Custom and Myth
Page: 34Before comparing the various forms of the myth in its first shape—that which tells of the mortal lover and the giant’s or wizard’s daughter—let us give the Scottish version of the story. This version was written down for me, many years ago, by an aged lady in Morayshire. I published it in the ‘Revue Celtique’; but it is probably new to story-comparers, in its broad Scotch variant.
NICHT NOUGHT NOTHING.
There once lived a king and a queen. They were long married and had no bairns; but at last the queen had a bairn, when the king was away in far countries. The queen would not christen the bairn till the king came back, and she said, ‘We will just call him Nicht Nought Nothing until his father comes home.’ But it was long before he came home, and the boy had grown a nice little laddie. At length the king was on his way back; but he had a big river to cross, and there was a spate, and he could not get over the water. But a giant came up to him, and said, ‘If you will give me Nicht Nought Nothing, I will carry you over the water on my back.’ The king had never heard that his son was called Nicht Nought Nothing, and so he promised him. When the king got home again, he was very happy to see his wife again, and his young son. She told him that she had not given the child any name but Nicht Nought Nothing, until he should come home again himself. The poor king was in a terrible case. He said, ‘What have I done? I promised to give the giant who carried me over the river on his back, Nicht Nought Nothing.’ The king and the queen were sad and sorry, but they said, ‘When the giant comes we will give him the hen-wife’s bairn; he will never know the difference.’ The next day the giant came to claim the king’s promise, and he sent for the hen-wife’s bairn; and the giant went away with the bairn on his back. He travelled till he came to a big stone, and there he sat down to rest. He said,
‘Hidge, Hodge, on my back, what time of day is it?’ The poor little bairn said, ‘It is the time that my mother, the hen-wife, takes up the eggs for the queen’s breakfast.’