The Wee Bannock

It ran and ran, until it came across another large cottage that had just been newly thatched, and seeing the door open, the bannock took refuge inside; it ran right across the floor towards a fire that was burning in the first room it came to.

By Joanne Fong

There once was an old man and his wife who lived in a lovely little cottage by the side of a burn. They were a content couple as they had enough to live on, and enough to keep their lives busy; they considered themselves rich, as they not only possessed a cottage with a little garden, but they also owned two cows, five hens and a cockerel, and old cat and two kittens. The old man spent his days looking after the cows, the hens, and the garden while his wife kept her days busy spinning thread.

Not long after breakfast one day, the old woman had the thought that she would quite like an oatmeal bannock for supper that evening, so she baked a couple of very fine cakes and, once ready, put them down before the fire to harden.

As they were toasting in front of the fire, the old man came in from the byre and sat down in his armchair to rest. Presently, his gaze fell upon the bannocks and, as they looked very delicious, broke one right through the middle and began to eat it.

When the other bannock saw this, it resolutely decided that it should not have the same fate, and so it ran across the kitchen and out of the door as fast as it could! When the old woman saw it disappearing, she took off after it as fast as she could, but she was old while the bannock was young, and therefore ran faster than she did and escaped over the hill behind the cottage.

It ran and ran, until it came across another large cottage that had just been newly thatched, and seeing the door open, the bannock took refuge inside; it ran right across the floor towards a fire that was burning in the first room it came to.

By chance, this cottage belonged to a tailor, and he and his two apprentices were sitting on top of a large table by the window sewing away, while the tailor’s wife was sitting beside the fire. When the bannock came running across the floor, the tailor and both apprentices got such a fright that they jumped down from the table and hid behind the tailor’s wife.

“Hoot,” she’d said, “what a set of cowards ye be! ‘Tis but a nice wee bannock. Get hold of it and divide it between you, and I’ll fetch you all a drink of milk.”

She jumped up from her chair by the fire; her husband and the apprentices followed suit, and together, they all tried to catch the wee bannock. But the bannock ran them round and round the fire, dodging them all the while, until it last got safely out of the door again. It ran down the road with one of the apprentices on its heels, who tried to snip it in half with his shears.

However, the bannock ran too quickly for the poor apprentice, who at last stopped the chase and went back to the cottage; the bannock continued on until it came across a tiny cottage by the roadside. It ran in through the door and there, it met a weaver sitting at his loom, with his wife beside him winding yarn.

“What’s that, Tibby?” The weaver said, startled, as the wee bannock flew past him.

“Oh!” His wife cried in delight, jumping to her feet, “’tis a wee bannock! I wonder where it came from?”

“Dinna bother your head about that, Tibby,” said the weaver, “but grip it, my woman, grip it.”

But it was not easy to get a hold of the bannock; it dodged and turned and twisted until at last flew through the door again and disappeared down the hill.

In the next cottage it came across, it found an old woman kirning in the kitchen. She had just filled her kirn and there was still a little bit of cream standing in the bottom of her jar.

“Come away, little bannock,” she cried out when she saw it. “You come in just the nick of time for I am beginning to feel hungry, and I’ll have cakes and cream for my dinner.”

But the wee bannock hopped around to the other side of the old woman’s kirn, with the old woman following; she was in such a hurry that she very nearly knocked her kirn down, and by the time she had set it right again, the wee bannock had run out of the door and halfway down the brae to the mill. The miller had been sifting meal in the trough, but the little cake running in had him straightening up.

“It’s a sign of plenty when bannocks are running about with no one to look after them,” he said, “but I like bannocks and cheese, so just come in and I will give thee a night’s lodging.”

But the wee bannock had no wish to be eaten up by the miller and so, it turned and ran; the miller was so busy, he did not trouble himself to chase it.

The wee bannock ran on, and on, and on, until it came across the smithy.

The smith was at his anvil, busy making horse-shoe nails, but he looked up when the little cake entered.

“If there be one thing I am fond of, it is a glass of ale and a well-toasted cake,” he cried, “So come in, and welcome to ye!”

But as soon as the little cake heard of the smith’s ale, it turned and dashed back out of the door as fast as it could, and the smith, now highly disappointed, ran after it with his hammer in hand. When he saw that he could not catch it, the smith threw his heavy hammer at it in the hope of knocking it down but, luckily for the wee bannock, he missed his target.

After, the bannock came to a farmhouse with a stack of peats standing at the back of the house. Into the farmhouse the wee bannock went; the master of the house had lint spread out on the floor and was separating the link from the stalk, while his wife continuously heckled what he had already done.

“Oh, Janet,” the man cried out in surprise, “here comes in a little bannock. It looks rare and good to eat. I shall have one half of it.”

“And I shall have the other half,” cried the man’s wife, “Hit it over the back with your cloving-stick, Sandy, and knock it down. Quick, or it will be out the door again!” But once again, the bannock dodged behind a chair. “Hoot!” Janet disdainfully cried, for she thought that her husband may have easily hit it, and in her frustration, she threw the heckle she had been using at it.

But just like with the cloving-stick, the bannock dodged it, and ran back out of the door.

This time, the bannock ran up a burnside until it came to a little cottage among the heather; the wife of the master of this cottage was making porridge for supper in a pot over the fire, while her husband was sat in a corner braiding ropes of straw with which to tie up their cow.

“Oh, Jock! Come here, come here!” Cried the wife, “Don’t you want a little bannock for your supper? Come here, quick, and help me catch it.”

“Ay, ay,” Jock assented, jumping to his feet, and hurrying across the room to his wife, “But where is it? I cannot see it.”

“There, man, there!” his wife cried, “under that chair. “Run to that side, and I will keep to this side.”

So Jock ran into the corner behind the chair but unfortunately, in his haste, he tripped and fell; the wee bannock jumped over him, laughing, and flew out of the door.

It ran on and on; through the whins and up the hillside and then over the top of the hill, until it reached a shepherd’s cottage on the other side, where the shepherd and his wife were just settling down to their porridge.

“Save us and help us!” The wife exclaimed, her spoon halfway to her mouth. “There’s a wee bannock come in to warm itself at our fireside.”

“Sneck the door!” cried the shepherd, “And we’ll try to catch it. It would come in handy after the porridge.”

But the little cake did not wait; once again, it turned and ran as fast as it could, with the shepherd, his wife and all their children giving chase.

On seeing that it could run faster than they could, the shepherd threw his bonnet at it; it almost struck the little cake, but it managed to dodge and escape. Thus, it ran on, until it came across another cottage where the folk were readying themselves for bed; the master of this cottage was half undressed, and his wife was carefully raking the cinders out of their fire.

“What’s that?” He asked, “for the bowl of brose that I had for supper wasna’ very big.”

“Catch it then,” his wife answered, “and I’ll have a bit too. Quick! Quick! Throw your coat over it or it will be away.”

So the old man threw his coat directly on top of the wee bannock and almost managed to smother it; but it bravely struggled until it got out from under the coat, breathless and hot, and ran out once again into the grey light, for night was beginning to fall, and the old man ran out after it without his coat.

He chased it and chased it; through the stackyard, across a field, and in amongst a fine patch of whins. He lost it then and, since he was beginning to feel cold without his coat, decided to go home.

As for the poor wee bannock, it thought that it would hide under a whin bush and lie there until morning, but it was so dark that it never saw there was a fox’s hole. Down, down it fell, and the fox was very glad to see it for he had had no food for two days.

“Oh, welcome, welcome!” He cried out, before snapping the little cake directly through the middle with his teeth—and that was the end of the poor wee bannock.