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Saturday, May 05, 2007

lapdogs come to ireland

From the Concerning Dogs page of Ancient Legends, Mystic Charms, and Superstitions of Ireland, courtesy of SacredTexts.com, which is a pretty amazing website for sheer organization and content.
In Cormac's Glossary there is an interesting account of how the first
lapdog came into Ireland, for the men of Britain were under strict orders that
no lapdog should be given to the Gael, either of solicitation or of free will,
for gratitude or friendship.

Now it happened that Cairbré Musc went to visit a friend of his in
Britain, who made him right welcome and offered him everything he possessed,
save only his lapdog, for that was forbidden by the law. Yet this beautiful
lapdog was the one only possession that Cairbré coveted, and he laid his plans
cunningly to obtain it.

There was a law at that the in Britain to this effect: "Every criminal
shall be given as a forfeit for his crime to the person he has injured."

Now Cairbré had a wonderful dagger, around the haft of which was an
adornment of silver and gold. It was a precious jewel, and he took fat meat and
rubbed it all over the haft, with much grease. Then he set it before the lapdog,
who began to gnaw at the haft, and continued gnawing all night till the morning,
so that the haft was spoiled and was no longer beautiful. Then on the
morrow, Cairbró made complaint that his beautiful dagger was destroyed, and he
demanded a just recompense.

"That is indeed fair," said his friend, "I shall pay a price for the

"I ask no other price," said Cairbré, "than what the law of Britain
allows me, namely, the criminal for his crime."

So the lapdog was given to Cairbré, and it was called ever after
Mug-Eimé, the slave of the haft, which name clung to it because it passed into
servitude as a forfeit for the trespass.

Now when Cairbré brought it back to Erin with him, all the kings of
Ireland began to wrangle and contend for possession of the lapdog, and the
contention at last ended in this wise--it was agreed that the dog should abide
for a certain the in the house of each king. Afterwards the dog littered, and
each of them had a pup of the litter, amid from this stock descends every lapdog
in Ireland from that time till now.

After a long while the lapdog died, and the bare skull being brought to
the blind poet Maer to try his power of divination, he at once exclaimed,
through the prophetic power and vision in him, "O Mug-Eimé! this is indeed the
head of Mug-Eimé, the slave of the haft, that was brought into Ireland and given
over to the fate of a bondsman, and to the punishment of servitude as a

Note: Cormac's Glossary is an encyclopedia of Irish oral tradition by the tenth-century priest-king of Cashel, Cormac mac Cuilennan.

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