15. The Island of the Black and the White Sheep


ON THE MORNING of the third day, they came to another island, which was divided into two halves by a wall of brass running clear across the middle. They saw two great flocks of sheep, one on each side of the wall; and all those on one side were black, while those on the other side were white.

A very large man was dividing and arranging the sheep. He would take up a sheep and throw it easily over the wall, from one side to the other. When he threw a white sheep among the black ones, it would immediately became black, and when he threw a black sheep among the white ones, it was instantly changed to white.

The travellers were much alarmed by what they saw.

“It is good that we know this” said Máel Dúin. Let us now throw something on shore, to see whether it also will change colour. If it does, then we shall avoid this island altogether.”

So they took a branch with black-coloured bark, and threw it towards the white sheep. No sooner did it touch the ground than it became white. Then they threw a white-coloured branch on the side of the black sheep, and it turned black in an instant.

“It is very lucky for us,” said Máel Dúin, “that we did not land on the island, for our colour would have changed, just like the colour of the branches.”
So they put about, and sailed away.

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