This Scottish is about a boy who likes to play tricks on people and wants nothing more than to grow up to be a thief. His mother doesn’t like the idea, and tells him that if he does become a thief he will get caught one day and be hung from the Bridge of Dublin. When the boy won’t give up on the idea, she arranges for him to learn under the best thief in the district. He proves to be very good at the job, and the two of them become very rich. Being such a nice lad, the boy then kills the man who trained him. He goes on to become so famous a thief that the king sends soldiers to try to catch him. When this doesn’t work, a series of unlikely events follow which end with the boy marrying the king’s daughter. Luckily, there is still justice in some folktales and the Shifty Lad is soon lying dead under the Bridge of Dublin.
- Original Text with Audio (4431 words)
- Pre-Intermediate English Version
- General Understanding Quiz
- The Tale of the Shifty Lad, the Widow’s Son
- Rhampsinit and the Masterthief
English Learner Vocabulary Help
The words and expressions in our in our Pre-Intermediate level Simplified English story which are not in our 1200 word list are: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and . There is also a word from our 1200 word list that has a meaning in the story which is different to the one most commonly used. The Shifty Lad’s mother wants him to learn a . The boy of course has other ideas.
General Comments on the Story
Our source for this story was The Lilac Fairy Book, one of a series of twelve collections of folk and fairy tales for children edited by Andrew Lang. This is the last book in the series, and was first published in 1910. It can be downloaded as an e-book from Project Gutenberg here. An audiobook is available from Librivox here. Lang’s source was “The Tale of the Shifty Lad, the Widow’s Son” from Popular Tales of the West Highlands by John Campbell, published in 1860. This story has a lot of extra action between the Shifty Lad killing the Black Rogue and the king’s soldiers coming after him.
In our notes to an earlier folktale, The Master Thief, we pointed out that stories about thieves are common in European and Asian folktales, and that many of these share elements from very early literary sources. The events in the second half of “The Shifty Lad” closely follow the story of Rhampsinit and the Masterthief, written around 2,500 years ago by the Greek historian Herodutis. For anyone interested, we have also included a link to a copy of this above.
(n: folktale pl folktales) A story that is part of the traditions of a group of people and was handed down in spoken form before books and printing. 9000
(n: ballroom pl ballrooms) A large room in which a ball takes place. 7000
(n: ball pl balls) A large formal party with dancing. Cinderella went to the ball and danced with the prince. 1000
(n: barn pl barns) A large farm building that is used for storing grain and hay and for housing farm animals or equipment. The farmer keeps his tractor in the barn. 3000
(n: bet pl bets) An agreement in which people try to guess what will happen and the person who guesses wrong has to give something [such as money] to the person who guesses right.
(v: bet, bets, bet, betting) To make a bet; to risk losing something [such as money] if your guess about what will happen is wrong. 1000
(n: bull pl bulls) 1. An adult male animal of the cow family. 2. An adult male of some other large animals such as elephants, moose, walrus, or whales. 3000
(n: captain pl captains) 1. A person who is in charge of a ship, an aircraft, or a group of soldiers. 2. The leader of a team or club. 3000
(n: cattle, plural) A group of cows, bulls, or steers that are kept on a farm for meat or milk. 4000
(n: cattle-dog pl cattle-dogs) A special breed of dog developed in Australia for driving cattle over long distances across rough country.
(n: cheek pl cheeks) One of the parts of the face below each eye and to the side of the nose and mouth. 3000
(n: dot pl dots) A small round mark. Put a dot over the "i". The dots on the map represent cities. 2000
(n: gallows pl gallows) A structure on which a criminal who has been sentenced to death is killed by being hanged. He was sentenced to death on the gallows. 12000
(n: goat pl goats) A small animal of the sheep family, with horns and a long-haired coat. 5000
(n: hay, noncount) Grass or other plants, cut and dried for use as food for farm animals etc. 3000
(n: lad pl lads; chiefly British) A boy or young man. He is a charming young lad. I have known him since he was a lad. (เด็กหนุ่ม) 1000
(n: loft pl lofts) 1. A room or space that is just below the roof of a building and is often used to store things; an attic. 2. Chiefly U.S.; An upper floor of a warehouse or business building, especially when it is not divided by walls. 3. The upper part of a barn where hay or other items are stored; a hayloft. 3000
(n: mud, noncount) Soft, wet dirt. His shoes were covered with mud. 3000
(n: priest pl priests) A man who leads people in the worship of a god or group of gods; a man who leads or performs religious ceremonies. 4000
(n: rogue pl rogues) 1. [old-fashioned] A man who is dishonest or immoral. He is a lying rogue. 2. Someone [especially a child] who causes trouble in a playful way. He's a lovable rogue. 4000
(n: scarf pl scarves) A long piece of cloth that is worn on your shoulders, around your neck, or over your head. 5000
(v: shake, shakes, shook, shaken, shaking) To move back and forth or up and down with short, quick movements. 2000
(n: shepherd pl shepherds) A person whose job is to take care of sheep; sometimes used figuratively. The shepherd and his dog brought in the sheep. He was a good shepherd to new students. 4000
That salesman has shifty eyes. 10000
(n: thief pl thieves) Someone who takes (something) from the owner in a way that is wrong or against the law; a robber. The thief got away with all my money. (ขโมย) 3000
(n: wedding pl weddings) The act of getting married; marrying. (การแต่งงาน) 2000
(n: whistle pl whistles) A device through which air or steam is forced to produce a very high and loud sound. The policeman blew his whistle. (นกหวีด)
(v: whistle, whistles, whistled, whistling) 1. To produce a very high, often musical, sound by forcing air through your lips or teeth. He whistled a happy tune. (ผิวปาก) 2. To make such a sound with a whistle or by passing quickly through the air. The bullet whistled past his head. (ทำให้เกิดเสียงหวีดหวิว) 3. (of the wind) To blow with such a sound. (พัดให้เกิดเสียงหวีดหวิว) 3000
(adj: wise, wiser, wisest) Having gained a lot of knowledge from books or experience or both and able to use it well. (ฉลาด)
(n: wisdom; noncount) 1. The knowledge gained from books or experience. 2. The quality or state of being wise. (ปัญญา; สติปัญญา) 2000
(v: trades, traded, trading) 1. The activity or process of buying, selling, or exchanging goods or services. Japan trades a lot with the U.S.A.. (ค้าขาย) 2. To give something to someone and receive something in return; to exchange. I traded my watch for a bicycle. (แลกเปลี่ยน) 1000
(n: pl trades) 1. A job that requires special training and skills and that is done by using your hands. I am a carpenter/electrician/beautician by trade. 2. A business, occupation, or job. He's in the jewellery trade. (อาชีพ)1000