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Scotland - Scottish - Scots - Scotch

Advice, comments and references from Storytellers,
Teachers and Librarians

Advice, Comments and References from Storytellers, Teachers and Librarians

(excerpts from Storytell posts plus original research)

Book titles and online links are in blue and underlined. Click on them to get more information.
Story and song titles are in italics.
To retell any stories, get permission from the copyright holder if the materials is not in the public domain.
In performance, always credit your sources.
Posts are added chronologically as they are received by Story Lovers World.

1) By Loch and By Lin: Tales from Scottish Ballads by Sorche Nic Leodhas. 1969.
"Tale of Bonnie Baby Livingston" (Scotland)
"Tale of Dick o' the Cow" (Scotland)
"Tale of Lang Johnnie Mor" (Scotland)
"Tale of the Earl of Mar's Daughter" (Scotland)
"Tale of the Famous Flower of Servingmen" (Scotland)
"Tale of the Heir on Linne" (Scotland)
"Tale of the Knight and the Shepherd Lass" (Scotland)
"Tale of the Lay of the Amadhain Mhor" (Scotland)
"Tale of the Lay of the Smithy" (Scotland)
"Tale of the Lochmaben Harper" (Scotland)

2) Claymore and Kilt: Tales of the Scottish Highlands by Sorche Nic Leodhas, 1967 (all stories from Scotland).
"Columba and the Angel" (Scotland)
"Debt Paid" (Scotland)
"Gaberlunzie Man" (Scotland)
"King's Jewel" (Scotland)
"Lady of the Rock" (Scotland)
"Laird of Logie" (Scotland)
"Rescue of Kinmont Wullie" (Scotland)
"Riddle Sent to Bruce" (Scotland)
"Royal Exiles" (Scotland)
"Sons of Cathmor" (Scotland)
"Wrath of God" (Scotland)

3) Gaelic ghosts: Tales of the supernatural from Scotland by Sorche Nic Leodhas, Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1963 (all stories from Scotland)
"Gambling Ghosts" (Scotland)
"Giant Bones" (Scotland)
"Grateful Old Cailleach" (Scotland)
"Holy Relic of Bannockburn" (Scotland)
"House That Lacked a Bogle" (Scotland)
"Lady's Loaf-Field" (Scotland)
"Man o' the Clan" (Scotland)
"Old Laird and His Dogs" (Scotland)
"Sandy MacNeil and His Dog" (Scotland)
"Walking Boundary Stone" (Scotland)

4) Heather and Broom Tales of the Scottish Highlands by Sorche Nic Leodhas, Holt, Rinehart & Winston 1960 (all stories from Scotland).
"Ailpein Bird, the Stolen Princess and the Brave Knight" (Scotland)
"Bogles from the Howff" (Scotland)
"Daughter of the King Ron" (Scotland)
"Gay Goss-Hawk" (Scotland)
"Lairdie with the Heart of Gold" (Scotland)
"Lass That Couldn't be Frightened" (Scotland)
"Spin, Weave, Wear" (Scotland)
"Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies" (Scotland)

Can anyone send me the bones of The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies?


a) The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies - An Old Tale From Scotland / retold By Heather Forest.

b) Another source is Womenfolk and Fairy Tales, edited by Rosemary Minard, Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston, 1975.

A couple of years ago someone sent this summary and a couple of other source ideas: The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies. I think it's in a book by Sorche nic Leodhas and I may be spelling it wrong. But she's a wife, mother and wonderful baker who gets stolen by the fairies because they want her to bake cakes for them. She saves herself by driving the fairies crazy, all by pretending to do what they ask - she is a caregiver, and they want her to do that for them, and she takes care of herself first - and is still kind in the end to the wee folk. Yes. I think this might just do it. Maybe 10 to 12 minutes long, and funny. I found it. it is a household story from Durris near Aberdeen in Scotland. The book it's from is Heather and Broom - Tales of the Scottish Highlands.

I would add the order in which the Woman asks the fairies to please just get her a bowl -and how the King of The Fairies quickly orders One Elf off to the task, and it builds as she needs other utensils, her dog, her cat, her baby, her rocking chair, and her husband! Now you MUST all know that fairies do NOT like noise. And of course the more things she needs each add noise. The baby is allowed to make noise, the husband it told to make sure he rockon the cat's tail and I think steps on the dog's paw. Of course, the King of The Fairies eventually orders them sent home - when she asks for her stove. But she promises to make cakes for them - and they always reward her with bits of gold.

Well, I just found a summary that I did a few years ago - it's a little different so maybe you can use it too: This clever woman makes the best cakes - she is captured by the fairies who want her to make cakes for them. She does start to do that, but needs her bowl, her spoons, her flour, her eggs, etc. At first, the King of the Fairies has to order his people to get these things for her from her home, but soon they are popping out without orders to get the cat, the dog, the baby. She sighs heavily to indicate there is one more thing she needs. Eventually, the husband is brought to help pinch the cat, step on the dog tail, and get the baby crying. Remember, Fairies Don't Like Noise! When the group of exhausted fairies hear her ask where the oven is, the king calls a halt. Just before she and her husband troop home with all their possessions, she promises to leave a cake for themonce a week (or month or something, I forget.) Of course, the King promises to leave something in return. It turns out to be a small bag of gold for each. So... they all live happily ever ... First time, I told this was to a group of women in their seventies -told them that they'd probably know what flummoxed meant and they wouldn't giggle when I said fairies.

c) Here is another version in a great book to by Ellin Green - Clever Cooks: A Concoction of Stories, Charms, Recipes and Riddles, 1973. Although she lists The Woman Who Flummoxed the Fairies as Irish, not Scottish.

2) Barra Jacob-McDowell does "The Twa Sisters," as well as doing a story--depending on time, either "The Fox" and "The Goose" or "The Keg o' Butter."


a) Melanie Pratt wrote in April 2002 that "'The Twa Sisters' is a great tale, especially with the harp."

4) Found this from our own Wendy. She shared: "The Sneeze Story." A man's first wife dies, leaving him with a young son. She makes him promise three things: to marry the weaver he's been eyeing and has been eyeing him, to be sure their son is well looked after despite the stepmom, and to never consult the schenachie (1000 spellings). He marries again, but things get bad financially. They have two children together, his first son the only red-head in a table of dark-haired children. And when the factor comes twice for the rent he doesn't have, he plans to sell his cow, but it takes sick. Desperate, he goes to the island he promised not to go to, and the strange, horrible conversation with the shenachie results in hischoosing who will die at his house. He chooses his first son. At the table that night, the child sneezes, he doesn't bless him, sneezes again, no blessing, and he knows the third time, the child will die and his cow live. But the boy's stepmother blesses him quite cheerfully, all unknowing. Then at the window the shade of his first wife appears, saying "God Bless You, Morag McCray for the care you show to another woman's child." And the man looks up, straight into the blazing blue eyes of his first wife. It is a brilliant, subtle story. I learned it from Kate Corkery, an Irish woman trapped in London by employment. I tell it quite differently from her, though, so if you want to get back toward the source, you would need to hear her version or check the collection she got it from.

5) And Kimberly King suggested this: "Always Room For One More" - an old Scottish song. A picture version, Always Room for One More (Owlet Book) by Sorche Nic Leodhas won a Caldecott Medal. And, yes, the tune is included.

6) And another I've thought of is "The Cow That Ate the Piper." I've seen it listed as both Scotch and Irish. (Which is what I am!) It is found in a lovely new picture book, can't remember the author. AND of course, it's also at Conrad's 5-Minutes Stories Site. It's story 65 found in Set 3 -

7) I've just been reading all the messages about Scottish stories, and I'm sure you've got a full repertoire by now. Depending on the age of your audience, you might find a relevant place in your telling for the following little traditional Scottish folk charm, either this or another time. "I will pick the smooth yarrow that my figure may be more elegant, that my lips may be warmer, that my voice many be more cheeful; may my voice be like a sunbeam, may my lips be like the juice of strawberries. May I be an island in the sea, may I be a hill on the land, may I be a star when the moon wanes, may I be a staff to the weak one; I shall wound every man, no man shall wound me." (You may want to rephrase that last line!).

Also, for the future, Tam Lin is a popular tale from the old Scottish border ballads. You may know it already -Fairport Convention (and others) have done a version of it. It's about a young knight who is held under the spell of the fairy queen but he is rescued on Halloween by the courage of his mortal lover.


Here is a lovely online adaptation by our own Mary Grace Ketner.
Janet and Tam Lin:

Mary Grace

8) How about "Fergus of the True Lips"? "Daniel O'Connel and the Trickster"?

9) For a Scots story, I love Tam Lin. Should be in any anthology. I especially like it because it's a brave woman who rescues the man in captivity. (I thought little kids might think the romance was "icky," but it's been OK so far.)

I mentioned to some of you that I am working up part of Gulliver's Travels (Penguin Classics) (Voyage II, Brodbinag) for an April 12 performance. I ran it through for family, and they liked it. They said, however, that if I put the part in about the King not wanting to know about gunpowder because it was too horrible, they'd throw me out--times being as they are--and I would never get another gig. (Incidentally, I took all the human death and destruction out of the descripton of the weapons, and only talked about property damage. My audience didn't think that would be too scary, or the part about him killing the giant rat, which I also turned down. It was just the peace part they thought others would reject.)


I think the king is wise, and should have his say. Gunpowder is horrible (except maybe in fireworks and building tunnels). You can say things in story you can't say directly. Jackie Torrence talked about using story in schools where you couldn't say prayers, because you could accomplish the same thing and not get in trouble. It's not as if you would be preaching a political view, or saying you are ashamed of the President, or anything like that . . . or would you?

10) "Thomas the Rymer," "The Laird of Co," Tam Lin. These are beautiful stories I tell often to school children.

11) There are dozens of other stories at this site under "Poetry and Stories."

12) If it is for teens and adults, "The Tailor and his Wife" is a sure-fire tale with a bit of bawdy.
This is one of my favourite tales.

For a deep tale, try "The Wounded Selkie" (from the Orkney Islands), which has been mentioned several times recently. I told it in a crowded St. Patrick's night on Monday - you could have heard a pin drop! It's a great Orcadian tale of revenge and forgiveness, and on my CD, Jack Goes Hunting and Other Tales.

Richard M.

13) I found a book titled Thistle and Thyme: Tales and Legends from Scotland, copyright 1962. Also found at the library were Welsh Legendary Tales told by Elisabeth Sheppard-Jones, 1959 copyright, and Favorite Fairy Tales Told in Scotland, retold by Virginia Haviland, copyright1963.

14) "Oscar and Melvina," song with a story behind it. She wants me to do the story....except that I can't find it.

• Fenian hero in a Scottish context was "MacPherson". Melvina/Malvina is very un-Gaelic, but has the Classical feminine ending in "-a", which also suggests a "Romantic" source (or translation). In the late C18th James MacPherson produced what he said were translations of an ancient Gaelic epic, about Fingal (i.e. the Irish Finn MacCumhail), later established to be partly based on Gaelic poems, but mostly invented. And from the Oxford Names Companion: "Malvina (f). Scottish, English and Scandinavian (esp. Danish): apparently a facticious name, based on Gaelic /mala mhin/ smoothbrow, invented by James MacPherson (1736-96), the Scottish antiquarian poet who published works allegedly translated from the ancient Gaelic bard Ossian. The name became popular in Scandinavia because of the admiration of the Emperor Napoleon for the Ossianic poems ..."

• A story called "The Fianna and the Dark Lord" where Oscar saves Muirgen (which means born on the sea) from Tighearna Dubh, the Dark Lord.....Maybe the lady's name was so often happens in tales.

• The meaning of Melvina
Origin: Celtic
Meaning: Handmaid
Origin: English
Meaning: Feminine of Melvi
Origin: Gaelic
Meaning: Variant of Malvina: Smooth brow.The meaning of Malvina
Origin: Celtic
Meaning: Handmaid
Origin: Gaelic
Meaning: Smooth brow.
Origin: Greek
Meaning: Soft.
Origin: Irish
Meaning: Sweet.
Origin: Latin
Meaning: Sweet friend.

Aha - found it. Here's the story: "The Story of White Heather." Long, long ago in Scotland, the famous Celtic bard, Ossian, had a daughter called Malvina. She was beautiful and sweet natured. She won the heart of Oscar, a handsome warrior. They became betrothed, but Oscar left in search of fame and fortune. Malvina pined for him and sought solace by telling her father how much she loved her brave warrior, Oscar. On a beautiful autumn day, the two were sitting on a Highland hillside when a ragged messenger staggered towards them. He brought the terrible news that Oscar had been killed in a mighty battle. The messenger held out a spray of purple heather to Malvina- a last gift from Oscar-and told her that he had died whispering her name and pledging his love. In her grief, Malvina ran over the hillside, weeping bitterly. Where her tears fell, the purple heather turned pure white. When she saw this, she said May this white heather forever bring good fortune to all those who find it. And so, in Scotland, to this very day, white heather continues to be a token of good luck. Very often worn by the groom at a traditional Scottish Wedding, White Heather was a token of Good Luck for the marriage.

15) "If you love scary Scottish stories you should read "The Piper's Revenge" in More Ready-To-Tell Tales from Around the World by Holt and Mooney. It is on my to learn list for Halloween this year. I'm working on this one, too."
I have a scary Scottish story! I'm sure I can develop it into something or use it in something. I was staying at the Loch Lomond youth hostel. A wonderful building, with a "hall" and sweeping staircases and five floors.

My room was on the 5th. At the back. In what had to have once been servants quarters or something like that. The only way up there was to go up the regular stairs for the first 4 floors and then go to the back of the building for a tiny spiral (a really tight spiral) staircase with no hand rail. There were only 2 rooms up there and no bathroom. You had to go downstairs and down a couple of hallways to get to one of the restrooms. So, all is quiet, it's fairly dark, for a Scottish summer night, and I have to go. Maybe it's later in the night than I think and it's maybe about 4 am and I can wait a couple hours longer. I light up my sportswatch and in the blue glow see that it is 1 am. Rats. No way I can hold it for another 5 hours. I get out of bed and go out into that dark, twisty stairway. The stone stairs are cold under my feet and it's dark and I remember that the listing for this hostel mentions a haunted room. Barefoot in a nightshirt in the middle of the night in a foreign country in an old building is not the time to start thinking about ghosts, no matter how practical and pragmatic you are (and I'm not particularly either). Despite the scary thoughts, the pressure on my bladder won out and I made it to the bathroom. I was never so glad to see modern plumbing and florescent lighting in my life. I figure it's got to take an awful canny ghost to overcome florescent lights. The next day I stopped my liquid intake around 6 pm and made sure the stairway light, which I discovered the next morning, was turned on.

16) "The Stolen Child" is from Scotland -- and quite powerful.

Mary G.

17) Here are some other links you might try. Good luck!

Scottish Fairy Tales

Tales of Scotland

Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales: Fairy Tales: The Faithful Purse-Bearer

Karen C.

18) Mary piqued the interest with a reference to the blue ribbon story/song that ends "I don't know where you've been, but I see you've won first prize."

Drunk kilt-wearing Scotsman lying unconscious, 2 women peek under kilt and acquire tactile knowledge of what they find, one says "It's gruesome." The Scot wakes enough to say, "And it'll grow some more if you keep doing that," and falls asleep again. Women tie blue ribbon around it.

I first heard this story told or possibly sung or recited in verse by a pub performer years ago. Perhaps Mary or someone could fill in the details.

At a Pan Celtic festival, I saw teenaged girls corner and terrorise a teenaged boy piper by trying to lift up his kilt. If boys had done that to a girl wearing a dress, they would be left with a life-long reputation as perverts.

Richard M. Ireland 6/5/05


a) The best-known song is by wonderful singer/songwriter/instrumentalist Mike Cross. I've seen him do it live several times at events of the Philadelphia Folk Song Society.

Sandy P. 6/5/05


"The Scotsman" - words and music by Mike Cross

Well a Scotsman clad in kilt left a bar on evening fair
And one could tell by how we walked that he drunk more than his share
He fumbled round until he could no longer keep his feet
Then he stumbled off into the grass to sleep beside the street
Ring ding diddle diddle I de oh ring di diddly I oh
He stumbled off into the grass to sleep beside the street

About that time two young and lovely girls just happend by
And one says to the other with a twinkle in her eye
See yon sleeping Scotsman so strong and handsome built
I wonder if it's true what they don't wear beneath the kilt
Ring ding diddle diddle I de oh ring di diddly I oh
I wonder if it's true what they don't wear beneath the kilt

They crept up on that sleeping Scotsman quiet as could be
Lifted up his kilt about an inch so they could see
And there behold, for them to see, beneath his Scottish skirt
Was nothing more than God had graced him with upon his birth
Ring ding diddle diddle I de oh ring di diddly I oh
Was nothing more than God had graced him with upon his birth

They marveled for a moment, then one said we must be gone
Let's leave a present for our friend, before we move along
As a gift they left a blue silk ribbon, tied into a bow
Around the bonnie star, the Scots kilt did lift and show
Ring ding diddle diddle I de oh ring di diddly I oh
Around the bonnie star, the Scots kilt did lift and show

Now the Scotsman woke to nature's call and stumbled towards a tree
Behind a bush, he lift his kilt and gawks at what he sees
And in a startled voice he says to what's before his eyes.
O lad I don't know where you been but I see you won first prize
Ring ding diddle diddle I de oh ring di diddly I oh
O lad I don't know where you been but I see you won first prize

Mary Lee S. 6/5/05

Created 2005; last update 3/4/10

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