Gift of Dog (Hebrides)

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grizzled dog

A man from Harris was deer-hunting in Bealach a’ Sgail. (The Glen of the Echo, the pass between the hills Li fo thuath and Li fo dheas-North Lea and South Lea in North Uist. Here Gilleaspa Dubh was murdered by his nephew.) In the hollow of the glen he came upon a man in the act of skinning a deer. The man, who was a stranger, appeared to be much disconcerted at being thus caught, and expressed a hope that he fell into good hands. The Harris man assured him that he need fear nothing on his account. The stranger took courage on being thus assured and entered upon a conversation with the man. Not seeing a dog with the Harris man, the stranger asked if he had any at home, to which the man replied in the negative. The stranger wondered at a huntsman being without a dog and offered him his own-a large grizzled hound that crouched beside him, adding:

‘Soilleir fuil air cu ban,

‘Soilleir cu dubh air liana,

‘S nam bithinn ris an fhiadhach,

B’e ‘n cu riabhach mo roghann’;

which means:

‘Visible is blood on a white dog,

Visible is a black dog on a meadow,

And if I were deer-hunting

The grizzled dog would be my choice.’

The stranger pointed to the dog, and the Harris man stooped down to take hold of the dog’s leash. On turning round to thank the donor, neither he nor the carcass could be seen. It was not till the sudden disappearance of the stranger that the man apprehended that he was a fairy. The Harris man kept the dog for a long time, until one day as he was passing the identical hollow in which he met the Fairy he heard a shrill whistling-the dog cocked his ears and made off, and his late owner never saw him again. Anon ‘Fairy Tales’, The Celtic Review 5 (1908), 155-171 at 156-157

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