Of all the pipers, none was as amazing as the blind man Paddy Connor. Paddy could not see, but he could play the pipes -- reels and jigs and marches, fast or slow. And no one but Paddy Connor had this power: The moment he played his first note, nobody could keep from dancing.
Young and old, big and small -- no matter who heard Paddy's pipes, their feet would start tapping, and a moment later those feet were dancing fast and furious. Nobody could stop dancing until Paddy stopped playing his pipes.
In every village, Paddy played for fairs and weddings and parties, and Paddy's mother was always there, for she feared her son might get lost on his way. So Paddy and that old mother of his traveled together, and happy they were -- until one day when everything changed.
It was at Ballinskellig Bay. A lovely evening it was, and the party was as fine as those views of the mountains and sea. Paddy began to play, and naturally everyone began to dance, and on and on they went for hours, into the night.
Even that mother of Paddy's, old as she was, was dancing as joyfully as all the girls, and Paddy himself danced that night.
Then somebody noticed an amazing sight down on the strand.
Out there on that narrow beach, the creatures of the sea were leaping out of the water. It seems it was the sound of the beautiful music that drew them, for they leapt onshore and began to dance. Crabs spun on their claws, and crayfish and lobsters twisted. Cod curtsied, and turbot and flounder were twirling while mackerel were whirling. Skate and sole began to spring and swing. The shore was thick with oysters clacking their shells like castanets. Earth and sea seemed joined, with everyone dancing together to the sound of Paddy's pipes.
Suddenly up from the waves rose a woman with long, streaming hair the color of the sea. Her teeth were like pearls, her lips red as coral, her gown made of foam and rows of seaweed. The beauty danced up to Paddy and whispered to him:
"Paddy Connor, I'm the lady who lives in the sea.
"Come down with me, Paddy Connor, come and marry me."
Paddy was enchanted by her bubbly voice. He danced closer and heard the maiden say:
"King of the fish is what you'll be
"If you come down and marry me.
"No one plays pipes like you, my Paddy
"Come into the sea, love, and marry me."
Now Paddy loved the lady's poetry. He glowed as he listened to her compliments, while their feet kept moving. Fish surrounded them, and Paddy heard those clacking castanets, and he knew he didn't dare stop playing, for nobody knows what fish will do when they are angry. Besides, he loved this dancing, and he loved the lady's voice. He didn't want her ever to leave.
"Marry me, Paddy the piper, come down to the sea.
"You shall be king of the fishes, for you are meant for me, and I for thee."
When Paddy's mother saw him dancing with the green-haired lady, she called out: "Paddy, stop! Come back to your sweet old mother. Get away from that scaly lady!"
But Paddy turned and called to his mother, "I'm going to marry her!" The poor old woman's heart began to pound as she imagined terrible things to come. What if they had a child? Then she would be a grandmother to a cod or a crab, and oh, heavens, what if she wound up eating her own dear grandchild?
"Come back to your mother!" she cried, rushing forward, for by then Paddy had reached water's edge, and a great wave was rising.
But of course Paddy could not see it.
"Paddy, come back!" his mother cried, tears rolling down her cheeks.
Now Paddy turned toward his mother's voice, for he didn't like to hear her so sad. "Mother, I'll be the king of the fish!" he cried.
"Don't leave me, son. I fear for you!"
"I'll be happy!" Paddy called, "and to prove I'm fine, I'll send a sign on the 12th of the month. I promise you that, Mother dear!"
But Paddy never said another word because the green-haired lady saw the wave was about to swallow him, and so she covered him as if she were a great foaming cloak. The wave curled over, and they were gone.
A moment later the place was silent -- the pipes had stopped -- and everyone ceased dancing as they watched that big wave burst upon the strand. When it crashed upon the shore, the wave let out a roar so loud, everyone in County Kerry heard it.
The next month, on the 12th day, a piece of burned wood rolled ashore beside Paddy's house, so all the villagers knew Paddy had kept his word, and he was fine. It was a strange thing to send as a sign to his mother, but for more than 100 years, on the 12th of each month, another piece of wood rolled ashore in that very same spot.
After a while nobody paid much attention, and poor Paddy's mother did not live to see even that first sign of her son. You see, she was so afraid of eating her grandchild, she died right after the dance.
But seafarers tell tales of a sound they sometimes hear off Kerry's coast. When the night is still and the water calm, they hear the sound of pipes coming from the sea. They say they hear Paddy Connor's voice, too, singing of his love for his fair lady of the sea.
"Tell Me a Story 3: Women of Wonder," the third CD in the audiobook series, is now available. For more information, please visit www.mythsandtales.com.