The Liar



This story comes from county Mayo, but there are similar versions from all over Ireland. There are similar stories from all over Europe, for example the story of Boots, who made a Princess say "That's a story" and the tales of Baron Munchausen (the story of "The Man in the Moone" by Francis Godwin may also fit into this category). Like them, this is primarily a comic story, but laden with symbolism.

A king has promised his daughter's hand in marriage to anyone who can make him say, "you're a liar". The hero begins by talking about a potato with a haulm as big as a tree, which had to be rooted out with crow bars and carried home in pieces by four men. Then he tells of a cabbage so large that his bull could shelter from the rain under its leaves, until one day he shook the leaves and the bull was swept away by the flood of water from the leaves and drowned. The king says nothing. Finally the hero tells the following story:

"The following morning as soon as day rose, myself and my mother got up; we tackled [harnessed] an old white garron [horse] for ploughing and started to plough. When the old garron got tired, he was failing under the plough. A big eagle came along and stood in the furrow. I caught him and harnessed him to the plough. The big eagle started to plough, with myself guiding it, and to make a long story short, both Big Ireland and Little Ireland were ploughed by the big eagle and myself when my mother brought me my dinner!

"I put the big eagle into the barn, and said to myself that he was worth feeding. Nine barrels of seed-oats that I had for planting were eaten by the big eagle while I was eating my dinner. I tied a sheet about my neck [as a sack] and started to shake out the seed. I put my mother in charge of the big eagle and I had Little Ireland and big Ireland sown, and my mother and the big eagle had them harrowed by evening.

"I said that I had a good day's work done, and told my mother not to wake me in the morning until she had the breakfast ready on the table But as the widows of the world are inclined to be more anxious than any other people, she got up at the ring [break] of day, looked out the door, looked back again and said: "Sean, son, get up quickly, and don't bother with your duds [rags of clothes]. This is a day for real haste, because all the oats you and myself and the big eagle sowed yesterday is full ripe for reaping today.

"I got up and my mother and myself took two long, slender, sharp sickles and started to reap the oats. We had only a little reaped when up started a hare in front of me in the oats. I threw my hook at him and the tip of it got stuck into the heel of the hare. Off ran the hare west through Ireland and back again, going from side to side, and the hook behind him and he reaping the oats! I started to bind the oats he had reaped, and I set my mother to make stooks of it, and to make a long story short for ye, Little Ireland and Big Ireland were reaped by the hare, tied into sheaves by myself and stooked by my mother by evening!

I said that indeed we had done a great day's work, and told my mother not to wake me in the morning until she'd have the breakfast ready on the table. But as the widows of this world are inclined to be more anxious than any other people, my mother got up at the ring of day and looked out the door fearing the cattle might be ruining the oats. She returned and said the oats had vanished." [3]

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