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TITLE
How the Sea Birds got their Down
EXTERNAL ID
HC_GAELICSTORYTAPE_021
DATE OF RECORDING
1997
PERIOD
1990s
CREATOR
unknown
SOURCE
The Highland Council
ASSET ID
2357
KEYWORDS
oral tradition
folklore
stories
Gaelic
story telling
audio

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This story is recorded in Gaelic and the following is an English translation.

How the Sea Birds got their Down.

When the world was young the sea birds were complaining that they didn't have enough down on them to keep them warm in midwinter. Things came to a head, and every bird that could swim on a wave and every bird that could take its livelihood from the seashore gathered in one place so that some means might be found of acquiring some kind of down before the cold weather set in. A fine old goose stood out and said, "It is from the sun that we all receive warmth and life. We had better cast three lots to see which birds will be chosen to go to the sun's court to seek the down." The lot fell on a duck, a seagull and a cormorant. Off they went, the three birds, cormorant, duck and seagull. When they reached their destination it was so late in the evening that the sun was setting in the ocean. With one voice the messengers stated their purpose.

The sun addressed them as follows - "I have no time tonight to help you but whichever bird is the earliest to rise in the morning and welcomes me when I am rising from the sea, that is the bird that will receive most down."

There was nothing else on that score. The sun went quickly out of sight. The three birds stayed where they were that night at the end of a headland near at hand. The cormorant and the seagull said to each other that they would keep watch to make sure that they would manage to welcome the sun as soon as it put in an appearance above the sea.

The duck said nothing. She just put her head under her wing and went to sleep. As soon as her companions noticed this one of them said to the other, "Look at that foolish one, going to sleep when she ought to stay awake! You'll see; for her it will be just a useless mission."

In any event, the seagull and the cormorant succeeded in keeping their eyes open, with extreme difficulty, for most of the time - but finally the cormorant fell asleep, in a deep slumber. The seagull was now keeping vigil on her own. Day began to break and a rosy glow began to appear to the east. The seagull imagined that the sun had risen and she began to clamour with delight. She woke the duck.

"Look," said the seagull, "the sun is up."

"Be quiet, foolish one," said the duck, " the sun won't be up for a while yet."

The duck began to wash and preen herself in readiness to welcome the sun. She looked around and noticed that the seagull had fallen asleep. The sky to the east was the colour of gold and the sun was shining gloriously on the water. The duck gave her a warm welcome. The sun gave her enough down for herself and all her descendants.

The duck was delighted. She woke up the cormorant. The generous sun gave him a good share of down. The seagull woke up. The sun did not leave her empty. The birds received their down in proportion to their early rising, and the down of the seabirds is allotted in that way to the present time.

This story is from a collection of stories available on tape, with an accompanying book, under the title 'Am Bloigh Beag le Beannachd'

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How the Sea Birds got their Down

1990s

oral tradition; folklore; stories; Gaelic; story telling; audio

The Highland Council

Am Bloigh Beag le Beannachd (Cassette)

This story is recorded in Gaelic and the following is an English translation.<br /> <br /> How the Sea Birds got their Down.<br /> <br /> When the world was young the sea birds were complaining that they didn't have enough down on them to keep them warm in midwinter. Things came to a head, and every bird that could swim on a wave and every bird that could take its livelihood from the seashore gathered in one place so that some means might be found of acquiring some kind of down before the cold weather set in. A fine old goose stood out and said, "It is from the sun that we all receive warmth and life. We had better cast three lots to see which birds will be chosen to go to the sun's court to seek the down." The lot fell on a duck, a seagull and a cormorant. Off they went, the three birds, cormorant, duck and seagull. When they reached their destination it was so late in the evening that the sun was setting in the ocean. With one voice the messengers stated their purpose.<br /> <br /> The sun addressed them as follows - "I have no time tonight to help you but whichever bird is the earliest to rise in the morning and welcomes me when I am rising from the sea, that is the bird that will receive most down."<br /> <br /> There was nothing else on that score. The sun went quickly out of sight. The three birds stayed where they were that night at the end of a headland near at hand. The cormorant and the seagull said to each other that they would keep watch to make sure that they would manage to welcome the sun as soon as it put in an appearance above the sea.<br /> <br /> The duck said nothing. She just put her head under her wing and went to sleep. As soon as her companions noticed this one of them said to the other, "Look at that foolish one, going to sleep when she ought to stay awake! You'll see; for her it will be just a useless mission."<br /> <br /> In any event, the seagull and the cormorant succeeded in keeping their eyes open, with extreme difficulty, for most of the time - but finally the cormorant fell asleep, in a deep slumber. The seagull was now keeping vigil on her own. Day began to break and a rosy glow began to appear to the east. The seagull imagined that the sun had risen and she began to clamour with delight. She woke the duck.<br /> <br /> "Look," said the seagull, "the sun is up."<br /> <br /> "Be quiet, foolish one," said the duck, " the sun won't be up for a while yet."<br /> <br /> The duck began to wash and preen herself in readiness to welcome the sun. She looked around and noticed that the seagull had fallen asleep. The sky to the east was the colour of gold and the sun was shining gloriously on the water. The duck gave her a warm welcome. The sun gave her enough down for herself and all her descendants.<br /> <br /> The duck was delighted. She woke up the cormorant. The generous sun gave him a good share of down. The seagull woke up. The sun did not leave her empty. The birds received their down in proportion to their early rising, and the down of the seabirds is allotted in that way to the present time.<br /> <br /> This story is from a collection of stories available on tape, with an accompanying book, under the title 'Am Bloigh Beag le Beannachd'