Scottish myths 5

Thomas the Rhymer

It's said that the Eildon Hills consisted of one high ascent until the alchemist wizard, Michael Scott (ca. 1175 - 1232 ) ordered his imps- Prim, Prig and Pricker, to divide it into three hills. The north hill was where the largest Roman fortress of Scotland was built. Remains of the fort still exist.

Near the hills grew the Eildon tree, a favourite haunt of Thomas of Ercildoune (Earlston). One day as he lay beneath his tree, the Fairy Queen rode by on a noble white steed. She wore fine, green silk and crimson velvet, and fifty nine silver bells hung from the horse's mane.

It was no chance meeting, for the Fairy Queen knew that Thomas would be there. No doubt she also knew how he would react. He was totally enchanted by her beauty, and instantly fell in love with her.
He left with her, and for seven years he lived with her as her lover in Elfland.

After the seven years had passed the Fairy Queen led Thomas to her secret garden and there she gave him an apple. 'It will give thee a tongue that will never lie', she said. This is why he also became known as 'True Thomas'.
Without question he obeyed her command to never speak of what he had seen or heard in Elfland. Not only was he blessed with the parting gift of Truth, he was also blessed with the gift of Prophecy.

And as if it were all a magical dream that only lasted seven hours, Thomas awoke under the Eildon tree where he had first met the Fairy Queen.

Off the Eildon way which leads to the famous hills, where the Eildon tree once grew is marked by the Eildon Stone.

The prophesies of Thomas the Rhymer are recorded in the history of Scotland. Amongst other predictions they include the death of King Alexander III, (foreseen to be on a stormy night, the 18th of March, 1286) the Battle of Bannockburn, the Jacobite rebellions and the Union of Scotland and England.

The Ballad of Thomas the Rhymer.

True Thomas lay on Huntlie bank,

A marvel with his eye spied he. 

There he saw a lady bright 
Come riding by the Eildon Tree.

Her skirt was of the grass-green silk, 
Her mantle of the velvet fine, 

At every lock of her horse's mane 
Hung fifty silver bells and nine.

True Thomas he pulled off his cap 

And bowed down to his knee: 
"All hail, thou Queen of Heaven! 
For thy peer on earth I never did see."

"O no, O no, Thomas," she said, 
"That name does not belong to me; 
I am but the queen of fair Elfland 

That am hither come to visit thee."

"Sing and play, Thomas," she said 
"Sing and play along with me, 

And if ye dare to kiss my lips, 

Sure of your body I will be."

"Betide me weal, betide me woe, 

That fate shall never frighten me." 

And he has kissed her rosy lips, 

All under the Eildon Tree.

"Now ye must go with me," she said,

"True Thomas, ye must go with me, 

And ye must serve me seven years, 

  Through weal and woe, as chance may be."

She mounted on her milk-white steed, 

She's taken True Thomas up behind, 

And every time her bridle rung 

The steed flew faster than the wind.

O they rode on, and farther on, 

The steed went swifter than the wind; 

Until they reached a desert wide,

And living land was left behind.

"Lie down, lie down now, True Thomas, 

And rest your head upon my knee; 

Abide and rest a little space, 

And I will show you wonders three."

"O see ye not yon narrow road, 

So thick beset with thorns and briars? 

That is the path of righteousness, 

Though after it but few enquire."

"And see ye not that broad, broad road 

That lies across the lily leven? 

That is the path of wickedness, 

 Though some call it the road to heaven."

"And see ye not that lovely road, 

That winds about the fern'd hillside? 

That is the road to fair Elfland, 

 Where thou and I this night must ride."

"But Thomas, you must hold your tongue, 

Whatever you might hear or see, 
For if you speak in fair Elfland, 

You'll never get back to your own country."

Soon they came to a garden green, 

And she pulled an apple from a tree; 

"Take this for thy wages, True Thomas, 

 It will give ye the tongue than can never lie."

"My tongue is my own," True Thomas said, 

"A goodly gift ye would give to me! 

I'd neither dare to buy or sell, 

At fair or tryst where I may be."

"I dare neither speak to prince or lord 
Or ask favor from fair lady -" 
"Now hold thy peace," the Lady said,

"For as I say, so must it be!"

He has gotten a coat of velvet cloth,

And a pair of shoes of velvet green,
And till seven years were gone and past

True Thomas on earth was never seen.

Scottish myths 6
Scottish myths 4

Retelling © Mirino. Sources- Scotland Myths and Legends (Beryl Beare) and Cowdenknowes, with many thanks. Top image- Eildon Hills with standing stone by Walter Baxter (Wikimedia Commons) with grateful thanks. July, 2011

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