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Main > Scotland folktales > Fairy tale "The Stolen Bairn"

The Stolen Bairn

All she could think of were two legendary items from kings of yesteryear - the famous white cloak of King Nechtan and the golden stringed harp of King Wrad. Suddenly she knew what she must do.

The lass headed straight to the sea, to the shore where the eider ducks nested and left behind the soft down that shed from their breasts and delicate white feathers that rolled off their wings. She clambered up and down the rocks gathering the cottony down and the feathers. Sharp rocks scraped her feet but did not pierce her skin, the hot sun burnt in the sky but did not redden her face, the wind splashed the waves on the rocks but her dress and legs stayed dry. Ah, she thought with warm gratitude, the spell the gypsy grandmother was shielding her from the ill effects of earth and fire, wind and water.

When the lass had gathered all the eider down and feathers she needed, she wove a cloak so soft and thick it looked as if a tuft of cloud had been plucked from the sky. Then she wove the delicate white feathers along its border. That done, she took her hair, her long golden hair that fell to her waist, and in three quick strokes chopped it all off. Setting aside a strand of her locks, she weaved the rest of the hair around the feathers to create golden flowers and leaves, all glimmering and resplendent. Day and night she worked for there was not a moment to lose. After she had stitched the final stitch, she carefully folded the soft white cloak, laid it under a shrub of gorse and returned to the seashore.

Searching the sandy beach, the lass looked for the right shape of bones to make a frame for a harp. Luckily she discovered an arc of bone that had been washed by the waves to such a smooth perfection that it resembled ivory. Taking the bone back to the shrub of gorse, she tied it together to make a frame for a harp. From the lock of hair she had set aside before, she braided each of her tiny hairs into thin strands, then twisted several thin strands together at a time to form strong, elegant strings for the harp.

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