My retelling/review of this tale comes from my Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales by Theresa Breslin and Kate Leiper. There are lots of stories about brownies in Scottish folklore. A brownie is said to be like a goblin or an elf but extremely shy. They look strange too!
The story centres around Fiona and Finn who were orphan twins. Fiona and Finn lived with their granny in the north of Scotland. They were happy with their granny. She looked after them well. The reason they could be kept so well was because they lived land near a river. A field was nearby where cow and sheep grazed, the field grew crops, fruit trees and a river to fish from.
Fiona and Finn loved to be told stories about the Brownie of Ballharn Hill. They were told that they’d never see him because he was very shy and always busy looking after those that needed it. The Brownie came back to rest at Ballharn Hill every now and then. It just so happened that the Brownie returned after a terrible accident had occurred. Granny was spring cleaning and ended up breaking her leg after toppling. Granny worried that although the children could do some of the jobs, the field wouldn’t be ploughed which meant that they wouldn’t have enough food for winter.
As Fiona and Finn discussed what to do with one another, the Brownie was listening into their conversation. The Brownie couldn’t resist helping and sang a song letting the children know that he’d help. They searched for the voice but couldn’t find anyone. When they told Granny, she though it might be the Brownie of Ballharn. She told the twins to cook him some food and if it was gone in the morning, then they’d know that the Brownie was looking out for them. It just so happened that the Brownie was helping them!
This went on all over spring. Each night, Fiona and Finn left food out for the Brownie. One night, they hid. Desperate to see the Brownie. He was a strange looking creature. He was dressed in only a short kilt. Once more they heard him sing. This time it was about the lovely food he was eating. He mentioned being cold and Fiona and Finn realised apart from the kilt, he was naked.
They ended up wanting to make some clothes for the Brownie, despite the fact that Granny told them he wouldn’t return. Fiona and Finn said they were wiser now and could easily help out. Granny was pleased with their maturity and kindness. She taught them how to cut, stitch and sew. The next time the Brownie visited, along with the food, they left out the clothes. The next day, they watched him leave singing about how happy he was to have new clothes.
Granny thought that the Brownie might be offended with the clothes, but the twins reasoned that if he was offended, he wouldn’t have taken the clothes away with him. Granny couldn’t argue with that!
Such a cute story of kindness ❤