The Folk Tales of Scotland: The Well at the World’s End and Other Stories

By Norah Montgomerie, William Montgomerie

Rating: 3 stars

This was an interesting collection of folk- and fairy-tales from across Scotland. Most of them are very short, only a few pages each, which hardly leaves any space for characterisation or plot development. There’s a lot of repetition within stories as well – the power of three crops up again and again where the hero must do things three times to get the effect. I imagine this works better in the oral tradition than written down. There are also variations on well-known stories (including Cinderella and Rumpelstiltskin) and lots of very traditional roles (princess offered in marriage as a prize for the hero recurs often).

But it’s interesting to read older versions of some of these traditional stories to see how they’ve evolved over time and where there are seeds for other stories. It’s also nice (if somewhat surprising) to see several stories featuring Finn McCool, who’s more closely associated with Irish mythology.

Book details

ISBN: 9781841586946
Publisher: Birlinn Ltd
Year of publication: 1956

The Fantastical Feats of Finn MacCoul

By Norah Montgomerie

Rating: 3 stars

Despite being a native of Ireland, I know very little of Irish mythology. I know of the existence of Finn MacCoul (or Finn MacCool as I know him) and the story of the Giant’s Causeway but beyond that, I don’t know any of his stories, so seeing this volume lying on a friend’s bookshelf was fortunate.

Mythology definitely has its own rhythm and flow. The stories often follow a pattern, which can suggest some slowness on the part of the king of the Fian as he’s caught by the same lure more than once. There’s a lot of repetition within the stories as well, possibly as an aide memoir to the bard or storyteller, but which can be trying to the modern reader. I also feel that there’s probably a lot of context that I’m missing when reading these, so more and more detailed explanatory notes would have been nice.

This volume is taken entirely from Scottish folk tales of Finn, rather than the extensive Irish catalogue, hence the Giant’s Causeway story is missing, but there’s still a lot of stories here.

Book details

ISBN: 9781841588179
Publisher: Birlinn Ltd
Year of publication: 2009

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