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Fairy Coins of Tara By Finn McCool

I am Finn McCool, the Magic Leprechaun Cat, here to wish all my friends around the world Oiche Shamhna Shona, which in Gaelic, the language of my homeland, Ireland, means Happy Halloween.

It has come to my attention that many of you do not know that the tradition of celebrating Halloween originated in Ireland centuries ago. The word Shamhna, Halloween, implies the end of summer, the end of the light and the beginning of the dark winter season. Initially an ancient harvest festival, it also has some elements of the festival of the dead, for the early Celts believed that during the last day of October the border between earth and the underworld became thin, allowing the dead to wander the earth. Thus the need to wear scary costumes, meant to ward off evil spirits. Of all the holidays in Ireland, Halloween is the most magical. And so with great pleasure, as my Halloween treat to you, I offer this tale of my great, great, great uncle, Cormac MacCool, the Magic Leprechaun Cat and the Fairy Coins of Tara.

Cara Kelly’s life could best be described as daunting. An only child, she had to both care for her ailing mother and to help her father in the running of their small farm. The farm lay at the edge of the Hill of Tara, a place of mystery and magic. Cara had roamed Tara in search of the fairy folk she had heard lived there. Despite never seeing any, she still believed they existed. Cara dreamt of them flitting through the dark woods that stood between the farm and the hill.

It was Cara’s joy in life to ride and groom the old, grey horse she had grown up with. Ahearn, whose name means ‘Noble Horse’ was used to tend the fields and take the produce to market. In his youth, Ahearn was indeed magnificent. Cara loved the old horse with all her heart. She admired him for, ancient as he was, he always worked hard at whatever was asked of him, never letting the family down, even when, because of his age, he did not really feel very well. His determination was the inspiration for Cara to persevere.

Cara’s mother, Maureen, had been a professional singer before she had met, fallen in love with, and married Michael Kelly. Cara had inherited her mother’s beautiful voice. Cara’s singing brought great comfort to both of her parents. Ahearn was also appreciative, nodding his head up and down and whinnying in approval whenever Cara finished a song.

It was late October, harvest time, Cara knew by the worried look on her father’s face that all was not well. The next day, she overheard him speaking to another farmer who lived close by. “I doubt the harvest will yield enough for me to keep the farm,” Michael said. “How will I break the news of this to my wife and daughter?”

Cara slept on her worry, wondering what it was she could do to help. She woke early on that last day of October. It was Shamhna, Halloween. The children in the village would be going door to door guising (trick or treating), collecting assorted goodies and coins to enjoy later.

It was the coins that interested Cara. It was her plan to ride into town dressed as a beggar and sing for the occupants of the homes she visited in the hopes they would reward her with coins.

So that her mother would not worry, Cara, told her of her plan. Her mother gestured to the drawer in her night table. In it Cara found a key. Maureen pointed to a trunk in the corner of the room and told Cara to open it. Inside Cara found the most beautiful dress, lying next to it, a newspaper clipping with a picture of her mother in the dress singing on a stage.

Cara kissed her mother, dressed and went to the barn. She bridled Ahearn, mounted him and rode off to town.

Though she received many compliments for her singing, and her bag weighed heavy with the cookies and candies that the townsfolk gave her in return for her songs, there was not one coin to be found.

Disillusioned, Cara mounted Ahearn and headed home. It was late. To save time, she decided to cut through the woods.

She remembered the warnings about the evil beings that were said to wander abroad on Halloween night. To warn them of her coming and sooth their restless spirits, she sang, loud and clear, until she came to a clearing.

Ahearn saw him first and pulled up suddenly, half-rearing in order to stop short. Sitting on a large mushroom, was a golden, ginger cat. He wore a fancy mask and an elegant green and gold cape.

“Welcome, my Lady,” he said, rising and bowing low. “I have been listening to your beautiful song. What brings you to my forest on this of all nights?”

Frightened and alarmed by the cat speaking, Cara could not, at first, respond.

“Fear not, my Lady, for I mean you no harm.” The cat said. “My name is Cormac Mac Cool, the Magic Leprechaun Cat.

“I am sorry to have disturbed you, Sir Cat,” she replied, “We were on our way home and because of the late hour thought to take a short cut through the woods.”

“And did your beautiful voice receive its due when you sang for the townsfolk?” Cormac asked.

Surprised by his knowledge of her reason for being so late, again she remained silent.

“I have been told by the flower fairies that live in your garden, that you sought coins with which to help your family.”

“Fairies! There are fairies in my garden?” Cara asked in surprise.

“Indeed there are,” said Cormac. “They were kind enough to tell me of your plight.

Motioning to the spot before him, he continued, “Would you join me for a minute. Since it is Shamhna, and you are guising, I must give you a treat as a reward for your beautiful song.”

Cara dismounted from Ahearn and walked slowly to where the cat sat. She could see that he was not sitting on an ordinary mushroom, it was a bright red, and sitting on another of the mushrooms next to him was a gold pot filled with coins.

“Hold out your hands, Cara,” Cormac said, and into them he dropped three coins.

“These are not ordinary coins, Cara. These are the Fairy Coins of Tara. Each coin has its own special power and one is the most powerful of all. That is the one that can grant you your deepest desire. You must not tell anyone you have them, or they will disappear. Nor can you wish anyone evil with them. Use them wisely and they can make your dreams come true.”

In a blink of an eye, the cat was gone. Sitting on what was now an ordinary looking mushroom, where once the cat sat, was a purple, velvet bag. Cara picked up the bag. Inside there was a piece of parchment paper. On it was written:

“Just make a wish when time is right,
In crystal pools by clear moonlight,
Or leave in woods where faeries be,
To exchange a wish for you to see.”

During the days that followed, Cara used two of her wishes. She wished that the harvest would be good, and so it was. She wished that her mother would be cured, and so she was. There was one coin left. The coin Cormac the Magic Leprechaun Cat said could grant her deepest desire.

Cara wanted to become a famous singer, so that she could help her family and do what she loved best for the rest of her life. She took the coin and started out towards the enchanted wood, where she planned to leave the coin along with her last wish.

As she past the barn, she heard thrashing and what sounded like moans. Cara entered the barn and found Ahearn rolling in his stall in great pain. She ran to the barn door and called for her father to come, then ran back to the stall.

“Oh, Ahearn,” she said. “What is wrong?”

It was obvious that Ahearn was in great pain. He thrashed about making it dangerous for Cara to enter the stall. When her father arrived, he quickly diagnosed the problem, “Cara, Ahearn is having a colic attack,” her father said. “Colic is like a very bad stomach ache, but if a horse gets down and rolls as Ahearn has, there is the chance that it might kill him.”

Suddenly, Ahearn stopped thrashing. He lay still, covered in sweat, his breathing labored. Then there was silence.

“Best you leave now, Cara.” Her father said, kindly. “There is nothing more to be done.”

“Yes!” Cara cried as she ran from the barn and toward the woods.

“There is something to be done.”

She ran as fast as she could to the spot she had met with the cat. She placed her last coin on the mushroom. Forgetting her own dreams for the future, she said, “My deepest desire is for my dear friend, Ahearn, to be young and healthy again.”

And she fell to the ground in tears.

“Why do you cry, my Lady?” a familiar voice asked. “Is this not what you wished for?”

Cara raised her head and through eyes blurred by tears, she saw Cormac, the Magic Leprechaun Cat and the young, beautiful, powerful Ahearn, just as Cara remembered him from her childhood.

With a cry of joy, she rose. Ahearn came to her and knelt before her. She climbed aboard his broad, strong back and they headed home.

The next day, there was a knock at the door. Her mother answered it. A few minutes later Maureen called Cara.

“Cara, this is Mr. O’Brian. He used to be director of the theater where I sang. He is now head of the Opera House in Dublin. He heard you sing the other night, but could not get to the door in time to meet you. He is offering you a scholarship to study with him.”

Out of the corner of her eye, Cara saw a golden, ginger cat sitting cheekily on one of the best chairs. Cormac, the Magic Leprechaun Cat, gave her a smile and winked knowingly.

 

©Finn McCool, the Magic Leprechaun Cat, 2010
Illustrations by Cheyenne Booker – All rights reserved

Floyd the Dog has donated 46.99 Euros (US$63.41 UK£40.07) on behalf of Finn McCool to “Cause for Paws”, Florida, U.S.A.

First published by www.floydthedog.com




Comments

  1. pat sherman
    November 3rd, 2010

    karen. i enjoyed this so much. and the moral of the story is so good.

    to give up your dream to help a friend. is the greatest thing in the world.

    thanks for the lovely stories. this one brought tears to my eyes. hugs.

  2. November 3rd, 2010

    Thank you, Pat. You are Finn’s biggest Fan!

  3. Betty Hamilton
    November 3rd, 2010

    I hope you don’t mind. We felt we just had to write to thank you for this wonderful story. We are living out our ‘Golden Years’ retired in Portugal, and have heard so much about you and these marvellous Finn McCool stories that you write. We were not disappointed.

    Hoping to buy copies for our grand-children, we were wondering if you have had them published?

    Betty Hamilton

  4. November 4th, 2010

    Dear Betty;
    Thank you for your nice compliment. We are working on publishing a book of Finn’s tales. Hopefully they will be available soon.

  5. Bob
    November 4th, 2010

    Love the story . Love the illustrations. Great blend of the two.

  6. Rhoda Prosser
    October 16th, 2011

    What a wonderful story. I would love to know when you have published a book on your stories….I’d get it for me…but I will also share them with my Grandchildren!! I just love stories like this, gives one such a warm feeling. Thank you.

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