The Man Who Never Knew Fear
Source: Irish Fairy Tales
TRANSLATED FROM THE GAELIC BY DOUGLAS HYDE
There was once a lady, and she had two sons whose names were Louras
(Lawrence) and Carrol. From the day that Lawrence was born nothing
ever made him afraid, but Carrol would never go outside the door from
the time the darkness of the night began.
It was the custom at that time when a person died for people to watch
the dead person's grave in turn, one after another; for there used to
be destroyers going about stealing the corpses.
When the mother of Carrol and Lawrence died, Carrol said to Lawrence--
'You say that nothing ever made you afraid yet, but I'll make a bet
with you that you haven't courage to watch your mother's tomb
'I'll make a bet with you that I have,' said Lawrence.
When the darkness of the night was coming, Lawrence put on his sword
and went to the burying-ground. He sat down on a tombstone near his
mother's grave till it was far in the night and sleep was coming upon
him. Then he saw a big black thing coming to him, and when it came
near him he saw that it was a head without a body that was in it. He
drew the sword to give it a blow if it should come any nearer, but it
didn't come. Lawrence remained looking at it until the light of the
day was coming, then the head-without-body went, and Lawrence came
Carrol asked him, did he see anything in the graveyard.
'I did,' said Lawrence, 'and my mother's body would be gone, but that
I was guarding it.'
'Was it dead or alive, the person you saw?' said Carrol.
'I don't know was it dead or alive,' said Lawrence; 'there was nothing
in it but a head without a body.'
'Weren't you afraid?' says Carrol.
'Indeed I wasn't,' said Lawrence; 'don't you know that nothing in the
world ever put fear on me.'
'I'll bet again with you that you haven't the courage to watch
to-night again,' says Carrol.
'I would make that bet with you,' said Lawrence, 'but that there is a
night's sleep wanting to me. Go yourself to-night.'
'I wouldn't go to the graveyard to-night if I were to get the riches
of the world,' says Carrol.
'Unless you go your mother's body will be gone in the morning,' says
'If only you watch to-night and to-morrow night, I never will ask of
you to do a turn of work as long as you will be alive,' said Carrol,
'but I think there is fear on you.'
'To show you that there's no fear on me,' said Lawrence, 'I will
He went to sleep, and when the evening came he rose up, put on his
sword, and went to the graveyard. He sat on a tombstone near his
mother's grave. About the middle of the night he heard a great sound
coming. A big black thing came as far as the grave and began rooting
up the clay. Lawrence drew back his sword, and with one blow he made
two halves of the big black thing, and with the second blow he made
two halves of each half, and he saw it no more.
Lawrence went home in the morning, and Carrol asked him did he see
'I did,' said Lawrence, 'and only that I was there my mother's body
would be gone.'
'Is it the head-without-body that came again?' said Carrol.
'It was not, but a big black thing, and it was digging up my mother's
grave until I made two halves of it.'
Lawrence slept that day, and when the evening came he rose up, put on
his sword, and went to the churchyard. He sat down on a tombstone
until it was the middle of the night. Then he saw a thing as white as
snow and as hateful as sin; it had a man's head on it, and teeth as
long as a flax-carder. Lawrence drew back the sword and was going to
deal it a blow, when it said--
'Hold your hand; you have saved your mother's body, and there is not a
man in Ireland as brave as you. There is great riches waiting for you
if you go looking for it.'
Lawrence went home, and Carrol asked him did he see anything.
'I did,' said Lawrence, 'and but that I was there my mother's body
would be gone, but there's no fear of it now.'
In the morning, the day on the morrow, Lawrence said to Carrol--
'Give me my share of money, and I'll go on a journey, until I have a
look round the country.'
Carrol gave him the money, and he went walking. He went on until he
came to a large town. He went into the house of a baker to get bread.
The baker began talking to him, and asked him how far he was going.
'I am going looking for something that will put fear on me,' said
'Have you much money?' said the baker.
'I have a half-hundred pounds,' said Lawrence.
'I'll bet another half-hundred with you that there will be fear on you
if you go to the place that I'll bid you,' says the baker.
'I'll take your bet,' said Lawrence, 'if only the place is not too far
away from me.'
'It's not a mile from the place where you're standing,' said the
baker; 'wait here till the night comes, and then go to the graveyard,
and as a sign that you were in it, bring me the goblet that is upon
the altar of the old church (cill) that is in the graveyard.'
When the baker made the bet he was certain that he would win, for
there was a ghost in the churchyard, and nobody went into it for forty
years before that whom he did not kill.
When the darkness of the night came, Lawrence put on his sword and
went to the burying-ground. He came to the door of the churchyard and
struck it with his sword. The door opened, and there came out a great
black ram, and two horns on him as long as flails. Lawrence gave him a
blow, and he went out of sight, leaving him up to the two ankles in
blood. Lawrence went into the old church, got the goblet, came back to
the baker's house, gave him the goblet, and got the bet. Then the
baker asked him did he see anything in the churchyard.
'I saw a big black ram with long horns on him,' said Lawrence, 'and I
gave him a blow which drew as much blood out of him as would swim a
boat; sure he must be dead by this time.'
In the morning, the day on the morrow, the baker and a lot of people
went to the graveyard and they saw the blood of the black ram at the
door. They went to the priest and told him that the black ram was
banished out of the churchyard. The priest did not believe them,
because the churchyard was shut up forty years before that on account
of the ghost that was in it, and neither priest nor friar could banish
him. The priest came with them to the door of the churchyard, and when
he saw the blood he took courage and sent for Lawrence, and heard the
story from his own mouth. Then he sent for his blessing-materials, and
desired the people to come in till he read mass for them. The priest
went in, and Lawrence and the people after him, and he read mass
without the big black ram coming as he used to do. The priest was
greatly rejoiced, and gave Lawrence another fifty pounds.
On the morning of the next day Lawrence went on his way. He travelled
the whole day without seeing a house. About the hour of midnight he
came to a great lonely valley, and he saw a large gathering of people
looking at two men hurling. Lawrence stood looking at them, as there
was a bright light from the moon. It was the good people that were in
it, and it was not long until one of them struck a blow on the ball
and sent it into Lawrence's breast. He put his hand in after the ball
to draw it out, and what was there in it but the head of a man. When
Lawrence got a hold of it, it began screeching, and at last it asked
'Are you not afraid?'
'Indeed I am not,' said Lawrence, and no sooner was the word spoken
than both head and people disappeared, and he was left in the glen
alone by himself.
He journeyed until he came to another town, and when he ate and drank
enough, he went out on the road, and was walking until he came to a
great house on the side of the road. As the night was closing in, he
went in to try if he could get lodging. There was a young man at the
door who said to him--
'How far are you going, or what are you in search of?'
'I do not know how far I am going, but I am in search of something
that will put fear on me,' said Lawrence.
'You have not far to go, then,' said the young man; 'if you stop in
that big house on the other side of the road there will be fear put on
you before morning, and I'll give you twenty pounds into the bargain.'
'I'll stop in it,' said Lawrence.
The young man went with him, opened the door, and brought him into a
large room in the bottom of the house, and said to him, 'Put down fire
for yourself and I'll send you plenty to eat and drink.' He put down a
fire for himself, and there came a girl to him and brought him
everything that he wanted.
He went on very well, until the hour of midnight came, and then he
heard a great sound over his head, and it was not long until a
stallion and a bull came in and commenced to fight. Lawrence never put
to them nor from them, and when they were tired fighting they went
out. Lawrence went to sleep, and he never awoke until the young man
came in in the morning, and he was surprised when he saw Lawrence
alive. He asked him had he seen anything.
'I saw a stallion and a bull fighting hard for about two hours,' said
'And weren't you afraid?' said the young man.
'I was not,' says Lawrence.
'If you wait to-night again, I'll give you another twenty pounds,'
says the young man.
'I'll wait, and welcome,' says Lawrence.
The second night, about ten o'clock, Lawrence was going to sleep, when
two black rams came in and began fighting hard. Lawrence neither put
to them nor from them, and when twelve o'clock struck they went out.
The young man came in the morning and asked him did he see anything
'I saw two black rams fighting,' said Lawrence.
'Were you afraid at all?' said the young man.
'I was not,' said Lawrence.
'Wait to-night, and I'll give you another twenty pounds,' says the
'All right,' says Lawrence.
The third night he was falling asleep, when there came in a gray old
man and said to him--
'You are the best hero in Ireland; I died twenty years ago, and all
that time I have been in search of a man like you. Come with me now
till I show you your riches; I told you when you were watching your
mother's grave that there was great riches waiting for you.'
He took Lawrence to a chamber under ground, and showed him a large pot
filled with gold, and said to him--
'You will have all that if you give twenty pounds to Mary Kerrigan the
widow, and get her forgiveness for me for a wrong I did her. Then buy
this house, marry my daughter, and you will be happy and rich as long
as you live.'
The next morning the young man came to Lawrence and asked him did he
see anything last night.
'I did,' said Lawrence, 'and it's certain that there will be a ghost
always in it, but nothing in the world would frighten me; I'll buy the
house and the land round it, if you like.'
'I'll ask no price for the house, but I won't part with the land under
a thousand pounds, and I'm sure you haven't that much.'
'I have more than would buy all the land and all the herds you have,'
When the young man heard that Lawrence was so rich, he invited him to
come to dinner. Lawrence went with him, and when the dead man's
daughter saw him she fell in love with him.
Lawrence went to the house of Mary Kerrigan and gave her twenty
pounds, and got her forgiveness for the dead man. Then he married the
young man's sister and spent a happy life. He died as he lived,
without there being fear on him.
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