National Story Telling Week – a dark Scottish tale

National Story Telling Week is running from January 30th to February 6th this year. I have a love of folk stories, there is something magical about the way they can be used to explain natural phenomena. I picture the telling of these stories around fires, amongst family and friends. Weaving is a perfect time for story telling. Much of the work takes many hours and although the hands are busy the mind sometimes needs a little entertaining. I’m sure here in Scotland many folk stories were shared over threads of yarn and bolts of woven cloth.

This Scottish tale like many of the folk stories has a dark side! It begins in Norway but the story’s climax happens in a place called Applecross in Scotland down from the Bealach Na Ba pass. If you’ve driven the North Coast 500 you will have chartered the steepest incline in Britain – The Bealach Na Ba.

My version is condensed. Re-told in my own words. You can find the full and wonderful version in a book called the Highland Folk Tales by Bob Pegg. (The link takes you to a Scottish book store).

Scottish Tale: A Highland Origin Myth

A long time ago in Norway there were Gods and Giants roaming the land. After a great battle most of the Gods and Giants were killed but a few Giants that were late to the battle survived. It was these giants that lived amongst the humans when civilisation came to Norway.

The Giants and Humans mostly lived in harmony, but as with any community there are rogues. Thrim was one such rogue Giant and he hated humans. His hatred led him to destroy villages and kill the people living there. The humans always knew of his approach: he would shout

“I’m gonna find you! I’m gonna catch you! I’m gonna eat you!”

The Giants and the Humans decided to take action and banished Thrim from Norway. Thrim did not care if he was banished, he only wanted to find more humans to destroy. He left Norway, wading through the North Sea, heading for a place we now call Scotland.

Reaching Shetland he found it sparsely populated and only with trolls (which are supposedly unsavoury beings with vile tasting blood!) so Thrim did not stay long. He continued his search to destroy humans. Coming to Orkney he rampaged as before:

“I’m gonna find you! I’m gonna catch you! I’m gonna eat you!”

Coming to Applecross

Thankfully some of the humans managed to escape, heading to the mainland in their boats. Escaping ahead of Thrim some of these refugees headed to a place called Applecross on the other side of the Bealach Na Ba pass. They told the locals of the terrible Giant and the village came up with a plan.

To capture this blood thirsty Thrim the humans built a large pit, full of stakes with a trip wire before it. They sent the cheekiest of the children up to the top of the Bealach Na Ba to taunt Thrim as he approached. It was not long before they heard:

“I’m gonna find you! I’m gonna catch you! I’m gonna eat you!”

The children screamed out their worst taunts and Thrim, not being the brightest of Giants, chased them down the hill. He was tripped and impaled in the large pit. The humans set to work cutting the Giant into pieces to ensure he would bother them no more. Now happy with their achievement they celebrated into the night but as they went to their beds they heard a muted but menacing voice:

“I’m gonna find you! I’m gonna catch you! I’m gonna eat you!”

It was clear those tiny pieces of Thrim were still alive for they were dancing and jigging about muttering angrily. The Applecross inhabitants tossed all the bits into a pit and burnt them. Happy to have the problem finally resolved they all set off to their beds. As the humans turned their backs they heard the whispering of a thousand tiny glowing specs rising from the fire:

“We’re gonna find you! We’re gonna catch you! We’re gonna eat you!”

One of Feather & Hay’s hand woven shawls – ‘Dóirneag’ inspired by and hand woven in Scotland

As the ash cloud rose around the Applecross people they began to run, pursued by a voracvious horde intent on eating them! These were the very first Highland midges – although they began at Applecross they soon spread across the West coast.

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Feather & Hay’s hand woven shawls