The little weaver from Duleek

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6 min

Tale from Ireland.

In the town of Duleek there once lived a weaver who was a particularly industrious man. When he had sat down at the loom he became absorbed in the patterns he produced, so that he forgot both to eat and to sleep. One day his housekeeper had made a delicious meat stew for him. She had to shout several times before he finally left the loom and went to eat. But then the meat stew had time to be ashamed, because it was in the hottest month of the summer and the flies were swarming around the dining table. Then the weaver became angry. "Are you going to ruin my dinner, you beasts?" he growled, striking the air with his open hand. In that blow he happened to kill no less than three and a half dozen flies that struck down on the table. The weaver was greatly impressed by his ability as a fly killer and counted the flies over and over to see if there really were that many.

After this great deed, the weaver became proud as a rooster on the dunghill and took the rest of the day off to tell the townspeople what had happened. He clenched his fist under the nose of every person he met and said, “Look at that hand. It killed three and a half dozen in a single blow!” Before the day was out he had convinced himself that he should become a knight-errant and thus put his powers to better use than sitting at the loom.

The next day the weaver begged an old iron cauldron from a neighbor and put it on his head like a helmet. He went to the tailor and had him sew together a suit of plate armor. He finally went to the glazier with a large pot lid he had borrowed to have it repainted into a knight's shield. On the lid of the pot, the glass master wrote according to the weaver's instructions: "I am the man among all men who killed three and a half dozen with a single blow!" Now that the weaver had been transformed into a knight, he set out for Dublin, where the king lived, to offer his services.

It was a long way to travel in tin clothes and with an iron cauldron on his head, so when the weaver arrived he was very tired. Around the castle, the king had set out benches for anyone who wanted to rest, and it was on one of these that the weaver lay down to rest. Soon he was snoring so loudly that one of the king's guards looked over the castle wall to see what it was that sounded. Then the guard saw the weaver's shield and read the text on it. "Gentle time, what a fighter he must be!" thought the guard and ran straight to the king to tell him. When the king heard of the sleeping stranger, he himself went out to wake him.

As he shook the weaver to life, the king asked, "You have killed three and a half dozen with a single blow, from what I understand?" "Yes. that's right,” replied the weaver. “That was the last little insignificant feat I performed. But now I'm afraid I'll just lie here and be idle.” "Then I will give you a suitable mission," said the king. “We have a problem with a dragon who lives as a robber here outside the city. He has soon eaten all the cows and all the farmers, so we have no milk here anymore. He has also killed all my best men and now I don't know what we are going to do." "I can arrange that in no time," said the weaver morosely. "Just tell me where the beast lives, and he'll be taken care of right away." The king explained that the dragon resided in a swamp away in Galway and wanted to offer the weaver his own sword in the fight against the beast. But the weaver refused, explaining that he preferred to just use his fists.

It took the weaver four days to reach Galway, but then it was clear that he had come to the right place, for he was met by a crowd of terrified people shouting "murderer", "police" and "dragon". Before the weaver could ask what they were running from, the dragon came crawling over the crest of a hill. It was certainly not a beautiful animal, with scales of armor, a long spiny tail and a jaw full of large teeth. Now the weaver realized the seriousness of it all and he understood that he would soon become dragon food. So he put his legs on his back and climbed the biggest tree he could find. There he actually sat safe, and no matter how much the dragon blew out fire and clawed at the tree, he could not reach the weaver. “Doesn't matter,” said the dragon, “for you are in my power. I'll wait here under the tree and sooner or later you'll have to dim down.” The dragon wrapped his long body around the tree and went to sleep midday, for he had just eaten an entire village.

The weaver waited until he thought the dragon was fast asleep and then he carefully began to climb down from the tree. Everything went well until he got to the last branch. It was completely dark and went off! The weaver fell straight down on the dragon's neck and woke the beast, which began to rush and make a terrible noise. But luckily the weaver had gotten a good grip on the dragon's ears and was now holding on for dear life. It carried on over log and stone with weaver and dragon as the monster tried to shake off its stowaway, and at last they had traveled so far that the weaver could glimpse the walls of Dublin Castle. Then he egged the dragon on even worse with snarls and insults until the beast was so furious that he couldn't see where he was running. So he rushed headfirst into the wall and killed himself.

The weaver felt as dead as the dragon after the perilous journey, and could barely stand up when the king and his people came rushing out of Dublin to pay him homage. "By all that exists!" exclaimed the king. “The knight-errant has ridden the dragon to Dublin and slain him right outside my own castle! Such bravery must be rewarded!” And so it happened. The little weaver from Duleek got a whole chest of gold and also the king's daughter in marriage. The gold was good to have, of course, but from what I heard the princess was the worst dragon of all, with a temper worse than a volcano and a tongue more venomous than all the snakes in Ireland.

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