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Fians, Fairies and Picts   By: (1851-1925)

Book cover

First Page:

[Illustration: PLATE I.

SELECTIONAL VIEW AND GROUND PLAN OF UNDERGROUND GALLERY, CALLED UAMH SGALABHAD , NEAR MOL A DEAS, HUISHNISH, ISLAND OF SOUTH UIST.

Frontispiece. ]

FIANS, FAIRIES AND PICTS

BY

DAVID MACRITCHIE

AUTHOR OF "THE TESTIMONY OF TRADITION"

"Sometimes ... it seems that the stones are really speaking speaking of the old things, of the time when the strange fishes and animals lived that are turned into stone now, and the lakes were here; and then of the time when the little Bushmen lived here, so small and so ugly, and used to sleep in the wild dog holes, and in the 'sloots,' and eat snakes, and shoot the bucks with their poisoned arrows ... Now the Boers have shot them all, so that we never see a little yellow face peeping out among the stones ... And the wild bucks have gone, and those days, and we are here." WALDO, in The Story of an African Farm.

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS

LONDON KEGAN PAUL, TRENCH, TRÜBNER & CO., LTD. PATERNOSTER HOUSE, CHARING CROSS ROAD 1893

INTRODUCTION.

The following treatise is to some extent a re statement and partly an amplification of a theory I have elsewhere advanced.[1] But as that theory, although it has been advocated by several writers, especially during the past half century, is not familiar to everybody, some remarks of an explanatory nature are necessary. And if this explanation assumes a narrative form, not without a tinge of autobiography, it is because this seems the most convenient way of stating the case.

It is now a dozen years or thereabouts since I first read the "Popular Tales of the West Highlands," by Mr. J.F. Campbell, otherwise known by his courtesy title of "Campbell of Islay." Mr. Campbell was, as many people know, a Highland gentleman of good family, who devoted much of his time to collecting and studying the oral traditions of his own district and of many lands. His equipment as a student of West Highland folklore was unique. He had the necessary knowledge of Gaelic, the hereditary connection with the district which made him at home with the poorest peasant, and the sympathetic nature which proved a master key in opening the storehouse of inherited belief. It is not likely that another Campbell of Islay will arise, and, indeed, in these days of decaying tradition, he would be born too late.

In reading his book, then, for the first time, what impressed me more than anything else in his pages were statements such as the following:

"The ancient Gauls wore helmets which represented beasts. The enchanted king's sons, when they come home to their dwellings, put off cochal [a Gaelic word signifying], the husk, and become men; and when they go out they resume the cochal , and become animals of various kinds. May this not mean that they put on their armour? They marry a plurality of wives in many stories. In short, the enchanted warriors are, as I verily believe, nothing but real men, and their manners real manners, seen through a haze of centuries.... I do not mean that the tales date from any particular period, but that traces of all periods may be found in them that various actors have played the same parts time out of mind, and that their manners and customs are all mixed together, and truly, though confusedly, represented that giants and fairies and enchanted princes were men ... that tales are but garbled popular history, of a long journey through forests and wilds, inhabited by savages and wild beasts; of events that occurred on the way from east to west, in the year of grace, once upon a time" (I. cxv. cxvi.). "The Highland giants were not so big but that their conquerors wore their clothes; they were not so strong that men could not beat them, even by wrestling. They were not quite savages; for though some lived in caves, others had houses and cattle and hoards of spoil" (I... Continue reading book >>




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