Kate Dudding: Shaun Kiley and the White Stag

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I originally heard this story on a snowy evening in February 1996, told by The Storycrafters at Caffe Lena, Saratoga Springs, NY. They called it SHAUN RILEY AND THE WHITE STAG.

When I was born, I was named Kathryn Winifred Eike. The Winifred was for my grandmother Mary Winifred Kiley, who was born in this country. And she was named for her grandmother, Winifred Shaughnessy, who was born in Ireland and came to this country with her husband Mr. Kiley because of The Great Hunger (known in this country as The Potato Famine.)

Because of the Shaughnessys and Kileys in my family, I call this story SHAUN KILEY AND THE WHITE STAG.

[start humming the first half of Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra]

Shaun Kiley lived in a small cottage in Ireland with his wife, his father, and his blind mother.

One year, there was a very long and a very hard winter, and the Kileys were beginning to run out of food. So every day Shaun Kiley went out hunting for something to put in the stew pot. One day, when he was walking over a harvested field, out of the corner of his eye, he saw something white flash by at the edge of the woods. So he turned and started walking toward that bit of white. When he got close enough, he realized that it was a white stag grazing on the stubble on the edge of the field.

It was a magnificent creature, and its beauty filled Shaun Kiley's soul. But then he remembered his family's hunger, and he raised his gun.

Then the stag looked up and its amber eyes looked straight into Shaun Kiley's green eyes. Again the beauty of the creature filled Shaun Kiley's soul. But again he remember his family's hunger and he put his finger on the trigger.

Suddenly, the white stag spoke in a rich, deep voice, "Shaun Kiley, if you spare my life, I will grant you one wish."

Well, this greatly surprised Shaun Kiley. He thought, "White stags are very rare, and even rarer those who can speak and who know my name. Why this must indeed be a magic creature who could grant me a wish!"

"Why yes, YES, I will be glad to spare your life. And I'm certainly a man whose family needs at least one wish. I wish, I wish ... It's so hard to decide on just one wish."

"Shaun Kiley, you do not have to decide now. Meet me here at dawn tomorrow, and tell me your one wish then."

The white stag turned and strode into the woods.

All the way back to the cottage, thoughts flew around Shaun Kiley's brain as he tried to figure out what his one wish should be.

When he got home, everyone was glad to see him, even though he had brought nothing for the stew pot. Then Shaun Kiley told them about the white stage. Turning to his father by the fire, he asked, "Father, what would you wish for?"

"Well, Shaun, you know I'm growing old. I'm no longer as steady on my feet as I used to be, and I can't work very hard. That's one of the reasons that we're running out of food. If I had one wish, why, why I'd wish for a lot of gold. With a lot of gold, we'd never be hungry again."

Then Shaun Kiley asked his mother on the other side of the fire, "Mother, what would you wish for?"

"Well, Shaun, hmm... You know I've been blind all my life. I would dearly loved to see the faces of all my family. If I had one wish, I would wish for my sight."

Then Shaun Kiley turned to his wife, mending by the only window. "Wife, what would you wish for?"

"Oh Shaun, that is so easy for me to decide. You know we've been married these 10 years but I've only been pregnant twice. It still hurts me so to think of those two babes, part of me and part of you, who died before their first birthdays. Two little ones whom we barely got to know. If I had one wish, I would wish for a healthy child."

It was very quiet at supper that night as the Kileys ate their watered down stew. But every once in a while, Shaun would smile to himself. He went to bed at his regular time, just as if he were a man with absolutely nothing on his mind. But he was up in plenty of time to be at the edge of the woods at dawn the next day.

As the stag strode out of the woods, he asked, "Have you decided on your wish, Shaun Kiley?"

Shaun Kiley looked straight into the stag's eyes and answered, "Yes, I have. I wish that my mother could see my healthy child rocking in its cradle made of gold."

[finish humming Too Ra Loo Ra Loo Ra with a happy, merry lilt]


Kate Dudding (518) 383-4620
8 Sandalwood Drive kate@katedudding.com
Clifton Park, NY 12065-2700 USA
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