Two Humps for Jack Madden

I’m having tremendous fun with Fairy and Folk Tales of Ireland, edited by William Butler Yeats. As I mentioned, these stories about “the good people” or “the gentry,” as they are known, are very unlike the popular notion of a fairy tale.

Take “The Legend of Knockgrafton” by T. Crofton Croker. It tells the tale of the likeable hunchback Lusmore. Lusmore is really good at weaving straw hats and baskets, and although he’s harmless, “some ill-minded persons had set strange stories about him afloat.”

One night he’s on his way home from a neighboring town, and he realizes he can’t make it home, and he lies down by the old castle of Knockgrafton.

“Presently there rose a wild strain of unearthly melody upon the ear of little Lusmore; he listened, and he thought that he had never heard such ravishing music before… The words of the song were these: Da Luan, Da Mort, Da Luan, Da Mort, Da Luan, Da Mort when there would be a moment’s pause, and then the round of melody went on again…”

Lusmore loves the song, and begins to sing along, but he adds a little lick during the pause: “When Da Luan Da Mort had been sung three times, he took up the tune and raised it with the words angus Da Dardeen.”

“The fairies, when they heard this addition to the tune, were so much delighted that, with instant resolve, it was determined to bring the mortal among them, and little Lusmore was conveyed into their company with the eddying speed of a whirlwind.”

They say, “Lusmore! Lusmore!/ Doubt not, nor deplore/ For the hump which you bore/ On your back is no more;/ Look down on the floor/ And view it, Lusmore!”

To make a long story somewhat shorter, they get rid of his hump and give him a new suit of clothes and he turns into a handsome young man that no one in the village even recognizes.

Okay, that part is a lot like a conventional fairy story. Now the second part.

A woman on the other side of Ireland who has a son with a hump on his back hears about Lusmore’s miraculous cure and sends a friend to ask him about it. Lusmore tells his story, and the woman takes her son, whose name is Jack Madden, to Knockgrafton to try to get rid of his hump in the same way.

But Jack Madden is not very musical and he flunks the fairy test big time.

“Jack Madden, who was in a great hurry to get quit of his hump, never thought of waiting until the fairies had done, or watching for a fit opportunity to raise the tune higher again than Lusmore, so out he bawls, never minding the time or the humour of the tune, or how he could bring his words in properly, angus Da Dardeen angus Da Hena.”

The fairies get mad and bring him in and say, “Jack Madden! Jack Madden!/Your words came so bad in/The tune we felt glad in,/ That your life we may sadden;/ Here’s two humps for Jack Madden.”

So they take Lusmore’s hump and stick it on his back.

“…And what through the weight of his other hump, and the long journey, he died soon after, leaving, they say, his heavy curse to any one who would go listen to fairy tunes again.”

Not exactly a happily-ever-after kind of ending; but I can tell, people who regularly hold open jam sessions are going, “Right on!”