An Irish hero whose mother had died was
required by his mother-in-law to set out on a
journey to an island beneath the sea and to
bring back some golden apples he would find
there. Should he fail to return within
a year, he would lose his right to the
throne, relinquishing it to one of his
stepbrothers. For his journey he was
given a miserable shaggy nag. No sooner
had he set out than the nag said, “Look
in my ear. You will find a metal ball.
Throw it on the path ahead of us and we
will follow it wherever it goes.”
Unhesitatingly the prince did this, and so,
proceeding by chance, they passed
through many perilous situations.
Finally, on the point of success, the horse
said to the Prince, “Now take your sword
and slit my throat.” The Prince hesitated, but
only for a moment. No sooner had he
killed the horse than, lo and behold,
it turned into a prince, who,
except for the acquiescence of the hero,
would have had to remain a miserable shaggy nag.