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Story entitled 'Bhalantaidh us Horsantaidh', 18 January 1865

Identifier: Coll-97/CW113/9

Scope and Contents

Story entitled 'Bhalantaidh us Horsantaidh' collected from Alasdair Mac Neil [Alexander MacNeil], Ceantangbhall [Ceanntangabhal/Kentagaval, Barraigh/Isle of Barra]. The story begins with Rìgh Lochlann's daughter being married off to an emperor and being accompanied to her new home by only one kinsman. The emperor's house priest falls in love with her and while the emperor is hunting, he declares his love for her and expects her to reciprocate. She refuses to do so and locks up the priest until her husband returns. The priest is held in high esteem by the emperor so when she seems the emperor returnign, the empress releases the priest but the priest out of his usual position encounters the emperor first and tells him that he has been badly treated. The emperor is angry with the empress for treating the priest badly and expels her. She flees with her kinsman and is pursued by the priest. The priest and the kinsman get into a fight which is interrupted by a passing drover. There are a number of twists and turns over who has the upper hand physically and psychologically and ultimately, the priest returns to the emperor where he is tortured and killed once the emperor has found out the truth from the drover.

Meanwhile, the empress goes into labour and being near to her brother's kingdom, sends her kinsman to get help from him. While the kinsman is away, she gives birth to a boy but while she gives birth to a second boy, the first boy is stolen by a lion. She lays down the second baby to rescue but ends up lost and without either of her twins. The kinsman and her brother (Rìgh Lochlann) return and find the second baby and take him back to the brother's kingdom. The baby, called Bhalantaidh, is brought up with Rìgh Lochlann's three sons and is schooled as if he were the king's own son.

The three sons are jealous of Bhalantaidh and see him as a threat to their inheritance, so when they hear that a beast is roaming the borders of their kingdom they suggest that Bhalantaidh is sent to deal with it. Rìgh Lochlann, Bhalantaidh's uncle, sees through their ploy and insists that Bhalantaidh is not put at the head of any attack on the beast. The sons lie to Bhalantaidh and tell him the opposite of what Rìgh Lochlann asked and Bhalantaidh goes to petition his uncle, saying that he does not have enough experience to lead an attack. Eventually, he heads off on his own to join the attack but while resting en route is awoken by the beast, who turns out to be a hairy, naked man.Instead of fighting the beat, he talks to him and agrees to feed and clothe him, so they set off together for the nearest town. Seeing them coming, the townsfolk run away, locking up the town gates and so Bhalantaidh and the beast have to break in. They end up in a shop with Bhalantaidh eating roast meat and the beast eating raw meat, which Bhalantaidh advises him against doing. Feeling thirsty, Bhalantaidh goes in search of something to drink and soon they are both drinking alcohol and are very drunk. While the beast is incapacitated by drink, Bhalantaidh thinks he coudl kill the beast but spares him and takes him back to Rìgh Lochlann. He asks his uncle to ensure that the beast is shaved, cleaned and clothed and then baptised. This is agreed to and the beast becomes known as Orsantaidh.

Bhalantaidh and Orsantaidh then become recognised as a reliable warrior duo and are brought in to help Rìgh Sisele fight Gaisgeach Mor mac Rìgh na Sorach, who is threatening to take Rìgh Sisele's daughter. Bhalantaidh and Orsantaidh each spend all day and all night fighting the Gaisgeach Mòr, each spearing him in the heel, but are unable to defeat him entirely. As a consequence, Gaisgeach Mòr holds them in high esteem and gives Bhalantaidh letters to allow him entry to his castle and the magic helmet. At the castle they encounter Gaisgeach Mòr's beautiful, nighean Rìgh na Sorach and they converse with the magic helmet. The helmet tells Bhalantaidh and Orsantaidh that they are brothers of royal blood and that they are the only ones who can break a spell which has the queen bound to a flock of birds and the king to a cat. [The text here is confusing]. The duo set off and encounter three animals fishing: a dog, an otter and a hawk. The animals ask Bhalantaidh to divide their fish and so he obliges, the hawk receiving the best part and then they pledge their loyalty to the warriors should they ever be in trouble. They continue their journey and encounter a witch who take sBhalantaidh's power, leaving him weak, but she is unable to harm Orsantaidh because he was reared on lion's milk. They return to Rìgh na Sorach and the helmet which tells them how to undo the spell. They will encounter a ram, from which will come a duck from which will come an egg, each item being taken by the dog, otter and hawk, previously encountered. The egg contains the witch's soul. After this they will have to gather a flock of birds on a hill and this they do, the procuring of a heron being the most difficult and for which they have to enlist the help of the queen of the birds. Once this is done the witch dies and Bhalantaidh and Orsantaidh find their mother, the empress, spinning yarn by a tree-stump near the borders of the empire. They take her back to the emperor, who has been in a deep depression since the empress left, and declare themselves as his son and they all live happily ever after.

MacNeil states that he heard the story from his father 'long long ago'.


  • Creation: 18 January 1865

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

This material is unrestricted.


From the Series: 86 folios ; 20.3 x 16.5 cm