The Goban Saor: 'Young Wife'

Stories of the Goban Saor

Before the advent of Christianity in the 5th century AD the old Celtic order in Ireland – with its Bards and Druids and Gobain Saoir – remained intact .

The Goban Saor was a kind of freeman of the artisan class – a kind of Free Mason – who wandered from court to court , from commission to commission , among the many Celtic kingdoms .

Like the Bards , these masons were proudly and even fiercely independent . Some became folk heroes – in the tradition of the Hodja or Mullah Nasreddin of the Muslim world .

The most famous such character in this Celtic , pre-Christian Ireland was an amusing scoundrel – sometimes very clever and quick-witted , often singularly simple-minded or downright stupid – who was known simply as The Goban Saor .

The Goban Saor & His Young Wife

Many stories are told about this Goban . One day , for example , while the Goban was enjoying a beaker of mead in the Tabhairne (tavern) some of the village layabouts thought they’d have a little fun at his expense .

Now the Goban, who was no longer young at the time, had married yet another wife, this time one that was young and pretty and not at all like his previous choices .

Also unlike his previous spouses – who had in spite of everything stuck to him like limpets – the new young wife felt quite free to indulge her fancy with various younger men, of course behind the Goban’s back .

Whether he had been aware or not of her activities, the Goban made no comment and didn’t react in any way whatsoever .

The young wife had prior to this disappeared for several weeks with a Northman who wanted to take her back home to the Northern Countries (Norway/Finland etc.)

She had refused to go, thinking of freezing winters in those northern climes and the Northman had there and then abandoned her .

Carefully considering her options, the wily young wife decided to make an indirect approach to her husband – through a third party, a woman well-known to him – with a view to reconciliation .

As this woman was also a great gossip, the news concerning this move got around before she even got as far as the tavern where the Goban was enjoying his mead, and she was followed into the premises by practically the whole village, eager for diversion .

The message this woman was meant to convey was that, in spite of everything, the young wife really loved her Goban, and would he take her back ?

This message, which of course should have been delivered in private, had already become a very public matter and the village layabouts crowded gleefully around the Goban, eagerly awaiting his response .

For some time, there was no response at all, as the Goban continued to stare into his drink .

Finally, heaving a sigh, he turned around and said to the messenger – as well of course to the whole tavern :

"..Well, if that’s love, I thank the hole in my arse that she doesn’t hate me !"

The whole tavern erupted in laughter at this response until one villager – more astute than the others – asked the Goban somewhat disapprovingly :

"..Goban, why did you not say: ‘..I thank Mananaan (Mananaan Mac Lir, God of the Sea) that she doesn’t hate me..’, instead of referring to that unmentionable part of your anatomy ?"

"Well" said the Goban "..I hadn’t finished the message I wanted sent back to my wife.

I wanted to tell her that of course I forgive her and that she can come back. But not whilst I am the proud possessor of an orifice in the aforementioned unmentionable but nevertheless essential constituent part of my anatomy .."

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