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Bonzer Words!: The Lively Taylor

Edel Wignell retells a Scottish folk tale.

Edel writes for Bonzer! magazine. Please visit www.bonzer.org.au

Long ago, Lord Macdonald lived in a castle near a ruined church, which everyone in the neighbourhood believed to be haunted by a giant.

Every now and then, the giant gave a loud roar. 'Whoo-rrrr-rrrr!'

Lord Macdonald needed new clothes, so he sent for a tailor.

When the tailor arrived, Lord Macdonald said, 'I want you to make me some trousers.'

The tailor bowed, and said, 'Yes, my lord.'

The Lord continued, 'You must stitch the trousers tonight in the old church down in the glen. If you do it, I will pay a large reward.'

The tailor was afraid, but he was a lively man and he wanted the reward, so he accepted the dare.

'Certainly, my lord. I will stitch your trousers in the old ruined church.'

That night, he set off through the shadowy glen carrying the material for the trousers, a reel of thread, needles, a pair of scissors and some candles. Soon he arrived at the church.

The lively tailor chose a broad flat stone for a seat, lit a candle and placed it on another stone nearby. He threaded a needle and set to work. Stitching fast, he thought about the reward so that he would maintain his bravery.

Soon he felt the floor trembling under his feet. He looked about, but kept on stitching.

A great head rose through the stone floor, and a huge voice said, 'Do you see this great head?'

'I see it, but I'm busy stitching,' said the lively tailor.

The head rose higher, and a neck appeared. The thundering voice came again, 'Do you see this great neck?'

'I see it, but I'm busy stitching,' said the lively tailor.

The head kept rising, until shoulders and a chest appeared. A pair of enormous arms waved, and huge fists shook in the tailor's face.

A voice vibrated the stones. 'Do you see these arms and fists?'

'I see them, but I'm busy stitching,' said the tailor.

There isn't much time left, he thought. Hurry, hurry!

His stitches grew longer and longer as the giant rose through the floor.

The giant lifted a great leg and stamped on the floor, roaring, 'Do you see this great leg?'

'Yes, yes! I see it, but I'm busy stitching,' said the tailor.

His fingers flew. He took such long stitches, that he finished the trousers just as the giant's other leg was rising.

The lively tailor blew the candle out, and sprang off the stone. He dashed out of the church with the trousers over his arm, leaving the scissors, thread and candles behind.

The giant gave a loud roar. 'Whoo-rrrr-rrrr!'

He stamped on the floor once more and charged out of the church, following the tailor.

Faster than a stream in flood, they tore down the shadowy glen. The tailor had started first, and he had a lively pair of legs.

The reward, he thought, as he raced on. I'm going to win the lord's reward.

Striding with his huge legs, the giant began to catch up.

'Stop!' he roared, close behind. 'Stop!'

But the lively tailor raced on. Reaching the castle, he slipped through the gate and slammed it shut. Wham-m-m-m!

The giant arrived a moment after. 'Whoo-rrrr-rrrr!'

He was so angry that he struck the wall above the gate, leaving the marks of his five great fingers in the stone. (Look closely! You can see them, even today.)

The sun was rising as the lively tailor—still puffing—bowed to Lord Macdonald. 'Here I am, my lord, and here are your trousers.'

'Thank you, my good man,' said Lord Macdonald. 'Did you stitch them in the ruins of the old stone church?'

'I did, my lord,' said the tailor.

'Take this for your bravery,' said Lord Macdonald.

He paid the lively tailor in gold coins, and never discovered that some of the stitches were far too long.

Source Joseph Jacobs (sel. and ed.) Celtic Fairy Tales, David Nutt, London, 1892

© Edel Wignell

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