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The Farmer and the Hogboon

Text only version

As you know, you always need to approach any magical being with great care, for they may trick you or spirit you away. Most of the time, however, such creatures avoid all contact with humans. In fact, it is often said that they dislike the company of humans and that’s largely true, but then, of course, there is the Hogboon.

Now Hogboons, it seems, can get very attached to humans indeed!

Hogboons live alone. They inhabit the old burial mounds that can found across the Orkneys. Although many people have experienced the presence of a Hogboon, not many people have actually seen one and, to be honest, that is just as well, for in truth, they are not that appealing. They appear, it seems, as little bald, grey, whiskery men, with deep-set eyes, big ears and a very large mouth from which a small number of irregular teeth protrude.

Now it just so happened that, many years ago, there was a Hogboon dwelling on a croft in the north end of the Arish of Burness in Sanday. Near to the house was a mound where the Hogboon lived.

The young farmer was wise in these matters and knew that it could be very fortunate to have a Hogboon on your land, as long as you treated them with the respect they knew they deserved.

He also knew that they were fickle guardians and even the slightest action that was felt disagreeable to them, could have the most costly consequences. Even small offences, such as walking on the mound, would cause great outbursts, and woe betide anyone who attempted to enter the Hogboon's home.

This farmer, however, cared well for the mound. He never disturbed it or forgot to pour over the mound some fresh milk or ale and he always left a portion of fresh baked bread nearby. And so it was that, whilst the Hogboon received his share of the croft's produce, all went well.

For many years the croft prospered and the young farmer felt he was now in good position to find a wife. He made a comfortable living; his cows produced plenty of rich milk and cheese and his home was secure and well maintained, so, off he went to the mainland. It was not long before he met a good woman and, after some months, he married her and returned with his new wife to the croft.

Now that he was married, as Goodman (head of a household), he left the domestic chores to his wife whilst he tended the farm. Unfortunately, she had never encountered a Hogboon and knew nothing about their ways. Never once did she pour any milk over the mound. A very tidy and frugal woman, she scraped clean all the pots and pans before they were put away and so there was nothing left for the Hogboon.

To say the Hogboon was a little disgruntled would be an understatement and soon the luck on the farm turned as sour as the milk. The Hogboon missed no opportunity to take out his spite on the young couple. They were tormented day and night. Pots and pans would clatter from the walls and leaks sprang in the roof. The young farmer would work hard all day repairing a wall, only to find the stones scattered the next day.

Things would disappear just when they were most needed. The bread would burn in the oven. Nothing seemed to work and there was always something in their path to trip them over. As time passed the practical jokes became more and more outrageous.

The poor couple were driven to despair. The young man now realized the cause, but had no idea what to do. "We only have sour milk and burnt bread to offer," he thought. "Hogboons are not forgiving souls, he's having far too much fun to stop."

At last, he decided that they would ask the Laird if they could move house. Off the man went to the grand house, whilst his wife waited anxiously at home.

It was not long before he returned and his wife could tell from the broad smile on his face that all had gone well. The Laird had offered the lease of another place; better still, it was at the opposite end of the Island.

It was a fine summer’s morning, a few days later, when they set out towards their new home. They had packed with care their few belongings on a string of ponies. The goods were carefully tied to klibbers (a kind of wooden saddle) on their backs. The Goodman led the foremost pony which was carrying a kirn (or churn for making butter).

With each mile they went from their old home, the more relaxed and happier they became. After some time, they were approaching their new home, and I can’t describe to you the sheer relief and joy the young couple felt.

The young man could not contain his glee, he found his feet dancing for joy.

Then, suddenly, with a clatter, the lid flew off the kirn and out popped the head of the Hogboon:
"Tis a fine new croft you’ve got for us Goodman!" he exclaimed.

Now the only thing smiling with glee was the Hogboon.

So, just remember, if you ever encounter such trouble, running away is not always the answer, for sometimes, just sometimes, that trouble comes with you!

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