Hello and welcome to Fairy Tale Friday. Are you sitting comfortably? Good. Then I’ll begin.
Last week we looked at an Anglicised version of this tale that was collected by Joseph Jacobs. There are two more Scottish versions I want to deal with today. The first was written by George Douglas in his 1901 book Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales. It is a tale that retains some of the Scots Gaelic dialect and vocabulary, but still makes it accessible to the reader.
This story, like last week’s version by Joseph Jacobs, contains a calf as the magical helper.
Last week the calf produced food from its ears, but this week it takes out heroine through the woods to a “bonnie hoosie” (lovely house) where a nice dinner was waiting for them. As in other versions, when the antagonist gets wind that a magical animal is helping the protagonist the usual response is to kill the animal. Normally our mistreated girl refuses to eat the meat of her dear departed friend and retrieves the bones and it is the bones that continue to help her. This version is a bit more bloodthirsty. The mother (notice it is not a stepmother here) hatches a plan that they will slaughter the red calf. The plan is for her favourite daughter (described as “ugly and ill natured”) to hold the calf’s head and the bonnie lass who is our heroine was to actually decapitate her friend. Naturally, she is reluctant to harm her animal friend, but the calf hatches a plan that she should instead cut off the head of her sister (not stepsister) and then she and the calf can run away together. This they do and because she has not had the time to pack any clothes it is the calf that dresses her in a coat of rushes not her family.
Rashin Coatie gets a job as a lowly servant in the King’s house. At Christmas when everyone is going to kirk (church) she has to stay home and cook the dinner. The red calf provides her with clothes and offers to cook dinner for her so she may attend church. As you would expect the Prince sees her, falls in love, she loses a shoe and all the actions that traditionally follow. However, in other versions our heroine is still living at home. When the steward or the Prince travel from house to house they are bound to end up at the home of our heroine eventually, but in this version the lady he seeks is under his own roof and he does not try the slipper on any woman in his own household.
Also, in all other versions it is her own sister (or stepsisters) who mutilate their own feet to fit into the shoe. In this version, her family are never heard from again after she murdered her sister and ran away. In this version, it is the daughter of the henwife who clips off her toes to fit into the shoe. As in last week’s version, a little birdie tells him that the true bride is sitting by the kitchen fire. He goes home and finds her there, working as a servant in his household and then marries her. It is great that there seem to be no class issues here (she does not need to be of noble birth), but I wonder how he would feel knowing that his wife is an escaped murderer.
Once, a long time ago, there was a gentleman had two lassies. The oldest was ugly and ill natured, but the youngest was a bonnie lassie and good; but the ugly one was the favourite with her father and mother. So they ill used the youngest in every way, and they sent her into the woods to herd cattle, and all the food she got was a little porridge and whey.
Well, amongst the cattle was a red calf, and one day it said to the lassie, "Gee that porridge and whey to the doggie, and come wi' me."
So the lassie followed the calf through the wood, and they came to a bonnie hoosie, where there was a nice dinner ready for them; and after they had feasted on everything nice they went back to the herding.
Every day the calf took the lassie away and feasted her on dainties; and every day she grew bonnier. This disappointed the father and mother and the ugly sister. They expected that the rough usage she was getting would take away her beauty; and they watched and watched until they saw the calf take the lassie away to the feast. So they resolved to kill the calf; and not only that, but the lassie was to be compelled to kill him with an axe. Her ugly sister was to hold his head, and the lassie who loved him had to give the blow and kill him.
She could do nothing but greet [weep]; but the calf told her not to greet, but to do as he bade her; and his plan was that instead of coming down on his head she was to come down on the lassie's head who was holding him, and then she was to jump on his back, and they would run off. Well, the day came for the calf to be killed, and everything was ready -- the ugly lassie holding his head, and the bonnie lassie armed with the axe. So she raised the axe and came down on the ugly sister's head; and in the confusion that took place she got on the calf's back and they ran away. And they ran and better nor ran till they came to a meadow where grew a great lot of rashes; and, as the lassie had not on many clothes, they pu'ed rashes, and made a coatie for her. And they set off again and traveled, and traveled, till they came to the king's house. They went in and asked if they wanted a servant. The mistress said she wanted a kitchen lassie, and she would take Rashin-Coatie.
So Rashin-Coatie said she would stop, if they keepit the calf too. They were willing to do that. So the lassie and the calf stoppit in the king's house, and everybody was well pleased with her; and when Yule came, they said she was to stop at home and make the dinner, while all the rest went to the kirk. After they were away the calf asked if she would like to go. She said she would, but she had no clothes, and she could not leave the dinner. The calf said he would give her clothes and make the dinner too. He went out, and came back with a grand dress, all silk and satin, and such a nice pair of slippers. The lassie put on the dress, and before she left she said:
Ilka peat gar anither burn,
An' ilka spit gar anither turn,
An' ilka pot gar anither play,
Till I come frae the kirk on gude Yule day.
So she went to the kirk, and nobody kent it was Rashin-Coatie. They wondered who the bonnie lady could be; and, as soon as the young prince saw her, he fell in love with her, and resolved he would find out who she was, before she got home; but Rashin-Coatie left before the rest, so that she might get home in time to take off her dress and look after the dinner.
When the prince saw her leaving, he made for the door to stop her; but she jumped past him, and in the hurry lost one of her shoes. The prince kept the shoe, and Rashin-Coatie got home all right, and the folk said the dinner was very nice.
Now the prince was resolved to find out who the bonnie lady was, and he sent a servant through all the land with the shoe. Every lady was to try it on, and the prince promised to marry the one it would fit. That servant went to a great many houses but could not find a lady that the shoe would go on, it was so little and neat. At last he came to a henwife's house, and her daughter had little feet. At first the shoe would not go on, but she paret her feet, and clippit her toes, until the shoes went on. Now the prince was very angry. He knew it was not the lady that he wanted; but, because he had promised to marry whoever the shoe fitted, he had to keep his promise.
The marriage day came, and, as they were all riding to the kirk, a little bird flew through the air, and it sang:
Clippit feet an' paret taes is on the saidle set;
But bonnie feet an' braw feet sits in the kitchen neuk.
"What's that ye say?" said the prince
"Oh," says the henwife, "would ye mind what a feel bird says?"
But the prince said, "Sing that again, bonnie birdie."
So the bird sings:
Clippit feet an' paret taes is on the saidle set;
But bonnie feet an' braw feet sits in the kitchen neuk.
The prince turned his horse and rode home, and went straight to his father's kitchen, and there sat Rashin-Coatie. He kent her at once, she was so bonnie; and when she tried on the shoe it fitted her, and so the prince married Rashin-Coatie, and they lived happy, and built a house for the red calf, who had been so kind to her.
Now, normally I would have the next story as a separate entry, but I cannot seem to track down the true author of this very Scots Gaelic version. The source claims that is by noted folklorist Andrew Lang who published all the coloured fairy books (The Blue Fairy Book, The Red Fairy book etc.) It claims that they were published in his English and Scotch Fairy Tales but I find no record of this book or any other reference to Andrew Lang connected to a version of Rushin Coatie and so I am presenting it here as a contrast to the version above. The Scots Gaelic is very thick, so it helps to have read the version above.
Rashin Coatie source
THERE was a king and a queen, as mony anes been, few have we seen, and as few may we see. The queen she deeit, and left a bonnie little lassie; and she had naething to gie to the wee lassie but a little red calfy, and she telt the lassie whatever she wanted, the calfy would gie her. The king married again, an ill-natured wife, wi’ three ugly dochters o’ her ain. They did na like the little lassie because she was bonnie; they took awa’ a’ her braw claes that her ain mither had geen her, and put a rashin coatie on her, and gart her sit in the kitchen neuk, and a’ body ca’d her Rashin Coatie. She did na get ony thing to eat but what the rest left, but she did na care, for she went to her red calfy, and it gave her everything she asked for. She got good meat from the calfy, but her ill-natured step-mother gart the calfy be killed, because it was good to Rashin Coatie. She was very sorry for the calfy, and sat down and grat. The dead calfy said to her:
“Tak’ me up, bane by bane,
And pit me aneth yon grey stane,
and whatever you want, come and seek it frae me, and I will give you it.”
Yuletide came, and a’ the rest put on their braw claes, and was gaen awa’ to the kirk. Rashin Coatie said, “Oh, I wad like to gang to the kirk too!” but the others said, “What would you do at the kirk, you nasty thing? You must bide at hame and make the dinner.” When they were gone to the kirk, Rashin Coatie did na ken how to make the dinner, but she went out to the grey stone, and she told the calfy that she could not make the dinner, and she wanted to win to the kirk. The calfy gave her braw claes, and bade her gang into the house, and say:
Every peat gar ither burn,
Every spit gar ither turn,
Every pot gar ither play,
Till I come frae the kirk this good Yule day.”
Rashin Coatie put on the braw claes that the calfy gave her, and went awa’ to the kirk, and she was the grandest and the brawest lady there. There was a young prince in the kirk, and he fell in love with her. She cam’ awa’ before the blessing, and she was hame before the rest, and had off her braw claes, and had on her rashin coatie, and the calfy had covered the table, and the dinner was ready, and every thing in good order when the rest came hame. The three sisters said to Rashin Coatie, “Oh, lassie, if you had only seen the braw bonnie lady that was in kirk to-day, that the young prince fell in love with!” She said: “Oh, I wish you would let me gang with you to the kirk to-morrow”; for they used to gang three days after ither to the kirk.
They said: “What should the like o’ you do at the kirk—nasty thing? The kitchen neuk is good enough for you.” The next day they went away and left her, but she went back to her calfy, and he bade her repeat the same words as before, and he gave her brawer claes, and she went back to the kirk, and a’ the world was looking at her, and wondering where sic a grand lady came from; and as for the young prince, he fell more in love with her than ever, and bade somebody watch where she went back to. But she was back afore anybody saw her, and had off her braw claes and on her rashin coatie, and the calfy had the table covered, and everything ready for the dinner.
The next day the calfy dressed her in brawer claes than ever, and she went back to the kirk. The young prince was there, and he put a guard at the door to keep her, but she jumped over their heads, and lost one of her beautiful satin slippers. She got hame before the rest, and had on the rashin coatie, and the calfy had all things ready. The young prince put out a proclamation that he would marry whoever the satin slipper would fit All the ladies of the land went to try on the slipper, and with the rest the three sisters, but none would it fit, for they had ugly broad feet. The hen wife took in her daughter, and cut her heels and her toes, and the slipper was forced on her, and the prince must marry her, for he had to keep his promise. As he rode along with her behind him to be married, there was a bird began to sing, and ever it sang:
“Minched fit, and pinched fit,
Beside the king she rides,
But braw fit, and bonny fit,
In the kitchen neuk she hides.”
The prince said, “What is that the bird sings?” but the hen wife said, “Nasty lying thing! never mind what it says”; but the bird sang ever the same words. The prince said, “Oh, there must be some one that the slipper has not been tried on”; but they said, “There is none but a poor dirty thing that sits in the kitchen neuk and wears a rashin coatie.” But the prince was determined to try it on Rashin Coatie, but she ran awa’ to the grey stone, where the red calf dressed her yet brawer than ever, and she went to the prince, and the slipper jumped out of his pocket and on to her foot, and the prince married her, and they lived happy all their days.
That’s all for this week. Stay tuned next week for a version similar to King Lear.