Study Guide

The Crock of Gold

by James Stephens

The Crock of Gold Summary

Summary (Critical Survey of Literature for Students)

In the center of a very dark pinewood lives the two old Philosophers and their wives, the Grey Woman of Dun Gortin and the Thin Woman of Inis Magrath. One couple has a little boy named Seumas, the other a little girl named Brigid. Both are born on the same day. When the children are ten years old, one of the old Philosophers decides that he learned all that he was capable of learning. This conclusion depresses him so much that he decides to die. It is unfortunate, as he points out, that at the time he is in the best of health; however, if the time comes for him to die, then die he must. He takes off his shoes and spins around in the center of the room for fifteen minutes until he falls over dead. So grieved is the Grey Woman that she, too, kills herself, but since she is much tougher than her husband, she spins for forty-five minutes before she dies. The Thin Woman calmly buries the two bodies under the hearthstone.

The people who live on the edge of the pinewood often come to see the Thin Woman’s husband when they need advice. One day, Meehawl MacMurrachu comes to the Philosopher to learn who stole his wife’s scrubbing board. The Philosopher, after much questioning, finally decides that the fairies took it. He advises Meehawl to go to a certain spot and steal the Crock of Gold that the Leprechauns of Gort na Gloca Mora buried there. For years, the Leprechauns were filling their Crock of Gold by clipping the edges of gold coins that they found in people’s houses at night. They need the gold to ransom any of the little people caught by human beings.

Losing their gold to Meehawl makes the Leprechauns angry, and they try to make Meehawl bring it back by giving him and his wife all kinds of aches and pains. Next, they come stealthily and lure Brigid and Seumas down into a little house in the roots of a tree. However, fear of the Thin Woman is on them, and they set the children free. Then the Great God Pan, the god of the beast that is in every human, lures away Caitilin, Meehawl’s daughter, with the music of his pipes. When Meehawl comes with his tale of sorrow, the Philosopher sends Brigid and Seumas to tell Pan to release the girl. Pan, however, refuses to answer their questions. When they tell the Philosopher, he becomes so angry that he orders his wife to bake him some cakes to eat on the way, and he starts off by himself to visit Pan. None of the Philosopher’s arguments, however, persuade Pan to free Caitilin, and the Philosopher goes off to get the help of...

(The entire section is 1020 words.)