Whuppity Stoorie

The legend, or fairy tale of Whuppity Stoorie reads a lot like a Scottish version of Rumplestiltskin. The story is said to have taken place in a wee place called Kittlerumpit – good luck finding an exact location on that place! Robert Chalmers writes of Whuppity Stoorie in his 1858 ‘Popular rhymes of Scotland’, regaling us with a tale of a bereft mother and a fairy with a wicked plot, whose name would eventually become her undoing. We’ll let you do the reading for yourself on this one…and if anyone can shed any light on the location of Kittlerumpit, please get in touch! Here’s the tale as Robert Chalmers told it, which we found at http://www.surlalunefairytales.com.

I SEE that you are fond of talks about fairies, children; and a story about a fairy and the goodwife of Kittlerumpit has just come into my mind; but I can’t very well tell you now whereabouts Kittlerumpit lies. I think it is somewhere in the Debatable Ground. Anyway, I shall not pretend to know more than I do, like everybody nowadays. I wish they would remember the ballad we used to sing long ago:

Mony ane sings the gerss, the gerss,
And mony ane sings the corn;
And mony ane clatters o’ bold Robin Hood,
Ne’er kent where he was born.

But howsoever about Kittlerumpit. The goodman was a rambling sort of body; and he went to a fair one day, and not only never came home again, but nevermore was heard of. Some said he ‘listed, and others that the tiresome press-gang snatched him up, though he was furnished with a wife and a child to boot. Alas! that wretched press-gang! They went about the country like roaring lions, seeking whom they might devour. Well do I remember how my eldest brother Sandy was all but smothered in the meal-chest, hiding from those rascals. After they were gone, we pulled him out from among the meal, puffing and crying, and as white as any corpse. My mother had to pick the meal out of his mouth with the shank of a horn spoon.

Ah well, when the goodman of Kittlerumpit was gone, the goodwife was left with small means. Little resources had she, and a baby boy at her breast. All said they were sorry for her; but nobody helped her — which is a common case, sirs. Howsoever, the goodwife had a sow, and that was her only consolation; for the sow was soon to farrow, and she hoped for a good litter.

But we all know hope is fallacious. One day the woman goes to the sty to fill the sow’s trough; and what does she find but the sow lying on her back, grunting and groaning, and ready to give up the ghost.

I trow [trust, believe] this was a new pang to the goodwife’s heart; so she sat down on the knocking stone [a stone with a hollow in it for pounding grain, so as to separate the husks from the kernels], with her bairn [child] on her knee, and cried sorer than ever she did for the loss of her own goodman.

Now I premise that the cottage of Kittlerumpit was built on a brae [hillside], with a large fir wood behind it, of which you may hear more ere we go far on. So the goodwife, when she was wiping her eyes, chances to look down the brae; and what does she see but an old woman almost like a lady, coming slowly up the road. She was dressed in green, all but a short white apron and a black velvet hood, and a steeple-crowned beaver hat on her head. She had a long walking staff, as long as herself, in her hand — the sort of staff that old men and old women helped themselves with long ago. I see no such staffs now, sirs.

Ah well, when the goodwife saw the green gentlewoman near her, she rose and made a curtsy; and “Madam,” quoth she, weeping, “I am one of the most misfortunate women alive.”

“I don’t wish to hear pipers’ news and fiddlers’ tales, goodwife,” quoth the green woman. “I know you have lost your goodman — we had worse losses at the Sheriff Muir [a common saying, in response to a complaint about a trifle]; and I know that your sow is unco [strangely, extremely] sick. Now what will you give me if I cure her?”

“Anything your ladyship’s madam likes,” quoth the witless goodwife, never guessing whom she had to deal with.

“Let us wet thumbs on that bargain,” quoth the green woman; so thumbs were wetted, I warrant you; and into the sty madam marches.

She looks at the sow with a long stare, and then began to mutter to herself what the goodwife couldn’t well understand; but she said it sounded like:

Pitter patter,
Holy water.

Then she took out of her pocket a wee bottle, with something like oil in it; and she rubs the sow with it above the snout, behind the ears, and on the tip of the tail. “Get up, beast,” quoth the green woman. No sooner said than done. Up jumps the sow with a grunt, and away to her trough for her breakfast.

The goodwife of Kittlerumpit was a joyful goodwife now, and would have kissed the very hem of the green woman’s gown-tail, but she wouldn’t let her.

“I am not so fond of ceremonies,” quoth she; “but now that I have righted your sick beast, let us end our settled bargain. You will not find me an unreasonable, greedy body. I like ever to do a good turn for a small reward. All I ask, and will have, is that baby boy in your bosom.”

The goodwife of Kittlerumpit, who now knew her customer, gave a shrill cry like a stuck swine. The green woman was a fairy, no doubt; so she prays, and cries, and begs, and scolds; but all wouldn’t do.

“You may spare your din,” quoth the fairy, “screaming as if I was as deaf as a doornail. But this I’ll let you know: I cannot, by the law we live under, take your bairn till the third day; and not then, if you can tell me my right name.”

So madam goes away round the pigsty end; and the goodwife falls down in a swoon behind the knocking stone.

Ah well, the goodwife of Kittlerumpit could not sleep any that night for crying, and all the next day the same, cuddling her bairn till she nearly squeezed its breath out. But the second day she thinks of taking a walk in the wood I told you of. And so with the bairn in her arms, she sets out, and goes far in among the trees, where was an old quarry hole, grown over with grass, and a bonny spring well in the middle of it. Before she came very near, she hears the whirring of a flax wheel, and a voice singing a song; so the woman creeps quietly among the bushes, and peeps over the brow of the quarry; and what does she see but the green fairy tearing away at her wheel, and singing like any precentor:

Little kens [knows] our guid dame at hame,
That Whuppity Stoorie is my name.

“Ha, ha!” thinks the woman, “I’ve got the mason’s word at last. The devil give them joy that told it!”

So she went home far lighter than she came out, as you may well guess — laughing like a madcap with the thought of cheating the old green fairy.

Ah well, you must know that this goodwife was a jocose woman, and ever merry when her heart was not very sorely overladen. So she thinks to have some sport with the fairy; and at the appointed time she puts the bairn behind the knocking stone, and sits on the stone herself. Then she pulls her cap over her left ear and twists her mouth on the other side, as if she were weeping; and an ugly face she made, you may be sure. She hadn’t long to wait, for up the brae climbs the green fairy, neither lame nor lazy; and long ere she got near the knocking stone she screams out, “Goodwife of Kittlerumpit, you know well what I come for. Stand and deliver!”

The woman pretends to cry harder than before, and wrings her hands, and falls on her knees with “Och, sweet madam mistress, spare my only bairn, and take the wretched sow!”

“The devil take the sow, for my part,” quoth the fairy. “I come not here for swine’s flesh. Don’t be contramawcious, huzzy, but give me the child instantly!”

“Ochone, dear lady mine,” quoth the crying goodwife; “forgo my poor bairn, and take me myself!”

“The devil is in the daft jade,” quoth the fairy, looking like the far end of a fiddle. “I’ll bet she is clean demented. Who in all the earthly world, with half an eye in his head, would ever meddle with the likes of thee?”

I trow this set up the woman of Kittlerumpit’s bristle, for though she had two blear eyes and a long red nose besides, she thought herself as bonny as the best of them. So she springs off her knees, sets the top of her cap straight, and with her two hands folded before her, she makes a curtsy down to the ground, and, “In troth, fair madam,” quoth she, “I might have had the wit to know that the likes of me is not fit to tie the worst shoestrings of the high and mighty princess, Whuppity Stoorie.”

If a flash of gunpowder had come out of the ground it couldn’t have made the fairy leap higher than she did. Then down she came again plump on her shoe-heels; and whirling round, she ran down the brae, screeching for rage, like an owl chased by the witches.

The goodwife of Kittlerumpit laughed till she was like to split; then she takes up her bairn, and goes into her house, singing to it all the way:

A goo and a gitty, my bonny wee tyke,
Ye’se noo ha’e your four-oories;
Sin’ we’ve gien Nick a bane to pyke,
Wi’ his wheels and his Whuppity Stoories.

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