Tales of the West Highlands
THE KING WHO WISHED TO MARRY HIS DAUGHTER
From Ann Darroch, Islay
rìgh ann roimhe so., 's phòs e, 's cha robh aige ach an aon nighean. Nur a
shiubhail a' bhean cha phòsadh e gin ach te 'fhreagradh a h-aodach dhi.
Dh' fheuch a nighean latha aodach a màthar urra, 's thàinig i 's leig i
fhaicinn d'a h-athair mar a fhreagradh e dhi. Bha e 'freagairt dhi gu
math. Nur a chunnaic a h-athair i, cha phòsadh e bean ach i. Chaidh i
'caoineadh far an robh a muime, 's thuirt a muirne rithe dè bh' urra.
Thuirt i gun robh a h-athair a' cur roimhe gum pòsadh e i. Thuirt a muime
rithe 'ràdh ris nach pòsadh e i gus am faigheadh e dhi gutharm de chlòimhe
Dh' fholbh e
's an ceann la is bhadhna thàinig e, 's an guthann leis. Chaidh i 'rithisd
a ghabhail comhairl' a muime. "Abair ris," urs' a muime, "Nach pòs thu e
gus am faigh e dhuit guthann de chanach an t-sléibhe." Thuirt i so ris.
Dh' fholbh e, 's an ceann la is bliadhna thill e 's guthann de chanach an
t-sléibhe leis. "Abair ris a nis," urs' a muime, "Nach pòs thu e gus an
d'thoir e t ionnsuidh guthan sìod a sheasas air an làr le h-òr 's [?] e
airgiod. " An ceann la is bliadhna thill e leis a ghuthann. "Abair ris a
nis," urs' a muime, "Nach pòs thu e gus an d' thoir e 't ionnsuidh bròg
òir is bròg airgid. " Fhuair e dhi bròg òir is bròg airgid. "Abair ris a
nis," ursa a muhne, "Nach pòs thu e mar an d' thoir e t ionnsuidh cisde
a ghlaiseas a mach 's a stigh, 's is coingeis leatha bhi air muir na air
filuair e chisde phaisg i chuid a b' fheàrr de dh' aodach a màthar 's d'a
h-aodach féin innte. Chaidh i féin an sin a stigh 's a' chisde, 's dh'
iarr i air a h-athair a cur a mach air an fhairge feuch démur a shnàmhadh
i. Chuir a h-athair a mach i. Nur a chaidh a chisd' a mach, bha i folbh 's
a' folbh gus an deach i as an t-sealladh. Chaidh i air tir air an taobh
eile, 's thàinig buachaille far an robh i airson a brisdeadh, an dủil gun
robh feudail anns a' chisde. Nur a bhu e 'dol a 'brisdeadh ghlaoidh ise,
"Na déan; ach abair ri t' athair tighinn an so, 's gheobh e na's fheàird e
r'a bheò." Thàinig 'athair 's thug e leis g'a thigh féin i. 'S ann aig
rìgh bha'm buachaille, 's bha tigh an rìgh dlủth air. "Nam faighinn," urs'
ise, "dol airfasdadh do 'n tigh mhòr so thall." "Cha 'n 'eil gin a dhìth
orr'," urs' am buachaille, "mar am bheil té dhìth orra fo làimh a'
chòcaire." Chaidh am buachaille 's bhruidhin e air a son, 's chaidh i 'na
searbhanta fo làimh a' chòcaire.
Nur a bha
càch a' dol do 'n t-searmoin, 's a dh' fheòraidh iad dhise an robh i dol
ann, thuirt i nach robh gun robh beagan arain aice r'a dheasachadh, 's
nach b' urrainn i dol ann. Nur a dh' fholbh iadsan thug i urra tigh a'
bhuachaille, 's chuir i urra guthann de chlòimhe na h-eala. Chaidh i do 'n
t-searmoin, 's shuidh i ma choinneamh mac an rìgh. Ghabh mac an rìgh gaol
urra. Dh fholbh ise tacan ma'n do sgaoil an t-searmoin; ràìnig i tigh a'
bhuachaille; dh' atharraich i h-aodach; 's bha i stigh rompa. Nur a
thàinig càch dhachaidh 's ann aig iomradh air a' bhean uasal mhòr a bha 's
an t-searmoin, 's thuirt i nach robh, gun robh beagan arain aice r'a
dheasachadh. Nur a dh' fholbh iadsan ràinig i tigh a' bhuachaille, 's
chuir i urra gutharm de chanach an t-slébhe, 's chaidh i do 'n t-searmoin.
Bha mac an rìgh 'na shuidhe far an robh ise an Dòmhnach roimhid, 's shuidh
ise ma choinneamh. Thàinig i mach air thoiseach orra; dh' atharraich i, 's
bha i aig an tigh rompa; 's nur a thàinig càch dhachaidh 's ann aig
iomradh air a'bhean uasal mhòr a bha 'san t-searmoin a bha iad. An treas
Dòmhnach thuirte iad rithe an robh i dol do 'n t-searmoin, 's thuirt i
nach robh 'gun robh beagan arain aice r'a dheasachadh. Nur a dh' fholbh
iadsan ràinig i tigh a bhuachaille; chuir i urra an guthann a sheasadh air
an làr le h-òr's le h' airgiod; 's a' bhròg airgid; 's chaidh I n
t-searmoin. Bha mac an rìgh 'na shuidhe for an robh ise an Dòmhnach roimid
's shuidh ise far an robh esan. Chaidh faire 'chur air na dorsan an
Dòmhnach so. Dh' éirich ise. Chunnaic i fruchag, s' leurn i mach air an
fhruchaig, ach ghlédh iad gréim air té de na brògan. Thuirt mac an rìgh té
sarn bith d'am freagradh a' bhròg gur h' i 'phòsadh esan. Bha mòran a'
feuchainn na bròig orra, 's a' toirt dhiu nan ladharan agus nan sàiltean
feuch am freagradh i dhaibh, ach cha robh gin d'an robh a' bhrog a'
freagairt. Bha eun beag am bar craoibhe, 's e daonnan ag ràdh, h-uile té
bha feuchainn na bròig urra - "Big, big, cha 'n ann duit a thig, ach do
'n te bhig a tha fo làimh a' chòcaire." Nur nach robh iad a' flaotainn gin
d'am freagradh a' bhròg laidh mac an rìgh, 's chaidh a' mhàthair do 'n
chidsin a dh' iomradh air a' ghnothach. "Nach leig sibh fhaicinn dòmhs' a'
bhròg," urs' ise; "cha dèan mi coire urra co dhiu." "Thusa a ruid
ghrannda, shalaich! gum freagradh i dhuitse!" Chaidh i sìos 's dh' innis i
so d'a mac. "Nach 'eil fhios," urs' esan, "Nach freagair i dhi co dhiu, 's
nach fhaod sibh a toirt dhi a 'toileachadh." Cho luath 's a chaidh a'
bhròg air an urlar, leum a' bhròg air a cois! "De 'bheir sibh dhòmhs', "
urs' ise, " 's an te eile 'leigeil fhaicinn duibh?" Rainig i tigh a
bhuachaille, 's chuir urra na brògan, 's an trusgan a sheasadh air an làr
le òr 's le airgiod. Nur a thill i cha robh ach fios a chur air ministir,
's phòs i féin is mac an rìgh.
got this tale from Margaret Connel.
meant by the narrator of this version is clearly the kist, which every
well provided highland lass takes to service. Such kists, and such lassies
seated on them, may be seen in every highland steam boat; and still finer
kists may be seen in every cottage in Norway, where wood is more
plentiful, and kists are on a larger scale. The contents of all.are alike;
the clothes ofgenerations. The mother's Sunday dresses, and the
grandmother's, with some fine shawl, or cap, or bonnet, or something
hideous, modem, and fashionable, more prized far than the picturesque old
plaid, or bright red cloak of Scotch women, or the endless Norse costumes,
which are going out of fashion in the same way. The little bird's note is
imitated, and I have tried to spell the speech in English.
2d. I heard a
version of this in the island of South Uist, in September 1859, from my
companion MacCraw, who got it from a girl then in the inn at the Sound of
Benbecula, MORAG A CHOTA BHAIN, Margery White Coats. A king had four
daughters, and his wife died, and he said he would marry any one whom his
dead wife's clothes would fit. One day the daughters tried, and the
youngest only could wear them. The king saw them from a window, and wished
to marry her, and she went for advice to her mother's brother. He advised
her to promise to marry the king if he would bring her a gown of birds'
down, and a gown of the colours of the sky, woven with si ver; and when he
got that, a gown of the colours of the stars, woven with gold, and glass
shoes. When he had got them, she escaped with all her clothes, by the help
ofher uncle, on a filly, with a magic bridle, she on one side, and her
chest of clothes on the other. She rode to a king's palace, hid the chest
in a hill under a bush of rushes, turned the filly loose, and went to the
palace with nothing on but a white petticoat and a shift. She took service
with the cook, and grew dirty and ugly, and slept on a bench by the
kitchen fire, and her work was to blow under the great caldron all day
long. One day the king's son came home, and was to hold a feast; she went
to the queen and asked leave to go, and was refused because she was so
dirty.The queen had a basin of water in her hand, and threw it at her, and
it broke. She went to the hill, took out the dress of down and silver, and
shook her magic bridle; the filly came, and she mounted, and rode to the
feast. "The king's son took her by the hand, and took her up as high as
any there, and set her on his own lap; and when the feast was over, there
was no reel that he danced but he gave it to her." He asked her whence she
came, and she said, from the kingdom of Broken Basins; and the prince said
that he had never heard of that land, though he had travelled far. She
escaped and returned to the cook, and all were talking about the beautiful
lady. She asked about her, and was told not to talk about what she did not
understand, "a dirty little wretch like her." Then the prince had another
feast; and she asked leave again, and the queen refused, and threw a
candlestick at her, and it broke, and she did as before. She put on
another dress and went; the king's son had eight men on each side of the
door to catch her. The same scene went on, and she said she came from the
country of Candlesticks TIRNAN COILLEARAN," and escaped, leaving a glass
shoe. Then the king's son fell sick (of course), and would only marry the
woman whom the shoe would fit; and all the ladies came and cut off their
toes and heels, but in vain. Then he asked if there was none other. Then a
small creature put his head in at the door and said, "If thou didst but
know, she whom thou seekest is under the cook." Then he got the history of
the basin and candlestick from his mother. The shoe was tried and fitted,
and he was to marry Morag. All were in despair, and abused her; but she
went out to her chest, shook the magic bridle, and arrayed herself, and
came back on the filly, with a "powney" behind with the chest. Then all
there that had despised her fell on their knees, and she was married to
the prince. "And I did not get a bit there at the wedding," said the girl.
This was told
as we walked along the road, and is but a short outline of what was told
me, written from notes made in the evening. The man said that the girl
told it with a great deal of the queer old language, which he could not
The girl and
her chest on the same horse may be seen in the Highlands. The girl, in her
white coats and short gown, may be seen blowing the fire in highland inns,
the queen's likeness might be found; and the feast is a highland ball; the
filly and the magic bridle are common in other stories; the incidents of
the basin and candlestick have an equivalent in Norse; and I got them from
a woman at the Sound of Barra afterwards, in another story. This shows
what may be lost by dignified travelling. While the man was enjoying
himself in the kitchen, the employer was smoking in solitary dignity, up
stairs in his bed room, writing a journal, and utterly unconscious that
the game he pursued was so near.
I have other
versions of this tale from other sources, and may find room for them
is clearly the same as the French story of "Peau d' Ane," and the end of
it is the same as the Norse "Katie Wooden Cloak," that is the same as Mr.
Peter Buchan's "Rashen Coatie" (MSS. collection); and that again has
something of "The Sharp Grey Sheep" in Gaelic; and that has to do with
half a dozen stories in Grimm; and this is like "Cinderella," and like a
Scotch story, quoted in a review of Chambers' Nursery Rhymes in Tait's
volumes which I explored one fine day, to see if Tait could account for
highland stories, I found few popular tales; and of these taken from the
German, which I did find, I have found none in the west, so far as I can
remember. Tait's stories are polished, but in some of the original poetry
legends can be traced.
Cendron," in the collection of the Contesse d'Aulnoy, belongs to the same
class; and the story exists in Straparola, a book which is now very little
known, and which deserves to be forgotten, but which contains useful
information nevertheless. Those who hold that popular tales are derived
from books, will look on Straparola's story as the original. It was
printed at Venice in Italian in 1567, that is 293 years ago. Those who
hold that popular tales are preserved in all countries, and in all
languages alike, will hold that the Italian, German, French, Norse,
English, and Gaelic, are all versions of the same story, and that it is as
old as the common stock from which all these races sprang.
for a year, and weighing all the evidence that has come in my way, I have
come to agree with those who hold that popular tales are generally pure
traditions; but in order that others may judge, I give the following short
outline of the story in Straparola. Favola iv.
prince of Salerno, promises to his dying wife, that he will only marry
another, if he can find one whom a certain ring will fit. After a time the
promise becomes known, and it is noised abroad that the prince wishes to
marry again. Ladies come; but the ring is too small for one, too large for
another, and fits no one. One day, Doralice, the daughter of Tebaldo,
tries on her mother's ring, and shows her father that it fits, and then
the same strange unnatural wish to marry his daughter seizes the Prince of
Salerno that seizes the fathers in the French and Gaelic stories, and
caused the Cenci tragedy; but the French and Gaelic stories have something
about dresses, which the Italian has not.
to her old nurse for advice, and hides herself in a wardrobe which none
could open from without but the nurse, who puts in a supply of a certain
liquor, of which a spoonful, however small, would keep a person alive for
a long time. The wardrobe is described, and it is such a one as would be
found in an Italian palace. The father, having missed the daughter, cannot
abide the sight of the wardrobe, orders it to be carried to the piazza by
servants, and it is sold to a Genoese merchant. He carries it over sea in
a ship to Britannia, and there sells it to the king "Genese."
Here let me
remark that the form of the popular tale was exactly the same as it is
now, nearly three hundred years ago. The scene is laid somewhere a long
way off; the names are those which the narrator happens to know,
misapplied; the ornaments are those about him; and the incidents within a
certain range, are preserved entire. The story is an old play, with new
scenery, and decorations in every country, and with fresh actors in every
of England comes on board the ship, and is taken with the beauty of the
wardrobe, buys it, and has it taken to his own chamber. The hidden lady
comes out when she is left alone, adorns the chamber, sweeps it and keeps
it neat, and at last she is discovered., and the king marries her.
And here the
Italian story goes off on quite a different road. It does as popular tales
seem to do everywhere else. No sooner has a seeming origin been discovered
for one bit, than the whole changes into something else. It is as if some
convulsion were to overturn the Vatican, and break the statues once more,
and some future antiquary were to try to fit the heads, legs, and arms to
the proper bodies. The head of Apollo would not do for the Torso Farnese,
but it might seem to fit some strapping Venus, and her arms might go on to
some Apollino; and so, when only a few fragments of popular tales are
known, it is perfectly hopeless to try to restore them. If all the
fragments of all the statues in the Vatican were gathered together, then
there might be some hope of mending them; but some are strongly suspected
not to wear their own heads even now. If all the fragments of all the
popular tales in the world were gathered, something might be
reconstructed; but, unless each collector is content to bring his
gatherings without alteration, the restorer will have hard work.
But to return
to Straparola. The king marries the beautifal lady who keeps his room so
tidy in so mysterious a manner, and they have two sons. The wicked
Tebaldo, wandering over the world in disguise, arrives in Britain, knows
his daughter, obtains access to the palace, murders the two children, and
leaves a bloody knife in the Queen's possession. An astrologer is
consulted, tells that the knife will be found, and it is found in the
Queen's keeping; and she is to die. The astrologer, who knows everything,
goes off to the old nurse, who comes at once to England, and tells the
king all that has happened. Tebaldo is caught, and torn to pieces by four
horses, and his flesh given to rabid dogs.
So end the
wicked in many Gaelic tales. "He was torn between horses, burned amongst
fires, and his ashes let fly with the wind," is the end of one.
story, "Peau d' Ane," is in "les Contes des Fées de Charles Perrault," the
wicked father was sent for "Robes," "Couleur du temps," "Couleur du
soleil," "Couleur de la Lune," and got them; and then for a donkey's skin,
in which the lady disguised herself. But then the French story goes off on
another road, for the donkey was precious and magical, and pieces of gold
were found in his stall; and he belongs to another class of stories, which
have Gaelic relations. (Perrault died 1703).
popular tales are woven together in a network which seems to pervade the
world, and to be fastened to everything in it. Tradition, books, history,
and mythology, hang together; no sooner has the net been freed from one
snag, and a mesh gained, than another mesh is discovered; and so, unless
many hands combine, the net and the contents will never be brought to
This comment system requires
you to be logged in through either a Disqus account or an
account you already have with Google, Twitter, Facebook or
Yahoo. In the event you don't have an account with any of these
companies then you can create an account with Disqus. All
comments are moderated so they won't display until the moderator
has approved your comment.