Site Map
Scottish Folktales and Legends
Section › 11   Set    Search  Previous Next

Reservations   Contents    


Without money to pay, a poor Scotchman dined on eggs one day at a public-house in London. He therefore arranged with the innkeeper that he should pay when he came to the place again.

The man got lucky in trade and became very rich. After some years he happened to pass the public-house again. Then he remembered his debt, and called at the house where he owed a dinner of eggs. He called for the innkeeper and asked him what he had to pay for the dinner of eggs earlier.

The landlord saw the other was now dressed like a rich man and gave him a bill of many pounds, telling him:

"The reason why I charge so much, is that if those eggs had been hatched, they would have become chickens, and in time many of them would have started to lay more eggs, and so on. In this way the sum would have become about what I have charged you."

The Scotchman refused to pay so much for a meal of eggs, and therefore the matter was taken to court. By then the Scotchman had told a countryman what had happened to him. The other promised to appear in court to help him, and he came there there with a great basket of boiled peas. It surprised the judge, who asked what he meant by these boiled peas?

The countryman said: "I am going to sow them."

"When will boiled peas grow?" said the judge.

"They will grow when boiled eggs grow chickens."

The answer convinced the judge that the innkeeper's demand was unreasonable. The Scotsman was judged to pay only a few pence for his former meal of eggs.

(ATU 821B, Chickens from Boiled Eggs. In Douglas 1901, 309-9. Retold)


The Little Oatmeal Cake

"Some tell about their sweethearts,
How they twirled them to the window.
But I'll tell you an attractive tale
About a good oatmeal cake."

An old man and his wife lived in a dear little cottage by the side of a small stream. They were a very cheerful and contented couple, for they had enough to live on, and enough to do. Indeed, they considered themselves quite rich, for, besides their cottage and their garden, they owned two sleek cows, five hens and a cock, an old cat, and two kittens.

The old man spent his time looking after the cows, the hens, and the garden; while the old woman kept herself busy spinning.

One day, just after breakfast, the old woman thought that she would like an oatmeal cake for her supper that evening, so she took down her bake board, and put on her girdle, and baked a couple of fine cakes, and when they were ready she put them down before the fire to harden.

One day, just after breakfast, the old woman thought that she would like an oatmeal cake for her supper that evening, so she took down her bake board, and put on her girdle, and baked a couple of fine cakes, and when they were ready she put them down before the fire to harden.

While they were toasting, her husband came in from the cow barn, and sat down to take a rest in his great armchair. Presently his eyes fell on the cakes, and as they looked very good, he broke one through the middle and began to eat it.

When the other cake saw this it determined that it should not have the same fate, so it ran across the kitchen and out of the door as fast as it could. And when the old woman saw it disappearing, she ran after it as fast as her legs would carry her, holding her spindle in one hand and her distaff in the other.

But she was old, and the cake was young, and it ran faster than she did, and escaped over the hill behind the house. It ran, and it ran, and it ran, until it came to a large newly thatched cottage, and as the door was open, it took refuge inside, and ran right across the floor to a blazing fire, which was burning in the first room that it came to.

Now, it chanced that this house belonged to a tailor, and he and his two apprentices were sitting cross-legged on the top of a big table by the window, sewing away with all their might, while the tailor's wife was sitting beside the fire, carding lint.

When the wee cake came trundling across the floor, all three tailors got such a fright that they jumped down from the table and hid behind the master tailor's wife.

"Hoot," she said, "what a set of cowards you are! It is but a nice wee cake. Get hold of it and divide it between you, and I'll fetch you all a drink of milk."

So she jumped up with her lint and her lint cards, and the tailor jumped up with his great shears, and one apprentice grasped the line measure, while another took up the saucer full of pins; and they all tried to catch the wee cake. But it dodged them round and round the fire, and at last it got safely out of the door and ran down the road, with one of the apprentices after it, who tried to snip it in two with his shears.

It ran too quickly for him, however, and at last he stopped and went back to the house, while the wee cake ran on until it came to a tiny cottage by the roadside. It rolled in at the door, and there was a weaver sitting at his loom, with his wife beside him, winding a ball of yarn.

"What's that, Tibby?" said the weaver with a start, as the little cake flew past him.

"Oh!" cried she in delight, jumping to her feet, "it is a wee cake. I wonder where it came from?"

"Don't bother your head about that, Tibby," said the man, "but grip it, woman, grip it."

But it was not so easy to get hold of the wee cake. It was in vain that the goodwife threw her clue at it, and that the goodman tried to chase it into a corner and knock it down with his shuttle. It dodged, and turned, and twisted, like a thing bewitched, till at last it flew out at the door again, and vanished down the hill, "for all the world," as the old woman said, "like a new tarred sheep, or a foolish cow."

In the next house that it came to it found the goodwife in the kitchen, churning. She had just filled her churn, and there was still some cream standing in the bottom of her cream jar.

"Come away, little cake," she cried when she saw it. "You have come in just the nick of time, for I am beginning to feel hungry, and I'll have cakes and cream for my dinner."

But the little cake hopped round to the other side of the churn, and the goodwife after it. And she was in such a hurry that she nearly upset the churn; and by the time that she had put it right again, the wee cake was out at the door and half-way down the hillside to the mill.

The miller was sifting meal in the trough, but he straightened himself up when he saw the little cake.

"It's a sign of plenty when cakes are running about with no one to look after them," he said; " but I like cakes and cheese, so just come in, and I will give you a night's lodging."

But the little cake had no wish to be eaten up by the miller, so it turned and ran out of the mill, and the miller was so busy that he did not trouble himself to run after it.

After this it ran on, and on, and on, till it came to the smithy, and it popped in there to see what it could see. The smith was busy at the anvil making horse-shoe nails, but he looked up as the wee cake entered.

"If there be one thing I am fond of, it is a glass of ale and a well-toasted cake," he cried. "So come in here, and welcome to you."

But as soon as the little cake heard of the ale, it turned and ran out of the smithy as fast as it could and the disappointed smith picked up his hammer and ran after it. And when he saw that he could not catch it, he flung his heavy hammer at it, in the hope of knocking it down, but, luckily for the little cake, he missed his aim.

After this the cake came to a farmhouse. A great stack of peats was standing at the back of it. In the cake went, and ran to the fireside. In this house the master had all the lint spread out on the floor, and was separating the lint from the stalk with an iron rod, while the mistress was heckling what he had already cloven.

"Oh, Janet," cried the goodman in surprise, "a little cake comes in here. It looks rare and good to eat. I'll have one half of it."

"And I'll have the other half," cried the goodwife. "Hit it over the back with your cloving-stick, Sandy, and knock it down. Quick, or it will be out at the door again."

But the cake danced about and dodged behind a chair. "Hoot!" cried Janet contemptuously, for she thought that her husband might easily have hit it, and she threw her heckle at it. But the heckle missed it, just as her husband's cloving-rod had done, for the cake danced about again, and flew out of the house.

This time it ran up a brook-side till it came to a little cottage standing among the heather. Here the goodwife was making porridge for the supper in a pot over the fire, and her husband was sitting in a corner plaiting ropes of straw with which to tie up the cow.

"Oh, Jock! come here, come here," cried the goodwife. "You are crying for a little cake for your supper; well, come here, quick, and help me to catch it."

"Ay, ay," assented Jock, jumping to his feet and hurrying across the little room. "But where is it? I cannot see it."

"There, man, there," cried his wife, "under that chair. Run to that side; I will keep to this."

So Jock ran into the dark corner behind the chair; but in his hurry he tripped and fell, and the wee cake jumped over him and flew laughing out at the door. Through the grass and shrubs and up the hillside it ran, and over the top of the hill, to a shepherd's cottage on the other side.

The inmates were just sitting down to their porridge, and the goodwife was scraping the pan.

"Save us and help us," she exclaimed, stopping with the spoon half-way to her mouth. There's a wee cake come in to warm itself at our fireside."

"Latch the door," cried the husband, "and we'll try to catch it. It would come in handy after the porridge."

But the cake did not wait until the door was locked. It turned and ran as fast as it could, and the shepherd and his wife and all the children ran after it with their spoons in their hands in hopes of catching it. And when the shepherd saw that it could run faster than they could, he threw his cap at it and almost struck it; but it escaped all these dangers, and soon it came to another house, where the folk were just going to bed.

The goodman was half undressed, and the goodwife was raking the cinders carefully out of the fire.

"What's that?" said he, "for the bowl of soup that I had at suppertime was not very big."

"Catch it, then," answered his wife, "and I'll have a bit, too. Quick! quick! Throw your coat over it or it will be away."

So the goodman threw his coat right on top of the little cake and almost managed to smother it; but it struggled bravely and got out, breathless and hot, from under it. Then it ran out again, into the grey light, for night was beginning to fall. And the goodman ran out after it, without his coat. He chased it and chased it through the stack yard and across a field, and in among a fine patch of bent grass. Then he lost it. And as he was feeling cold without his coat, he went home.

As for the little cake, it thought that it would creep under a whin bush and lie there until morning, but it was so dark that the cake never saw that there was a fox's hole there. So it fell down the fox's hole, and the fox was very glad to see it, for he had had no food for two days.

"Oh, welcome, welcome," he cried; and he snapped it through the middle with his teeth, and that was the end of the little cake.

(ATU 2025, The Fleeing Pancake - Retold from Grierson 1910, 93-101)


Poussie Baudrons

"Poussie, Poussie Baudrons,
Where hae ye been?"
"I've been at London,
Seeing the queen!"

"Poussie, Poussie Baudrons,
What got ye there?"
"I got a guid fat mousikie,
Rinning up a stair."

"Poussie, Poussie Baudrons,
What did ye do wi't?"
"I put it in my meal-poke
To eat it to my bread."

Another version in another tongue

Pussycat, pussycat, where have you been?
I've been to London to look at the queen.
Pussycat, pussycat, what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse under her chair.

"Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat" is a popular nursery rhyme. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 15094.

The melody commonly associated with the rhyme was first noted by the composer and nursery rhyme collector James William Elliott in his National Nursery Rhymes and Nursery Songs (1870).

The earliest record of the rhyme was published in Songs for the Nursery, printed in London in 1805. The queen most often depicted in illustrations is Elizabeth I. "There is a widespread folk tradition, mentioned by a number of writers, that the words tell of an actual happening in her reign (Opie and Opie 1996, 424)."

(Opie and Opie 1997, 423-24; Alchin 2011; WP, "Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat")



Scottish folktales, Orkney tales, Scotish legends, folk tales of Scotland, folk tales of the Orkney Islands, To top    Section     Set    Next

Scottish folktales, Orkney tales, Scotish legends, folk tales of Scotland, folk tales of the Orkney Islands. User's Guide   ᴥ    Disclaimer 
© 2007–2018, Tormod Kinnes [Email]