The Monster of Baylock
In Ireland it is known that only the seers who have vision and foresight and knowledge know the things that must be, but even so there are few who believe their words. It is known to them that Ireland will never wait for fire and brimstone on the Last Day, but will be devoured by a giant born of her own people. The giant that is to devour Ireland has been born, and is in hiding, waiting for that final day, when he can swallow the whole country that is hiding him since ancient times.
The people in times past lived in the valleys and plains. Only a few lived on the sides of the mountains and in the hills, fighting for their living against the wild beasts and wild bushes that forever tried to destroy their fields.
It happened that there lived a man and his wife in a small rough cabin, high up on the side of the mountain. For many years they had no child and worked by themselves; the nearest neighbour was a mile away and few happened by unless hunting or finding fuel for their fires.
At last the woman had a son and the two of them were beside themselves with happiness on the day he was born. A few days after, while the man was away in the woods, the woman of the house left the baby snug in a box, that served as a cradle, and went to mile the cow. When she returned she thought to herself that the baby looked queer. She went over to the box, and sure enough, could see him growing. Before long he was too big to stay in the box and got out on the floor. He took a cake that was lying on the hearth and swallowed it in one gulp. He said not a word as he looked around for more to eat. The way he was carrying on, the woman knew he was not right. Frightened, she let out a shriek.
At most times there would have been no one to hear, but it happened that, this day, there was an old man passing, who liked to wander by himself in the mountains, talking to himself and looking into the future. When he heard the yell, he came to door and asked the woman was there anything astray.
“Anything astray?” says she. “Will you look at me babe, growing out the cradle and eating the loaf?”
Next minute the child ran out of the house and killed and swallowed two whole bullocks before their eyes.
“That must be the giant,” said the old man, “who will gulp and swallow the whole of Ireland on the day before the final perdition. If he can eat two bullocks at five days old, to swallow the country should be no trouble when he is grown. Unless the right spell is put on the little fella, he will do much damage before the day is out.”
The old man began to say spells and to make charms, which he fastened in the house. These had the power, as the queer lad soon found, to turn him from the door. When he tried to get back into the house, the power of the charms and spells turned him back. This happened three times before he turned to the steep path up the mountainside. The old man and the woman of the house followed. All the time the lad was growing, and by this time he looked like some terrible monster. His mind raging to devour the world, on and on he went up the path until he reached the mountain lake of Baylock.
By now the wind was rising and black clouds were gathering on the hills. When the giant reached the shore of the lake, a wild blast of wind shrieked through the hills. There arose the idiots and maniacs of the valleys, and the witches and the goblins and the destroying demons of the air, and they screamed together with the great whirlwind that blew from the mountains.
The old man and the woman managed to hide themselves in the rocks, but the whirlwind caught the giant and carried him out into the middle of the lake. As he sunk, the wind fell, the water became calm and the silence of death hung over Baylock.
When they heard the story, those that had no understanding, believed the monster was drowned and lost, but the like of him is never drowned. With the spells that are on him, he must await his time in the bottom of Baylock.
Once every year, as the shepherds in the mountains well know, the same wind howls through the mountains and the demon hosts break loose and screech over the lake. When the monster hears that noise he puts his head up and says in a voice that shakes the rocks, “Is it the day before the Last Day yet?”
It happened awhile back that some enterprising folk thought to bring water from the Baylock into the town of Cloheen. The pipes were brought and the men, with their picks and shovels, went to start work on the shore of the lake. When the first man broke the earth with his pick, another shouted, “Look at Cloheen!” They turned to see the town bursting into flames. Dropping their tools, they ran back to put out the fires, but when they got to the town, not a house had been alight. Those that knew such ways let it be known that the fairies had made the appearance of fire on the town, so that the people should not draw off the waters of the lake that are covering the monster, who will devour the land, and let him loose on the country before the day before the destruction of the world.
I wonder what the woman told her husband after all this … did the old man help her explain? Knowing that they’d brought the ‘monster of Baylock’ into the world, did the couple try to have any more children? I know it’s a ‘tale’ but still … can’t help wondering about these things …