The Voyage of Bran and the Voyage of Maeldun
12th century, Old Irish. Lebor na hUidre (Book of the Dun Cow), Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, Ireland.
She gave them an abundance of food and drink, all out of her one pail, each man finding in it what he most desired.
Bran mac Febal becomes enraptured by beautiful music that seems to be coming from a silver bough filled with white apple-blossom that has mysteriously appeared outside his fortress. Bran takes this wonderful bough past his gatekeepers and into the hall. A little while later, a woman appears inside his fortress without any warning or announcement, as if by magic, and sings to him. It is, she says, a branch from a distant land, from an apple tree on a distant isle, an ancient tree that grows in a land without pain, without illness, without sadness, without disability.
Shortly afterwards, and under her instructions, Bran sets sail for this land with his companions and arrives at last at an Isle of Women. This sea, he is told, contains hundreds of islands. He has already lost one of his fellow voyagers on an Island of Joy. But they arrive at last at the Isle of Woman and spend a year on this island, in conjugal bliss. When, after the space of a year, they arrive back in Ireland, they find that many hundreds of years have passed since they set out.
In the same twelth century book is found the story of the Voyage of Maeldun:
Having sailed across an enchanted ocean and visited many strange isles, including an Island of Joy where he loses one of his crew, Maeldun came to an island where a fortress had a bridge of glass leading to it. This bridge threw them backwards when they tried to cross it, but then a woman emerged from the fortress, removed a slab of glass from the bridge, lowered a pail down into the water below and returned into the fortress with it. Maeldun's banging on the portcullis resulted in such a sweet melody that he and all his crew fell asleep. Three times this happened.
On the fourth day, she came over to them. 'Welcome, Maeldun,' she said, and she welcomed every man by his proper name, led each of them into her fortress, gave them couches to sit on and "gave them an abundance of food and drink, all out of her one pail, each man finding in it what he most desired."
When morning arrived, they found themselves back in their boat, with no sign of the island or its glass bridge.