Robust and funny, sorrowful and heroic, this collection of 125 lively tales tells the story of Ireland. Spanning the centuries from the first wars of the ancient Irish kings through the Celtic Renaissance of Yeats to our own time, they are set in cities, villages, fields and forestsfrom the wild Gaelic western coast to the modern streets of Dublin and Belfast.
HENRY GLASSIE is College Professor Emeritus of Folklore at Indiana University. WIth specializations in oral narrative, folk art, vernacular architecture, and material culture, he has written twenty books on the traditional arts of Ireland, Turkey, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Brazil, and the United States. He is a former president of the American Folklore Society and received the Haskins prize of the American Council of Learned Societies for a distinguished career of humanistic scholarship. View titles by Henry Glassie
PREFACE // xiii
 
INTRODUCTION
At the End of a Short Winter’s Day // 5
Connections // 10
Tradition // 11
Communication // 21
A Last Word // 26
 
THE TALES
 
THE OLD STORY
The Legend of Knockfierna // 35
Finn and His Men Bewitched // 37
The King of Ireland’s Son // 39
 
FAITH
SAINTS
1. The Baptism of Conor MacNessa // 51
2. Saint Patrick // 52
3. Saint Patrick on Inishmore // 52
4. Saint Patrick and Crom Dubh // 53
5. Saint Brigit // 58
6. Saint Columcille // 61
7. Columcille’s Coffin // 63
8. Saint Kevin // 64
9. Saint Finbar // 65
 
THE PRIEST AND HIS PEOPLE
10. James Murray and Saint Martin // 66
11. The Best Road to Heaven // 67
12. The Man from Kilmacoliver // 68
13. The Pious Man // 69
14. An Actual Saint // 70
15. Old Thorns and Old Priests // 71
16. Priests and Farming Men // 72
17. Saved by the Priest // 73
18. The Doom // 74
19. The Right Cure // 76
20. The Wolf’s Prophecy // 78
 
WIT
THE WISE AND THE FOOLISH
22. The Three Questions // 83
23. The Farmer’s Answers // 84
24. Half a Blanket // 85
25. The Shadow of the Glen // 86
26. A Hungry Hired Boy // 87
27. The First Mirror // 89
28. Robin’s Escape // 90
 
WITS AND POETS
29. Jonathan Swift, Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral // 92
30. Daniel O’Connell // 93
31. Owen Roe O’Sullivan // 97
32. Robert Burns // 100
33. Terry the Grunter // 102
34. Thomas Moore and the Tramp // 102
 
TALL TALES
35. John Brodison and the Policeman // 103
36. A Big Potato // 104
37. The Fox and the Ranger // 106
38. The Horse’s Last Drunk // 109
39. Hare and Hound // 110
40. Sleepy Pendoodle // 110
41. A Medical Expert from Lisnaskea // 113
42. George Armstrong’s Return // 114
 
OUTWITTING THE DEVIL
43. The Lawyer and the Devil // 116
44. Coals on the Devil’s Hearth // 117
 
MYSTERY
DEATH AND TOKENS
45. No Man Goes Beyond His Day // 121
46. A Light Tokens the Death of Mr. Corrigan // 122
47. A Clock Token // 123
48. The Banshee Cries for the O’Briens // 123
49. The Banshee Cried for the Boyles // 124
50. Experience of the Banshee // 124
 
GHOSTS
51. Grandfather’s Ghost // 127
52. Terrible Ghosts // 127
53. The Soldier in the Haunted House // 131
54. Daniel Crowley and the Ghosts // 133
55. Ghosts Along the Arney // 137
56. The Grave of His Fathers // 141
 
AWAY
57. The Coffin // 142
58. The Capture of Bridget Purcell // 143
59. Taken // 145
60. How the Shoemaker Saved His Wife // 147
 
ENCOUNTERS WITH FAIRIES
61. The Mountain Elf // 148
62. Inishkeen’s on Fire // 149
63. The Blood of Adam // 150
64. We Had One of Them in the House for a While // 151
65. Fairy Property // 153
66. The Blacksmith of Bedlam and the Fairy Host // 155
 
FAIRY TRAITS AND TREASURE
67. Fairy Forths // 157
68. Gortdonaghy Forth // 158
69. The Fairies Ride from Gortdonaghy to Drumane // 160
70. Lanty’s New House // 161
71. Jack and the Cluricaune // 162
72. Bridget and the Lurikeen // 164
73. Fairy Tales // 166
74. The Fairy Shilling // 169
75. The Breaking of the Forth // 170
76. Dreams of Gold // 171
77. The Castle’s Treasure // 172
 
ENCHANTED IN NATURE
78. The Air Is Full of Them // 173
79. The Feet Water // 174
80. The Fairy Rabbit and the Blessed Earth of Tory // 176
81. The Cats’ Judgment // 177
82. Never Ask a Cat a Question // 178
83. Cats Are Queer Articles // 180
84. Tom Moore and the Seal Woman // 182
85. The Swine of the Gods // 184
 
ILLNESS AND WITCHCRAFT
86. A Pig on the Road from Gort // 185
87. The Crookened Back // 185
88. Maurice Griffin the Fairy Doctore // 188
89. Biddy Early // 191
90. The Black Art // 193
91. Magical Theft // 194
92. Paudyeen O’Kelly and the Weasel // 195
 
STRANGE SOUNDS AND VISIONS OF WAR
93. One Queer Experience // 201
94. Many a One Saw What We Saw // 202
 
HISTORY
ANCIENT DAYS
95. The Old Times in Ireland // 207
96. The Bath of the White Cows // 208
 
WAR
97. The Battle of the Ford of Biscuits // 210
98. Cromwell // 213
99. Cromwell’s Nin // 214
100. Patrick Sarsfield // 215
101. Sarsfield Surrenders and Rory Takes to the Hills // 215
 
RAPPAREES
102. Black Francis // 216
103. Shan Beragh // 218
104. Willie Brennan // 220
 
LATER DAYS
105. Wicklow in the Rising of 1798 // 222
106. The Famine // 231
107. Victory in the Time of Famine // 232
108. Ruined by Poetry // 233
 
FIRESIDE TALES
FENIAN TALES
109. The Birth of Finn MacCumhail // 237
110. The High King of Lochlann and the Fenians of Erin // 245
111. Usheen’s Return to Ireland // 256
 
MATURITY
112. Fair Brown, and Trembling // 257
113. The Corpse Watchers // 264
114. A Widow’s Son // 267
115. Jack and Bill // 270
116. The Mule // 277
117. The King of Ireland’s Son // 280
 
WITH AND FAITH
118. Huddon and Duddon and Donald O’Leary // 285
119. The Three Wishes // 292
120. Willy the Wisp // 311
121. The Buideach, the Tinker, and the Black Donkey // 313
122. The Man Who Had No Story // 319
 
 
BIBLIOGRAPHY // 325
NOTES // 335
PERMISSIONS AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS // 352
THE LEGEND OF KNOCKFIERNA
Cork
 
T. Crofton Croker (1825)
 
It is a very good thing not to be in any way in dread of the fairies, for without doubt they have then less power over a person. But to make too free with them, or to disbelieve in them altogether, is as foolish a thing as man, woman, or child can do.
 
It has been truly said that “good manners are no burthen,” and that “civility costs nothing.” But there are some people foolhardy enough to disregard doing a civil thing, which, whatever they may think, can never harm themselves or anyone else, and who at the same time will go out of their way for a bit of mischief, which never can serve them. But sooner or later they will come to know better, as you shall hear of Carroll O’Daly, a strapping young fellow up out of Connacht, whom they used to call, in his own country, “Devil Daly.”
 
Carroll O’Daly used to go roving about from one place to another, and the fear of nothing stopped him. He would soon pass an old churchyard, or a regular fairy ground, at any hour of the night, as go from one room into another, without ever making the sign of the cross, or saying, “Good luck attend you, gentleman.”
 
It so happened that he was once journeying in the County of Limerick, towards “the Baalbek or Ireland,” the venerable town of Kilmallock, and just at the foot of Knockfierna he overtook a respectable-looking man jogging along upon a white pony. The night was coming on, and they rode side by side for some time, without much conversation passing between them, further than saluting each other very kindly. At last, Carroll O’Daly asked his companion how far he was going.
 
“Not far your way,” said the farmer, for such his appearance bespoke him. “I’m only going to the top of this hill here.”
 
“And what might take you there,” said O’Daly, “at this time of the night?”
 
“Why then,” replied the farmer, “if you want to know, ‘tis the Good People.”
 
“The fairies, you mean,” said O’Daly.
 
“Whist! whist!,” said his fellow-traveler, “or you may be sorry for it.” And he turned his pony off the road they were going towards a little path which led up the side of the mountain, wishing Carroll O’Day good night and a safe journey.
 
“That fellow,” thought Carroll,” is about no good this blessed night, and I would have no fear of swearing wrong if I took my Bible oath, that it is something else beside the fairies, of the Good People, as he calls them, that is taking him up the mountain at this hour. The fairies!” he repeated. “Is it for a well-shaped man like him to be going after little chaps like the fairies? To be sure some say there are such things, and more say not. But I know this, that never afraid would I be of a dozen of them, aye, of two dozen, for that matter, if they are no bigger than what I hear tell of.”
 
Carroll O’Daly, whilst these thoughts were passing in his mind, had fixed his eyes steadfastly on the mountain, behind which the full moon was rising majestically. Upon an elevated point that appeared darkly against the moon’s disk, he beheld the figure of a man leading a pony, and he had no doubt it was that of the farmer with whom he had just parted company.
 
A sudden resolved to follow flashed across the mind of O’Daly with the speed of lightning. Both his courage and curiosity had been worked up by his cogitations to a pitch of chivalry, and muttering, “Here’s after you, old boy,” he dismounted from his horse, bound him to an old thorn tree, and then commenced vigorously ascending the mountain.
 
Following as well as he could the direction taken by the figures of the man and pony, he pursued his way, occasionally guided by their partial appearance, and after toiling nearly three hours over a rugged and sometimes swampy path, came to a green spot on the top of the mountain, where he saw the while pony at full liberty, grazing as quietly as may be. O’Daly looked around for the rider, but he was nowhere to be seen; he however soon discovered close to where the pony stood an opening in the mountain like the mouth of a pit, and he remembered having once heard, when a child, man a take about the “Poul-duve,” or Black Hole, of Knockfierna; how it was the entrance to the fairy castle which was within the mountain; and how a man whose name was Ahern, a land surveyor in that part of the country, had once attempted to fathom it with a line, and had been drawn down into it and was never again heard of; with many other tales of the like nature.
 
“But,” thought O’Daly, “these are old women’s stories. And since I’ve come up so far I’ll just knock at the castle door, and see if the fairies are at home.”
 
No sooner said than done; for seizing a large stone as big, aye, bigger than his two hands, he flung it with all his strength down into the Poul-Duve of Knockfierna. He heard it bounding and tumbling about from one rock to another with a terrible noise, and he leant his head over to try and hear if it would reach the bottom—when what should the very stone he had thrown in do but come up again with as much force as it had gone down, and gave him such a blow full in the face, that it sent him rolling down the side of Knockfierna, head over heels, tumbling from one crag to another, much faster than he came up. And in the morning Carroll O’Daly was found lying beside his horse; the bridge of his nose broken, which disfigured him for life; his head all cut and bruised, and both his eyes closed up, and as black as if Sir Daniel Donnelly had painted them for him.
 
Carroll O’Daly was never bold again in riding along near the haunts of the fairies after dusk, But small blame to him for that. And if ever he happened to be benighted in a lonesome place he would make the best of his way to his journey’s end, without asking questions, or turning to the right or to the left, to seek after the Good People, or any who kept company with them.
"Delightful and informative, comfortable and full of wit and fancy. It reminds us why the Irish have been known as great storytellers for a millennium."
—Roger D. Abrahams, editor of African Folktales

"This latest volume of an already distinguished series maintains and even exceeds the high standards of the previous ones. The tales reveal the deep humanity of the Irish people; the commentary and notes reveal the humanity of Glassie. Very highly recommended."
— Library Journal

"A marvelous assortment selected from published (but often out-of-print) collections by the likes of pioneer collectors Lady Wilde, Robin Flower, and Jeremiah Curtin, and from unpublished manuscripts in private and state-owned archives."
Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Vivid and surprising  . . . The Irish gift for prolixity and verbal magic glistens throughout Glassie's collection."
Chicago Magazine

About

Robust and funny, sorrowful and heroic, this collection of 125 lively tales tells the story of Ireland. Spanning the centuries from the first wars of the ancient Irish kings through the Celtic Renaissance of Yeats to our own time, they are set in cities, villages, fields and forestsfrom the wild Gaelic western coast to the modern streets of Dublin and Belfast.

Author

HENRY GLASSIE is College Professor Emeritus of Folklore at Indiana University. WIth specializations in oral narrative, folk art, vernacular architecture, and material culture, he has written twenty books on the traditional arts of Ireland, Turkey, Bangladesh, Nigeria, Brazil, and the United States. He is a former president of the American Folklore Society and received the Haskins prize of the American Council of Learned Societies for a distinguished career of humanistic scholarship. View titles by Henry Glassie

Table of Contents

PREFACE // xiii
 
INTRODUCTION
At the End of a Short Winter’s Day // 5
Connections // 10
Tradition // 11
Communication // 21
A Last Word // 26
 
THE TALES
 
THE OLD STORY
The Legend of Knockfierna // 35
Finn and His Men Bewitched // 37
The King of Ireland’s Son // 39
 
FAITH
SAINTS
1. The Baptism of Conor MacNessa // 51
2. Saint Patrick // 52
3. Saint Patrick on Inishmore // 52
4. Saint Patrick and Crom Dubh // 53
5. Saint Brigit // 58
6. Saint Columcille // 61
7. Columcille’s Coffin // 63
8. Saint Kevin // 64
9. Saint Finbar // 65
 
THE PRIEST AND HIS PEOPLE
10. James Murray and Saint Martin // 66
11. The Best Road to Heaven // 67
12. The Man from Kilmacoliver // 68
13. The Pious Man // 69
14. An Actual Saint // 70
15. Old Thorns and Old Priests // 71
16. Priests and Farming Men // 72
17. Saved by the Priest // 73
18. The Doom // 74
19. The Right Cure // 76
20. The Wolf’s Prophecy // 78
 
WIT
THE WISE AND THE FOOLISH
22. The Three Questions // 83
23. The Farmer’s Answers // 84
24. Half a Blanket // 85
25. The Shadow of the Glen // 86
26. A Hungry Hired Boy // 87
27. The First Mirror // 89
28. Robin’s Escape // 90
 
WITS AND POETS
29. Jonathan Swift, Dean of Saint Patrick’s Cathedral // 92
30. Daniel O’Connell // 93
31. Owen Roe O’Sullivan // 97
32. Robert Burns // 100
33. Terry the Grunter // 102
34. Thomas Moore and the Tramp // 102
 
TALL TALES
35. John Brodison and the Policeman // 103
36. A Big Potato // 104
37. The Fox and the Ranger // 106
38. The Horse’s Last Drunk // 109
39. Hare and Hound // 110
40. Sleepy Pendoodle // 110
41. A Medical Expert from Lisnaskea // 113
42. George Armstrong’s Return // 114
 
OUTWITTING THE DEVIL
43. The Lawyer and the Devil // 116
44. Coals on the Devil’s Hearth // 117
 
MYSTERY
DEATH AND TOKENS
45. No Man Goes Beyond His Day // 121
46. A Light Tokens the Death of Mr. Corrigan // 122
47. A Clock Token // 123
48. The Banshee Cries for the O’Briens // 123
49. The Banshee Cried for the Boyles // 124
50. Experience of the Banshee // 124
 
GHOSTS
51. Grandfather’s Ghost // 127
52. Terrible Ghosts // 127
53. The Soldier in the Haunted House // 131
54. Daniel Crowley and the Ghosts // 133
55. Ghosts Along the Arney // 137
56. The Grave of His Fathers // 141
 
AWAY
57. The Coffin // 142
58. The Capture of Bridget Purcell // 143
59. Taken // 145
60. How the Shoemaker Saved His Wife // 147
 
ENCOUNTERS WITH FAIRIES
61. The Mountain Elf // 148
62. Inishkeen’s on Fire // 149
63. The Blood of Adam // 150
64. We Had One of Them in the House for a While // 151
65. Fairy Property // 153
66. The Blacksmith of Bedlam and the Fairy Host // 155
 
FAIRY TRAITS AND TREASURE
67. Fairy Forths // 157
68. Gortdonaghy Forth // 158
69. The Fairies Ride from Gortdonaghy to Drumane // 160
70. Lanty’s New House // 161
71. Jack and the Cluricaune // 162
72. Bridget and the Lurikeen // 164
73. Fairy Tales // 166
74. The Fairy Shilling // 169
75. The Breaking of the Forth // 170
76. Dreams of Gold // 171
77. The Castle’s Treasure // 172
 
ENCHANTED IN NATURE
78. The Air Is Full of Them // 173
79. The Feet Water // 174
80. The Fairy Rabbit and the Blessed Earth of Tory // 176
81. The Cats’ Judgment // 177
82. Never Ask a Cat a Question // 178
83. Cats Are Queer Articles // 180
84. Tom Moore and the Seal Woman // 182
85. The Swine of the Gods // 184
 
ILLNESS AND WITCHCRAFT
86. A Pig on the Road from Gort // 185
87. The Crookened Back // 185
88. Maurice Griffin the Fairy Doctore // 188
89. Biddy Early // 191
90. The Black Art // 193
91. Magical Theft // 194
92. Paudyeen O’Kelly and the Weasel // 195
 
STRANGE SOUNDS AND VISIONS OF WAR
93. One Queer Experience // 201
94. Many a One Saw What We Saw // 202
 
HISTORY
ANCIENT DAYS
95. The Old Times in Ireland // 207
96. The Bath of the White Cows // 208
 
WAR
97. The Battle of the Ford of Biscuits // 210
98. Cromwell // 213
99. Cromwell’s Nin // 214
100. Patrick Sarsfield // 215
101. Sarsfield Surrenders and Rory Takes to the Hills // 215
 
RAPPAREES
102. Black Francis // 216
103. Shan Beragh // 218
104. Willie Brennan // 220
 
LATER DAYS
105. Wicklow in the Rising of 1798 // 222
106. The Famine // 231
107. Victory in the Time of Famine // 232
108. Ruined by Poetry // 233
 
FIRESIDE TALES
FENIAN TALES
109. The Birth of Finn MacCumhail // 237
110. The High King of Lochlann and the Fenians of Erin // 245
111. Usheen’s Return to Ireland // 256
 
MATURITY
112. Fair Brown, and Trembling // 257
113. The Corpse Watchers // 264
114. A Widow’s Son // 267
115. Jack and Bill // 270
116. The Mule // 277
117. The King of Ireland’s Son // 280
 
WITH AND FAITH
118. Huddon and Duddon and Donald O’Leary // 285
119. The Three Wishes // 292
120. Willy the Wisp // 311
121. The Buideach, the Tinker, and the Black Donkey // 313
122. The Man Who Had No Story // 319
 
 
BIBLIOGRAPHY // 325
NOTES // 335
PERMISSIONS AND ACKNOWLEDGMENTS // 352

Excerpt

THE LEGEND OF KNOCKFIERNA
Cork
 
T. Crofton Croker (1825)
 
It is a very good thing not to be in any way in dread of the fairies, for without doubt they have then less power over a person. But to make too free with them, or to disbelieve in them altogether, is as foolish a thing as man, woman, or child can do.
 
It has been truly said that “good manners are no burthen,” and that “civility costs nothing.” But there are some people foolhardy enough to disregard doing a civil thing, which, whatever they may think, can never harm themselves or anyone else, and who at the same time will go out of their way for a bit of mischief, which never can serve them. But sooner or later they will come to know better, as you shall hear of Carroll O’Daly, a strapping young fellow up out of Connacht, whom they used to call, in his own country, “Devil Daly.”
 
Carroll O’Daly used to go roving about from one place to another, and the fear of nothing stopped him. He would soon pass an old churchyard, or a regular fairy ground, at any hour of the night, as go from one room into another, without ever making the sign of the cross, or saying, “Good luck attend you, gentleman.”
 
It so happened that he was once journeying in the County of Limerick, towards “the Baalbek or Ireland,” the venerable town of Kilmallock, and just at the foot of Knockfierna he overtook a respectable-looking man jogging along upon a white pony. The night was coming on, and they rode side by side for some time, without much conversation passing between them, further than saluting each other very kindly. At last, Carroll O’Daly asked his companion how far he was going.
 
“Not far your way,” said the farmer, for such his appearance bespoke him. “I’m only going to the top of this hill here.”
 
“And what might take you there,” said O’Daly, “at this time of the night?”
 
“Why then,” replied the farmer, “if you want to know, ‘tis the Good People.”
 
“The fairies, you mean,” said O’Daly.
 
“Whist! whist!,” said his fellow-traveler, “or you may be sorry for it.” And he turned his pony off the road they were going towards a little path which led up the side of the mountain, wishing Carroll O’Day good night and a safe journey.
 
“That fellow,” thought Carroll,” is about no good this blessed night, and I would have no fear of swearing wrong if I took my Bible oath, that it is something else beside the fairies, of the Good People, as he calls them, that is taking him up the mountain at this hour. The fairies!” he repeated. “Is it for a well-shaped man like him to be going after little chaps like the fairies? To be sure some say there are such things, and more say not. But I know this, that never afraid would I be of a dozen of them, aye, of two dozen, for that matter, if they are no bigger than what I hear tell of.”
 
Carroll O’Daly, whilst these thoughts were passing in his mind, had fixed his eyes steadfastly on the mountain, behind which the full moon was rising majestically. Upon an elevated point that appeared darkly against the moon’s disk, he beheld the figure of a man leading a pony, and he had no doubt it was that of the farmer with whom he had just parted company.
 
A sudden resolved to follow flashed across the mind of O’Daly with the speed of lightning. Both his courage and curiosity had been worked up by his cogitations to a pitch of chivalry, and muttering, “Here’s after you, old boy,” he dismounted from his horse, bound him to an old thorn tree, and then commenced vigorously ascending the mountain.
 
Following as well as he could the direction taken by the figures of the man and pony, he pursued his way, occasionally guided by their partial appearance, and after toiling nearly three hours over a rugged and sometimes swampy path, came to a green spot on the top of the mountain, where he saw the while pony at full liberty, grazing as quietly as may be. O’Daly looked around for the rider, but he was nowhere to be seen; he however soon discovered close to where the pony stood an opening in the mountain like the mouth of a pit, and he remembered having once heard, when a child, man a take about the “Poul-duve,” or Black Hole, of Knockfierna; how it was the entrance to the fairy castle which was within the mountain; and how a man whose name was Ahern, a land surveyor in that part of the country, had once attempted to fathom it with a line, and had been drawn down into it and was never again heard of; with many other tales of the like nature.
 
“But,” thought O’Daly, “these are old women’s stories. And since I’ve come up so far I’ll just knock at the castle door, and see if the fairies are at home.”
 
No sooner said than done; for seizing a large stone as big, aye, bigger than his two hands, he flung it with all his strength down into the Poul-Duve of Knockfierna. He heard it bounding and tumbling about from one rock to another with a terrible noise, and he leant his head over to try and hear if it would reach the bottom—when what should the very stone he had thrown in do but come up again with as much force as it had gone down, and gave him such a blow full in the face, that it sent him rolling down the side of Knockfierna, head over heels, tumbling from one crag to another, much faster than he came up. And in the morning Carroll O’Daly was found lying beside his horse; the bridge of his nose broken, which disfigured him for life; his head all cut and bruised, and both his eyes closed up, and as black as if Sir Daniel Donnelly had painted them for him.
 
Carroll O’Daly was never bold again in riding along near the haunts of the fairies after dusk, But small blame to him for that. And if ever he happened to be benighted in a lonesome place he would make the best of his way to his journey’s end, without asking questions, or turning to the right or to the left, to seek after the Good People, or any who kept company with them.

Praise

"Delightful and informative, comfortable and full of wit and fancy. It reminds us why the Irish have been known as great storytellers for a millennium."
—Roger D. Abrahams, editor of African Folktales

"This latest volume of an already distinguished series maintains and even exceeds the high standards of the previous ones. The tales reveal the deep humanity of the Irish people; the commentary and notes reveal the humanity of Glassie. Very highly recommended."
— Library Journal

"A marvelous assortment selected from published (but often out-of-print) collections by the likes of pioneer collectors Lady Wilde, Robin Flower, and Jeremiah Curtin, and from unpublished manuscripts in private and state-owned archives."
Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Vivid and surprising  . . . The Irish gift for prolixity and verbal magic glistens throughout Glassie's collection."
Chicago Magazine

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