Four Hunchbacks, The

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  • Teideal (Title): Four Hunchbacks, The.
  • Uimhir Chatalóige Ollscoil Washington (University of Washington Catalogue Number): 781515.
  • 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): Cynthia Thiessen.
  • Dáta an taifeadta (Recording Date): 06/03/1978 – 07/03/1978.
  • Suíomh an taifeadta (Recording Location): University of Washington, United States of America.
  • Ocáid an taifeadta (Recording Occasion): class.
  • Daoine eile a bhí i láthair (Others present): Fredric Lieberman.
  • Stádas chóipcheart an taifeadta (Recording copyright status): unavailable.

In response to a question about his story, The Two Hunchbacks, Joe launches into a summary of a funny play he remembers, Na Cruiteacháin. This is a one-act verse play by Pierre Jalabert, La Farce des Bossus, published in 1933 and translated into Irish by Liam Ó Briain, which tells the story of a woman married to a hunchback. He has a bad temper, and she is tired of him. One night when he is out, there comes a knock at the door – and it’s another hunchback. ‘As long as it’s not my husband,’ she thinks, ‘he might as well come in.’ The two are sitting over a bottle of wine, when another knock comes to the door. Fearing her husband’s return, she hides her visitor in a cupboard. When she opens the door – there is yet another hunchback. The same thing happens: they sit down with a glass of wine, another knock is heard, and once again she hides the second fellow in the cupboard along with the first one. But once again, it’s not her husband, but a third hunchback. They follow the same routine, and when the door-knocker goes again, she shoves him into the cupboard with the first two.

This time it is her husband, who is glad to see that she has been behaving herself while he has been out. He goes out again, whereupon she opens the cupboard so that she can clear the house of strange men before he returns for the night. All three of the visitors fall out of the cupboard, stone dead.

Now she has the problem of disposing of the bodies. She calls in a spailpín – an itinerant labourer – and asks if he’d like to earn a pound. She tells him her husband has died, and she’s afraid that the neighbours will accuse her of killing him, and would he take the body away and bury it someplace? He agrees. When he comes back for his wages, however, there’s another body there – another hunchback – and the wife tells him, ‘You didn’t bury him deep enough – he came back!’ He drags the second corpse away with him; but when he returns for payment the same scene unfolds. Finally he has buried the same man – as he thinks – three times, and goes back to the ‘widow’ for payment, only to find her seated at the table drinking wine with a hunchback. Assuming it’s the same man come back to life yet again, the spailpín flies into a rage and beats the woman’s husband to death.

Free of hunchbacked suitors at last, the widow and the spailpín get married and live happily ever after.


Joe tells this story elsewhere, with some elaborations not included here.