Morag and the Kelpie

Leggi in italiano

In the most placid rivers of Ireland and in the dark depths of the Scottish lakes live water demons, fairy creatures, that feed on human flesh: they are “kelpie”, “each uisge” (in English water-horse), “eich- mhara “(in English sea horse); to want to be picky kelpie lives preferably near the rapids of the rivers, fords and waterfalls, while each uisge prefers the lakes and the sea, but kelpie is the most used word for both. Similar creatures are also told in Norse legends (Bäckahästen, the river horse) – and Germanic (nix in the form of fish or frog). (first part)

MORAG AND THE KELPIE

At the summer pastures of the Highlands they are still told of the beautiful Morag (Marion) seduced by a kelpie in human form; she, while noticing the strangeness of her husband, did not understand his true nature, if not after the birth of their child and … she decided to abandoning baby in swaddling clothes and husband shapeshifter!

On the Isle of Skye they still sing a song in Gaelic, ‘Oran-tàlaidh an eich-uisge’ or ‘Oran each-uisge’ (The water kelpie’s song) the “Lullaby of the kelpie” a melancholy air with which the kelpie cradled his child without a mother, and at the same time a plea to Morag to return to them, both he and the child needed her.
Of this lament we know several textual versions handed down to today in the Hebrides. The melodies revolve around an old Scottish aria entitled “Crodh Chailein” (in English “Colin’s cattle) evidently considered a melody of the fairies.
Another song, sweet and melancholic at the same time, is entitled Song of the Kelpie or even ARRANE GHELBY

Dh’èirich mi moch, b’ fheàrr nach do dh’èirich

So translates from Scottish Gaelic Tom Thomson “I got up early, it would have been better not to” (see)

Julie Fowlis in Alterum 2017

Scottish gaelic
Dh’èirich mi moch, dh’èirich mi moch, B’fheàrr nach d’ dh’èirich
Mo chreach lèir na chuir a-mach mi.
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
Bha ceò sa bheinn, Bha ceò sa bheinn, is uisge frasach
’s thachair orms’ a’ ghruagach thlachdmhor.
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò
Bheir mi dhut fìon, Bheir mi dhut fìon, ‘S gach nì a b’ ait leat,
Ach nach èirinn leat sa mhadainn,
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
’Nighean nan gamhna, ’Nighean nan gamhna, Bha mi ma’ riut,
Anns a’ chrò is càch nan cadal
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
An daoidh gheal donn, An daoidh gheal donn, Rug i mac dhomh.
Ged is fuar a rinn i altram,
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
[instrumental]

Bha laogh mo laoidh, Bha laogh mo laoidh, ri taobh cnocan
gun teine, gun sgàth, gun fhasgadh.
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
A Mhòr a ghaoil, A Mhòr, a ghaoil, Till ri d’ mhacan,
’S bheir mi goidean breagha breac dhut.
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
English translation *
I arose early
I arose early –
would that I hadn’t.
I was distressed by what sent me out (1).
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
There was mist on the hill
There was mist on the hill
and showers of rain
and I came across a pleasant maiden
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
I’ll give you wine
I’ll give you wine
and all that will please you
but I won’t arise with you in the morning (2).
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
Girl of the calves (3)
Girl of the calves
I was with you in the cattle-fold (4)
and the rest were asleep.
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
The fine brown wicked one (5)
The fine brown wicked one
bore me a son
although coldly did she nurse him
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
The calf (6) of my song
The calf of my song
was beside a hillock
without fire, protection or shelter (7).
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
Mòr, my love
Mòr, my love, return to your little son
and I’ll give you a beautiful speckled withes (8).
Hill ò bha hò, Hill ò bha hò.
NOTE
English translation also here
1)  the kelpie, suffering from loneliness, leaves the lake early in the morning and takes on human form
2) the shapeshifter promises food and comfort to the girl to convince her to follow him, but he warns her, he is a nocturnal creature and will not wake up with her in the morning!
3) gamhna = cattle between 1 year and 2 years translates Tom Thomson stitks; that is heifer, the cow that has not yet given birth, the verse in addition to qualifying the work of the girl (herdswoman) also wants to be a compliment, in Italian “bella manza” as a busty woman, with abundant and seductive shapes
4) the kelpie remembers the night meeting when they had sex (and obviously nine months later their son was born)
5) after the good memories of the past it comes the present, the woman has discovered the true nature of her companion and she dislikes their child
6) continuing in the comparison the kelpie calls “calf” its baby, that is “small child”
7) A typical “exposition” of fairy children is described. A practice of “birth control” widespread in the countryside of Europe, was the abandonment of newborns in the forest, so that fairies would take care of them; once the practice was widespread both against illegitimate people, and newborns with obvious physical deformations or ill-looking. The custom of “exposing” the baby was connected with the belief that he was “swapped” or kidnapped by the fairies and replaced with a changeling, a shapeshifter who for a while resembles the human child, but ultimately always takes its true appearance.
8) breagha breac dhut. Tom Thomson translates = speckled band (of withy). I searched the dictionary: it is a crown made by intertwining the branches of willow; it reminds me of the Celtic crowns of flowers and leaves

 

Margaret Stewart & Allan MacDonald recorded it under the title “Òran Tàlaidh An Eich-Uisge” in 2001 (from Colla Mo Rùn) following the collection of Frances Tolmie (‘Cumha an EichUisge’ vol I)

english translation *
I and III
Sleep my child, Sleep my child
Sleep my child, Sleep my child
Chorus
Hì hó, hó bha hó, Hì hó, hao i hà
Fast of foot you are
Great as a horse you are
II and IV
My darling son
Oh my lovely little horse
You are far from the township
You will be sought after (1)
scottish gaelic
I
O hó bà a leinibh hó, O hó bà a leinibh hà
Bà a leinibh hó bha hó, Hó bà a leinibh hao i hà
(chorus)
Hì hó, hó bha hó, Hì hó, hao i hà
‘S luath dha d’ chois thu, hó bha hó
‘S mór nad each thu, hao i hà
II
O hó m’eudail a mac hó
O hó m’eachan sgèimheach hà
‘S fhad ‘n ‘n bhail’ thu, hò bha hò
Nìtear d’iarraidh, hao i hà

NOTE
1) The kelpie sings the lullaby to its child abandoned by the human mother and comforts him by telling him that when he grows up he’ll be a little heartbreaker

With the title of ‘A Mhór, a Mhór, till ri d’ mhacan the same story is present in the archives of Tobar an Dualchais, from the voice of three witnesses of the Isle of Skye
http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/99707/1
http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/99703/1
http://www.tobarandualchais.co.uk/en/fullrecord/99714/1

A similar story is told in the island of Benbecula with the title of Bheirinn Dhut Iasg, Bheirinn Dhut Iasg see


Caera
in Suantraighe, A Collection of Celtic Lullabies 2006 sings another fragment with the title “The Skye Water Kelpie’s lullaby” (see the version of Marjory Kennedy-Fraser below)

English translation *
Mór (1), my love! Mór, my treasure!
Come back to your little son
and you will get a speckled trout from the lake.
Mór, my darling! Tonight the night
Is wetly showering my son
on the shelter of a knoll.
Mór, my love! Mór, my treasure!
Lacking fire, lacking food, lacking shelter,
and you continually lamenting (2).
Mór, my love! Mór, my darling!
My gray, old, toothless mouth
to your silly little mouth,
and me singing  tunes by Ben Frochkie. (3)
Scottish gaelic
A Mhór a ghaoil! A Mhór a shògh!
Till gu d’mhacan is gheabh
thu’m bradan breac o’n loch.
A Mhór a shògh! Tha’n oiche nochd
Gu fliuch frasach aig mo mhacsa
ri sgath chnocain.
A Mhór a ghaoil! A Mhór a shògh!
Gun teine, gun tuar, gun fhasgadh,
is tu sìor chòineadh.
A Mhór a ghaoil! A Mhór a shògh!
Mo sheana-chab liath ri
do bheul beag baoth
is mi seinn phort dhuit am Beinn Frochdaidh.

NOTE
1) Mhórag or Mór is the name of the maiden loved by the kelpie
2) it is the incessant cry of the child abandoned by his human mother in the cold and without food
3) mountain between Gesture and Portree on the Isle of Skye

Skye Water Kelpie’s Lullaby

With the title “Cronan na Eich-mhara”, the same fragment sung by Caera is also reported in the book of Marjory Kennedy-Fraser and Kenneth MacLeod “Songs of the Hebrides” 1909 (page 94)

Kenneth MacLeod
I
Avore, my love, my joy
To thy baby come
And troutlings you’ll get out of the loch
Avore, my heart, the night is dark,
wet and dreary.
Here’s your bairnie neath the rock
II
Avore, my love, my joy,
wanting fire here,
wanting shelter, wanting comfort
our babe is crying by the loch
III
Avore, my heart, my bridet
My gray old mouth
touching thy sweet lips,
and me singing Old songs to thee,
by Ben Frochkie (1)
NOTE
1) between Gesto and Portree in Skye
Scottish gaelic
A Mhór a ghaoil! A Mhór a shògh!
Till gu d’mhacan is gheabh
thu’m bradan breac o’n loch.
A Mhór a shògh! Tha’n oiche nochd
Gu fliuch frasach aig mo mhacsa
ri sgath chnocain.
II
A Mhór a ghaoil! A Mhór a shògh!
Gun teine, gun tuar, gun fhasgadh,
is tu sìor chòineadh.
III
A Mhór a ghaoil! A Mhór a shògh!
Mo sheana-chab liath ri
do bheul beag baoth
is mi seinn phort dhuit am Beinn Frochdaidh.
 
Theodor_Kittelsen_-_Nøkken_som_hvit_hestARCHIVE
Skye Water Kelpie’s Lullaby
Dh’èirich mi moch, b’ fheàrr nach do dh’èirich
Òran Tàlaidh An Eich-Uisge
A Mhór, a Mhór, till ri d’ mhacan
Cronan na Eich-mhara
Song of the Kelpie
Up, ride with the kelpie

Sources
http://mudcat.org/thread.cfm?threadid=4374 http://mudcat.org/detail_pf.cfm?messages__Message_ID=48242 http://www.kidssongsmp3.twinkletrax.com/kids-song.php?c=C02T12&kids-song=O,%20Can%20Ye%20Sew%20Cushions http://www.celticlyricscorner.net/stewart/orantalaidh.htm
http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Stromkarlen_1884.jpg

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