Scottish Folk-Tales and Legends Critical Essays

Barbara Ker Wilson


(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

Like the myths of all peoples, the stories included in Scottish Folk-Tales and Legends are intended to instruct readers, especially the young. The strengths and weaknesses that characterize the Scots are plainly set forth in language that cannot be misunderstood. Wilson avoids the use of Gaelic terms or words in the Scottish dialect that might confuse readers who are not familiar with these languages.

While the Scots value warriors, they do not stint their appreciation of women who prevail despite hardship. The wife of Roderic MacCodrum is able to assume the guise of a seal or a woman at will, but, when Roderic hides her seal skin, she is forced to live among humans. Her discovery of his deceit permits her to return to the sea, but in her joy is also pain because she knows that his real weakness is his deep love for her. In Scottish folklore, love that brings both exhilaration and despair or that requires sacrifice is also a favorite topic. The son and daughter of the Ailp king accept a mutual enchantment and the years of anguish that it will bring because they realize that only in sharing the pain can they ever win release. Survival in an harsh environment demands cooperation and oblation, attributes that are prominently featured in these narratives.

Scottish Folk-Tales and Legends also contains stories of fairies and other supernatural beings that teach lessons about morality. Those who suffer the wrath of “the little...

(The entire section is 572 words.)