Play recording: Witch in the Stone Boat, The
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- Teideal (Title): Witch in the Stone Boat, The.
- Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 841422.
- Uimhir Chnuasach Bhéaloideas Éireann (National Folklore of Ireland Number): none.
- Uimhir Roud (Roud Number): none.
- Uimhir Laws (Laws Number): none.
- Uimhir Child (Child Number): none.
- Cnuasach (Collection): Joe Heaney Collection, University of Washington, Seattle.
- Teanga na Croímhíre (Core-Item Language): English.
- Catagóir (Category): story.
- Ainm an té a thug (Name of Informant): Joe Heaney.
- Ainm an té a thóg (Name of Collector): Joan Rabinowitz.
- Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): probably 19/10/1984.
- Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
- Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): KRAB Radio.
- Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): unavailable.
- Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.
A king’s son travels to a far kingdom to marry, with the understanding that when his father dies, he will travel back to Ireland with his wife for the funeral. About a year after the wedding, when he and his wife have a new baby, his father dies, and they set out by boat.
On the journey, the king’s son feels tired and goes below for a rest, leaving his wife and child in the care of the crew on deck. All of a sudden, the young woman sees a boat made of stone passing their boat, and a witch in charge of it, with her long crooked nose driving the boat, like an engine. As the boats come close together, the witch reaches into the other boat, grabs the mother and child, and brings them into the stone boat. She then takes the child herself back into the other boat, sending the stone boat – with the young mother in it – on its way, telling it not to stop until it reaches ‘the king of the underground.’
The stone boat disappears, and the witch assumes the form of the young mother. But the baby won’t stop crying; and when the king’s son wakes up, he can’t understand why the baby is making such noise, when he never used to cry before. When they reach Ireland, the king’s son finds a nurse for the baby, and the child immediately stops crying when the nurse takes charge of him.
At the same time, the king’s son is puzzled that the woman with him seems to be very different from the woman he’d married. The king’s son is now king, his father having died, and the woman is queen, which is what she wanted. Two young boys who happen to pass the queen’s chamber overhear her laughing an evil laugh to herself and saying, ‘Roly poly, roly poly, roly poly, I’ll be queen, I’ll be queen, I’ll be queen!’ The two young fellows thought the queen must be going mad. Going back later that night, they heard the same thing again; and bending to look through the keyhole, they saw the floor open up, and a huge feast emerge from the floor. The queen eats everything in sight, which they find odd, as they’ve previously heard that the queen wouldn’t eat anything, and the king is afraid she will starve herself.
Finally, the two young men tell what they’ve seen to the baby’s nurse, who tells the king. The king comes into the room, and slashes with his sword at the hand that’s holding up the food for the witch – that’s what she was – who has taken over the form of his wife. The hand of the giant falls off, and the king’s own wife emerges out of the hole in the floor. She has been chained all this time onto this giant, who is the witch’s son. The minute the witch sees what’s happened, she drops dead and turns into a pool of blood on the floor. The two young men who revealed the truth are well rewarded; and the when the baby recognizes his true mother, he flies into her arms straightaway.
This story, although somewhat abbreviated, contains many of the same details as an Icelandic version included by Andrew Lang (1844-1912) in The Yellow Fairy Book, originally published in 1894.
Joe tells many stories involving the enchantment of people into different forms: see The Seal-Woman, The woman who removed a thorn from a seal’s fin, Oisín and Niamh of the Golden Hair, and The Twelve Swans.
The recording date is given as 19 October 1984, but this is presumed to be the broadcast date, as Joe Heaney died on 1 May 1984.