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This story is suitable for children age 6 to 8 approx.
From English Fairy Tales, by Joseph Jacobs (coll. & ed.)
Start of Story
There was once a widow that lived on a small bit of ground, which she
rented from a farmer. And she had two sons; and by-and-by it was time
for the wife to send them away to seek their fortune. So she told her
eldest son one day to take a can and bring her water from the well,
that she might bake a cake for him; and however much or however little
water he might bring, the cake would be great or small accordingly,
and that cake was to be all that she could give him when he went on
The lad went away with the can to the well, and filled it with water,
and then came away home again; but the can being broken, the most part
of the water had run out before he got back. So his cake was very
small; yet small as it was, his mother asked him if he was willing to
take the half of it with her blessing, telling him that, if he chose
rather to take the whole, he would only get it with her curse.
young man, thinking he might have to travel a far way, and not knowing
when or how he might get other provisions, said he would like to have
the whole cake, come of his mother's malison what like; so she gave
him the whole cake, and her malison along with it. Then he took his
brother aside, and gave him a knife to keep till he should come back,
desiring him to look at it every morning, and as long as it continued
to be clear, then he might be sure that the owner of it was well; but
if it grew dim and rusty, then for certain some ill had befallen him.
So the young man went to seek his fortune. And he went all that day,
and all the next day; and on the third day, in the afternoon, he came
up to where a shepherd was sitting with a flock of sheep. And he went
up to the shepherd and asked him who the sheep belonged to; and he
"The Red Ettin of Ireland
Once lived in Ballygan,
And stole King Malcolm's daughter
The king of fair Scotland.
He beats her, he binds her,
He lays her on a band;
And every day he strikes her
With a bright silver wand.
Like Julian the Roman,
He's one that fears no man.
It's said there's one predestinate
To be his mortal foe;
But that man is yet unborn,
And long may it be so."
This shepherd also told him to beware of the beasts he should next
meet, for they were of a very different kind from any he had yet seen.
So the young man went on, and by-and-by he saw a multitude of very
dreadful beasts, with two heads, and on every head four horns. And he
was sore frightened, and ran away from them as fast as he could; and
glad was he when he came to a castle that stood on a hillock, with the
door standing wide open to the wall. And he went into the castle for
shelter, and there he saw an old wife sitting beside the kitchen fire.
He asked the wife if he might stay for the night, as he was tired with
a long journey; and the wife said he might, but it was not a good
place for him to be in, as it belonged to the Red Ettin, who was a
very terrible beast, with three heads, that spared no living man it
could get hold of.
The young man would have gone away, but he was
afraid of the beasts on the outside of the castle; so he beseeched the
old woman to hide him as best she could, and not tell the Ettin he was
there. He thought, if he could put over the night, he might get away
in the morning, without meeting with the beasts, and so escape. But he
had not been long in his hiding-hole, before the awful Ettin came in;
and no sooner was he in, than he was heard crying:
"Snouk but and snouk ben,
I find the smell of an earthly man,
Be he living, or be he dead,
His heart this night shall kitchen my bread."
The monster soon found the poor young man, and pulled him from his
hole. And when he had got him out, he told him that if he could answer
him three questions his life should be spared. So the first head
asked: "A thing without an end, what's that?" But the young man knew
not. Then the second head said: "The smaller, the more dangerous,
what's that?" But the young man knew it not.
And then the third head
asked: "The dead carrying the living; riddle me that?"