People may have heard of the renowned adventures of Daniel O'Rourke, but how few are there
who know that the cause of all his perils, above and below, was neither more nor less than his
having slept under the walls of the Phooka's tower. I knew the man well: he lived at the bottom of
Hungry Hill, just at the right hand side of the road as you go towards Bantry.
An old man was he at the time that he told me the story, with gray hair, and a red nose; and it was on the 25th of June,
l8l3 that I heard it from his own lips, as he sat smoking his pipe under the old poplar tree, on as fine an
evening as ever shone from the sky.
I was going to visit the caves in Dursey Island, having spent the
morning at Glengariff.
"I am often axed to tell it, sir," said he, " so that this is not the first time. The master's son, you see,
had come from beyond foreign parts in France and Spain, as young gentlemen used to go, before
Buonaparte or any such was heard of; and sure enough there was a dinner given to all the people
on the ground, gentle and simple, high and low, rich and poor.
The old gentlemen were the gentlemen, after all, saving your honour's presence They'd swear at a body a little, to be sure, and,
may be, give one a cut of a whip now and then, but we were no losers by it in the end; - and they
were so easy and civil, and kept such rattling houses, and thousands of welcomes ; - and there was
no grinding for rent, and few agents; and there was hardly a tenant on the estate that did not taste of
his landlord's bounty often and often in the year; - but now it's another thing: no matter for that, sir, for
I'd better be telling you my story.
"Well, we had every thing of the best, and plenty of it; and. we ate, and we drank, and we danced,
and the young master by the same token danced with Peggy Barry, from the Bohereen - a lovely
young couple they were, though they are both low enough now. To make a long story short, I got, as
a body may say, the same thing as tipsy almost, for I can't remember ever at all, no ways, how it was
I left the place: only I did leave it, that's certain.
Well, I thought,. for all that, in myself, I'd just step to
Molly Cronohan's, the fairy woman, to speak a word about the bracket heifer what was bewitched;
and so as I was crossing the stepping-stones of the ford of Ballyasheenough, and was looking up at
the stars and blessing myself - for why? it was Lady-day - I missed my foot, and souse I fell into the
' Death alive!' thought I, ' I'll be drowned now!' However, I began swimming, swimming,
swimming away for the dear life, till at last I got ashore, somehow or other, but never the one of me
can tell how, upon a dissolute island.
"I wandered and wandered about there, without knowing where I wandered, until at last I got into a
big bog. The moon was shining as bright as day, or your fair lady's eyes, sir (with your pardon for
mentioning her), and I looked east and west, and north and south, and every way, and nothing did I
see but bog, bog, bog; - I could never find out how I got into it; and my heart grew cold with fear, for
sure and certain I was that it would be my barren place.
So I sat down upon a stone which, as good
luck would have it, was close by me, and I began to scratch my head and sing the Ullagone - when
all of a sudden the moon grew black, and I looked up, and saw something for all the world as if it
was moving down between me and it, and I could not tell what it was. Down it came with a pounce,
and looked at me full in the face; and what was it but an eagle? as fine a one as ever flew from the
kingdom of Kerry.
So he looked at me in the face, and says he to me, ' Daniel O'Rourke,' says he, '
how do you do?'
' Very well, I thank you, sir,' says I: 'I hope you're well
wondering out of my senses all the time how an eagle came to speak like a person.
What brings you here, Dan?' says he. '
Nothing at all, sir, says I:' only I wish I was safe home again.'
'Is it out of the island you want to go,
Dan?' says he.
' 'T is, sir,' says I : so I up and told him how I had taken a drop too much, and fell into
the water; how I swam to the island; and how I got into the bog and did not know my way out of it. '
Dan,' says he, after a minute's thought, though it is very improper for you to get drunk on
Lady-day, yet as you are a decent sober man, who 'tends mass well, and never flings stones at me nor mine,
nor cries out after us in the fields - my life for yours,' says he ; ' so get up on my back, and grip me
well for fear you'd fall off, and I'll fly you out of the bog.'
'I am afraid,' says I, 'your honour's making
game of me; for who ever heard of riding a horseback on an eagle before ?' ' 'Pon the honour of a
gentleman,' says he, putting his right foot on his breast, 'I am quite in earnest; and so now either
take my offer or starve in the bog - besides, I see that your weight is sinking the stone.'
It was true enough as he said, for I found the stone every minute going from under me. I had no
choice; so thinks I to myself, faint heart never won fair lady, and this is fair persuadance - ' I thank
your honour,' says I, 'for the loan of your civility; and I'll take your kind offer.' I therefore mounted upon
the back of the eagle, and held him tight enough by the throat, and up be flew in the air like a lark.
Little I knew the trick he was going to serve me. Up - up - up - God knows how far up he flew. 'Why,
then,' said I to him - thinking he did not know the right road home - very civilly, because why? - I was
in his power entirely;-' sir,' says I, ' please your honour's glory, and with humble submission to your
better judgment, if you'd fly down a bit, you're now just over my cabin, and I could be put down there,
and many thanks to your worship.'
" 'Arrah, Dan,' said he, 'do you think me a fool? Look down in the next field, and don't you see two
men and a gun? By my word it would be no joke to be shot this way, to oblige a drunken blackguard
that I picked up off of a could stone in a bog.'
' Bother you,' said I to myself, but I did not speak out,
for where was the use? Well, sir, up he kept, flying, flying, and I asking him every minute to fly down,
and all to no use. Where in the world are you going,. sir?' says I to him. 'Hold your tongue, Dan,' says
he: 'mind your own business, and don't be interfering with the business of other people.'
'Faith, this is my business, I think,' says I.
' Be quiet, Dan,' says he: so I said no more.
"At last where should we come to, but to the moon itself. Now you can't see it from this, but there is,
or there was in my time a reaping-hook sticking out of the side of the moon, this way, (drawing the
figure thus O~ on the ground with the end of his stick).
"Dan,' said the eagle, ' I'm tired with this long fly; I had no notion 't was so far.'
' And my lord, sir,' said I,' who in the world axed you to fly so far - was it I? did not I beg, and pray, and beseech you to stop
half an hour ago?'
'There's no use talking, Dan,' said he; ' I'm tired bad enough, so you must get off, and sit down on
the moon until I rest myself.'
' Is it sit down on the moon?' said I; ' is it upon that little round thing,
then? why, then, sure I'd fall off in a minute, and be kilt and split, and smashed all to bits: you are a
vile deceiver, - so you are.'
'Not at all, Dan,' said he: ' you can catch fast hold of the reaping-hook
that's sticking out of the side of the moon, and 'twill keep you up.'
'I won't, then,' said I.
' May be not,' said he, quite quiet. ' If you don't, my man, I shall just give you a shake, and one slap of my wing, and
send you down to the ground, where every bone in your body will be smashed as small as a drop of
dew on a cabbage-leaf in the morning.'
'Why, then, I'm in a fine way,' said I to myself, ' ever to have
come along with the likes of you;' and so giving him a hearty curse in Irish, for fear he'd know what I
said, I got off his back with a heavy heart, took a hold of the reaping-hook, and sat down upon the
moon; and a mighty cold seat it was, I can tell you that.
"When he had me there fairly landed, he turned about on me, and said, ' Good morning to you,
Daniel O'Rourke,' said he: ' I think I've nicked you fairly now. You robbed my nest last year,'
('twas true enough for him, but how he found it out is hard to say,) 'and in return you are freely welcome to
cool your heels dangling upon the moon like a cockthrow.'
" 'Is that all; and is this the way you leave me, you brute, you?' says I. 'You ugly unnatural baste, and
is this the way you serve me at last? Bad luck to yourself, with your hook'd nose, and to all your
breed, you blackguard.' 'Twas all to no manner of use: he spread out his great big wings, burst out a
laughing, and flew away like lightning.
I bawled after him to stop; but I might have called and bawled
for ever, without his minding me. Away he went, and I never saw him from that day to this - sorrow fly
away with him I You may be sure I was in a disconsolate condition, and kept roaring out for the bare
grief, when all at once a door opened right in the middle of the moon, creaking on its hinges as if it
had not been opened for a month before.
I suppose they never thought of greasing 'em, and out
there walks - who do you think but the man in the moon himself? I knew him by his bush.
" 'Good morrow to you, Daniel O'Rourke,' said he: ' How do you do?' ' Very well, thank your honour,'
said I. 'I hope your honour's well.'
'What brought you here, Dan?' said he. So I told him told I was a
little overtaken in liquor at the master's, and how I was cast on a dissolute island, and how I lost my
way in the bog, and how the thief of an eagle promised to fly me out of it, and how instead of that he
had fled me up to the moon.
" 'Dan,' said the man in the moon, taking a pinch of snuff when I was done, ' you must not stay here.' '
Indeed, sir,' says I, ' 'tis much against my will I'm here at all ; but how am I to go back?' ' That's your
business,' said he, Dan: mine is to tell you that here you must not stay, so be off in less than no time.'
'I'm doing no harm,' says I, ' only holding on hard by the reaping-hook, lest I fall off.' ' That's what you
must not do, Dan,' says he.
' Pray, sir,' says I, ' may I ask how many you are in family, that you would
not give a poor traveller lodging: I'm sure 'tis not so often you're troubled with strangers coming to
see you, for 't is a long way. 'I'm by myself, Dan,' says he; 'but you 'd better let go the reaping-hook.'
'Faith, and with your leave,' says I, 'I'll not let go the grip, and the more you bids me, the more I won't
let go ; - so I will.'
' You had better, Dan,' says he again. 'Why, then, my little fellow,' says I, taking the
whole weight of him with my eye from head to foot, 'there are two words to that bargain; and I'll not
budge, but you may if you like.'
'We'll see how that is to be,' says he; and back he went, giving the
door such a great bang after him (for it was plain he was huffed), that I thought the moon and all
would fall down with it.
"Well, I was preparing myself to try strength him, when back again he comes, with the kitchen
cleaver in his hand, and without saying a word, he gives two bangs to the handle of the
reaping-hook that was keeping me up, and whap.! it came in two. ' Good morning to you, Dan,' says
the spiteful little old blackguard, when he saw me cleanly falling down with a bit of the handle in my
hand: 'I thank you for your visit, and fair weather after you, Daniel.'
I had not time to make any answer
to him, for I was turning over and over, and rolling and rolling at the rate of a fox-hunt. ' God help me,'
says I, 'but this is a pretty pickle for a decent man to be seen in at this time of night: I am now sold
The word was not out of my mouth, when whiz ! what should fly by close to my ear but a flock
of wild geese; all the way from my own bog of Ballyasheenough, else how should they know me? the
old gander, who was their general, turning about his head, cried out to me, 'Is that you, Dan?' ' The
same,' said I, not a bit daunted now at what he said, for I was by this time used to all kinds of
bedevilment and, besides, I knew him of old.
'Good morrow to you,' says he, 'Daniel O'Rourke:
how are you in health this morning?' ' Very well, sir,' says I, 'I thank you kindly,' drawing my breath, for
I was mightily in want of some. ' I hope your honour's the same.'
'I think 'tis falling you are, Daniel,'
says he. 'You may say that, sir,' says I.
' And where are you going all the way so fast?' said the
gander. So I told him how I had taken the drop, and how I came on the island, and how I lost my way
in the bog, and how the thief of an eagle flew me up to the moon, and how the man in the moon
turned me out. ' Dan,' said he, ' I'll save you: put out your hand and catch me by the leg, and I'll fly you
' Sweet is your hand in a pitcher of honey, my jewel,' says I, though all the time I thought in
myself that I don't much trust you; but there was no help, so I caught the gander by the leg, and away I
and the other geese flew after him as fast as hops.
"We flew, and we flew, and we flew, until we came right over the wide ocean. I knew it well, for I saw
Cape Clear to my right' hand, sticking up out of the water. ' Ah! my lord,' said I to the goose, for I
thought it best to keep a civil tongue in my head any way, ' fly to land if you please.'
'It is impossible, you see, Dan,' said he, ' for a while, because you see we are going to Arabia.'
'To Arabia !' said I; ' that's surely some place in foreign parts, far away. Oh
my! Mr. Goose : why then, to be
sure, I'm a man to be pitied among you.'
' Whist, whist, you fool,' said he, 'hold your tongue; I tell you
Arabia is a very decent sort of place, as like West Carbery as one egg is like another, only there is
a little more sand there.'
"Just as we were talking, a ship hove in sight, scudding so beautiful before the wind: ' Ah! then, sir,'
said I, 'will you drop me on the ship, if you please?' 'We are not fair over it,' said he. 'We are,' said I.
'We are not,' said he 'If I dropped you now, you would go splash into the sea.' ' I would not,' says I: ' I
know better than that, for it is just clean under us, so let me drop now at once.'
" 'If you must, you must,' said he. ' There, take your own way;' and be opened his claw, and faith he
was right - sure enough I came down plump into the very bottom of the salt sea! Down to the very
bottom I went, and I gave myself up then for ever, when a whale walked up to me, scratching himself
after his night's sleep, and looked me full in the face, and never the word did he say, but lifting up his
tail, he splashed me all over again with the cold salt water, till there wasn't a dry stitch upon my
whole carcass; and I heard somebody saying - 't was a voice I knew too - ' Getup, you drunken
brute, off of that;' and with that I woke up, and there was Judy with a tub full of water, which she was
splashing all over me ; - for, rest her soul though she was a good wife, she never could bear to see
me in drink, and had a bitter hand of her own.
Get up,' said she again: 'and of all places in the parish, would no place sarve your turn to lie down
upon but under the ould walls of Carrigaphooka? an uneasy resting I am sure you had of it.' And
sure enough I had; for I was fairly bothered out of my senses with eagles, and men of the moon, and
flying ganders, and whales, driving me through bogs, and up to the moon, and down to the bottom of
the green ocean.
If I was in drink ten times over, long would it be before I'd lie down in the same spot.
Thomas Croker - Fairy Legends and Traditions -The
Collins Press, Doughcloyne, Wilton, Cork (1998) with an introduction by Francesca Diano
Original published 1825.