Story tellers: Mary Finney, Helen Miller


Classical Greek mythology uses super heroes to explain natural phenomena and the origins of certain customs. Scottish myths take the listener a step further, not only to entertain and explain, but also to instill values and produce a philosophy of living. Scottish mythology was ever an oral tradition, whereas Greece’s stories were recorded (in part) by Homer. In the oral tradition, the story teller’s voice inflection, gestures, pace and embellishments, and even the place setting, are integral elements of the story.

During the 9th Century, Scotland’s storytelling and mythology changed. The ancient myths began to fall silent during Scotland’s valiant struggle for independence. Instead brave warriors were memorialized in new stories that were told around the firesides of countless villages. These stories became a part of Scotland’s living history. Then witches entered Scottish stories by the 11th Century because King James VI was fascinated by them.

In the 18th Century, writer, Walter Scott and poet, Robert Burns were shaping mythology by writing about heroes who were real people from the Middle Ages. Scottish mythology was changing and it embraced fact, fiction, legend, myths, fable and folklore. Family heroes and family stories also gave Scottish mythology a romantic history because the belief was that all tales have a moral and that values could be taught through their stories.

Story tellers Mary and Helen continue this Caledonian tradition. Through their own story telling magic (individual delivery, pacing, and inflection), they themselves become part of this living history.

Sullivan, K. E., Scottish Myths & Legends, Brockhampton Press, London, 1998.