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A Plate at Howth
The great wooden door opened quickly. A servant frowned as she looked at Grannuaile. Who are these country bumpkins, she wondered.
"You can tell your master that Grannuaile will not forget this!" And down the granite-lined walk stormed Grannuaile, followed by her men.
As they neared the gate, a young man approached.
Grannuaile treated the young man with respect. She gave him the most beautiful clothing and gave him the best of her food. She furnished the best rooms in her castle for him so he could be confortable. She took him on hunting and fishing trips. She treated him as she did her own son. But she would not let him return to Dublin.
In due time, Grannuaile received a note from the boy's father. He offered to pay her a huge ransom. He wanted his son back!
But Grannuaile would not let the boy go. She wanted the father to come visit her in person. After a long trip, the Lord of Howth arrived at Grannuaile's castle. He came with big bags of gold. Grannuaile ordered her men to take the gold back to Howth Castle, 300 miles away. The father was worried. What did this madwoman want, he wondered. He began to beg Grannuaile for his son's safety.
Grannuaile was getting tired of the father's begging. She called for the man's son. He soon appeared before Granuaile and his father.
"Son, are you alright?" the father asked anxiously, peering at his son. "Has this woman hurt you? If she has, I swear I'll..."
"But you, father, treated her with the greatest disrespect! You told the servant that you could not be bothered at your dinner. Is this hospitality?"
The boy's father was ashamed. He hung his head for a moment, then looked Grannuaile straight in the eye. He stood tall and began to speak.
"I see that you are not a bad man. But you were very rude. Do you not know that the old law of Ireland demands that anyone in need must be helped? All my men and I needed was a bit of dinner. Now, my ransom is this. From now on, an extra plate must be set at your table for every meal. If ever a stranger comes to your door, you must ask him in and give him a meal. It must be a real meal, not leftovers from the servants' table. You must treat all strangers with respect. And that is what is required for the release of your son."
In the teaching profession for over 21 years, Grainne has taught on two Indian reservations and is nearly as intrigued with the Navajo and Pueblo cultures as she is with the Irish. A few years ago, she also learned that she is part Cherokee Indian. As she puts it, "There are many similarities between the Indian cultures and the Irish, such as the oral storytelling tradition and the emphasis on family."
Since 1994, Grainne has written Irish folktales for children and adults, as well as stories of famous Irish people. Her favorite Irish person is Grace O'Malley, or Grainnauile, for whom she has re-named herself.
FOTA Wildlife Park
Only 10,000 cheetahs remain in their natural habitat and Fota Wildlife Park in Co. Cork, Ireland, is the world's leading breeder of this endangered species. Fota is among the most modern wildlife parks in Europe. It was opened in 1983 and has more than 70 species living in natural open surroundings with no obvious barriers. Only the cheetahs are behind fences.
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March 4, 2011