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А Scotland Folk Tale
Illustrated by I.Galanin
There was once a king and a queen who lived in Rousay.
The king died and the unfortunate queen was forced to move to a small house with her three daughters.
There, they kept a cow and carefully tended a kail (cabbage) yard.
It so happened that one morning the eldest daughter noticed that some of the kail from their yard was missing.
After informing her mother, the daughter announced that she would, that night, take a blanket out into the yard and await the return of the thief.
The queen agreed that this was the best course of action so, when darkness fell, the girl retired to a corner of the yard, wrapped herself in the warm blanket and waited.
Before too long, a very large giant stepped into the yard.
He began cutting the kail and throwing it into the cubbie strapped to his back.
The princess was astounded by this sight but nonetheless stepped out and confronted the thieving behemoth.
"Why are you taking my mother's kail?" she asked, hands planted firmly on her hips.
The giant barely glanced at the girl.
"Quiet or I'll take you too!" he snorted, before continuing to cut. Before long his cubbie was soon almost filled with kail.
"I asked you a question thief!" shouted the girl. "Why are you taking my mother's kail?"
The giant snorted again and then, taking the princess by an arm and a leg, threw her over his shoulder into the cubbie, along with the kail. Then he strode away with a full basket of kail and a princess.
When he arrived home, the giant emptied the kail out on to the floor. Out with it fell a bedraggled and bemused girl. Before she had a chance to complain the giant leaned forwards and stared her in the eye.
"Here is the work you must do", he said. You must milk the cow and thereafter put her to the hill called Bloodfield. Then, you must take wool, wash it, tease it, card and comb it and then spin it to make me some cloth! Fail to do this and it will be the worse for you my lady!"
Whether if was from pure fear or some giant magic I do not know, but when the giant left his house the girl did exactly as she had been bidden. She milked the old cow and led her up the track to the hill of Bloodfield. Then, returning to the giant's hall and feeling a little hungry, she put a pot over the fire and made herself some porridge.
As she sat down to eat a bowl, she was amazed to find herself surrounded by a horde of little yellow-headed folk, each one crying out for her to give them some.
The princess sneered at the little-folk and said:
"Little for one and less for two;
The little folk disappeared and the princess eagerly ate her porridge. But when she went to work the wool she found that she could not do it. No matter how hard she tried, she could not carry out the giant's task.
When the giant returned home he was roused to fury when he discovered that the girl had not carried out his instructions.
Roaring with anger, he threw her up in the rafters, among the hens.
Now, back in the queen's meagre household, all were wondering what calamity had befallen the eldest daughter. It was once again decided that a daughter should watch over the kail yard that night, so with her blanket and a small lamp, the next daughter settled down beside the peat stack.
To cut a long story short, the same thing happened to the second daughter - the giant strode into the yard and began helping himself to the kail before throwing the watching daughter into his cubbie and heading off home.
At the giant's hall, the second girl was also instructed to milk the cow, which she did, but, once again, before preparing the wool she sat down to a bowl of porridge. The little folk appeared yet again, begging a mouthful of porridge, but the unkind daughter would let them have none of her precious meal. As a result she soon discovered that by some magical means she was unable to work the wool.
The giant was furious when he returned and hurled her into the rafters beside her sister, where the two of them lay, unable to speak or come down.
Thus we have a queen with but one daughter - the youngest.
This young girl informed her mother that she would take watch that night to see what had befallen her sisters. At first, the queen was reluctant to permit this but soon gave in to her daughter's pleas.
Night fell. The youngest daughter was well-wrapped in her blanket when the giant arrived with his empty cubbie and a large knife.
"Good evening", she said politely. "Now tell me why are you stealing my mother's kail?"
The giant ignored her so she calmly repeated her question.
Silence. The giant snapped, then, once he had filled his cubbie, snatched her up by a leg and an arm, hurled her in beside the kail.
Some time later, when he had returned to his hall, he released the girl and instructed her in the same manner he had instructed her sisters.
The young girl listed carefully to his instruction and nodded meekly. The giant grunted and left the house again.
So the youngest sister set to work.
She milked the old cow, thereafter leading her up to the rich grasses on the high hills. Returning to the house, hunger gnawed at her stomach, so she decided to make some porridge to warm her belly.
No sooner had she spooned the porridge into her bowl than the little yellow-headed folk appeared in droves, each one begging for a sup of her gruel.
The young princess smiled at the little folk and told them they could have some, but only if they brought something in which to spoon the porridge.
Off they scampered, chattering all the while, but were soon back around her feet again, some with broken bowls, others with stones. Some brought one thing, others took another. But in the end they all had some of her porridge.
When they had finished eating, all but one disappeared. The one remaining was a little, yellow-headed boy, who asked the princess whether she had any work.
The princess smiled sweetly. "I have plenty of work my little friend, but alas I cannot pay you for it."
The little yellow-headed boy simply shrugged.
"No matter. All I ask in payment is that you tell me my name."
The princess thought that this would surely be an easy enough task and handed the wool over to the little boy. With a giggle, the little boy disappeared out the door with the bale of wool.
By now, darkness was falling outside and the girl was disturbed by a loud knock on the main door. Opening the door, she was confronted by an old woman.
"Pardon the intrusion, young mistress." said the old woman, "but I seek lodgings for the night and wonder if you would be so kind to put up an old, weary wife."
"Would that I could," said the girl, "but this hall is not my own and I can therefore offer nothing in the way of lodging. But here, take this for your journey."
She handed the old woman a piece of bread and cheese.
The old woman thanked her for her kindness and made to turn to seek shelter elsewhere.
"Before you step into the night. Do you have any news of the islands?" said the young girl, anxious to hear how her dear mother fared.
"None my dear. No news save that the night looks to be cold."
With that the old woman left.
"Now, outside the giant's hall, a short distance up the hillside there was a knowe."
The old woman chanced upon this knowe and settling down within its shelter found it to be very warm and reasonably comfortable.
As she settled down for the night, drawing her shawl about her bony shoulders, she heard a voice from within singing merrily:
"Tease, Teasers, Tease
Looking up, the old woman saw light shining from a crack in the knowe and, peering through the hole, saw a great many little-folk working feverishly. Some were washing wool, whilst others teased and carded. At the very back of the glistening chamber sat a row of spinners, their spinning-wheels whirring frantically. Running around and between the workers was the little yellow-haired boy, all the while singing his merry song.
Now the old woman thought that this news might be worth a night's lodging so hastily headed back down the hill in the direction of the giant's hall. She rapped eagerly at the great door and, when the princess opened it, spilled out a version of the events she had witnessed up the hill.
The princess clapped her hands for joy and led the old woman to a warm, dry outhouse where she might spend the night. Then she returned to the hall, all the while repeating the name Peerie-fool over and over again.
The next morning dawned cool and bright.
The young girl had just finished stoking the fire when the little yellow-haired boy appeared with all the cloth that had been spun from the wool.
"Why thank you for that work my friend..." said the princess. "You have truly made some beautiful cloth."
"Ah, but not so fast," said the little boy, hopping and dancing with glee. "First you must tell me my name!"
The princess feigned a look surprise and then worry.
"All right," she said, pretending to be deep in thought. "Your name is 'Tooriebeuy'!"
"No!" shrieked the little boy, leaping for joy.
"Then your name is 'Bobopow'" she ventured…
"No..no...no!" he yelled, dancing in ecstatic circles on the floor..
"So is your name 'Peerie-fool'" asked the princess, grinning.
Peerie-fool howled in anger before throwing down the cloth and disappearing out the door, the girl's laughter ringing in his ears.
On his way home, the giant met a great many of these little yellow-headed folk, some of whom had their eyes hanging out on their cheeks, others with their tongues lolling out on their breast.
"What is the matter with you folk?" the giant asked.
"I shall tell thee what is the matter with me and my kin," said one of the little folk. "We are needing sleep for we've been working so hard at making such fine cloth."
The giant laughed heartily, immediately realising how the young princess had got the better of the peedie-folk.
"I have a good wife at home," he said to himself, "and if she is safe when I return, never again will she have to do a day's work."
As we already know, the girl was perfectly safe, and when the giant arrived home she presented him with many rolls of beautiful cloth. The giant was overjoyed and treated the young princess very kindly.
On the next day the giant ventured out of the house, the young princess found her two sisters in their place in the rafters, amongst the hens.
Then, instructing her eldest sister, she filled the basket with as much of the giant's finery as she could then topped it up with freshly scythed grass.
When the giant returned home, the princess explained to him that she was concerned about her poor mother and asked if he would take the basket by the door to her. That way she could at least feed her cow.
The giant, still pleased with the quantity of cloth the girl had obtained, agreed and set off with the basket on his back.
When he returned, she asked him how her mother fared to which the giant replied fine.
"Well, that is good, although I will send her one more load of grass. It is plainly obvious that the grass in this part of the island is far superior to the short, yellow grass by mother's byre." she said.
"As you wish." said the giant. "When will you have this load ready for me?"
"Early the morn. But as I will be going up the hill when the sun rises I will leave the basket by the door."
The giant looked at the yard upon yard of fine material that lay stacked by the window and agreed without question.
The next day, the young princess hid her other sister deep in the basket before climbing in herself and making sure they were both covered her with freshly shorn grass.
When giant awoke from his noisy slumber, he saw the basket standing by the doorway and, remembering the young girl's request the previous evening, swung it on to his shoulders and set off.
When the giant arrived at the queen's house, he asked where the grass should be dumped. The queen pointed to a spot by the window.
Unknown to the giant, the queen and her eldest daughter had boiled a quantity of water which they threw over him when he approached the window, killing him instantly.
The two sisters tumbled from the basket and were joyfully reunited with their mother and eldest sister.
Author: A Scotland Folk Tale; illustrated by Galanin I.
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