, in the county of Waterford, looking after one
Lusmore, who, I have heard tell, had his hump taken off by the fairies: for
there is a son of a gossip of mine has got a hump on him that will be his
death; and may be, if he could use the same charm as Lusmore, the hump may be
taken off him. And now I have told you the reason of my coming so far: 't is
to find out about this charm, if I can."
Lusmore, who was ever a good-natured
little fellow, told the woman all the particulars, how he had raised the tune
for the fairies at Knockgrafton, how his hump had been removed from his
shoulder., and how he had got a new suit of clothes into the bargain.
The woman thanked him very much, and then
went away quite happy and easy in her own mind. When she came back to her
gossip's house, in the county Waterford, she told her every thing that Lusmore
had said, and they put the little hump-backed man, who was a peevish and
cunning creature from his birth, upon a car, and took him all the way across
the country. It was a long journey, but they did not care for that, so the
hump was taken from off him; and they brought him, just at nightfall, and left
him under the old moat of Knockgrafton.
Jack Madden, for that was the humpy man's
name, had not been sitting there long when he heard the tune going on within
the moat much sweeter than before; for the fairies were singing it the way
Lusmore had settled their music for them, and the song was going on: Da
Luan, Da Mort, Da Luan, Da Mort, Da Luan, Da Mort, augus Da Cadine, without
Jack Madden, who was in a great hurry to get quit of his hump,
never thought of waiting until the fairies had done, or watching for a fit
opportunity to raise the tune higher again than Lusmore had: so having heard
them sing it over seven times without stopping, out he bawls, never minding
the time, or the humour of the tune, or how he could bring his words in
properly, augus Da Cadine, augus Da Hena [And Wednesday and Thursday],
thinking that if one day was good, two were better; and that, if Lusmore had
one new suit of clothes given to him, he should have two.
No sooner had the words passed his lips
than he was taken up and whisked into the moat with prodigious force; and the
fairies came crowding round about him with great anger, screeching and
screaming, and roaring out, ." who spoiled our tune? who spoiled our tune
? " and one stepped up to him above all the rest, and said -
"Jack Madden! Jack Madden!
Your words came so bad in
The tune we feel glad in; -
This castle you're bad in,
That your life we may sadden :
Here's two bumps for Jack Madden!"
And twenty of the strongest fairies
brought Lusmore's hump. and put it down upon poor Jack's back, over his own,
where it became fixed as firmly as if it was nailed on with twelvepenny nails,
by the best carpenter that ever drove one.
Out of their castle they then
kicked him, and in the morning when Jack Madden's mother and her gossip came
to look after their little man, they found him half dead, lying at the foot of
the moat, with the other hump upon his back. Well to be sure, how they did
look at each other! but they were afraid to say any thing, lest a hump might
be put upon their own shoulders: home they brought the unlucky Jack Madden
with them, as downcast in their hearts and their looks as ever two gossips
were; and what through the weight of his other bump, and the long journey, he
died soon after, leaving, they say, his heavy curse to any one who would go to
listen to fairy tunes again.
Source: Thomas Crofton
Croker - Fairy Legends and Traditions, first published 1825.
republished by: Collins Press, Cork, 1998.