Select the desired text size

This story is suitable for children age 6 to 8 approx.

Red Ettin.

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 his travels. 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.

The 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 answered: "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?"


back to top
Back To Top
next page
Next Page