Title: Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales.
Author: Elizabeth Grierson, Joseph Jacob, John Buchan, J.F. Campbell, Alasdair MacLean, James Hogg, George MacDonald, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Andrew Lang, and John Lorne Campbell (edited by Gordon Jarvie).
Artist: Barbara Brown.
Genre: Literature, fiction, short stories, mythology, folklore, fantasy, fairy tales.
Publication Date: 1811, 1862, 1888, 1891, 1905, 1910, 1911, 1932, 1971, and 1973 (this collection 1992).
Summary: This collection compiles 21 folk and fairy tales, as well as stories based on Scottish folklore and legends. In The Milk-white Doo (1910) by Elizabeth Grierson, a young boy cooked by his cruel step-mother takes the form of a white dove to help his impoverished family, as well as get his revenge. In The Well O' the World's End (1910) by Elizabeth Grierson, a young girl sent to fetch water from a far-laying well encounters a frog that agrees to give her the water if she makes him a promise in return. In The Seal Catcher and the Merman (1910), a seal hunter finds out that some of the large seals he hunts are actually "Roane," or mermen, when he's taken down into the underwater palace to right a wrong he has committed against their race. In The Laird o' Co (1910) by Elizabeth Grierson, a kind and courteous Lord helps out a strange and enchanted young man when he asks him for ale for his sick mother, and has the deed come back to him many years later. In The Brownie O' Ferne-Den (1910) by Elizabeth Grierson, a Brownie comes to the rescue when the kind mistress of the farm-house falls ill, but everyone is too afraid to cross the glen and run into him. In Katherine Crackernuts (1910) by Elizabeth Grierson, a princess's wit and bravery in the land of the fairies saver her step-sister from a sinister enchantment, and help an ailing prince. Tam Lin (1549 and on) is a traditional ballad about a young man taken prisoner by the Queen of Fairies, and the lengths his true love goes to save him. Thomas Rhymer (13th century on) is a traditional tale of young lord who goes to live with the Queen of the Fairies. In Gold-Tree and Silver Tree (1891) by Joseph Jacobs, a beautiful princess is haunted by her mother's jealousy of her beauty, until a dark enchantment is put on her. In The Magic Walking-Stick (1932) by John Buchan, young Bill buys a walking stick from a mysterious character, and soon discovers the incredible magical powers it holds. In The Two Shepherds (1862) by J.F. Campbell, when a shepherd stays too late at his friend's house and has to cross the river late at night, the son sent to accompany him has a sinister encounter in the dark river. In The Sprightly Tailor (1862) by Joseph Jacobs, a tailor decides to spend a night sewing in a haunted church, and encounters a giant horror there. The Lonely Giant (1973) by Alasdair MacLean is a story in which a lonely giant seeks a giantess for a wife, and employs the help of a whale to help him get to her. In Assipattle and the Mester Stoorworm (1910) by Elizabeth Grierson, a horrible creature emerges from the sea and demands a horrible sacrifice, and an unlikely hero emerges in the youngest, laziest son of a large family. Adam Bell (1811) by James Hogg is a mysterious tale of a vanished man who was seen far from where he was supposed to be, and whose tragic fate did not come to light for a long time. In The Gray Wolf (1905) by George MacDonald, a young student seeking refuge from a storm comes across a young woman and her mother who offer him a place to spend the night, though something about the daughter gives the student warning chills. In Through the Veil (1911) by Arthur Conan Doyle, a couple visiting an Ancient Roman excavation site suddenly realize they had been there together before, thousands of years ago. The Gold of Fairnilee (1888) by Andrew Lang, a young woman helps a lord kidnapped by fairies, and together they discover the truth in the legend of the buried and lost gold of Fairnilee. Why Everyone Should Be Able to Tell a Story (1971) by John Lorne Campbell is a humorous tale of the come-uppance of young Uistman who can't tell his host any stories to help pass the night. The Tail (1862) is a tale about a shepherd trying to pull one of his sheep out of a bog by its tail, explaining why sheep's tails are not as long as they could be.
My rating: 8/10
♥ Down in the valley, close to where he lived, there was a large deep loch, and in thew loch, so the country folk said, there dwelt a water kelpie.
Now water kelpies, as all the world knows, are cruel and malicious spirits, who love nothing better than to lure mortals to destruction. And this is how they set about it:
They take the form of a beautiful chestnut horse, and come out of the water, all saddled and bridled, as if ready to be mounted; then they graze quietly by the side of the road, until some luckless creature is tempted to get on their back. Then they plunge with him into the water, and he is no more seen. (At least, so the old folk say, for I have never met one of these creatures myself.)
♥ "You must go out into the garden, and pluck two twigs from the rowan tree that grows by the gate, and fashion them into a Cross, and put it up over the outside of the door, which you must bar and bolt.
"That will keep the creature from entering the house; for no evil spirit can endure the rowan wood, let alone the Holy Sign."
♥ Now, if the kelpie was naturally cruel, I am afraid the Laird was cruel also, for he loaded the poor beast with such heavy loads that its shoulders were often chafed and bleeding, and it grew thin and miserable-looking.
Indeed, he worked it so hard that it was almost dead by the time the castle was completed.
Then, as he had no further use for it, he gave it back its bridle, and told it that it could go back to where it had come from.
Alas! he did not know what he had laid up in store for himself and his family. For the water kelpie, enraged at the sufferings which it had been made to endure, looked over its shoulder as it was about to plunge into the loch, and solemnly uttered these words:
"Sair back, and sair banes,
Drivin' the Laird o' Morphie's stanes!
The Laird o' Morphie'll never thrive
As lang as Kelpie is alive."
And his words came only too true; for one misfortune after another fell on the Laird and his descendants, until at last his name died out altogether.
So by this token let all those who read this story learn that it is never wise to persecute anybody, not even a water kelpie.
~~The Laird of Morphie and the Water Kelpie by Elizabeth Grierson.
♥ But who was to go? That was the question. For it was black midnight, and the way to the old woman's house lay straight through the glen. And whoever travelled that road ran the risk of meeting the dreaded Brownie.
The farmer would have gone only too willingly, but he dare not leave his wife alone; and the servants stood in groups about the kitchen, each one telling the other that he ought to go, yet no one offering to go themselves.
Little did they think that the cause of all their terror, a queer, wee, misshapen little man, all covered with hair, with a long beard, red-rimmed eyes, broad, flat feet like a frog's, and enormous long arms that touched the ground, even when he stood straight, was within a yard or two of them, listening to their talk, with an anxious face, behind the kitchen door.
For he had come up as usual, from his hiding-place in the glen, to see if there was any work for him to do, and to look for his bowl of milk. And he had seen, from the open door and lit-up windows, that there was something wrong inside the farmhouse, which at that hour was usually dark, and still, and silent; and he had crept into the entry to try and find out what the matter was.
When he gathered from the servants' talk that the mistress, whom he too loved so dearly, and who had been so kind to him, was ill, his heart sank within him; and when he heard that the silly servants were so taken up with their own fears that they dared not set out to fetch a nurse for her, his contempt and anger knew no bounds.
"Fools, idiots, idiots!" he muttered to himself, stamping his queer, misshapen feet on the floor. "They speak as if a body were ready to take a bite off them as soon as ever he met them. If they only knew the bother it gives me to keep out of their road they wouldna be so silly. But, by my troth, if they go on like this, the bonnie lady will die amongst their fingers. So it strikes me that Brownie must just gang himself."
♥ Not a word was spoken till they approached the dreaded glen, then the old woman felt her courage giving way. "Do ye think that there will be any chance of meeting the Brownie?" she asked timidly. "I would fain not run the risk, for folk say that he is an ill-omened creature."
Her companion gave a curious laugh. "Keep up your heart, and dinna talk havers," he said, "for I promise ye ye'll see naught uglier this night than the man whom ye ride behind."
"Oh, then, I'm fine and safe," replied the old woman, with a sigh of relief; "for although I havena' seen your face, I warrant that ye are a true man, for the care you have taken of a poor old woman."
She relapsed into silence again till the glen was passed and the good horse had turned into the farmyard. Then the horseman slid to the ground, and, turning round, lifted her carefully down in his long, strong arms. As he did so the cloak slipped off him, revealing his short, broad body and his misshapen limbs.
"In a' the world, what kind o' man are ye?" she asked, peering into his face in the grey morning light, which was just dawning. "What makes your eyes so big? And what have ye done to your feet? They are more like frog's webs than anything else."
The queer little man laughed again. "I've wandered many a mile in my time without a horse to help me, and I've heard it said that ower-much walking makes the feet unshapely," he replied. "But waste no time in talking, good Dame. Go your way into the house; and, hark'ee, if anyone asks you who brought you hither so quickly, tell them that there was a lack of men, so you just had to be content to ride behind the Brownie o' Ferne-Den."
~~The Brownie O' Ferne-Den by Elizabeth Grierson.
♥ So it all turned out very well, and everybody was quite pleased; and the two weddings took place at once, and, unless they be dead since that time, the young couples are living yet.
~~Katherine Crackernuts by Elizabeth Grierson.
♥ Tam looked at her for a long time. At last, he shook his head and said, "Aye, I'll tell ye the hale sorry story. My grandfaither was the Early of Roxburgh. One cold, snell day we were riding back frae the hunting, and I fell frae my horse on yon green mount. The Queen o' Fairies caught me there and I've lived with her ever since. She's a pleasant enough mistress in some ways, but I am in thrall to her, and must obey her commands. And she's no exactly a guid fairy. Every seven years she pays a human tithe to hell, and I'm feared the next time'll be my turn.
"If ye love me, Janet, ye can save me," Tam continued, and now there was a plea in his tone. "This nicht is Hallowe'en and tomorrow is All-Hallows day. So this is the one nicht in the year ye can save me. Hark carefully to what I tell ye.
"Just at the mirk and midnight hour – no sooner and no later – the fairy folk will ride in procession through the wood. I will be with them. If ye would win your ain true love, ye will come here this nicht."
"But how shall I ken ye, Tam Lin," asked Janet, "among so many folk, and in a dark midnight wood?"
"Here is what ye must do," said Tam. "I will be mounted on the third horse. Let pass the black and the brown horses, but quickly run to the third horse – this milk-white steed ye see before ye – and pull ye his rider down. I will be that rider – my right hand gloved, my left hand bare, my bonnet well back, uncovered my hair.
"Hold me tight and fast in your arms for dear life, lady. They'll turn me into all sorts of beasts and crawlies – a newt, then an adder, then a bear, a lion, and a red-hot iron bar – and last of all, a burning lead weight. Then – and only then – ye may throw me with all speed into the water of the well. If ye do all this, then I will be your true love for ever, and I'll climb out of the well a mortal man once more. Wrap me then in your green mantle, Janet, and I shall be saved from the Fairy Queen. And remember that if ye love me, nothing can hurt ye."
♥ Exactly at the midnight hour, she heard the ring of bells on bridles as the fairy folk came riding down the glade. There was a shimmer of dim light from the fairy lanterns, just enough to see the Queen on her black stallion leading her troop through the trees. Then came a second horse, glowing silver-green among the trees. The third horse was a milk-white steed, just as Tam had promised. Janet jumped forward and dragged its rider from the milk-white horse, and hung on to him for dear life.
Then the fairies were screeching and screaming around her. There was a green flash, and Janet suddenly felt herself holding a loathly, slimy newt. Or was it a snake, winding and coiling itself about her arms and throat? Janet's instinct was to hurl the writhing thing from her, but she remembered Tam's plea and his plight and his promise, and she held firm. Then then snake turned itself into a growling, hairy bear, and then a lion whose hot, foul breath knocked her to the forest floor. Still Janet held fast to her burden. Then there was the shrieking pain of a red-hot iron, and she would fain have flung it from her. But she held on. And then there was the deadly weight of burning hot lead. Struggling to the edge of the well, Janet at last managed to tip her agonizing burden into the dark waters of the well. There was an almighty splash and then a great hiss of steam – and Tam Lin clambered from the water, wet and shaken but even more handsome than before.
Out then spake the Queen o' Fairies, out of a bush of broom. "Curse you, madam. You have stolen my bonniest knight, my stately groom," she shrieked, and an angry queen was she.
But the happy pair were now beyond the magic powers of the Fairy Queen. Janet's love was stronger than the Queen's magic, and the Queen knew she was beaten. Janet and Tam fled back to the Hall, swiftly and safely, where they were welcomed with great joy. They lived together in great happiness all their lives, and in the fullness of time their bonny son became the Laird of Carterhaugh.
~~Tam Lin, Traditional.
♥ At last, they came to a fork where three roads met. The Queen showed Thomas first a narrow track into the hills beset with thorns and briars: this was the path of righteousness, taken by few travellers on life's journey. The second road was broad and flat and grassy: it led through a pretty meadow, and was the busy path to wickedness. Thomas had heard about these paths from the priest at the little church of Ercildoune. But the Queen and Thomas took the third road, the winding fernie brae leading to fair Elfland, and they duly reached their destination in the deep woods as the shadows lengthened and mirk night was falling.
♥ So Thomas Rymer was free once again, and he made his way back to Ercildoune. When they parted, the Queen gave him a large apple from her orchard. "Eat this," she said. "It will give you two precious gifts – of truth and of prophecy. And it will make you rich and famous. Farewell, Thomas."
Thomas wasn't at all sure if he wanted these fairy gifts. "I've always had a guid Scots tongue in my head," he thought to himself. "But I've also known when to hold it! Truth is a two-edged weapon, it seems to me. But we'll see..." He wasn't too sure about the gift of prophecy either: did he really want to be able to see into the future?
♥ And so Thomas became rich and famous, just as the Fairy Queen had said he would. But sometimes his visitors had great difficulty getting through to him – because his mind had taken him back to fair Elfland and his Fairy Queen.
~~Thomas Rymer, Traditional.
♥ Said Silver-tree, "Troutie, bonny littler fellow, am not I the most beautiful queen in the world?"
"Oh! indeed you are not."
"Why, Gold-tree, your daughter."
Silver-tree went home, blind with rage. She lay down on the bed and vowed she would never be well until she could get the heart and the liver of Gold-tree, her daughter, to eat.
♥ Gold-tree knew the long ship of her father coming.
"Oh!" said she to the servants, "my mother is coming, and she will kill me."
"She shall not kill you at all; we will lock you in a room where she cannot get near you."
This was done; and when Silver-tree came ashore, she began to cry out:
"Come to meet your own mother, when she comes to see you." Gold-tree said that she could not, that she was locked in the room, and that she could not get out of it.
"Will you not put out," said Silver-tree, "your little finger through the keyhole, so that your own mother may give a kiss to it?"
She put out her little finger, and Silver-tree went and put a poisoned stab in it, and Gold-tree fell dead.
When the Prince came home, and found Gold-tree dead, he was in great sorrow, and when he saw how beautiful she was, he did not bury her at all, but he locked her in a room where nobody would get near her.
♥ At the fall of night the Prince came home from the hunting-hill, looking very downcast.
"What gift," said his wife, "would you give me that I could make you laugh?"
"Oh! indeed, nothing could make me laugh except if Gold-tree were to come alive again."
"Well, you'll find her alive down there in the room."
When the Prince saw Gold-tree alive he made great rejoicings, and he began to kiss her, and kiss her, and kiss her. Said the second wife, "Since she is the first one you had it is better for you to stick to her, and I will go away."
"Oh! indeed you shall not go away, but I shall have both of you."
♥ Silver-tree came ashore. "Come down, Gold-tree, love," said she, "for your own mother has come to you with a precious drink."
"It is a custom in this country," said the second wife, "that the person who offers a drink takes a draught out of it first."
Silver-tree put her mouth to it, and the second wife went and struck it so that some of it went down her throat, and she was poisoned and fell dead. They had only to carry her home a dead corpse and bury her.
The Prince and his two wives were long alive after this, pleased and peaceful.
I left them there.
~~Gold-Tree and Silver-Tree by Joseph Jacobs.
For some time he got on pretty well, until he felt the floor all of a tremble under her feet; and looking about him, but keeping his fingers at work, he saw the appearance of a massive human head rising up through the stone pavement of the church. And when the head had risen above the surface, there came from it a great, great voice. And the voice said: "Do you see this great head of mine?"
"I see that, but I'll sew this!" replied the sprightly tailor; and he kept stitching away at the trews.
Then the heads rose higher up through the pavement, until its neck appeared. And when its neck was shown, the thundering voice came again and said: "Do you see this great neck of mine?"
"I see that, but I'll sew this!" said the sprightly tailor; and he kept stitching away at his trews.
Then the head and neck rose higher still, until the great shoulders and chest were shown above the ground. And again the mighty voice thundered: "Do you see this great chest of mine?"
And again the sprightly tailor replied: "I see that, but I'll sew this!" and he kept stitching away at his trews.
And still the monster kept rising through the pavement, until it shook a great pair of arms in the tailor's face, and said: "Do you see these great arms of mine?"
"I see those, but I'll sew this!" answered the tailor; and he kept stitching hard at his trews, for he knew that he had no time to lose.
The sprightly tailor was doing the long stitches, when he saw the monster gradually rising and rising through the floor, until it lifted out a great leg, and stamping with it upon the pavement, said in a roaring voice: "Do you see this great leg of mine?"
"Aye, aye: I see that, but I'll sew this!" cried the tailor; and his fingers flew with the needle, and he made such long stitches, that he was just coming to the end of the trews, when the monster was taking up its other leg. But before it could pull it out of the pavement, the sprightly tailor had finished his task; and, blowing out his candle, and springing from off his gravestone, he buckled up his act, and ran out of the church with the trews under his arm. Then the fearsome thing gave a loud roar, and stamped with both his feet upon the pavement, and out of the church he went thundering after the sprightly tailor.
~~The Sprightly Tailor by Joseph Jacobs.
♥ There was a giant once who was lonely. Most giants are, of course, or would be if they stopped to think about it. A giant needs a great deal of land to live off, which means that giants have to space themselves out very thinly, something like one to every shire. So the only time they see one another is on the rare occasions when two neighbouring giants happen to arrive at the borders of their territories at the same time. When that takes place they usually play catch for a time with a boulder or have a game of hide-and-seek among the mountains. Then they go their separate ways. You can hear them shouting goodbye for miles.
They don't think about this loneliness, however, because thinking isn't something they go in for very much. Mostly they just get on with the business of being giants, which takes up all their time and which is very hard work because it is laid down in the Rule Book for Giants that, when they aren't actually eating or sleeping, they have to stamp around the countryside bellowing at the tops of their voices and looking very fierce. Looking fierce is hard work in itself as you'll find out if you try it for half an hour. You keep forgetting that you're supposed to have a scowl on your face and you find yourself smiling at something. Then you have to start all over again.
Being kept so busy means that giants don't have much time for thinking. When a giant foes manage to get a few minutes to himself he generally feels to tired that he just drops off to sleep. He sits down first of all with his back against the nearest hill. Then he opens his huge mouth and gives a huge yawn. Then he spits out all the birds that have got sucked into his mouth while the yawn was going on. Then off he goes to dream-land.
But the giant who was lonely was different. He had long since lost his rule book and had never bothered to get it replaced. He didn't go around stamping and roaring because he couldn't see much point in it. It only made your feet sore and gave you a headache. Besides that, it frightened people away and he didn't want to frighten people away. He wanted to be friendly.
What made him especially different from other giants, though, was that he was always thinking, and what he was always thinking about was how much alone he was.
♥ "As for people," said Goldentop once to the lonely giant – whose name, by the way, was Angus Macaskill – "all that they are good for, whether they are big or little and with very few exceptions, is making a noise or making places dirty or breaking things. And all that pink naked skin on them without a single feather! Ugh!"
♥ There was Morag Matheson, for instance, the shoemaker's daughter. He sometimes had quite good conversations with her. But in order for them to talk either Angus had to lie down to get his ear to the level of her mouth, which usually struck him as such a comical proceeding that he burst into fits of laughter, or he had to pick her up and hold her to his ear, which usually struck her as such a comical proceeding that she burst into fits of laughter.
It is difficult, as you will know from your own experience, to have a sensible talk with someone who giggles all the time. You can hear properly only one to two words in every sentence and you have to guess at the rest. If you guess wrongly, of course, it produces even more laughter. Morag had once told Angus that her mother had been ordered by the doctor to eat two legs for breakfast every day. He was quite horrified till he discovered that she had really said "eggs".
♥ "The only cure for you, Angus," she said at last, "is to get married. You must find yourself a giantess somewhere."
"Where?" asked Angus.
"Well, now, that I don't know," Morag answered. "Most of the people I have met in my life have been very small in one way or another. You'd better ask Goldentop the eagle. He's always boasting that he knows every mountain in the whole Land of Lorne."
"Giants aren't mountains," Angus pointed out.
"No," agreed Morag. "Giants are lighter coloured and more gentle. At least, some of them are." She looked at the ground, where it dizzied away into the distance. "But there are certain resemblances just the same."
♥ The eagle was sat on a favourite perch. One of his eyes was watching the approach of Angus and it was more or less blank. The other was fixed on some hills that stuck up above the horizon and it was a calculating eye, the sort of eye that added up figures and got one less every time.
"What are you watching with that left eye? asked Angus.
"A flock of sheep leaving High Henderson's sheep-fold in the village of Carraig in the parish of Cray," answered Goldentop.
"You have good eyesight," said Angus.
"I have an empty belly," said the eagle. "It clears the vision of trivialities."
♥ "Anyway, I can't go to this island," Angus told him, "even if I could swim that far. My mother told me on her deathbed never to go into the salt water."
"Then you must balance the commands of the dead against the requirements of the living," said Goldentop. "It is an old dilemma."
♥ Besides, he knew that there is nothing like a good long walk for getting rid of sadness. If flows out of your feet into the ground, which of course is where it comes from in the first place, only it enters through your bottom while you are sitting down.
♥ "Goldentop is a snob," said the whale. "It comes of continually looking down on the rest of the world. And as for legs, unless they are put to the service of the community they remain a private luxury."
♥ "But there's one more snag. My mother told me just before she died never to go into the sea."
"And died, I suppose," asked the whale, "before she had time to say why?" Angus nodded. "That's the trouble with Death," the whale continued. "He always comes when you're in the middle of something, even if it's only drawing breath. Well, it's up to you whether you want to take a chance or not."
♥ "I am a giant, a female giant,
by nature bold and strong.
My eyes are quick, my club is thick,
my arms are extra long.
My voice is thunderously large,
a wondrous voice to hear,
and when I shout and stamp about,
the echoes take a year.
My towering height is something else
of which I'm very proud.
I scrape the sky when I pass by
and drink from every cloud.
A tailor who was measuring me
and swore he had the knack,
set off in haste to chalk my waist
and hasn't yet come back.
My future husband, I insist,
must be more huge than me,
or with one bound I'll swing him around
and hurl him out to sea."
"Grammar never was her strong point," said the whale, "but she sounds in excellent form today."
♥ "How much have I lost this time?" Angus asked, after he had waded ashore.
The whale looked him over carefully. "Well, not as much as last time," he answered. "But still quite a lot. You're about ordinary-sized now. I shouldn't try it again."
"Don't worry," Angus told him. "It's dry land for me from now on. Dry land and a bit more reverence for the wisdom of mothers. Thanks for rescuing me."
"At least you can say one thing," said the whale.
"What's what?" asked Angus.
"You're not the first man to shrink from courtship," the whale answered. He dived under the water and vanished.
~~The Lonely Giant by Alasdair MacLean.
♥ And the youngest of these seven sons bore a very curious name; for he was called Assipattle, which means, "He who grovels among the ashes."
Perhaps Assipattle deserved his name, for he was rather a lazy boy, who never did any wort on the farm as his brothers did, but ran about outdoors with ragged clothes and unkempt hair, and whose mind was ever filled with wondrous stories of trolls and giants, elves and goblins.
When the sun was hot in the long summer afternoons, when the bees droned drowsily and even the tiny insects seemed almost asleep, the boy was content to throw himself down on the ash-heap amongst thew ashes, and lie there, lazily letting them run through his fingers, as one might play with sand on the sea-shore, soaking in the sunshine and telling storied to himself.
♥ For he said that the only way to satisfy the Monster, and to make it spare the land, was to feed it every Saturday with seven young maidens, who must be the fairest who could be found; and if, after this remedy had been tried once or twice, it did not succeed in mollifying the Stoorworm and inducing him to depart, there was but one other measure that he could suggest, but that was so horrible and dreadful that he would not rend their hearts by mentioning it in the meantime.
And as, although they hated him, they feared him also, the Council had to abide by his words, and they pronounced the awful doom.
And so it came about that, every Saturday, seven bonnie, innocent maidens were bound hand and foot and laid on a rock which ran into the sea, and the Monster stretched out his long, jagged tongue, and swept them into his mouth; while all the rest of the folk looked on from the top of a high hill – or, at least, the men looked – with cold, set faces, while the women hid theirs in their aprons and wept aloud.
..Time passed, and every Saturday seven lassies were thrown to the Stoorworm, until at last it was felt that this state of things could not be allowed to go on any longer; for if it did, there would soon be no maidens at all left in Orkney.
So the Elders met once more, and, after long consultation, it was agreed that the Sorcerer should be summoned, and asked what his other remedy was. "For, in truth," said they, "it cannot be worse than that which we are practising now."
♥ So six-and-thirty champions arrived at the King's Palace, each hoping to gain the prize.
But the King sent them all out to look at the Giant Stoorworm lying in the sea with its enormous mouth open, and when they saw it, twelve of them were sized with sudden illness, and twelve of them were so afraid that they took to their heels and ran, and never stopped till they reached their own countries; and so only twelve returned to the King's Palace, and as for them, they were so downcast at the thought of the task that they swore had no spirit left in them at all.
♥ ..and all the country-folk, were fain to take refuge on the hilltop, out of harm's way, and stand and see what happened next.
And this was what happened next.
The poor distressed creature – for it was now to be pitied, even although it was a great, cruel, awful Mester Stoorworm – tossed itself to and fro, twisting and writhing.
And as it tossed its awful head out of the water its tongue fell out, and struck the earth with such force that it made a great dent in it, into which the sea rushed. And that dent formed the crooked Straits which now divide Denmark from Norway and Sweden.
Then some of its teeth fell out and rested in the sea, and became the islands that we now call the Shetland Isles; and a little afterwards some more teeth dropped out, and they became what we now call the Faeroe Isles.
And that the creature twisted itself into a great lump and died; and this lump became the island of Iceland; and the fire which Assipattle had kindled with his live peat still burns on underneath it, and that is why there are mountains which throw out fire in that chilly land.
♥ For the matter was this: the cruel Queen, full of joy at the thought that she was to be rid, once and for all, of her stepdaughter, had been making love to the wicked Sorcerer all the morning in the old King's absence.
♥ They heard the shout and turned round, and they both laughed aloud in derision when they saw that it was only the boy who grovelled in the ashes who pursued them.
"The insolent brat! I will cut off his head for him! I will teach him a lesson!" cried the Sorcerer; and he rode boldly back to meet Assipattle. For although he was no fighter, he knew that no ordinary weapon could harm his enchanted body; therefore he was not afraid.
But he did not count on Assipattle having the sword of the great god Odin, with which he had slain all his enemies; and before this magic weapon the Sorcerer was powerless. And, at one thrust, the young lad ran it through his body as easily as if he had been any ordinary man, and he fell from his horse, dead.
~~Assipattle and the Mester Stoorworm by Elizabeth Grierson.
♥ ..and coming to one of the ploughman, she told him that their master was come home, and had certainly lost his reason, for he was wandering about the house and would not speak. The man loosed his horses from the plough and came home, listened to the woman's story, made her repeat it again and again, and then assured her that she was raving, for their master's horse was not in the stable, and of course he could not be come home. However, as she persisted in her claim, with every appearance of sincerity, he went down to the river to see what was become of his mysterious master. He was neither to be seen nor heard of in all the country. It was then concluded that the housekeeper had seen an apparition, and that something had befallen their master; but on consulting with some old people, skilled in these matters, they learned that when a "wraith", or apparition of a living person, appeared while the sun was up, instead of being a prelude of instant death, it prognosticated very long life; and, moreover, that it could not possibly be a ghost that she had seen, for they always chose the night season for making their visits. In short, though it was the general topic of conversation among the servants and the people in the vicinity, no reasonable conclusion could be formed on the subject.
♥ They were both out of breath, and at that instant a small cloud chancing to overshadow the moon, one of them called out. "Hold, we cannot see." They uncovered their heads, wiped their faces, and as soon as the moon emerged from the cloud, each resumed his guard. Surely that was an awful pause! And short, indeed, was the stage between it and eternity with the one! The tall gentleman made a lunge at the other, who parried and returned it; and as the former sprung back to avoid the thrust, his foot slipped, and he stumbled forward towards his antagonist, who dextrously met his breast in the fall with the point of his sword, and ran him through the body. He made only one feeble convulsive struggle, as if attempting to rise, and expired almost instantaneously.
~~Adam Bell by James Hogg.
♥ His hostess was lying motionless on the floor, and a huge grey wold came bounding after him.
There was no weapon at hand; and if there had been, his inborn chivalry would never have allowed him to harm a woman even under the guise of a wolf. Instinctively, he set himself firm, leaning a little forward, with half outstretched arms, and hands curved ready to clutch again at the throat upon which he had left those pitiful marks. But the creature as she sprung eluded his grasp, and just as he expected to feel her fangs, he found a woman weeping on his bosom, with her arms around his neck. The next instant, the grey wolf broke from him, and bounded howling up the cliff. Recovering himself as he best might, the youth followed, for it was the only way to the moor above, across which he must now make his way to find his companions.
All at once he heard the sound of a crunching of bones – not as if a creature was eating them, but as if they were ground by the teeth of rage and disappointment: looking up, he saw close above him the mouth of the little cavern in which he had taken refuge the day before. Summoning all his resolution, he passed it slowly and softly. From within came the sounds of a mingled moaning and growling.
Having reached the top, he ran at full speed for some distance across the moor before venturing to look behind him. When at length he did so, he saw, against the sky, the girl standing on the edge of the cliff, wringing her hands. One solitary wail crossed the space between. She made no attempt to follow him, and he reached the opposite shore in safety.
~~The Grey Wolf by George MacDonald.
♥ "Now, here's the altar that we foond last week. There's an inscreeptions. They tell me it's Latin, and it means that the men o' this fort give thanks to God for their safety."
They examined the old worn stone. There was a large deeply-cut "VV" upon the top of it.
"What does "VV" stand for?" asked Brown.
"Naebody kens," the guide answered.
"Valeria Victrix," said the lady softly. Her face was paler than ever, her eyes far away, as one who peers down the dim aisles of over-arching centuries.
♥ They never talk about that strange isolated incident in their married life. For an instant the curtain of the past had swung aside, and some strange glimpse of a forgotten life had come to them. But it closed down, never to open again. They live their narrow round – he in his shop, she in her household – and yet new and wider horizons have vaguely formed themselves around them since that summer evening by the crumbling Roman fort.
~~Through the Veil by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
♥ But no the doors are not only open, they are quite gone, and there is nobody within to give you a welcome.
So there is nothing but emptiness in the old house where Randal lived with Jean, four hundred and sixty years or so before you were born. It is a high old house, and wide, with the broken slates still on the roof. At the corner there are little round towers, like pepperboxes, with sharp peaks. The stems of the ivy that covers the walls are thick as trees. There are many trees crowding all round, and there are hills round it too; and far below you hear the Tweed whispering all day. The house is called Fairnilee, which means "the Fairies' Field"; for people believed in fairies, as you shall hear, when Randal was a boy, and even when my father was a boy.
♥ "They are bringing the corp," he said. Randal knew "the corp" meant the dead body.
He began to cry. "Where is my father?" he said. "Where is my father?"
His mother led him into the house. She gave him to the old nurse, who cried over him, and kissed him, and offered him cakes, and made him a whistle with a branch of plane tree. So in a short while Randal only felt puzzled. Then he forgot, and began to play. He was a very little boy.
♥ What was it Randal had seen, when he thought he met his father in the twilight, three days before?
He never knew. His mother said he must have dreamed it all.
The old nurse used to gossip about it to the maids. "He's an unco' bairn, oor Randal; I wush he may na be fey."
She meant that Randal was a strange child, and that strange things would happen to him.
♥ When Simon Grieve said that the red cock was crowing over his enemies' home, he meant that he had set it on fire after the people who lived in it had run away.
♥ You cannot think, if you have not tried, what pleasant company a burn is. It comes out of the deep, black wells in the moss, far away on the tops of the hills, where the sheep feed, and the fox peers from his hole, and the ravens build in the crags. The burn flows down from the lonely places, cutting a way between steep, green banks, tumbling in white waterfalls over rocks, and lying in black, deep pools below the waterfalls. At every turn it does something new and plays a fresh game with its brown waters. The white pebbles in the water look like gold: often Randal would pick one out and think he had found a gold-mine, till he got it into the sunshine, and then it was only a white stone, what he called a "chucky-stane"; but he kept hoping for better luck next time. In the height of summer, when the streams were very low, he and the shepherd's boys would build damns of stones and turf across a narrow part of the burn, while Jean sat and watched them on a little round knoll. Then, when plenty of water had collected in the pool, they would break the dam and let it all run downhill in a little flood; they called it a "hurly gush". And in winter they would slide on the black, smooth ice of the boat-pool, beneath the branches of the alders.
Or they would go out with Yarrow, the shepherd's dog, and follow the track of wild creatures in the snow. ..When it was very cold, the grouse and blackcocks would come into the trees near the house, and Randal and Jean would put out porridge for them to eat. And the great white swans floated in from the frozen lochs on the hills, and gathered round open reaches and streams of the Tweed. It was pleasant to be a boy then in the North. And at Hallowe'en they would duck for apples in tubs of water, and burn nuts in the fire, and look for the shadow of the lady Randal was to marry, in the mirror; but he only saw Jean looking over his shoulder.
♥ Randal and Jean thought it was very likely there were "kye", or cattle, in the water. And some Highland people think so still, and believe they have seen the great kelpie come roaring out of the lake; or Shellycoat, whose skin is all crusted like a rock with shells, sitting beside the sea.
The old nurse had other tales, that nobody believes any longer, about Brownies. A Brownie was a very useful creature to have in a house. He was a kind of fairy-man, and he came out in the dark, when everybody had gone to bed, just as mice pop out at night. He never did anyone any harm, but he sat and warmed himself at the kitchen fire. If any work was unfinished he did it, and made everything tidy that was left out of order. It is a pity there are no such bogles now! If anybody offered the Brownie any payment, even if it was only a silver penny or a new coat, he would take offence and go away.
♥ "But they do not like to be called fairies. So the old rhyme runs:
If ye call me imp or elf,
I warn you look well to yourself;
If ye call me fairy,
Ye'll find me quite contrary;
If good neighbour you call me,
Then good neighbour I will be;
But if you call me kindly sprite,
I'll be your friend both day and night.
"So you must always call them "good neighbours" or "good folk", when you speak of them."
♥ "Then her heart leaped, and fast she ran and flew to the cradle; and there she saw an awful sight – not her own bairn, but a withered imp, with hands like a mole's, and a face like a frog's, and a mouth from ear to ear, and two great staring eyes."
"What was it?" asked Jeanie, in a trembling voice.
"A fairy's bairn that had not thriven," said the nurse; "and when their bairns do not thrive, they just steal honest folk's children and carry them away to their own country."
"And where's that?" asked Randal.
"It's under the ground," said nurse, "and there they have gold and silver and diamonds; and there's the Queen of them all, that's as beautiful as the day. She has yellow hair down to her feet, and she has blue eyes, like the sky on a fine day, and her voice like all the mavises singing in the spring. And she is aye dressed in green, and all her court in green; and she rides a white horse with golden bells on the bridle."
♥ "There was Tam Hislop, that vanished away the day before all the lads and your own father went forth to that weary war at Flodden, and the English, for once, by guile, won the day. Well, Tam Hislop, when the news came that all must arm and mount and ride, he could nowhere be found. It was as if the wind had carried him away. High and low they sought him, but there was his clothes and his armour, and his sword and his spear, but no Tam Hislop. Well, no man heard more of him for seven whole years, not till last year, and then he came back: sore tired he looked, ay, and older than when he was lost. Ans I met him by the well, and I was frightened; and, "Tam," I said. "Where have ye been this weary time?" "I have been with them that I will not speak the name of," says he. "Ye mean the good folk," said I. "Ye have said it," says he. Then I went up to the house, with my heart in my mouth, and I met Simon Grieve. "Simon," I says, "here's Tam Hislop come home from the good folk." "I'll soon send him back to them," says he. And he takes a great stick and lays it about Tam's shoulders, calling his coward loon, that ran away from the fighting. And since then Tam has never been seen about the place. But the Laird's man, of Gala, knows them that say Tam was in Perth the last seven years, and not in Fairyland at all. But it was Fairyland he told me, and he would not lie to his own mother's half-brother's cousin."
♥ He had grown up in a country where everything was magical and haunted; where fairy knights rode on the leas after dark, and challenged men to battle. Every castle had its tale of Redcap, the sly spirit, or of the woman of the hairy hand. Every old mound was thought to cover hidden gold. And all was so lonely; the green hills rolling between river and river, with no men on them, nothing but sheep, and rouse, and plover. No wonder that Randal lived in a kind of dream. He would lie and watch the long grass till it looked like a forest, and he thought he could see elves dancing between the green grass stems, that were like fairy trees. He kept wishing that he, too, might meet the Fairy Queen, and be taken into that other world where everything was beautiful.
♥ On Midsummer Night the country people used to light these fires, and drive the cattle through them. It was an old, old custom come down from heathen times.
♥ He shook his head when he heard of the Wishing Well, but he said that no spirit of earth or air could have power for ever over a Christian soul. But, even when he spoke, he remembered that, once in seven years, the fairy folk have to pay a dreadful tax, one of themselves, to the King of a terrible country of Darkness; and what if they had stolen Randal, to pay the tax with him!
♥ Then he had gathered the white roses, and then he heard a great sound of horses' feet, and of bells jingling, and a lady rode up, the very lady he had seen in the well. She had a white horse, and she was dressed in green, and she beckoned to Randal to mount on her horse, with her before him on the pillion. And the bells on the bridle rang, and the horse flew faster than the wind. So they rode and rode through the summer night, and they came to a desert place, and living lands were left far behind. Then the Fairy Queen showed him three paths, one steep and narrow, and beset with briers and thorns: that was the road to goodness and happiness, but it was little trodden or marked with the feet of people that had come and gone.
And there was a wide smooth road that went through fields of lilies, and that was the path of easy living and pleasure.
The third oath wound about the wild hillside, through ferns and heather, and that was the way to Elfland, and that way they rode. And still they rode through a country of dark night, and they crossed great black rivers, and they saw neither sun nor moon, but they heard the roaring of the sea. From that country they came into the light, and into the beautiful garden that lies round the castle of the Fairy Queen. There they lived in a noble company of gallant knights and fair ladies. All seemed very mirthful, and they rode, and hunted, and danced; and it was never dark night, nor broad daylight, but like early summer dawn before the sun has risen.
There Randal said that he had quite forgotten his mother and Jean, and the world where he was born, and Fairnilee.
But one day he happened to see a beautiful golden bottle of a strange shape, all set with diamonds, and he opened it. There was in it a sweet-smelling water, as clear as crystal, and he poured it into his hand, and passed his hand over his eyes. Now this water had the power to destroy the "glamour" in Fairyland, and make people see it as it really was. And when Randal touched his eyes with it, lo, everything was changed in a moment. He saw that nothing was what it had seemed. The gold vanished from the embroidered curtains, the light grew dim and wretched like a misty winter day. The Fairy Queen, that had seemed so happy and beautiful in her bright dress, was a weary, pale woman in black, with a melancholy face and melancholy eyes. She looked as if she had been there for thousands of years, always longing for the sunlight and the earth, and the wind and rain. There were sleepy poppies twisted in her hair, instead of a golden crown. And the knights and ladies were changed. They looked but half alive; and some, in place of their bright green robes, were dressed in rusty mail, pierced with spears and stained with blood. And some were in burial robes of white, and some in dresses torn or dripping with water, or marked with the burning of fire. All were dressed strangely in some ancient fashion; their weapons were old-fashioned, too, unlike any that Randal had ever seen on earth. And their banquets were not of dainty meats, but of cold, tasteless flesh, and of beans, and pulse, and such things as the old heathens, before the coming of the Gospel, used to offer to the dead. It was dreadful to see them at such feasts, and dancing, and riding, and pretending to be merry with hollow faces and unhappy eyes.
And Randal wearied of Fairyland, which now that he saw it clearly looked like a great unending stretch of sand and barren grassy country, beside a grey sea where there was no tide. All the woods were of black cypress trees and poplar, and a wind from the sea drove a sea-mist through them, white and cold, and it blew through the open courts of the fairy castle.
So Randal longed more and more for the old earth he had left, and the changes of summer and autumn, and the streams of Tweed, and the hills, and his friends. Then the voice of Jeanie had come down to him, sounding from far away. And he was sent up by the Fairy Queen in a fairy form, as a hideous dwarf, to frighten her away from the white roses in the enchanted forest.
But her goodness and her courage had saved him, for he was a christened knight, and not a man of the fairy world. And he had taken his own form again beneath her hand, when she signed him with the Cross, and here he was, safe and happy, at home at Fairnilee.
♥ "I doubt it's fairy gold, nurse," said Randal. It would all turn black when it saw the sun. It would just be like this bottle, the only thing I brought with me out of Fairyland."
Then Randal put his hand in his velvet pouch, and brought out a curious small bottle. It was made of something that none of them had ever seen before. It was black, and you could see the light through it, and there were green and yellow spots and streaks on it. In bottles like this, the old Romans once kept their tears for their dead friends.
"That ugly bottle looked like gold and diamonds when I found it in Fairyland," said Randal, "and the water in it smelled as sweet as roses. But when I touched my eyes with it, a drop that ran into my mouth was as salt as the sea, and immediately everything changed: the gold bottle became this glass thing, and the fairies became like folk dead, and the sky grew grey, and all turned waste and ugly. That's the way with fairy gold, nurse; and even if you found it, it would all be dry leaves and black bits of coal before the sun set."
♥ It was an image, in metal, about a foot high, and represented a beautiful woman, with wings on her shoulders, sitting on a wheel.
Randal had never seen an image like this; but in an old book, which belonged to the monks of Melrose, he had seen, when he was a boy, a picture of such a woman.
The monks had told him that she was Dame Fortune, with her swift wings that carry her from one person to another, as luck changes, and with her wheel that she turns with the turning of chance in the world.
~~The Gold of Fairnilee by Andrew Lang.
♥ There was a shepherd once who went out to the hill to look after his sheep. It was misty and cold, and he had much trouble to find them. At last he had them all but one; and after much searching he found that one too in a peat-hag, half drowned; so he took off his plaid, and bent down and took hold of the sheep's tail, and he pulled! The sheep was heavy with water, and he could not lift her, so he took off his coat and he pulled! But it was too much for him, so he spit on his hands, and took a good hold of the tail and he PULLED! And the tail broke! And if it had not been for that this tale would have been a great deal longer.
~~The Tail by J.F. Campbell.