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    The Lore of Scotland : Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends

    The Lore of Scotland book cover 1 Jennifer Westwood & Sophia Kingshill

    The Lore of Scotland - Jennifer Westwood & Sophia Kingshill

    Hey Janice, did I tell you I had received The Lore of Scotland, by Jennifer Westwood and Sophia Kingshill? Remember, I had mentioned it in my last post. You know, I have always been very interested in myths and legends and so I’m looking forward to reading it.

    Contes et Legendes d'Ecosse - Fernand Nathan

    Contes et Legendes d'Ecosse - Editeur Fernand Nathan

    When I was a little girl, I used to come back from our local library, a very old building situated in a picturesque cobbled street near the big and dark cathedral, carrying in my arms a treasury of books which had been carefully chosen, one after the other and in very different genres. Rules have changed since that time for then you could not borrow many books at the same time and the choice always proved to be a dilemma. Among the books which I remember best are the books which were published by Fernand Nathan in their famous collection “Contes et légendes de tous les pays” as the one you can see above and there were many of them.

    Contes et Légendes d'Ecosse Fernand Nathan

    Contes et Légendes d'Ecosse Fernand Nathan

    Look at the beautiful illustrations and you’ll understand why I got so quickly immersed in the pages of these captivating stories.

    Contes et Légendes d'Ecosse Fernand Nathan

    Contes et Légendes d'Ecosse Fernand Nathan

    From the era of the bards to that of the media, great writers have largely contributed to popularize the old tales, which were traditionally sung, by collecting them in books. Walter Scott was one of the first  to do so with The Minstrelsy of the Scottish Borders (1802-1803) together with his friend James Hogg who later published his Tales and Sketches of the Ettrick Shepherd (1837). Both of them must have been much influenced by Hogg’s very charismatic mother, Margaret, who was known for collecting native Scottish ballads and telling them to local audiences. Indeed she seems to have resented the fact that these ballads could be written down instead of being told or sung as it had always been done.

    You know, I’m very enthusiastic about immersing again in folk tales, especially in Scottish tales since Scotland, like most countries with celtic roots, have inherited a particularly rich and lively story-telling tradition. As I have already underlined it, Scottish people are born story-tellers !

    In Scotiana’s library we already have a lot of books about myths, legends and fairy tales and among them those of a very prolific Scottish author, Andrew Lang. Lang became famous, among other things, for his publications on folklore. Blue Fairy Book (1889), a very beautifully illustrated edition of fairy tales, has become a classic in the genre and I personally own a remarkable Folio edition of it.  Lang published many collections of fairy tales which are collectively known as Andrew Lang’s Fairy Books.

    Each of them have been named after a colour: red, pink and crimson, green, brown and olive, yellow, orange and violet,  lilac and grey and I think we have all of them in the fabulous Dover edition qualified on each cover as “Complete and unabridged, every word, every one of the Illustrations”.  Let us mention also, from the same author, Tartan Tales (1928) and Sir Walter Scott and the Border Minstrelsy (1910), and by George MacDonald, another famous Scottish author, The complete Fairy Tales.

    The Reverend Kirk would not contradict me if I say that the world of the fairies is an unfathomable well or, most appropriate, a very hollow tree. By the way that famous Reverend Kirk’s tree is worth the trip and testifies to Scotland’s love of fairy tales.

    Aberfoyle Doon Hill Scotiana 2004

    Aberfoyle Doon Hill 2004

    We’ll come back soon to this incredible story and there is certainly one entry for the Reverend Kirk’s name in The Lore of Scotland. We’re going to check.

    Not easy  to find our marks in this world and one thing is to read these stories of fairy tales and legends which have been transmitted from generation to generation and another to try to learn more about the origins of these stories and to replace them in their national, local and even international context.

    The Silver Bough 1977 - Scotland : Myth, legend and Folklore 1999

    The Silver Bough 1977 - Scotland : Myth, legend and Folklore 1999

    The world of myths and legends has never been so popular and many interesting books have been published on the subject by people who have devoted their life to collect the stories, travelling all over the country to find these old story tellers who happen to be the last links between oral and written tradition. The Lore of Scotland is one of these books. Not only will it prove to be very useful in our quest of Scotland folk-lore but we’ll certainly read it with much pleasure too.

    The Lore of Scotland - Jennifer Westwood & Sophia Kingshill - 2009

    The Lore of Scotland - Jennifer Westwood & Sophia Kingshill - 2009

    It is divided into sections. Ten are devoted to the Scottish regions, each of them being illustrated by a map with very funny little symbols like “Animal legends”, “Clans and family legends”, “Devils and Demons”,  “Fairies and trows”,  “Ghosts and omens” and so on …

    The Lore of Scotland Jennifer Westwood & Sophia Kingshill Argyllshire & Islands

    The Lore of Scotland Jennifer Westwood & Sophia Kingshill Argyllshire & Islands

    The ten regions are the following ones :

    The county of Argyllshire and the islands of Arran, Bute, and Lismore

    The counties of Clackmannanshire, Dunbartonshire, Fife, Kinross-shire, Perthshire, and Stirlingshire

    The counties of Dumfriesshire, Kirkcudbrightshire, and Wigtownshire

    The counties of Ayrshire, Lanarkshire, and Renfrewshire

    The counties of Berwickshire, East Lothian, Midlothian, Peeblesshire, Roxburghshire, Selkirkshire, and West Lothian

    The counties of Aberdeenshire, Angus, Banffshire, Kincardineshire, Moray, and Nairnshire

    The counties of Caithness and Sutherland


    The counties of Inverness-shire and Ross & Cromarty


    There is an interesting introduction by Sophia Kingshill and, at  the end of the book, a rich bibliography which will undoubtedly tempt us to add more volumes to Scotiana’s library, plus a very useful index and annexes. Many colour and black and white illustrations ornate the pages all over the book.

    So, for those who want to go further than reading or listening to the good old tales we can only advise to read The Lore of Scotland.

    Bonne lecture ! A bientôt.

    The Folk Tales of Scotland Norah and William Montgomerie 2005

    The Folk Tales of Scotland Norah and William Montgomerie 2005

    Once, walking in Wester Ross, we came to Loch Maree, one of the grandest of Scottish lochs,
    dominated by Ben Sleoch. It has twenty-seven islands, most of them in the middle where the
    water is more than two miles broad. That evening we heard of a holy well on one of the
    islands and next morning, borrowing the forester’s boat, we rowed out into the loch. On the
    second day we found a round island with many oaks – trees famous in mythology and legend – but there was no well, only a small dead tree scaled with copper coins knocked into the wood
    with stones. We paid our tribute to the spirit of the place and rowed back to the shore
    Many years later we read the legend of the Princess Thyra of Ulster (see The Legend of Loch
    , p.224), written down by the Reverend J.G. Campbell of Tiree at the end of last century
    from the lips of an anonymous storyteller. The tree he describes, beside a well, with a
    hollow in its side into which gifts were dropped, may have been the mother of the little
    tree we saw. There were no ruins of monastery or chapel, but this well and another are in
    the title of this book.

    We have sat with the travellers, once called tinkers, listening till long after midnight
    to their Lowland tales, driving home in the dark through an Angus mist so thick the trees
    were invisible. We have listened to, and recorded, Jeannie Robertson in Aberdeen singing
    the traditional ballads and songs which had come to her from her mother, and not from

    The stories in this book, all of them, came originally out of that world of storytellers
    and singers. For many years they were passed on from one storyteller to another. For a very
    long time they were not written down, nor printed, but there are a few references to some
    of them. James IV of Scotland (1488-1513) encouraged tale-tellers, minstrels, stage-players,
    singers, fools or privileged buffoons, and jesters, who might contribute to the amusement
    of the court.

    (The Folk Tales of Scotland – Norah and William Montgomerie – Extract from Introduction to
    the 1975 Edition)

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    2 comments to The Lore of Scotland : Fairy Tales, Myths and Legends

    • Dian Montgomerie Elvin

      Dear Janice, Mairiuna and Jean-Claude

      Norah and William Montgomerie

      Every so often I put my father’s name into google just to see where on the web he is mentioned. I found your wonderful website. Scotland seen through the eyes of people from abroad is often seen more clearly than it is by its own people. I found your choice of words to go with my parents’ book, “Folk Tales of Scotland” very moving. it is some time since I read them. Thank you so much for your appreciation of all the best things about Scotland.

      With my very best wishes


      • Dear Dian,
        Many thanks for your kind comment. You know, the three of us do cherish our exemplary of The Folk Tales of Scotland. With its beautiful cover, the fine illustrations made by your mother, Norah, the marvellous and traditional stories told by your father and mother, this book brings magic from the first to the last page. How we would like to listen to them, as your parents did… ‘sitting with the travellers, listening till long after midnight’… how fascinating!

        We’re so happy to have received your comment on Scotiana that it makes us want to know more about your parents and the book…

        Soon, (after our holidays in Quebec 😉 ) we’ll dedicate a post to your parents and their books for they are embodying what we like most in Scotland !


        Toutes nos amitiés.
        Mairiuna, Janice & Jean-Claude

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