Billy Beg and His Bull ©
Long, long ago there was a kingdom that spread about the valley of Cork in Ireland. It was so fertile that the beeves grazing there were fat, – it must have been the grass that fed on milk and honey, and they certainly made the king very wealthy. The palace as a result must have seemed more like a stall for cattle. They moved about in and out of the palace grounds, men and beasts alike, and were contented lot. The Queen looked after the buttery, and the larder well stocked with cheese, meat spoke well of her industry.
They had one son whose name was Billy Beg.
Billy Beg had a bull and they were inseparable.
When the Queen was laid with an incurable illness she begged her husband to see that he never separated them. The King wondered if placing a bull by the throne of the future king was a good idea. ‘The king should have his first counselor by his side and not a bull.’
The Queen pointed out his minister who, she said was a pig.
‘Lord Mountjoy, a pig!’ the king exclaimed, ‘no he is as much a man as I am.’ The king defended his first counselor.
The dying Queen hissed, ’only in form but in everything else a pig of the worst sort.’ The king got the idea. So after his wife died he saw to that Billy Beg remained as close to his bull as before and it did the boy a lot of good. But when the King remarried the new Queen who came from across the seas condemned everything she laid her eyes on. She thought the palace was a regular sty and the food unpalatable.
She got rid of Lord Mountjoy and instead she installed Lady Agatha, the hen woman, a witch brought from London. The latter had a rooster and it crowed daily and the king and the subjects were expected to keep regular hours.
The men were asked to grow potatoes than cattle and eat it daily. Thus she had changed everything that Billy Beg was used to. Whenever he ate bread and dipped it in mutton stew she grumbled that only oafs in her country ate thus.
From the king down to the varlet were required to eat potatoes and the king quietly fell to the new fare.
Scarcely had she got her hands on the controls she knew a bull roaming in and around the palace halls was a disgrace. She insisted that the King had the bull, the inseparable companion of Billy Beg, slaughtered.
Rather than face the displeasure of the Queen the King one evening sent for his son.
The king took him privately aside and with many a tear in his eye confided that he was inconsolable. ‘But son, this throne shall be yours by birthright. So come back when you have made a name for yourself.’
Billy Beg loved his father and comforted him, ‘Cheer up father, At least you spared me from seeing my friend butchered.’ He promised to come back. Without any delay he took his bull and went out into the darkness.
After couple of years one day he heard the hateful stepmother was dead and he returned home. His bull also accompanied him.
Much had happened to the King. He was older and worn out. However he warmly welcomed his son.
Billy Beg was surprised to see the cock and the King smiled sheepishly,’ My late wife left me this in her remembrance.’ Billy Beg pointed to his bull and pulled out a napkin out of his ear.
‘Spread it out and we shall sup grandly!’ crowed the rooster,
The king looked at the cock in awe. Billy Beg in excitement said, ’Father the cock said it truly!’ The royal jaw dropped and Billy Beg said he would retrieve a piece of stick from his right ear.
Next moment Billy Beg produced the stick and the bull said, ‘Wind it over your head three times, Billy!’
Before he could do it he saw his father falling down heavily.
The King was lathering his mouth in foam and rolling his eyes as though he could not believe his eyes any more.
Billy told the Bull that his father could not take it any more.’
Billy Beg went to his aid and made him sit up and told him soothingly,’ Forget what the cock said. Also of the bull’
By and by the king came around. ‘ I will be all right, Son. It just happens that I had too much of this cock and bull story.’(Old Irish Tale)