The Three Daughters of King O'Hara

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The Three Daughters of King O'Hara is an Irish fairy tale collected by Jeremiah Curtin in Myths and Folk-lore of Ireland.


A king had three daughters. One day, when he was away, his oldest daughter wished to marry. She got his cloak of darkness, and wished for the handsomest man in the world. He arrived in a golden coach with four horses to take her away. Her second sister wished for the next best man, and he arrived in a golden coach with four horses to take her away. Then the youngest wished for the best white dog, and it arrived in a golden coach with four horses to take her away. The king returned and was enraged when his servants told him of the dog.

The oldest two were asked by their husbands how they wanted them during the day: as they are during the day, or as they are at night. Both want them as they are during the day. Their husbands both are men during the day but seals at night. The youngest was also asked and answered the same, so her husband was a dog by day and a handsome man by night.

She gave birth to a son. Her husband went hunting and warned her not to weep if anything happened to the child. A gray crow took the baby when he was a week old, and she did not weep. It happened again, with a second son, but with their third child, a daughter, she dropped one tear, which she caught in a handkerchief. Her husband was very angry.

Soon after, the king invited his three daughters and their husbands to his home. Late at night, the queen went to look in their bedrooms, and saw that her two oldest had seals in their beds, but her youngest had a man. She found and burned the dog's skin. The husband jumped up, angry, and said that if he had been able to stay three nights under her father's roof he could have been a man both day and night, but now he had to leave her.

He set out, but she chased after him, never letting him out of sight. They came to a house, and he sent her to spend the night inside. A little boy there called her mother, and a woman there gave her scissors that would turn rags into cloth of gold. The next day, she chased after her husband again, and they came to another house, where another little boy called her mother, and a woman gave her a comb that would turn a diseased head healthy, and give it gold hair. The third day, she still chased after her husband, and the third house held a one-eyed little girl. The woman realized what weeping had done. She took her handkerchief where she had caught her tear, and put the eye back. The woman gave her a whistle that would summon all the birds of the world.

They went on, but he explained that the Queen of Tír na nÓg had cursed him, and now he must go and marry her. She followed him into the lower kingdom and stayed with a washerwoman, helping her. She saw a henwife's daughter, all in rags, and snipped her rags with the scissors, so she wore cloth of gold. Her mother told the queen, who demanded them. The princess asked for a night with her husband in return, and the queen agreed but drugged her husband. The next day, the princess cured another daughter of the henwife with the comb, and the same exchange was made for it.

The princess blew the whistle and consulted the birds. They told her that only her husband could kill the queen, because a holly-tree, before the castle, held a wether, the wether held a duck, the duck held an egg, and the egg held her heart and life, and only her husband could cut the holly tree. Then she blew the whistle again, attracting a hawk and a fox and caught them. She traded the whistle for a third night, but left a letter with his servants, telling him all.

Her husband read the letter and met her by the tree. He cut it down. The wether escaped, but the fox caught it; the duck escaped, but the falcon caught it, and the egg was crushed, killing the queen.

The princess and her husband live happily in Tír na nÓg.

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