Check all the Clans that have DNA Projects. If your Clan is not in the list there's a way for it to be listed. Electric Scotland's Classified Directory An amazing collection of unique holiday cottages, castles and apartments, all over Scotland in truly amazing locations.

The Scottish Fairy Book
The Red-Etin


There were once two widows who lived in two cottages which stood not very far from one another. And each of those widows possessed a piece of land on which she grazed a cow and a few sheep, and in this way she made her living.

One of these poor widows had two sons, the other had one; and as these three boys were always together, it was natural that they should become great friends.

At last the time arrived when the eldest son of the widow who had two sons, must leave home and go out into the world to seek his fortune. And the night before he went away his mother told him to take a can and go to the well and bring back some water, and she would bake a cake for him to carry with him.

“But remember,” she added, “the size of the cake will depend on the quantity of water that thou bringest back. If thou bringest much, then will it be large; and, if thou bringest little, then will it be small. But, big or little, it is all that I have to give thee.”

The lad took the can and went off to the well, and filled it with water, and came home again. But he never noticed that the can had a hole in it, and was running out; so that, by the time that he arrived at home, there was very little water left. So his mother could only bake him a very little cake.

But, small as it was, she asked him, as she gave it to him, to choose one of two things. Either to take the half of it with her blessing, or the whole of it with her malison. “For,” said she, “thou canst not have both the whole cake and a blessing along with it.”

The lad looked at the cake and hesitated. It would have been pleasant to have left home with his mother’s blessing upon him; but he had far to go, and the cake was little; the half of it would be a mere mouthful, and he did not know when he would get any more food. So at last he made up his mind to take the whole of it, even if he had to bear his mother’s malison.

Then he took his younger brother aside, and gave him his hunting-knife, saying, “Keep this by thee, and look at it every morning. For as long as the blade remains clear and bright, thou wilt know that it is well with me; but should it grow dim and rusty, then know thou that some evil hath befallen me.”

After this he embraced them both and set out on his travels. He journeyed all that day, and all the next, and on the afternoon of the third day he came to where an old shepherd was sitting beside a flock of sheep.

“I will ask the old man whose sheep they are,” he said to himself, “for mayhap his master might engage me also as a shepherd.” So he went up to the old man, and asked him to whom the sheep belonged. And this was all the answer he got:

“The Red-Etin of Ireland
Ance lived in Ballygan,
And stole King Malcolm’s daughter,
The King of fair Scotland.
He beats her, he binds her,
He lays her on a band,
And every day he dings her
With a bright silver wand.
Like Julian the Roman,
He’s one that fears no man.

“It’s said there’s ane predestinate
To be his mortal foe,
But that man is yet unborn,
And lang may it be so.”

“That does not tell me much; but somehow I do not fancy this Red-Etin for a master,” thought the youth, and he went on his way.

He had not gone very far, however, when he saw another old man, with snow-white hair, herding a flock of swine; and as he wondered to whom the swine belonged, and if there was any chance of him getting a situation as a swineherd, he went up to the countryman, and asked who was the owner of the animals.

He got the same answer from the swineherd that he had got from the shepherd:

“The Red-Etin of Ireland
Ance lived in Ballygan,
And stole King Malcolm’s daughter,
The King of fair Scotland.
He beats her, he binds her,
He lays her on a band,
And every day he dings her
With a bright silver wand.
Like Julian the Roman,
He’s one that fears no man.

“It’s said there’s ane predestinate
To be his mortal foe,
But that man is yet unborn,
And lang may it be so.”

“Plague on this old Red-Etin; I wonder when I will get out of his domains,” he muttered to himself; and he journeyed still further.

Presently he came to a very, very old man—so old, indeed, that he was quite bent with age—and he was herding a flock of goats.

Once more the traveller asked to whom the animals belonged, and once more he got the same answer:

“The Red-Etin of Ireland
Ance lived in Ballygan,
And stole King Malcolm’s daughter,
The King of fair Scotland.
He beats her, he binds her,
He lays her on a band,
And every day he dings her
With a bright silver wand.
Like Julian the Roman,
He’s one that fears no man.

“It’s said there’s ane predestinate
To be his mortal foe,
But that man is yet unborn,
And lang may it be so.”

But this ancient goatherd added a piece of advice at the end of his rhyme. “Beware, stranger,” he said, “of the next herd of beasts that ye shall meet. Sheep, and swine, and goats will harm nobody; but the creatures ye shall now encounter are of a sort that ye have never met before, and they are not harmless."

The young man thanked him for his counsel, and went on his way, and he had not gone very far before he met a herd of very dreadful creatures, unlike anything that he had ever dreamed of in all his life.

For each of them had three heads, and on each of its three heads it had four horns; and when he saw them he was so frightened that he turned and ran away from them as fast as he could.

Up hill and down dale he ran, until he was well-nigh exhausted; and, just when he was beginning to feel that his legs would not carry him any further, he saw a great Castle in front of him, the door of which was standing wide open.

He was so tired that he went straight in, and after wandering through some magnificent halls, which appeared to be quite deserted, he reached the kitchen, where an old woman was sitting by the fire.

He asked her if he might have a night's lodging, as he had come a long and weary journey, and would be glad of somewhere to rest.

“You ean rest here, and welcome, for me," said the old Dame, “but for your own sake I warn you that this is an ill house to bide in; for it is the Castle of the Red-Etin, who is a fierce and terrible Monster with three heads, and he spareth neither man nor woman, if he can get hold of them."

Tired as he was, the young man would have made an effort to escape from such a dangerous abode had he not remembered the strange and awful beasts from which he had just been fleeing, and he was afraid that, as it was growing dark, if he set out again he might chance to walk right into their midst. So he begged the old woman to hide him in some dark corner, and not to tell the Red-Etin that he was in the Castle.

“For,” thought he, “if I can only get shelter until the morning, I will then be able to avoid these terrible creatures and go on my way in peace."

So the old Dame hid him in a press under the back stairs, and, as there was plenty of room in it, he settled down quite comfortably for the night.

But just as he was going off to sleep he heard an awful roaring and trampling overhead. The Red-Etin had come home, and it was plain that he was searching for something.

And the terrified youth soon found out what the “Something" was, for very soon the horrible Monster came into the kitchen, crying out in a voice like thunder:

“Seek but, and seek ben,
I smell the smell of an earthly man!
Be he living, or be he dead,
His heart this night
I shall eat with my bread.”

And it was not very long before he discovered the poor young man’s hiding-place and pulled him roughly out of it.

Of course, the lad begged that his life might be spared, but the Monster only laughed at him.

“It will be spared if thou canst answer three questions," he said; “if not, it is forfeited."

The first of these three questions was, “Whether Ireland or Scotland was first inhabited?"

The second, “How old was the world when Adam was made?"

And the third, “Whether men or beasts were created first?"

The lad was not skilled in such matters, having had but little book-learning, and he could not answer the questions. So the Monster struck him on the head with a queer little hammer which he carried, and turned him into a piece of stone.

Now every morning since he had left home his younger brother had done as he had promised, and had carefully examined his hunting-knife.

On the first two mornings it was bright and clear, but on the third morning he was very much distressed to find that it was dull and rusty. He looked at it for a few moments in great dismay; then he ran straight to his mother, and held it out to her.

“By this token I know that some mischief hath befallen my brother," he said, “so I must set out at once to see what evil hath come upon him."

“First must thou go to the well and fetch me some water,” said his mother, “that I may bake thee a cake to carry with thee, as I baked a cake for him who is gone. And I will say to thee what I said to him. That the cake will be large or small according as thou bringest much or little water back with thee."

So the lad, took the can, as his brother had done, and went off to the well, and it seemed as if some evil spirit directed him to follow his example in all things, for he brought home little water, and he chose the whole cake and his mother's malison, instead of the half and her blessing, and he set out and met the shepherd, and the swineherd, and the goatherd, and they all gave the same answers to him which they had given to his brother.

And he also encountered the same fierce beasts, and ran from them in terror, and took shelter from them in the Castle; and the old woman hid him, and the Red-Etin found him, and, because he could not answer the three questions, he, too, was turned into a pillar of stone.

And no more would ever have been heard of these two youths had not a kind Fairy, who had seen all that had happened, appeared to the other widow and her son, as they were sitting at supper one night in the gloaming, and told them the whole story, and how their two poor young neighbours had been turned into pillars of stone by a cruel enchanter called Red-Etin.

Now the third young man was both brave and strong, and he determined to set out to see if he could in anywise help his two friends. And, from the very first moment that he had made up his mind to do so, things went differently with him than they had with them. I think, perhaps, that this was because he was much more loving and thoughtful than they were.

For, when his mother sent him to fetch water from the well so that she might bake a cake for him, just as the other mother had done for her sons, a raven, flying above his head, croaked out that his can was leaking, and he, wishing to please his mother by bringing her a good supply of water, patched up the hole with clay, and so came home with the can quite full.

Then, when his mother had baked a big bannock for him, and giving him his choice between the whole cake and her malison, or half of it and her blessing, he chose the latter, “for,” said he, throwing his arms round her neck, “I may light on other cakes to eat, but I will never light on another blessing such as thine.”

And the curious thing was, that, after he had said this, the half cake which he had chosen seemed to spread itself out, and widen, and broaden, till it was bigger by far than it had been at first. •

Then he started on his journey, and, after he had gone a good way he began to feel hungry. So he pulled it out of his pocket and began to eat it.

Just then he met an old woman, who seemed to be very poor, for her clothing was thin, and worn, and old, and she stopped and spoke to him.

“Of thy charity, kind Master,” she said, stretching out one of her withered hands, “spare me a bit of the cake that thou art eating.”

Now the youth was very hungry, and he could have eaten it all himself, but his kind heart was touched by the woman's pinched face, so he broke it in two, and gave her half of it.

Instantly she was changed into the Fairy who had appeared to his mother and himself as they had sat at supper the night before, and she smiled graciously at the generous lad, and held out a little wand to him.

“Though thou knowest it not, thy mother’s blessing and thy kindness to an old and poor woman hath gained thee many blessings, brave boy,” she said. “Keep that as thy reward; thou wilt need it ere thy errand be done.” Then, bidding him sit down on the grass beside her, she told him all the dangers that he would meet on his travels, and the way in which he could overcome them, and then, in a moment, before he could thank her, she vanished out of his sight.

But with the little wand, and all the instructions that she had given him, he felt that he could face fearlessly any danger that he might be called on to meet, so he rose from the grass and went his way, full of a cheerful courage.

After he had walked for many miles further, he came, as each of his friends had done, to the old shepherd herding his sheep. And, like them, he asked to whom the sheep belonged. And this time the old man answered :

“The Red-Etin of Ireland
Ance lived in Ballygan,
And stole King Malcolm’s daughter,
The King of fair Scotland.
He beats her, he binds her,
He lays her on a band,
And every day he dings her
With a bright silver wand.
Like Julian the Roman,
He’s one that fears no man.

“But now I fear his end is near,
And destiny at hand;
And you’re to be, I plainly see,
The heir of all his land.”

Then the young man went on, and he came to the swineherd, and to the goatherd; and each of them in turn repeated the same words to him.

And, when he came to where the droves of monstrous beasts were, he was not afraid of them, and when one came running up to him with its mouth wide open to devour him, he just struck it with his wand, and it dropped down dead at his feet.

At last he arrived at the Red-Etin’s Castle, and he knocked boldly at the door. The old woman answered his knock, and, when he had told her his errand, warned him gravely not to enter.

“Thy two friends came here before thee,” she said, “and they are now turned into two pillars of stone; what advantage is it to thee to lose thy life also?”

But the young man only laughed. "I have knowledge of an art of which they knew nothing,” he said. “And methinks I can fight the Red-Etin with his own weapons.”

So, much against her will, the old woman let him in, and hid him where she had hid his friends.

It was not long before the Monster arrived, and, as on former occasions, he came into the kitchen in a furious rage, crying:

“Seek but, and seek ben,
I smell the smell of an earthly man!
Be he living, or be he dead,
His heart this night
I shall eat with my bread."

Then he peered into the young man’s hiding-place, and called to him to come out. And after he had come out, he put to him the three questions, never dreaming that he could answer them; but the Fairy had told the youth what to say, and he gave the answers as pat as any book.

Then the Red-^tin’s heart sank within him for fear, for he knew that someone had betrayed him, and that his power was gone.

And gone in very truth it was. For when the youth took an axe and began to fight with him, he had no strength to resist, and, before he knew where he was, his heads were cut off. And that was the end of the Red-Etin.

As soon as he saw that his enemy was really dead, the young man asked the old woman if what the shepherd, and the swineherd, and the goatherd had told him were true, and if King Malcolm’s daughter were really a prisoner in the Castle.

The old woman nodded. “ Even with the Monster lying dead at my feet, I am almost afraid to speak of it,” she said. “ But come with me, my gallant gentleman, and thou wilt see what dule and misery the Red-Etin hath caused to many a home.”

She took a huge bunch of keys, and led him up a long flight of stairs, which ended in a passage with a great many doors on each side of it. She unlocked these doors with her keys, and, as she opened them, she put her head into every room and said, “Ye have naught to fear now, Madam, the Predestinated Deliverer hath come, and the Red-Etin is dead.”

And behold, with a cry of joy, out of every room came a beautiful lady who had been stolen from her home, and shut up there, by the Red-Etin.

Among them was one who was more beautiful and stately than the rest, and all the others bowed down to her and treated her with, such great reverence that it was clear to see that she was the Royal Princess, King Malcolm’s daughter.

And when the youth stepped forward and did reverence to her also, she spoke so sweetly to him, and greeted him so gladly, and called him her Deliverer, in such a low, clear voice, that his heart was taken captive at once.

But, for all that, he did not forget his friends. He asked the old woman where they were, and she took him into a room at the end of the passage, which was so dark that one could scarcely see in it, and so low that one could scarcely stand upright.

In this dismal chamber stood two blocks of stone.

“One can unlock doors, young Master,” said the old woman, shaking her head forebodingly, “but ’tis hard work to try to turn cauld stane back to flesh and blood.”

“Nevertheless, I will do it,” said the youth, and, lifting his little wand, he touched each of the stone pillars lightly on the top.

Instantly the hard stone seemed to soften and melt away, and the two brothers started into life and form again. Their gratitude to their friend, who had risked so much to save them, knew no bounds, while he, on his part, was delighted to think that his efforts had been successful.

The next thing to do was to convey the Princess and the other ladies (who were all noblemen’s daughters) back to the King’s Court, and this they did next day.

King Malcolm was so overjoyed to see his dearly loved daughter, whom he had given up for dead, safe and sound, and so grateful to her deliverer, that he said that he should become his son-in-law and marry the Princess, and come and live with them at Court. Which all came to pass in due time; while as for the two other young men, they married noblemen’s daughters, and the two old mothers came to live near their sons, and everyone was as happy as they could possibly be.


Return to Book Index Page

Click here to get a Printer Friendly Page