Kate Crackernuts – Andrew Lang Version

Once upon a time there was a king and a queen, as in many lands have been. The king had a dochter, Kate, and the queen had one. The queen was jealous of the king’s dochter being bonnier than her own, and cast about to spoil her beauty. So she took counsel of the henwife, who told her to send the lassie to her next morning fasting. The queen did so, but the lassie found means to get a piece before going out. When she came to the henwife’s she asked for eggs, as she had been told to do; the henwife desired her to “lift the lid off that pot there” and see. The lassie did so, but naething happened. “Gae hame to your minnie and tell her to keep her press door better steekit,” said the henwife. The queen knew from this that the lassie had had something to eat, so watched the next morning and sent her away fasting; but the princess saw some country folk picking peas by the roadside, and being very affable she spoke to them and took a handful of the peas, which she ate by the way.

In consequence, the answer at the henwife’s house was the same as on the preceding day.

The third day the queen goes along with the girl to the henwife. Now, when the lid is lifted off the pot, off jumps the princess’s ain bonny head and on jumps a sheep’s head.

The queen, now quite satisfied, returns home.

Her own daughter, however, took a fine linen cloth and wrapped it round her sister’s head and took her by the hand and gaed out to seek their fortin. They gaed and they gaed far, and far’er than I can tell, till they cam to a king’s castle. Kate chappit at the door and sought a “night’s lodging for hersel’ and a sick sister.” This is granted on condition that Kate sits up all night to watch the king’s sick son, which she is quite willing to do. She is also promised a “pock of siller” “if a’s right”. Till midnight all goes well. As twelve o’clock rings, however, the sick prince rises, dresses himself, and slips downstairs, followed by Kate unnoticed. The prince went to the stable, saddled his horse, called his hound, jumped into the saddle, Kate leaping lightly up behind him. Away rode the prince and Kate through the greenwood, Kate, as they pass, plucking nuts from the trees and filling her apron with them. They rode on and on till they came to a green hill. The prince here drew bridle and spoke, “Open, open, green hill, an’ let the young prince in with his horse and his hound,” and, added Kate, “his lady him behind.”

Immediately the green hill opened and they passed in. A magnificent hall is entered, brightly lighted up, and many beautiful ladies surround the prince and lead him off to the dance, while Kate, unperceived, seats herself by the door. Here she sees a bairnie playing with a wand, and overhears one of the fairies say, “Three strakes o’ that wand would mak Kate’s sick sister as bonnie as ever she was.” So Kate rowed nuts to the bairnie, and rowed (rolled) nuts till the bairnie let fall the wand, and Kate took it up and put it in her apron.

Then the cock crew, and the prince made all haste to get on horseback, Kate jumping up behind, and home they rode, and Kate sat down by the fire and cracked her nuts, and ate them. When the morning came Kate said the prince had a good night, and she was willing to sit up another night, for which she was to get a “pock o’ gowd”. The second night passed as the first had done. The third night Kate consented to watch only if she should marry the sick prince. This time the bairnie was playing with a birdie; Kate heard one of the fairies say, “Three bites of that birdie would mak the sick prince as weel as ever he was.” Kate rowed nuts to the bairnie till the birdie was dropped, and Kate put it in her apron.

At cockcrow they set off again, but instead of cracking her nuts as she used to do, Kate plucked the feathers off and cooked the birdie. Soon there arose a very savoury smell. “Oh!” said the sick prince, “I wish I had a bite o’ that birdie,” so Kate gave him a bit o’ the birdie, and he rose up on his elbow. By-and-by he cried out again, “Oh, if I had anither bite o’ that birdie!” so Kate gave him another bit, and he sat up on his bed. Then he said again, “Oh! if I had a third bite o’ that birdie!” So Kate gave him a third bit, and he rose quite well, dressed himself, and sat down by the fire, and when “the folk came i’ the mornin’ they found Kate and the young prince cracking nuts th’gether.” So the sick son married the weel sister, and the weel son married the sick sister, and they all lived happy and dee’d happy, and never drank out o’ a dry cappy.