Fairy Tale/Folk Tale Friday- The Brownie of Ballharn Hill

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 ❤

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Fairy/Folk Tale Friday- The Selkie of Sanday

My retelling/review of this tale comes from my Illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairy Tales by Theresa Breslin and Kate Leiper. The tale is set in The Orkney Islands which lie to the north of the mainland of Scotland. Seals are referred to as selkies and can be seen swimming/basking on the rocks. This Scottish tale tells of the author’s interpretation of the folklore surrounding selkies. It was thought that they could take off their skin and become human!

The tale centres around Magnus, a fisherman who lived alone on the bay in Orkney Island of Sanday. He wished that he could spend his life with a lovely girl. He had so many plans of what they could do together, but he was crippled with shyness. He resigned himself to being alone.

One summer evening, Magnus had real issues with catching fish. He kept on seeing seals in the water. Magnus had heard that the seal people gathered together at Midsummer. The older people of Sanday had said that the selkies had swum onto the beach and slid their skins to take the form of humans. Then they would dance away through Midsummer’s Eve. Magnus assumed that this is why there wasn’t any fish for him- the selkies must have been eating all the fish.

The next day which was Midsummer’s Eve, Magnus took his boat out further. Later in the day, he saw the selkies in human form in the water. He was amazed at how beautiful and magical they were. A sudden storm came and most of the selkies managed to get their skins back on and get back into the water. Magnus thought he heard a cry and thought it must’ve been a seabird. Early the next morning, it was still going on. Eventually, he came across a young woman with long hair. She was shivering with the cold. Magnus gave her a blanket and pulled her into his boat. The woman was beautiful in a very unique way. He took her to his cottage where she lay down to rest.

Whilst she was resting, Magnus took the boat out again. He’d heard that selkies could sometimes lose their skin. He sailed in and out and eventually found a sealskin caught up on the rocks. When Magnus arrived home, he intended to give the young woman her skin so that she could return to her family in the sea. He soon realised that he had fallen in love with her. He hid the skin at the bottom of a chest. He locked it up.

Magnus tried to feed the young woman but she wasn’t interested. She was scared of him. Magnus recalled that selkies like music, so he took down his fiddle and eventually, the woman became more confident around him. She’d accept his food and drink. He explained about the storm and told the woman that she could stay there as long as she wanted.

The following day, Magnus was successful with the fish. The young woman ate hers raw. With the fish remaining, he sold it and with the money, bought the woman a dress. Eventually, Magnus gained her trust enough to propose to the selkie-woman. The next summer, a child was born. Both Magnus and the selkie-woman were very pleased with their son. On Midsummer’s Eve, they realised that there was a flap of skin between the baby’s big toe and second toe. The selkie-woman realised her feet were the same and that Magnus didn’t share that quality. The selkie-woman realised how deeply she missed her own people. At first, Magnus refused to let her go as he was scared that he would never see her again. However, he knew that her heart would break if she didn’t return to the sea. Magnus gave her back her selkie skin and told him to never forget him or their child.

The next night, she didn’t return. However, he found a seashell beside him and his son. This kept on happening. When their son wouldn’t settle, taking him to the sea always helped. When Midsummer arrived once more, Magnus forced himself to stay awake through the night. No seal or selkie came to the beach. Out on his boat, Magnus and his son searched for his selkie-wife. Eventually the head of a seal poked up, he thought it was just another seal, but the eyes altered and he realised it was the eyes of his wife. 🙂 ❤