- Virginia Johnson
In the far-off days when the Picts and the Scots were dividing the ancient land of Scotland and fighting amongst themselves to decide who could get hold of the most of it, there came good men from over the seas to settle the land.
--“The Drowned Bells of the Abbey”
Firelight and drumbeat were the original backdrop for these tales, true and added to and some imagined altogether, that are retold in Sorche Nic Leodhas’ award-winning book, Thistle and Thyme.
Born in the 19th century herself, this author—also a librarian--gathered together stories told by cottage hearth sides, at community gatherings called ceilidh (kay-lees), and by wandering storytellers. Those tellers, the seanachie (shon-a-hee), might take a bit of a story featuring fairy folk and blend it with another legend, a true tale, and something more supernatural to create something wonderful and very much their own.
Her introduction may be skipped by young readers, but for tellers of tales and lovers of history, it has many more intriguing cultural details from Scotland’s past. She was careful that these ten stories, originally told in Scottish Gaelic, retain much of the rhythm of that language. Changelings, Sidh, mermaids, and other unearthly types figure in the tales, but so do foolish brides and pirates.
This book won a Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1962 and also earned the Newbery Honor. Her later picture book based on a Scottish ballad, Always Room for One More, and illustrated by Nonny Hogrogian, won the 1966 Caldecott Medal.