The Chief's Daughter
First edition cover




Short story


Young adult

Historical era

Bronze Age


Victor Ambrus


Heather, Oak, and Olive 1972

"The Chief's Daughter" is a short story for children first published in 1967 by Antelope Books, with illustrations by Victor Ambrus. A young girl rescues a prisoner bound for human sacrifice.


Nessan, ten-year-old daughter of the chief of a Bronze Age dun on the Welsh coast, has already saved the life of Dara, a twelve-year-old Irish raider, with the sacrifice of a glass bracelet to the Black Mother, the standing stone her people worship. But when the stream fails, Laethrig the priest realises that Dara must be sacrificed to the Black Mother after all.

Nessan cuts Dara's bonds and sneaks him out the back smoke vent of the hut in which he is imprisoned, and shows him how to escape down the now-dry cliff-face. When his escape is discovered, his guard Ishtoreth is on the hook to replace him as the sacrifice – until Nessan confesses and steps up to take his place.

On the moors, Dara stumbles across the Black Mother, in front of whom an Irish spear has been cast into the stream as an offering by a passing raiding party. Leaving his provisions in exchange, Dara takes the spear, thereby loosening the debris that had dammed the stream around it.

Nessan, over the protests of the Chief, is about to take the sedative drink in preparation for sacrifice when the villagers catch the sound of the returning water. Laethrig puts off the ceremony until after he has conferred with the goddess, and concludes that the willingness to die was an acceptable sacrifice to the Black Mother. Nessan is spared.


"The Chief's Daughter" is set in the Bronze Age – Dara's Irish spear has a bronze pommel – but is otherwise temporally imprecise. Nessan and Dara's languages are mutually intelligible.


  • Nessan
  • Dara
  • Laethrig
  • Ishtoreth
  • The Black Mother


  • The Dun
  • The Black Mother
  • Ireland

Publication historyEdit

  • The Chief's Daughter, Antelope Books, 1967.
  • Heather, Oak, and Olive, 1972.