A long time ago, when the Great Golden Eagles were the noble sentinels of the Highland skies, there lived a poor farmer with his only daughter.

One day he asked his daughter to go up into the craggy hills and gather as much heather as she could carry, for the farmer needed to repair the roof of his crofthouse before the winter. And this his daughter did.

High up in the craggy hills she gathered the heather near a small burn fall. Suddenly, startled by a strange noise, she looked up, lost her balance, then fell a small distance below. A rock stopped her fall but caused her to become unconscious.


When she finally awoke, she found herself lying on a soft warm bed of lush green grass in a small glen. She had know idea where she was or how she came to be there. In fact she no longer even knew who she was, because she had lost her memory.

After walking aimlessly, trying hard to remember something, she came to a small, slate-roofed cottage. In front of the cottage sat an old women. Instead of continuing to pluck the chicken that was on her lap, the old woman thoughtfully observed the girl. 
It was true that she looked very dishevelled and still quite dazed, but it wasn't her state that seemed to interest the old women.

"You are Aileana", was finally all that the old women said.
The girl didn't answer. She didn't know what to say.
"That is who you are", nodded the old women with a tight smile, then she continued to pluck her chicken as though the girl no longer concerned her.

The girl approached the old women. She was very troubled.
"How do you know who I am, if even I don't know? I don't know where I am, where I have come from or how I have come to be here."

The old women stopped her work once more and looked up at the distressed girl.
"Go to yonder lochan and wash yourself, arrange yourself to appear more comely".
This the girl did, and then she returned, for it then seemed to the girl that the old woman represented her only hope.

The old women then offered the girl some oat-cakes and broth. She watched her eat before she spoke again.
"To remember the past you must return there and beyond. Do you see yonder craggy ben? You must go there, climb the craigs, the braes of heather and reach the cairn.
Your name is Aileana".

The girl thanked the old women then did what she had bidden.
When, exhausted, she had almost reached the summit of the ben, she discovered amongst some rocks a great golden eagle fledgling. It must have fallen from its eyrie. It was still weakly struggling, and in a desperate state.

The girl gently picked up the fledgling, then as discreetly as possible she climbed up to where she guessed the eyrie must be. Sure enough she found it, and carefully put the fledgling snugly between the two others still there. They allowed her to do this whilst they softly pecked at her fingers.


Aileana found the braes of heather, gathered up as much as she could carry as her father had asked, then she returned home. Her father had been expecting her. Although he noticed that she had hurt herself, he made no comment.

Aileana remembered absolutely everything, everything except the hidden glen of soft green grass, and the mystery of how she came to be there. Everything except the wise old woman in front of the slate-roofed cottage.

Text and illustration (1976) © Mirino (PW). September, 2013

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