The Goban Saor: 'Sticks , Stones & Men'
Once , the King was very displeased
with the Goban .
Wishing to hide his anger , he decided to humiliate him .
In front of the whole court , he gave him a riddle to solve :
"..'The great stone below the Hidden Valley will move to the top of a hill , two men to do it' ..I put you under Geis (obligation unto death) to find the answer.."
The whole court knew the stone in question and clearly thought the task impossible .
The Goban went into deep thought , closing his eyes and remaining perfectly still .
He stayed like that for a long time , the silent court watching .
Suddenly , the Goban burst out laughing , startling king and court .
With his eyes still closed and without moving an iota , he called out in a deep , hollow voice :
"..The answer is : '..A stone will move a stone and a stick will help it '.."
The court was deeply impressed , but the King jumped angrily to his feet and shouted :
"What is this trickery , Goban ?! Prove that what you say is true !"
Without opening his eyes , or without moving , the Goban brought his arm up slowly and pointed at the King :
"..This task will be carried out . But the two men must be :- a king's son and a sea-captain's son .
I put them under Geis to do the following : the task must be completed between sunrise and sundown .
If they pause while carrying out this task , the stone will roll back and kill one of them .
If they fail to complete the task , they must fight each other to the death with swords .
Do you accept these conditions ?"
The King was in a real quandary , knowing that his only son Brian must be the king's son and that his cousin Cairbre O Loingsigh , the sea-captain's son , must be the second man .
"..If you accept , I accept" said the King .
Next day , at sunrise , the whole court assembled below the Hidden Valley .
The great boulder in question had to be somehow moved by the King's son and his cousin to the top of a small hill nearby .
The Goban was cheerful as usual , but the two young men were in despair .
The Queen walked up to the Goban and quietly said :
"Help them , Goban , and it will not be forgotten .."
"I will help them , my queen ! I need three things : a dry branch of oak , tall and straight as a man ; a flat stone that one man can move ; the promise of these two men to follow my instructions exactly .."
"It shall be done !" said the Queen .
The flat stone was brought and placed near the boulder to act as fulcrum . The oak branch was inserted between them and used as a lever .
The two young men toiled all day without pause and before sundown the task was completed .
The Goban had not been humiliated . He had earned the Queen's gratitude and the King had learned a lesson .