From Ann MacGilvray, Islay.--April 1859.
THERE was ere now a farmer, and he had three daughters. They were waulking (1) clothes at a river. A hoodie (2) came round and he said to the eldest one, "M-POS-U-MI, Wilt thou wed me, farmer's daughter?" "I won't wed thee, thou ugly brute. An ugly brute is the hoodie," said she. He came to the second one on the morrow, and he said to her, "M-POS-U-MI, wilt thou wed me?" "Not I, indeed," said she; "an ugly brute is the hoodie." The third day he said to the youngest, M-POS-U-MI, "Wilt thou wed me, farmer's daughter?" "I will wed thee," said she; "a pretty creature is the hoodie," and on the morrow they married.
The hoodie said to her, "Whether wouldst thou rather that I should be a hoodie by day, and a man at night; or be a hoodie at night, and a man by day?" "I would rather that thou wert a man by day, and a hoodie at night," says she. After this he was a splendid fellow by day, and a hoodie at night. A few days after they married he took her with him to his own house.
At the end of three quarters they had a son. In the night there came the very finest music that ever was heard about the house. Every man slept, and the child was taken away. Her father came to the door in the morning, and he asked how were all there. He was very sorrowful that the child should be taken away, for fear that he Should be blamed for it himself.
At the end of three quarters again they had another son. A watch was set on the house. The finest of music came, as it came before, about the house; every man slept, and the child was taken away. Her father came to the door in the morning. He asked if every thing was safe; but the child was taken away, and he did not know what to do for sorrow.
Again, at the end of three quarters they had another son. A watch was set on the house as usual. Music came about the house as it came before; every one slept, and the child was taken away. When they rose on the morrow they went to another place of rest that they had, himself and his wife, and his sister-in-law. He said to them by the way, "See that you have not forgotten any thing." The wife said, "I FORGOT MY COARSE COMB." The coach in which they were fell a withered faggot, and he went away as a hoodie.
Her two sisters returned home, and she followed after him. When he would be on a hill top, she would follow to try and catch him; and when she would reach the top of a hill, he would be in the hollow on the other side. When night came, and she was tired, she had no place of rest or dwelling; she saw a little house of light far from her, and though far from her she was not long in reaching it.
When she reached the house she stood deserted at the door. She saw a little laddie about the house, and she yearned to him exceedingly. The housewife told her to come up, that she knew her cheer and travel. She laid down, and no sooner did the day come than she rose. She went out, and when she was out, she was going from hill to hill to try if she could see a hoodie. She saw a hoodie on a hill, and when she would get on the hill the hoodie would be in the hollow, when she would go to the hollow, the hoodie would be on another hill. When the night came she had no place of rest or dwelling. She saw a little house of light far from her, and if far from her she was not long reaching it. She went to the door. She saw a laddie on the floor to whom she yearned right much. The housewife laid her to rest. No earlier came the day than she took out as she used. She passed this day as the other days. When the night came she reached a house. The housewife told her to come up, that she knew her cheer and travel, that her man had but left the house a little while, that she should be clever, that this was the last night she would see him, and not to sleep, but to strive to seize him. She slept, he came where she was, and he let fall a ring on her right hand. Now when she awoke she tried to catch hold of him, and she caught a feather of his wing. He left the feather with her, and he went away. When she rose in the morning she did not know what she should do. The housewife said that he had gone over a hill of poison over which she could not go without horseshoes on her hands and feet. She gave her man's clothes, and she told her to go to learn smithying till she should be able to make horse shoes for herself.
She learned smithying so well that she made horseshoes for her hands and feet. She went over the hill of poison. That same day after she had gone over the hill of poison, her man was to be married to the daughter of a great gentleman that was in the town.
There was a race in the town that day, and every one was to be at the race but the stranger that had come over to poison hill. The cook came to her, and he said to her, Would she go in his place to make the wedding meal, and that he might get to the race.
She said she would go. She was always watching where the bridegroom would be sitting.
She let fall the ring and the feather in the broth that was before him. With the first spoon he took up the ring, with the next he took up the feather. When the minister came to the fore to make the marriage, he would not marry till he should find out who had made ready the meal. They brought up the cook of the gentleman, and he said that this was not the cook who made ready the meal.
They brought up now the one who had made ready the meal. He said, "That now was his married wife." The spells went off him. They turned back over the hill of poison, she throwing the horse shoes behind her to him, as she went a little bit forward, and he following her. When they came back over the hill, they went to the three houses in which she had been. These were the houses of his sisters, and they took with them the three sons, and they came home to their own house, and they were happy.
Written down by Hector Maclean, schoolmaster at Ballygrant, in Islay, from the recitation of "Ann MacGilvray, a Cowal woman, married to a farmer at Kilmeny, one Angus Macgeachy from Campbelltown." Sent April 14, 1859.
The Gaelic of this tale is the plain everyday Gaelic of Islay and the West Highlands. Several words are variously spelt, but they are variously pronounced--falbh, folbh, tigh, taighe, taighean.
There is one word, Tapaidh, which has no English equivalent; it is like Tapper in Swedish.
2. I have a great many versions of this tale in Gaelic; for example, one from Cowal, written from memory by a labourer, John Dewar. These are generally wilder and longer than the version here given.
This has some resemblance to an infinity of other stories. For example--Orpheus, Cupid and Psyche, Cinderella's Coach, The Lassie and her Godmother (Norse tales), East o' the Sun and West o' the Moon(ditto), The Master Maid (ditto), Katie Wooden Cloak (ditto), The Iron Stove (Grimm), The Woodcutter's Child (ditto), and a tale by the Countess d'Aulnoy, Prince Cherie.
If this be history, it is the story of a wife taken from an inferior but civilized race. The farmer's daughter married to the Flayer "FEANNAG," deserted by her husband for another in some distant, mythical land, beyond far away mountains, and bringing him back by steady, fearless, persevering fidelity and industry.
If it be mythology, the hoodie may be the raven again, and a transformed divinity. If it relates to races, the superior race again had horses--for there was to be a race in the town, and every one was to be at it, but the stranger who came over the hill; and when they travelled it was in a coach, which was sufficiently wonderful to be magical, and here again the comb is mixed up with the spells.
There is a stone at Dunrobin Castle, in Sutherland, on which a comb is carved with other curious devices, which have never been explained. Within a few hundred yards in an old grave composed of great slabs of stone, accidentally discovered on a bank of gravel, a man's skeleton was found with teeth worn down, though perfectly sound, exactly like those of an old horse. It is supposed that the man must have ground his teeth on dried peas and beans--perhaps on meal, prepared in sandstone querns. Here, at least, is the COMB near to the grave of the farmer. The comb which is so often found with querns in the old dwellings of some pre-historic race of Britons; the comb which is a civilized instrument, and which in these stories is always a coveted object worth great exertions, and often magical.
Postadh. A method of washing clothes practised in the Highlands--viz., by dancing them barefoot in a tub of water.
Hoodie--the Royston crow--a very common bird in the Highlands; a sly, familiar, knowing bird, which plays a great part in these stories. He is common in most parts of Europe.
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Campbell, J. F. Popular Tales of the West Highlands: Orally Collected. London: Alexander Gardner, 1890-1893. (Reprint available from Detroit: Singing Tree Press, 1969.)
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