Friday, 3 June 2011

Friday is for Fairy-Tales: The Wooing of Becfola

This is a meme hosted by me every Friday.

Today's post is about: The Wooing of Becfola (an Irish fairy-tale)

Today, I am sharing another Celtic fairy-tale with you - this time, an Irish story. As you may have noticed, there is a distinct pattern to Celtic fairy-tales that draws material from Celtic mythology and usually determines a specific time and place in which a story is set. There is a moral (although not always), but mostly the stress is on the (magical) experience. Such is the case with "The Wooing of Becfola" as well.

This is a very long story, so I really narrowed it down in my summary. The story can be found online on many websites if you wish to read the whole fairy-tale.

Dermod, son of the famous Ae of Slane, was monarch of all Ireland. He was unmarried, but he had many foster-sons, princes from the Four Provinces, who were sent by their fathers as tokens of loyalty and affection to the Ard-Ri. Among the young princes of his household there was Crimthann, son of Ae, King of Leinster, whom the High King preferred to the others.

The High King and Crimthann would often set out from Tara to hunt and hawk, sometimes unaccompanied even by a servant. Dermod mac Ae delighted in these solitary adventures, and when he could steal a day from policy and affairs he would send word to Crimthann. The boy would join the king at a place arranged between them and they would roam around. On one of these adventures, as they searched a flooded river to find the ford, they saw a solitary woman in a chariot. The woman in the chariot had arrived at the ford by which they were standing, and, without pause, she swung her steeds into the shallows, took the horses through the river and lifted them up the bank. The king took a fancy to her, but she only looked at Crimthann.

She would not give her name, but the king, liking her so much, asked her to marry him and she could not refuse the king, so she accepted. They were married quickly. Time passed and the king was really happy, but not the girl whose names was finally revealed as that of Becfola. She loved Crimthann, but could not have him. He loved her as well and after some thinking, they decided to escape from Tara.

Becfola left the palace with one maid, and as she crossed the doorway something happened to her: she did not walk outside the palace, but into Faery, yet she did not know this. Her intention was to go to Cluain da chaillech to meet Crimthann, but when she left the palace she did not remember her meeting with Crimthann anymore. To her eye and to the eye of her maid the world was as it always had been, and the landmarks they knew were about them. But the object for which they were travelling was different, although unknown, and the people they passed on the roads were unknown, and were yet people that they knew.

They set out southwards from Tara into the Duffry of Leinster, and after some time they came into wild country and went astray. On their way, a pack of wolves attacked them and they saved themselves by climbing a tree. But after some time the moon arose and the wolves went away. The two women waited awhile befor descending from the tree. In a spot between three great oaks, Becfola came upon a man who was roasting a wild boar over a fire. She saluted this youth and sat beside him. But after the first glance and greeting he did not look at her again, nor did he speak. When the boar was cooked, he ate of it and she had her share. Then he arose from the fire and walked away among the trees. Becfola followed because she very much liked the youngster. In fact, she found that she liked him even more than Crimthann. They came to an inlet of the sea, stepped into a boat and rowed to an island. There they went inland towards a vast palace, in which there was no person but themselves alone, and there the young man went to sleep, while Becfola sat staring at him until she grew so tired that she fell asleep as well.

She was awakened in the morning by a great shout. The young man leaped from his couch, girded on his harness and strode out. Three young men met him, each in battle harness, and these four advanced to meet four other men who awaited them at a little distance on the lawn. Then these two sets of four fought together and at the end of that combat there was but one man standing, and the other seven lay dead. Becfola spoke to the youth, Flann, who returned her and her maid to the palace in Tara, promising that he would wait for Becfola.

Becfola pushed the door of the king's sleeping chamber and entered noiselessly. Then she sat quietly in a seat and prepared to consider what she would say to him when he awakened. But at that moment the king lifted his head from the pillow and looked kindly at her. Her time in Faery went unrecorded in the real world. She remembered that Crimthann, the son of Ae, must be now attending her at Cluain da chaillech, and she thought of that young man who brought her back as of something wonderful and very ridiculous, and the fact that he was waiting for her troubled her no more. She fell asleep.

In the morning, as they sat at breakfast, four clerics were announced, and when they entered the king looked on them with stern disapproval because they journeyed on a Sunday. They told him that they saw eight comely young men who fought together and seven of them were killed. One cleric revealed that they saw Becfola there. The king sank back in his chair stupefied, gazing from one to the other, and then turned towards Becfola. She confessed that the young man who remained alive brought her home and that he was waiting for her to be his. She went out from the palace then and was never seen or heard of again.



Blodeuedd said...

I do not like her, she liked C and married the king. And then she met another handsome man and loved him instead. I say good riddance

The Insouciant Sophisticate said...

I agree with Blodeuedd about the young woman but what a weird experience to travel into the fairy world unknowingly and have those experiences without really realizing or understanding.