Form and Content

(Survey of Young Adult Fiction)

In a collection of eighteen short stories, Leclaire G. Alger, writing under her Scottish name, Sorche Nic Leodhas, explores the character traits that define Scottish people. Written in the third person, some of the stories are illustrated with line drawings. Eight of the stories in this collection first appeared in Heather and Broom: Tales of the Scottish Highlands (1960), an earlier anthology by the same author.

One of the themes that is explored in the stories of Thistle and Thyme is that of love and the sacrifices or dangers that often come with it. When the daughter of the king of Scotland is kidnapped, the brave knight who promises to rescue her must undergo a series of trials before he can set her free. The beekeeper, who is one the central characters in one of the tales, must combat the powers of evil to liberate from an enchantment the young woman who will become his bride. The English lady who falls in love with a Scottish nobleman must pretend to be dead in order to escape her father, who has forbidden her to marry the man she loves. All the romances related in this work end happily, despite episodes of tragedy or loss. The lord of the Isles wins the love of Fionna, the seal king’s daughter, only to lose it because of his quick temper. After a lifetime of repentance, however, the lovers are reunited.

In each tale can be found a clue to the character of the Scots. When these pieces are joined like the parts of a puzzle, a fairly accurate picture of the Scottish people begins to emerge. They are indeed canny, but the Scots are also brave, loyal, fearless, self-sacrificing, and, at times, reckless. They regard the supernatural and the miraculous with awe, and most of the tales in this collection feature enchantment. Some characters, such as the red-haired lass who drove the ghosts from the home of the man she eventually married, live to tell of their encounters with that other dominion, while others, such as the old woman who angered St. Cuthbert, are punished. Likewise, the pirate captain who steals the consecrated bells from the abbey of the glen perishes with his entire crew. Scots often see the work of mystic beings in unexplained phenomena, and this trait is an important component of Scottish myths.