A brownie saves a woman when her mother-in-law uses witchcra...
Date 13 June 1980
Track ID 37974
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Track Information

Original Track ID

SA1980.40

Original Tape ID

SA1980.040

Summary

A brownie saves a woman when her mother-in-law uses witchcraft to delay the birth of her son; discussion of brownies.

A widow dabbled in witchcraft. Her son, a miller, defied his mother to marry a poor girl called Morag. A helpful, but frightening, brownie, covered in short coconut-coloured hair, came to work in the mill. When the wife was about to have a baby, the widow appeared. She seemed friendly, and combed the wife's hair and gave her a black cat. When the wife needed the howdie [midwife], they sent the brownie, cloaked and hidden by darkness. The howdie agreed to come as long as she would not encounter the brownie!

The birth was delayed. The son went to his mother and demanded to know what she had done. The mother said his wife would die and he would marry his mother's choice. The brownie advised him to tell his mother that she was invited to his son's christening. The brownie would make himself invisible and see what the old woman did. [Betsy Whyte jumps ahead then backtracks.] He heard the old woman muttering to herself: who could have loosed the witch knots that she had put in the girl's hair, removed the ravens' feather pillow, turned her bed back to the sun, and killed the cat? The brownie and the husband did these things, and the baby was born. The brownie lived with the family till the old woman died.

Betsy Whyte heard the story often and can't remember whether she got it from her mother or her aunt. She particularly liked the description of the brownie. Alan Bruford mentions the belief that a brownie would leave if given clothes, but Betsy thinks that brownies wore clothes while in human form.

Recording Location

County - Midlothian

Parish - Edinburgh

Village - Edinburgh

Language

Scots

Genre

Story

Collection

SoSS