11. The Island of the Wondrous Beast


THE NEXT ISLAND had a stone wall all round it. When they came near the shore, an animal of vast size, with a thick, rough skin, started up inside the wall, and commenced to run around and around the island. Its racing seemed swifter than the rush of the cold wind of March to Máel Dúin.

When he had ended his race, the beast went to the top of a hill in the centre of the island, and standing on a large, flat stone, began to exercise himself according to his daily custom. He put his head down, threw his legs up in the air, and turned himself completely around and around inside his skin, with the bones and flesh moving, while the skin remained at rest.

When he was tired of this exercise, he rested a little; and then he began turning his skin continually around his body, down at one side and up at the other like a mill wheel; but the bones and flesh inside did not move.
After spending some time at this strange work, he started and ran around the island again, as fast as the wind, as if to refresh himself.

Then he went back to the same spot, and this time, while the skin that covered the lower part of his body remained still, he whirled the skin of the upper part around and around like the movement of a millstone, while the flesh and bones inside remained unmoving. It was in this manner that he spent all his time on the island.

When Máel Dúin and his crew saw the strange and horrible antics of the monster they were seized with dread, and they fled as fast as they could, putting out to sea in great haste.

The monster, observing them about to leave, ran down to the beach to seize the ship; and began to smite at them, and when they were out of reach he cast and lashed after them with stones from the harbour, flinging them with great force and excellent aim.

One of them struck Máel Dúin’s shield and went right through it, lodging in the keel of the curragh. After this, the voyagers got beyond the creature’s range, and they were very happy to sail away and leave the creature’s island.

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