A few weeks back, my Gaelic language lesson was the story of Bodach Dubh na Mòr-bheinn, which I interpret as The Black Bogeyman of the Big Mountain. The tale is also given sometimes as "The Giant of Morven", but whatever the name, it's not one I've run across before, and I thought it might be new to some of you as well.
Morven is a mountain in Cataibh, in the Highlands of Scotland, the highest in Scotland in fact, well deserving of the name (Mòr-bheinn means "Big Mountain"). Near to it is the farming town of Braemore. This is a tale that they tell in Braemore.
A long time ago, a black-haired stranger came to Braemore. The harvest had been bad that year, and there wasn't much food to go around, but regardless of that, the stranger went from house to house demanding food. Finally, the villagers got together and decided that they would not feed him any more.
The next day that the stranger came, he went from house to house, asking for food, but he was refused at all of them. That made him angry.
Now Braemore had its own mill in the town. Without that mill, the villagers had no way to grind the grain into meal. The stranger went to the mill, wrenched off the top stone and carried it away on his shoulder, heading toward the Big Mountain.
Naturally, the villagers followed, wanting to get the stone back, but when they reached the mountain, a dense fog came down upon them and they lost the stranger and the way both.
The stranger wasn't seen for a while after that, but it was noticed that animals were disappearing. Sheep and cattle both. So the villagers set a watch and, finally, someone spotted the thief. It was the stranger, but where he was large before, now he had grown immensely huge, into a giant in fact. He had a huge bow, made from the trunk of a tree, which he pulled back and fired an arrow all the way through the best bullock in the herd. When he picked it up and carried it off, heading toward the Big Mountain, the watchers followed, but as they reached the lower slopes of the mountains, a dense mist came down upon them and they lost the stranger.
As it happens, at that same time, precious things began to disappear from the houses of the villagers. Suspicion fell upon the stranger, but every time he was followed, he headed toward the mountain the the villagers lost him in the fog.
Finally, someone spoke of a woman living in Sutherland who was said to know something about the stranger on the mountain. Several of the villagers visited her and she confessed to them to being sister to the giant. She told them that her brother had the power to call down the mist from the mountain - that was why they couldn't follow him - but that he lost that power on one day of the year - the seventh day of the seventh month. On that day only, he could not call down the fog to hide his tracks, that would be the one day they could take him.
So, on the sixth day in July, all the men collected in a hiding place near the Big Mountain. They stayed there overnight and when the stranger appeared the next morning, they were waiting. They jumped up and rushed him with loud cries and yelling and shooting off arrows.
The stranger turned and ran toward the mountain, shouting out loud in Gaelic - trying to make the fog appear. But the fog didn't appear and he couldn't shake his followers. He led them straight to an opening in the side of the mountain. He dove into that opening and pulled the mill-stone over it as a door. From this cover, he shot arrows at his attackers through the hole in the middle. However, none of his bolts touched any of the men.
At last, he threw aside the mill stone and ran. Some of the men ran after him, others lit torches and entered his cave. There they found a pile of treasure, more than he had taken from them. They marked the way to the cave with arrows and joined in the pursuit again.
Not all of the men of village had taken part in the surprise. Some had set a trap to which the others were herding the stranger - a trap of nets and ropes and with this, they captured him.
The stranger asked the villagers not to kill him. He said, "Take my treasure but don't take my life. If you kill me, You will never have my treasure."
"Foolishness!" answered one of the villagers who had gone into the cave. "How can he prevent us from getting the treasure if he is dead?"
"I took cattle, food and treasure from you," the stranger said, "but I never killed even one person. A person's life is the most precious thing under the sun and the man who takes the life of another, as a return will never be rich."
The men of Braemore wouldn't listen to him. They built a big fire and threw the stranger into it. Then they went to find his treasure cave. But although there were hundreds of arrows throughout the mountain, they never found the ones marking the location of the cave, nor the mill stone either.
Once, some people walking on the mountain did find the stone, and they tried to take some locals to the place where they'd seen it, but they couldn't find it again.
The stranger is still there on the mountain, guarding his treasure, and when the thunder rolls over the peak, the locals say that it is the voice of Bodach Dubh na Mòr-bheinn, reminding them that the treasure will never be theirs.
*"A blessing on their traveling and their departure. Today is Friday and they can't hear us."