Derived from ancient manuscripts as well as modern Gaelic storytellers, the tales include such colorful and dramatic stories as "Battle of the Fairy Kings," "Conall and the Thunder Hag," "In the Kingdom of Seals," "The Maid-of-the-Wave," "The Land of Green Mountains," and several more.
Modern youngsters will develop an appreciation of the ancient beliefs and customs of Scotland's earliest inhabitants with these time-honored legends, handed down from generation to generation. Edited and modernized for contemporary readers, these captivating and handsomely illustrated tales will delight anyone who relishes a good yarn.
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Scottish Fairy Tales
By Donald A. Mackenzie, John Green
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1997 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Battle of the Fairy Kings
THERE ARE TWO mountains that overlook the Spey valley, one to the east and one to the west, and a fairy king dwells on each of them. They are both sons of Beira, Queen of Winter. One fairy king is white, and has great fame as an archer; he has a silver bow and arrows of gold, and once a day he shoots an arrow across the valley. The other fairy king is black as the raven, and on his left breast there is a red spot. He has no weapon, but is still terrible in battle, because he can make himself invisible at will. When he does so, nothing remains in sight except the red spot. He has great strength, and when he goes against his enemies he seizes them unawares and throws them to the ground. No matter how well they are armed, his enemies tremble when the invisible fairy comes against them. All they see is a red spot moving about in the air.
Now, the white fairy has a fair bride whose name is Face-of-Light. It is a great joy to her to wander among the mountains where herds of deer crop the green grass, and through the valley where cornfields rustle in soft winds and fragrant flowers bloom fair to see. The black fairy has no bride, and is jealous of the white fairy because his days are filled with joy by the beauty of Face-of-Light. These two fairies have always been enemies. The black fairy keeps out of sight of the famous archer, fearing his arrows of gold.
One summer evening when the twilight shadows were lengthening and deepening across the valley, Face-of-Light tripped merrily over the grassy banks, gathering wild flowers. Silence had fallen on the world; no bird sang and no wind whispered, the lakes were asleep, and the shrunken river made scarcely a sound louder than the sigh of a sleeping babe; it was no longer bright when Face-of-Light turned away from it.
The black fairy looked out from his mountain home. He knew that the white fairy had lain down to rest, and he watched Face-of-Light gathering wild flowers. Nearer and nearer she came to his dwelling, and he crept into a deep forest which conceals the entrance to his mountain, and waited to seize her. Face-of-Light, never dreaming of her peril, tripped towards the edge of the forest; and, seeing many flowers growing beneath the trees, went in to pluck them. She made the forest bright with her beauty, and the flowers grew fairer as she drew near them. Suddenly a great black hand was thrust out from a thick clump of bushes. The hand seized her, and she shrieked in terror and struggled to escape. The white fairy heard her cries, which pierced the air like the keen long whistle of the curlew, leaped up, and looked forth from his mountain top. In a moment he knew what had happened. Face-of-Light had been seized by his enemy, the black fairy, who was dragging her to a dark dungeon in the middle of his mountain. The white fairy was unable to go to her rescue for two reasons. Like his dark enemy, he could not pass. the utmost limits of his mountain house, and having already shot a golden arrow that day, he could not shoot another until a new day had dawned.
Night came on, and the black fairy climbed to the top of his mountain, where he danced with joy because he had taken captive the bride of his enemy. The white fairy was stricken with sorrow, and when he heard the cries of Face-of-Light coming from the dungeon, he fell down in a faint.
All night long Face-of-Light sobbed and wept, while the black fairy danced on the mountain top and sang songs of triumph. He danced so fast that he raised a wind which swept down the valley and shook the trees from sleep, so that they moaned and sighed all night long. The cries of Face-of-Light were heard by human beings, and those who were awakened said one to another: "Listen to the hag of night. How terrible are her cries!" Not until the dawn began to break did the white fairy recover from his faint. Just when the first shaft of grey light pierced the eastern sky, he opened his eyes. Then he remembered his sorrow and wept softly. His tears fell as dew on the flowers and the grass.
Weeping, he climbed his mountain, and then wandered round about the crest of it. His heart was heavy for the loss of Face-of-Light, and when he listened he heard her moaning in her dark prison. The black fairy had ceased to dance. He stood upright on the highest point of his mountain house, and shouted to his enemy: "Ha! Face-of-Light is my prisoner." Then suddenly he was silent. He saw the white fairy stringing his silver bow and then drawing from his shining quiver a bright golden arrow.
"Ha!" cried the black fairy, "would you dare shoot at me?"
"Set free Face-of-Light, or I shall shoot," the white fairy replied. His face was white as snow and hard as ice.
The black fairy laughed, and willed himself to become invisible, and then, just as the white fairy raised his bow to take aim, his enemy vanished from sight. No part of him could be seen but the great red spot on his left breast, which seemed to float in the air.
For a moment the white fairy, gazing eastward, looked with wonder at the red spot which grew brighter and brighter. His bow was bent, and his golden arrow was held ready for flight.
The sound of defiant laughter came down the wind as the black fairy, now invisible, danced with joy on his mountain top.
To and fro swayed the red spot, and the white fairy thought he would shoot at it. His aim was true and his arm was strong. Straight from the bow flew the bright golden arrow. It darted through the air with lightning speed and struck the red spot, which, be it known, was the heart of the black fairy. A shriek rang out across the valley. It was the death shriek of the black fairy, who fell down on the bare rock and died. His life-blood streamed forth, and the whole eastern sky was covered with it. In the midst of the redness gleamed the bright golden arrow of the white fairy.
No sooner was the black fairy slain than Face-of-Light was set free. The doors of her dungeon flew open, and she came forth in all her beauty. When she did so, the mountains and the valley were made bright, the river sparkled in the light, and the lakes flashed like polished silver. All the land was made glad when Face-ofLight was set free from her dark prison. The slumbering flowers opened their eyes to gaze upon her, and the birds broke forth in merry song, while the white fairy smiled and danced with joy.
The black fairy lay dead and invisible on his mountain top until evening came on. Then Beira came to visit him. When she found that her son had been slain, she took from her bag a pot of healing balsam and rubbed it on his wound. Then she rubbed the balsam on his eyes and on his lips. When she did this, he came to life, and began once again to plot evil against the white fairy and his beautiful bride.
The Princess of Land-under-Waves
WHEN NO WIND blows and the surface of the sea is clear as crystal, the beauties of Land-under-Waves are revealed to human eyes. It is a fair country with green valleys through which flow silver streams, and the pebbles in the beds of the streams are flashing gems of varied hues. There are deep forests that glitter in eternal sunshine, and bright flowers that never fade. Rocks are of gold, and the sand is dust of silver.
On a calm morning in May, the Feans, who were great warriors in ancient Scotland, being the offspring of gods and goddesses, were sitting beside the Red Cataract, below which salmon moved slowly, resting themselves before they began to leap towards the higher waters of the stream. The sun was shining bright, and the sea was without a ripple. With eyes of wonder the Feans gazed on the beauties of Land-under-Waves. None spoke, so deeply were they absorbed. They saw the silver sands, the rocks of gold, the gleaming forests, the beautiful flowers, and the bright streams that flow over beds covered with flashing gems.
As they gazed, a boat came over the sea, and there was but one person in it.
Said Oscar: "Who comes this way? Is it the princess of Land-under-Waves?"
A year and a day before, Finn, King of the Feans, and his men had rescued the princess from the Dark Prince-of-Storm, a powerful warrior who meant to seize her father's kingdom and make her his bride.
Finn looked seaward and said: "No, it is not the princess who comes here, but a young man."
The boat drew swiftly towards the shore, and when the man was within calling distance he hailed Finn with words of greeting and praise.
"Who are you, and where do you come from?" Finn asked.
Said the man: "I am the messenger of the princess of Land-under-Waves. She is ill, and seems ready to die."
There was great sorrow among the Feans when they heard the sad tidings.
"What is your message from the fair princess?" Finn asked.
Said the man: "She bids you to remember your promise to help her in time of need."
"I have never forgotten my promise," Finn told him, "and am ready now to fulfil it."
Said the man: "Then ask Jeermit, the healer, to come with me so that he may give healing to the Princess Under-Waves."
Finn made a sign to Jeermit, and he rose up and went down the beach and entered the boat. Then the boat went out over the sea towards the Far Blue Isle, and it went swiftly until it reached the sea-cave through which one must pass to enter Land-under-Waves.
Now Jeermit was the fairest of all the members of the Fean band. His father was Angus-the-Ever-Young, who conferred upon him the power to give healing for wounds and sickness. Jeermit had knowledge of curative herbs and life-giving waters, and he had the power, by touching a sufferer, to prolong life until he found the means to cure.
Jeermit was taken through the sea-cave of the Far Blue Isle, and for a time he saw nothing, so thick was the darkness; but he heard the splashing of waves against the rocks. At length light broke forth, and the boat grounded. Jeermit stepped out, and found himself on a broad level plain. The boatman walked in front, and Jeermit followed him. They went on and on, and it seemed that their journey would never end. Jeermit saw a clump of red moss, and plucked some and went on. Before long he saw another clump, and plucked some more. A third time he came to a red moss clump, and from it, too, he plucked a portion. The boatman still led on and on, yet Jeermit never felt weary.
At length Jeermit saw before him a golden castle. He spoke to the boatman, saying: "Whose castle is that?"
Said the boatman: "It is the castle of King Under-Waves, and the princess lies within."
Jeermit entered the castle. He saw many courtiers with pale faces. None spoke: all were hushed to silence with grief. The queen came towards him, and she seized his right hand and led him towards the chamber in which the dying princess lay.
Jeermit knelt beside her, and when he touched her the power of his healing entered her veins, and she opened her eyes. As soon as she beheld Jeermit of the Feans she smiled a sweet smile, and all who were in the chamber smiled, too.
"I feel stronger already," the princess told Jeermit. "Great is the joy I feel to behold you. But the sickness has not yet left me, and I fear I shall die."
"I have three portions of red moss," said Jeermit. "If you will take them in a drink they will heal you, because they are the three life drops of your heart."
"Alas!" the princess exclaimed, "I cannot drink of any water now except from the cup of the King of the Plain-of- Wonder."
Now, great as was Jeermit's knowledge, he had never heard before of this magic cup.
"A wise woman has told that if I take three swallows from this cup I shall be cured," said the princess. "She said also that when I drink I must swallow the three portions of red moss from the Wide-Bare-Plain. The moss of healing you have already found, O Jeermit. But no man shall ever gain possession of the magic cup of the King of the Plain-of-Wonder, and I shall not therefore get it, and must die."
Said Jeermit: "There is not in the world above the sea, or the world below the sea, a single man who will keep the cup from me. Tell me where dwells the King of the Plain-of-Wonder. Is his palace far distant from here?"
"No, it is not far distant," the princess told him. "Plain-of-Wonder is the kingdom next to that of my father. The two kingdoms are divided by a river. You may reach that river, O Jeermit, but you may never be able to cross it."
Said Jeermit: "I now lay healing spells upon you, and you shall live until I return with the magic cup."
When he had spoken thus, he rose up and walked out of the castle. The courtiers who had been sad when he entered were merry as he went away, and those who had been silent spoke one to another words of comfort and hope, because Jeermit had laid healing spells upon the princess.
The King and the Queen of Land-under-Waves bade the healer of the Feans farewell, and wished him a safe and speedy journey.
Jeermit went on alone in the direction of the Plain-of-Wonder. He went on and on until he reached the river of which the princess had spoken. Then he walked up and down the river bank searching for a place to cross, but he could not find one.
"I cannot cross over," he said aloud. "The princess has spoken truly."
As he spoke a little brown man rose up out of the river. "Jeermit," he said, "you are now in much trouble."
Said Jeermit: "Indeed I am. You have spoken wisely."
"What would you give to one who would help you in your trouble?"
"Whatever he may ask of me."
"All I ask for," said the brown man, "is your good will."
"That you get freely," said Jeermit to him.
"I shall carry you across the river," said the little man.
"You cannot do that."
"Yes, indeed I can."
He stretched forth his hands and took Jeermit on his back, and walked across the river with him, treading the surface as if it were hard ground.
As they crossed the river they passed an island over which hovered a dark mist.
"What island is that?" asked Jeermit.
"Its name," the brown man told him, "is Cold-Isle-of-the-Dead. There is a well on the island, and the water of it is healing water."
They reached the opposite bank, and the brown man said: "You are going to the palace of King Ian of Wonder-Plain."
"You desire to obtain the Cup of Healing."
"That is true."
"May you get it," said the brown man, who thereupon entered the river.
Before he disappeared he spoke again and said: "Do you know where you are now?" "In the Kingdom of Plain-of-Wonder," Jeermit said.
"That is true," said the little brown man. "It is also Land-under-Mountains. This river divides Land-under-Mountains from Land-under-Waves."
Jeermit was about to ask a question, but before he could speak the little brown man vanished from before his eyes.
Jeermit went on and on. There was no sun above him and yet all the land was bright. No darkness ever comes to Land- under-Mountains, and there is no morning there and no evening, but always endless day.
Jeermit went on and on until he saw a silver castle with a roof of gleaming crystal. The doors were shut, and guarded by armed warriors.
Jeermit blew a blast on his horn, and called out, "Open and let me in."
A warrior went towards him with drawn sword. Jeermit flung his spear and killed the warrior.
Then the doors of the castle were opened and King Ian came forth.
"Who are you, and where do you come from?" he asked sternly.
"I am Jeermit," was the answer he received.
"Son of Angus-the-Ever-Young, you are welcome," exclaimed the king. "Why did you not send a message that you were coming? It is disturbing to think you have slain my greatest warrior."
Said Jeermit: "Give him a drink of the water in the Cup of Healing."
"Bring forth the cup!" the king called.
The cup was brought forth, and the king gave it to Jeermit, saying: "There is no power in the cup unless it is placed in the hands of either Angus or his son."
Jeermit touched the slain warrior's lips with the cup. He poured drops of the water into the man's mouth, and he sat up. Then he drank all the water in the cup, and rose to his feet strong and well again, for his wound had been healed.
Said Jeermit to the king: "I have come here to obtain this cup, and will now take it with me and go away."
"So be it," answered the king. "I give you the cup freely. But remember that there is no longer any healing in it, for my mighty warrior has drunk the magic water."
Jeermit was not too well pleased when the King of Wonder-Plain said this. "No matter," said he; "I shall take the cup with me."
Excerpted from Scottish Fairy Tales by Donald A. Mackenzie, John Green. Copyright © 1997 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of ContentsCHAPTER
Battle of the Fairy Kings
The Princess of Land-under-Waves
Conall and the Thunder Hag
The Story of Finlay and the Giants
The Story of Michael Scott
In the Kingdom of Seals
The Land of Green Mountains