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Dream of Owen O'Mulready

THERE was a man long ago living near Ballaghadereen named Owen O'Mulready, who was a workman for the gentleman of the place, and was a prosperous, quiet, contented man. There was no one but himself and his wife Margaret, and they had a nice little house and enough potatoes in the year, in addition to their share of wages, from their master. There wasn't a want or anxiety on Owen, except one desire, and that was to have a dream--for he had never had one.

               One day when he was digging potatoes, his master--James Taafe--came out to his ridge, and they began talking, as was the custom with them. The talk fell on dreams, and said Owen that he would like better than anything if he could only have one.

               "You'll have one to-night," says his master, "if you do as I tell you."

               "Musha, I'll do it, and welcome," says Owen.

               "Now," says his master, "when you go home to-night, draw the fire from the hearth, put it out, make your bed in its place and sleep there to-night, and you'll get your enough of dreaming before the morning."

               Owen promised to do this. When, however, he began to draw the fire out, Margaret thought that he had lost his senses, so he explained everything James Taafe had said to him, had his own way, and they went to lie down together on the hearth.

               Not long was Owen asleep when there came a knock at the door.

               "Get up, Owen O'Mulready, and go with a letter from the master to America."

               Owen got up, and put his feet into his boots, saying to himself, "It's late you come, messenger."

               He took the letter, and he went forward and never tarried till he came to the foot of Sliabh Charn, where he met a cow-boy, and he herding cows.

               "The blessing of God be with you, Owen O'Mulready," says the boy.

               "The blessing of God and Mary be with you, my boy," says Owen. "Every one knows me, and I don't know any one at all."

               "Where are you going this time of night?" says the boy.

               "I'm going to America, with a letter from the master; is this the right road?" says Owen.

               "It is; keep straight to the west; but how are you going to get over the water?" says the boy.

               "Time enough to think of that when I get to it," replied Owen.

               He went on the road again, till he came to the brink of the sea; there he saw a crane standing on one foot on the shore.

               "The blessing of God be with you, Owen O'Mulready," says the crane.

               "The blessing of God and Mary be with you, Mrs. Crane," says Owen. "Everybody knows me, and I don't know any one."

               "What are you doing here?"

               Owen told her his business, and that he didn't know how he'd get over the water.

               "Leave your two feet on my two wings, and sit on my back, and I'll take you to the other side," says the crane.

               "What would I do if tiredness should come on you before we got over?" says Owen.

               "Don't be afraid, I won't be tired or wearied till I fly over."

               Then Owen went on the back of the crane, and she arose over the sea and went forward, but she hadn't flown more than half-way, when she cried out:

               "Owen O'Mulready get off me; I'm tired."

               "That you may be seven times worse this day twelvemonths, you rogue of a crane," says Owen; "I can't get off you now, so don't ask me."

               "I don't care," replied the crane, "if you'll rise off me a while till I'll take a rest."

               With that they saw threshers over their heads, and Owen shouted:

               "Och! thresher, thresher, leave down your flail at me, that I may give the crane a rest!"

               The thresher left down the flail, but when Owen took a hold with his two hands, the crane went from him laughing and mocking.

               "My share of misfortunes go with you!" said Owen, "It's you've left me in a fix hanging between the heavens and the water in the middle of the great sea."

               It wasn't long till the thresher shouted to him to leave go the flail.

               "I won't let it go," said Owen; "shan't I be drowned?"

               "If you don't let it go, I'll cut the whang."

               "I don't care," says Owen; "I have the flail"; and with that he looked away from him, and what should he see but a boat a long way off.

               "O sailor dear, sailor, come, come; perhaps you'll take my lot of bones," said Owen.

               "Are we under you now?" says the sailor.

               "Not yet, not yet," says Owen.

               "Fling down one of your shoes, till we see the way it falls," says the captain.

               Owen shook one foot, and down fell the shoe.

               "Uill, uill, puil, uil liu--who is killing me?" came a scream from Margaret in the bed. "Where are you, Owen?"

               "I didn't know whether 'twas you were in it, Margaret."

               "Indeed, then it is," says she, "who else would it be?"

               She got up and lit the candle. She found Owen half-way up the chimney, climbing by the hands on the crook, and he black with soot! He had one shoe on, but the point of the other struck Margaret, and 'twas that which awoke her.

               Owen came down off the crook and washed himself, and from that out there was no envy on him ever to have a dream again.


SOURCES: Kindly translated by Mr. Leland L. Duncan from Gaelic Journal, vol. iv. p. 57 seq.

PARALLELS: Croker's Daniel O'Rourke may be compared in part.

REMARKS: At first sight a mere droll, the story has its roots in the most primitive philosophy. Owen's problem is to get in the Land of Dreams. Now Dreamland, so all our students of Mythology are agreed, is the source and origin of our belief in souls and spirits. Owen's problem therefore resolves itself into this: where was he to go in order to come into closest contact with the world of spirits. Mark what he does--he clears the hearth and has his bed made in it. Now it is round the hearth that the fullest associations with the spirit life are clustered. The late M. Fustel de Coulanges in his Cité Antique traces back most of the Greek and Roman religions and a large number of their institutions to the worship of the ancestors localised on the hearth. The late Professor Hearn extended his line of research to the whole of the Aryans in his Aryan Household. It will thus be seen from this course of reasoning, that Owen was acting on the most approved primitive principles in adopting this curious method of obtaining dreams. The story is not known elsewhere than in Ireland, and we are therefore at liberty to apply the method of survivals to this case.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Dream of Owen O'Mulready
Tale Author/Editor: Jacobs, Joseph
Book Title: More Celtic Fairy Tales
Book Author/Editor: Jacobs, Joseph
Publisher: David Nutt
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1894
Country of Origin: Ireland
Classification: unclassified

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