San Diego Scottish Highland Games Scottish Highland Games of San Diego
San Diego Scottish Highland Games & Gathering of Clans (760)726-3691 / 619-884-2940 / 619-884-3157/ 760-505-5254 PO Box 3682, Vista, CA 92084 Email: sdshgchief@sbcglobal.net
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The Maiden and the Kelpie --- retold by Marilyn McPhie Photo by Ben Williams  Once long ago on the island of Barra, there was a young woman, as fair and fine as any who has ever lived.  She dwelt with her father, and together they worked a small farm.  But the father was old and not well.  His strength was failing --- and so was the farm, for the young woman could not do all of the work alone.  Friends were sympathetic, but there was little they could do.  “You must have help,” they said.  “If you had a horse. . . .  Or perhaps a husband. .  . . “  But neither seemed likely.  The girl and her father had no money to buy a horse, and the young men of the village had all gone off to battle and had not returned.  One day, the girl was considering her predicament as she walked back from the town to the farm.  As she walked along the shore, she saw something that made her heart stop.  It was a young man, sitting beside a rock and gazing out to the sea.  She was quite sure she had not met or even seen him before.  She would have remembered such a man.  Black hair, dark eyes, handsome. As she approached, he turned and their eyes met.  He smiled, and so did she.  He motioned for her to sit by him leaning against the rock, and she sat down gladly, for it was a long way from the town to the farm and it was a warm day and she was weary.  They talked and talked and finally were silent, both gazing off to the loch.  And with the motion of the waves and the warm sun, they both drifted to sleep.  When the young woman awoke, she at first did not remember where she was or what had happened.  But she saw the young man, still asleep, handsomer than ever.  She went to touch his cheek, but then drew back her hand, for what she saw gave her chills, even on a warm day. Around his neck was a silver chain, and entwined in its links were strands of sea weed.  She knew what that meant.  He was a kelpie, a water-horse whose certain purpose was to gain her confidence until he could drag her down into the depths of the loch, never to be seen again. But the young woman was awake, and the kelpie-man still slept.  Thinking and acting quickly, she slipped the silver chain --- his bridle --- from his neck.  And instantly he regained his other shape --- that of a fine black horse. Now what?  He was awake now and startled at what had happened.  And she was startled as well.  When she had first seen him, she thought briefly that perhaps he would be the young man who would marry her and save the farm for herself and her father.  But now?  Well, now he was a horse.  Different, but strong and perhaps as useful as a man would be.  Maybe more so. Still she was cautious.  She slipped the silver chain into her basket, mounted the horse and rode him back to town, where she rode up to the door of the wise woman. Standing at the door, with the horse at her side, she knocked.  When the wise woman answered, she saw at once the situation.  “How can I help you?” she asked the maiden.  The girl explained that she and her father needed help if they were to keep their small farm.  Could she perhaps make use of the horse? The wise woman smiled at the maiden’s cleverness, and she assured her that she could keep the horse for a year and a day, but at the end of that time, she must return his silver bridle to the kelpie and let him go.  For longer would be dangerous to the creature and to her, as well. And so she took the horse back to the farm.  And for a year, the maiden and the horse worked on the farm.  The horse was strong and tireless, and together they cleared the field, plowed, planted, harvested.  When the day’s work was done, the maiden would brush the horse’s sleek coat and feed him as well as she fed herself.  As she did so she talked to the horse and thanked him for his service, and sometimes she put her face next to his, and they breathed together as one. But a year passed quickly, and when there was just one day left, the maiden took the silver bridle with her and rode the black horse back to the wise woman’s cottage.  She saw them coming up the hill and stepped out to greet them.  “And how has the horse served you?” she asked.  “Better than any creature could.  He is strong and hard-working.  He has saved our farm, and I am forever indebted to him.  Indeed, I have grown so fond of him, that I am loathe to let him go back to the loch, but I know that it must be --- for his sake.  So I have brought the silver bridle.  I wish you to witness that I will replace the leather with the silver and thus release him from service.” So saying, she slipped off the leather bridle and with a gentle caress, placed the silver one over his neck.  In an instant, the horse turned back into human form.  Their eyes met, and the wise woman saw the glance that passed between them. The wise woman spoke.  Addressing the man, she asked if he had been treated well.  He had, said the man.  He had been treated with kindness and care, and his work had been gladly given.  And then the wise woman asked an unexpected question.  If he could choose, would the man choose to be a kelpie and return to the waves or stay in the form of a man and marry the young woman before him. The man looked out to the loch for a moment and then spoke.  He said, “I have never worked so hard, but I have never been treated so well.  The hours and days we have spent together have been good ones.  If I could choose, I would stay in this form and marry, so that we would never again be parted.” And so it was.  The kelpie stayed a man.  He had the silver bridle, so he could change his mind at any time, but he did not.  They were married that very day. You can imagine the father’s great surprise, when his daughter who had left the house that morning with the black horse that had been working there for a year, returned in the evening with a handsome, black-haired man whom she introduced as her husband.  Explanations followed, but could hardly be believed. But what was believable was the affection between the husband and wife.  And later that year, when the old father faced death, he was confident that all would be well with his daughter and her husband.  And all was well.  They lived long and happily together, and in time two children were born to their union.  Finally, after many years, they too were old.  And when the woman who had been young was old and gravely ill, she departed this life early one morning.  And shortly after, the husband, after embracing his children, now adults with lives of their own, slipped the silver bridle over his head, and was once again a kelpie and disappeared into the waves.
San Diego Scottish Highland Games & Gathering of Clans (760)726-3691 / 619-884-2940 / 619-884-3157/ 760-505-5254 PO Box 3682, Vista, CA 92084 Email: sdshgchief@sbcglobal.net
Kelpies by Ben Williams
San Diego Scottish Highland Games Scottish Highland Games of San Diego
San Diego Scottish Highland Games & Gathering of Clans (760)726-3691 / 619-884-2940 / 619-884-3157/ 760-505-5254 Email: sdshgchief@sbcglobal.net PO Box 3682, Vista, CA 92084
Join our Newsletter
The Maiden and the Kelpie --- retold by Marilyn McPhie Photo by Ben Williams  Once long ago on the island of Barra, there was a young woman, as fair and fine as any who has ever lived.  She dwelt with her father, and together they worked a small farm.  But the father was old and not well.  His strength was failing --- and so was the farm, for the young woman could not do all of the work alone.  Friends were sympathetic, but there was little they could do.  “You must have help,” they said.  “If you had a horse. . . .  Or perhaps a husband. .  . . “  But neither seemed likely.  The girl and her father had no money to buy a horse, and the young men of the village had all gone off to battle and had not returned.  One day, the girl was considering her predicament as she walked back from the town to the farm.  As she walked along the shore, she saw something that made her heart stop.  It was a young man, sitting beside a rock and gazing out to the sea.  She was quite sure she had not met or even seen him before.  She would have remembered such a man.  Black hair, dark eyes, handsome. As she approached, he turned and their eyes met.  He smiled, and so did she.  He motioned for her to sit by him leaning against the rock, and she sat down gladly, for it was a long way from the town to the farm and it was a warm day and she was weary.  They talked and talked and finally were silent, both gazing off to the loch.  And with the motion of the waves and the warm sun, they both drifted to sleep.  When the young woman awoke, she at first did not remember where she was or what had happened.  But she saw the young man, still asleep, handsomer than ever.  She went to touch his cheek, but then drew back her hand, for what she saw gave her chills, even on a warm day. Around his neck was a silver chain, and entwined in its links were strands of sea weed.  She knew what that meant.  He was a kelpie, a water-horse whose certain purpose was to gain her confidence until he could drag her down into the depths of the loch, never to be seen again. But the young woman was awake, and the kelpie-man still slept.  Thinking and acting quickly, she slipped the silver chain --- his bridle -- - from his neck.  And instantly he regained his other shape --- that of a fine black horse. Now what?  He was awake now and startled at what had happened.  And she was startled as well.  When she had first seen him, she thought briefly that perhaps he would be the young man who would marry her and save the farm for herself and her father.  But now?  Well, now he was a horse.  Different, but strong and perhaps as useful as a man would be.  Maybe more so. Still she was cautious.  She slipped the silver chain into her basket, mounted the horse and rode him back to town, where she rode up to the door of the wise woman. Standing at the door, with the horse at her side, she knocked.  When the wise woman answered, she saw at once the situation.  “How can I help you?” she asked the maiden.  The girl explained that she and her father needed help if they were to keep their small farm.  Could she perhaps make use of the horse? The wise woman smiled at the maiden’s cleverness, and she assured her that she could keep the horse for a year and a day, but at the end of that time, she must return his silver bridle to the kelpie and let him go.  For longer would be dangerous to the creature and to her, as well. And so she took the horse back to the farm.  And for a year, the maiden and the horse worked on the farm.  The horse was strong and tireless, and together they cleared the field, plowed, planted, harvested.  When the day’s work was done, the maiden would brush the horse’s sleek coat and feed him as well as she fed herself.  As she did so she talked to the horse and thanked him for his service, and sometimes she put her face next to his, and they breathed together as one. But a year passed quickly, and when there was just one day left, the maiden took the silver bridle with her and rode the black horse back to the wise woman’s cottage.  She saw them coming up the hill and stepped out to greet them.  “And how has the horse served you?” she asked.  “Better than any creature could.  He is strong and hard- working.  He has saved our farm, and I am forever indebted to him.  Indeed, I have grown so fond of him, that I am loathe to let him go back to the loch, but I know that it must be --- for his sake.  So I have brought the silver bridle.  I wish you to witness that I will replace the leather with the silver and thus release him from service.” So saying, she slipped off the leather bridle and with a gentle caress, placed the silver one over his neck.  In an instant, the horse turned back into human form.  Their eyes met, and the wise woman saw the glance that passed between them. The wise woman spoke.  Addressing the man, she asked if he had been treated well.  He had, said the man.  He had been treated with kindness and care, and his work had been gladly given.  And then the wise woman asked an unexpected question.  If he could choose, would the man choose to be a kelpie and return to the waves or stay in the form of a man and marry the young woman before him. The man looked out to the loch for a moment and then spoke.  He said, “I have never worked so hard, but I have never been treated so well.  The hours and days we have spent together have been good ones.  If I could choose, I would stay in this form and marry, so that we would never again be parted.” And so it was.  The kelpie stayed a man.  He had the silver bridle, so he could change his mind at any time, but he did not.  They were married that very day. You can imagine the father’s great surprise, when his daughter who had left the house that morning with the black horse that had been working there for a year, returned in the evening with a handsome, black-haired man whom she introduced as her husband.  Explanations followed, but could hardly be believed. But what was believable was the affection between the husband and wife.  And later that year, when the old father faced death, he was confident that all would be well with his daughter and her husband.  And all was well.  They lived long and happily together, and in time two children were born to their union.  Finally, after many years, they too were old.  And when the woman who had been young was old and gravely ill, she departed this life early one morning.  And shortly after, the husband, after embracing his children, now adults with lives of their own, slipped the silver bridle over his head, and was once again a kelpie and disappeared into the waves.
San Diego Scottish Highland Games & Gathering of Clans (760)726-3691 / 619-884-2940 / 619-884-3157/ 760-505-5254 Email: sdshgchief@sbcglobal.net PO Box 3682, Vista, CA 92084
Kelpies by Ben Williams