From Mrs. MacTavish, widow of the late minister of Kildalton, Islay.
THERE was a farmer before now who had a White Pet (sheep), and when Christmas was drawing near, he thought that he would kill the White Pet. The White Pet heard that, and he thought he would run away; and that is what he did.
He had not gone far when a bull met him. Said the bull to him, "All hail! White Pet, where are you going?"
"I," said the White Pet, "am going to seek my fortune; they were going to kill me for Christmas, and I thought I had better run away.""It is better for me," said the bull, "to go with you, for they were going to do the very same with me."
"I am willing," said the White Pet; "the larger the party the better the fun."
They went forward until they fell in with a dog.
"All hail! White Pet," said the dog. "All hail! thou dog.""Where are you going?" said the dog.
"I am running away, for I heard that they were threatening to kill me for Christmas."
"They were going to do the very same to me," said the dog, "and I will go with you.""Come, then," said the White Pet.
They went then, until a cat joined them. "All hail! White Pet," said the cat. "All hail! oh cat."
"Where are you going?" said the cat. "I am going to seek my fortune," said the White Pet, " because they were going to kill me at Christmas."
"They were talking about killing me too," said the cat," and I had better go with you."
"Come on then," said the White Pet.
Then they went forward until a cock met them. "All hail! White Pet," said the cock. "All hail to yourself! oh cock," said the White Pet. "Where," said the cock," are you going?" "I," said the White Pet, "am going away, for they were threatening my death at Christmas."
"They were going to kill me at the very same time," said the cock, "and I will go with you."
"Come, then," said the White Pet.
They went forward until they fell in with a goose. "All hail! White Pet," said the goose. "All hail to yourself! oh goose," said the White Pet. "Where are you going?" said the goose.
"I," said the White Pet, "am running away, because they were going to kill me at Christmas."
"They were going to do that to me too," said the goose, "and I will go with you."
The party went forward until the night was drawing on them, and they saw a little light far away; and though far off, they were not long getting there. When they reached the house they said to each other that they would look in at the window to see who was in the house, and they saw thieves counting money; and the White Pet said, "Let every one of us call his own call. I will call my own call; and let the bull call his own call; let the dog call his own call; and the cat her own call; and the cock his own call; and the goose his own call." With that they gave out one shout -- Gaire!
When the thieves heard the shouting outside, they thought the mischief was there; and they fled out, and they went to a wood that was near them. When the White Pet and his company saw that the house was empty, they went in and they got the money that the thieves had been counting, and they divided it among themselves; and then they thought that they would settle to rest. Said the White Pet, "Where will you sleep tonight, oh bull?""I will sleep," said the bull, "behind the door where I used to be." "Where will you sleep, White Pet?" "I will sleep," said the White Pet, "in the middle of the floor where I used to be." "Where will you sleep, oh dog?" said the White Pet. "I will sleep beside the fire where I used to be," said the dog. "Where will you sleep, oh cat?" "I will sleep," said the cat, "in the candle press, where I like to be.""Where will you sleep, oh cock?" said the White Pet. "I," said the cock, " will sleep on the rafters where I used to be." "Where will you sleep, oh goose?" "I will sleep," said the goose, "on the manure pile, where I was accustomed to be."
They were not long settled to rest, when one of the thieves returned to look in to see if he could perceive if any one at all was in the house. All things were still, and he went on forward to the candle press for a candle, that he might kindle to make him a light; but when he put his hand in the box the cat thrust her claws into his hand, but he took a candle with him, and he tried to light it. Then the dog got up, and he stuck his tail into a pot of water that was beside the fire; he shook his tail and put out the candle. Then the thief thought that the mischief was in the house, and he fled; but when he was passing the White Pet, he gave him a blow; before he got past the bull, he gave him a kick; and the cock began to crow; and when he went out, the goose began to belabor him with his wings about the shanks.
He went to the wood where his comrades were, as fast as was in his legs. They asked him how it had gone with him. "It went," said he, "but middling; when I went to the candle press, there was a man in it who thrust ten knives into my hand; and when I went to the fireside to light the candle, there was a big black man lying there, who was sprinkling water on it to put it out; and when I tried to go out, there was a big man in the middle of the floor, who gave me a shove; and another man behind the door who pushed me out; and there was a little brat on the loft calling out Cuir-anees-an-shaw-ay-s-foni-mi-hayn-da -- Send him up here and I'll do for him; and there was a shoemaker, out on the manure pile, belaboring me about the shanks with his apron."
When the thieves heard that, they did not return to seek their lot of money; and the White Pet and his comrades got it to themselves; and it kept them peaceably as long as they lived.
Mrs. MacTavish got this story from a young girl in her service, November 1859, who learned it in OA, a district of Islay, last year, when she was employed in herding cattle.
It is a version of the same tale as Grimm's "Bremer Stadt Musikanten," which appears to have been long known in Germany in various shapes.
The crowing of the cock is imitated in Gaelic and in German. The Gaelic is closer. "Bringt mir den Schelm her" is not so close to "kikeriki" as the Gaelic words--which I have tried to spell phonetically--are to the note of a cock. There is a bull in the Gaelic tale, instead of an ass; and a sheep and a goose, in addition to the dog, cat, and cook, which are common to both. There are six creatures in the one tale, commonly found about the Highland cottage, which is well described; four in the other, common about German cottages. My own opinion is, that the tale is common to both languages and old, but it might have been borrowed from a book so well known in England as Grimm's Stories are. It is worth remark, that the dog and the cat were to die at Christmas, as well as the sheep and bull, who might reasonably fear to be eaten anywhere, and who have been sacrificed everywhere; the goose, who is always a Christmas dish in the Highlands; and the cock, who should die last of his family, because the toughest. The dog was once sacrificed to Hecate on the 30th of every month; and there was a dog divinity in Egypt. Cats drew the car of Freya, a Norse divinity; they were the companions of Scotch witches, and did wondrous feats in the Highlands. See "Grant Stewart's Highland Superstitions." To roast a cat alive on a spit was a method of raising the fiend and gaining treasure, tried, as it is asserted, not very long ago. I myself remember to have heard, with horror, of a cruel boy, who roasted his mother's cat in an iron pot on a Sunday, while the rest were at church, though it was not said why he did it. A cock has been a sacrifice and sacred amongst many nations; for instance, a cock and a ram's head were emblems of Æsculapius. The crowing of a cock is a terror to all supernatural, unholy beings, according to popular mythology everywhere. When the mother, in these stories, sends her children into the world to seek their fortune, she bakes a cake, and kills a cock. A fowl, as I am informed by a minister in one of the Orkneys, is still, or was lately, buried alive by nurses as a cure for certain childish ailments. In short, the dog, the cat, and the cock may possibly have had good reason to fear death at a religious festival, if this part of their history came from the East with the Celts. The goose also has been sacred time out of mind. Bernacle geese are supposed to be hatched from a seashell. The goose was the great cackler who laid the egg of the world, according to Egyptian inscriptions on coffins. He was the emblem of Seb; he is sacred at the present day in Ceylon. He was sacred in Greece and at Rome; and the Britons would not eat his flesh in the days of Cæsar. Perhaps the custom of eating a goose at Christmas, which, to the best of my knowledge, is peculiar to the Scotch Highlands, may be a custom begun by the British Christians to mark their conversion, and carried on ever since. Much will be found on this subject in "Rawlinson's Herodotus," p. 122, etc.; in "Mill and Wilson's History of British India;" and in books on Ceylon. At all events, this Gaelic story is well known in Islay, for MacLean writes that be has often heard it, and all the creatures mentioned in it have had to do with mythology at some period somewhere.
I suspect that it is one of the class given in "Contes et Apologues Indiens" (Paris, 1860), a class which includes such well known stories as "The Goose with the Golden Eggs," as a man who cut down a tree to get at the fruit (No. 45); "The Belly and the Members," as a quarrel between the head and tail of a serpent (No. 40), a story which somewhat resembles that which is quoted in the introduction, as "MacLeod's Fool," "Le Sage et le Fou" (No. 18); "The two Geese that carried a Tortoise" (No. 14); "Le Jenne Brâmane qui c'est sali le Doight" (No. 64), which is a schoolboy story in Scotland in another shape; "The Ass in the Lion's Skin" (No. 59); "Les Choses impossibles et les Reliques du Bouddha" (No. 110), which has a parallel in Gaelic, in broad Scotch, and in Norse. The Gaelic poet describes impossibilities, such as shell-fish bringing heather from the hill, and the climax is a certain great laird dressed in homespun. The Scotch rhyme came to me from a little boy of five year's old, and is called "The Mantle Joe." It begins "Twas on a Monday Mornin' when the Cat crew Day;" There are "Twenty-four Weavers riding on a Paddock;" "A Hare and a Haddie racin' owre the Lea," and such like; and it, ends, "Frae Beginning to the End it's a' big Lees." The Norse song was written out for me by an officer on board a steamer, and includes "Two Squirrels taming a Bear," and other such events; and the Sanscrit, which Chinese and French savants have translated, names similar absurd events which might sooner happen than the discovery of the reliques of Buddha. In short, European stories are to be traced in the east, and this White Pet may be one of the kind.
*A white pet is a lamb brought up by hand.
Campbell, J. F. Popular Tales of the West Highlands: Orally Collected. London: Alexander Gardner, 1890-1893. (Reprint available from Detroit: Singing Tree Press, 1969.) Amazon.com: Buy the book in paperback (Volume 1)or paperback (Volume 2).