Stories from the Ballads Told to the Children - Mary Macgregor

Hynde Etin

May Margaret did not love to sew, yet here in the doorway of her bower she sat, her silk seam in her hand.

May Margaret sat with her seam in her hand, but she did not sew, she dreamed, and her dream was all of Elmond wood.

She was there herself under the greenwood gay. The tall trees bowed, the little trees nodded to her. The flowers threw their sweetest scents after her as she passed along; the little birds sang their gladdest that she might hear. How fair and green and cool it was in the wood of Elmond!

On a sudden, Margaret sat upright in the doorway of her bower. She dreamed no more. The sound of the hunting-horn rang in her ear. It was blown in Elmond wood.

Then down on her lap slipped the silken seam, down to her feet the needle. May Margaret was up and away to the greenwood.

Down by the hazel bushes she hastened, nor noticed that the evening shadows fell; on past the birch groves she ran, nor noticed that the dew fell fast.

No one did May Margaret meet until she reached a white-thorn tree. There, up from the grass on which he lay, sprang Hynde Etin.

'What do ye seek in the wood, May Margaret?' said he. 'Is it flowers, or is it for dew ye seek this bonny night of May?'

But Margaret did not care to answer. She only shook her head.

Then said Hynde Etin, 'I am forester of Elmond wood, nor should ye enter it without my leave.'

'Nay now,' cried the lady Margaret, 'leave will I ask of no man, for my father is earl of all this land.'

'Your father may be earl of all the land, May Margaret, yet shall ye die, because ye will not ask my leave to come to Elmond wood.' And he seized her fast and tied her to a tree by her long, yellow locks.

Yet did Hynde Etin not kill the maiden, but this is what he did.

He pulled up by the root the tallest tree he could see, and in the hollow he dug a deep deep cave, and into the cave he thrust May Margaret.

'Now will ye wander no more in my woods!' cried Hynde Etin. 'Here shall ye stay, or home shall ye come with me to be my wife.'

'Nay, here will I rather stay!' cried May Margaret, 'for my father will seek for me and will find me here.'

But the cave was dark and cold, and the earl sought yet did not find his daughter.

No bed was there in the cave for May Margaret, no bed save the rough earth, no pillow save a stone.

Poor May Margaret! She did not like the dark or the cold. Ere many days had passed away, she thought it would be better to live with Hynde Etin than to stay longer alone in so dismal a cave.

'Take me out, take me out!' then cried May Margaret.

Hynde Etin heard the maiden's call and he came and took her out of the cave. Deep into the greenwood he carried her, where his own home had been built, and there he made May Margaret, the earl's daughter, his wife.

For twelve long years Margaret lived in the greenwood. And Hynde Etin was kind to her and she grew to love him well.

Seven little sons had Margaret, and happy and gay was their life in their woodland home. Yet oft did Margaret grieve that her little wee sons had never been taken to holy church. She wished that the priest might christen them there.

Now one day Hynde Etin slung his bow across his shoulder, placed a sheath of arrows in his belt, and was up and away to the hunt. With him he took his eldest wee son.

Under the gay greenwood they paced, Hynde Etin and his eldest son, and the thrush sang to them his morning song. Upward over the hills they climbed, and they heard the chimes of church bells clear.

Then the little wee son said to his father, 'An ye would not be angry with me, father, there is somewhat I would ask.'

'Ask what ye will, my bonny wee boy,' said Hynde Etin, 'for never will I be cross with you.'

'My mother ofttimes weeps, father. Why is it that she sobs so bitterly?'

'Your mother weeps, my little wee son, for sore she longs to see her own kin. Twelve long years is it and more since last she saw them, or heard the church bells ring.

'An earl's daughter was your mother dear, and if I had not stolen her away one bonny night in May she might have wedded a knight of high degree.

'The forester of Elmond wood was I, yet as I saw her standing by the white-thorn tree I loved her well. And ere many days had gone by thy mother loved me too, and I carried her away to our greenwood home.

Dear to your mother are her seven little sons, dear to her, too, am I. Yet oft will the tears run down her cheek as she dreams of her old home and her father the earl.'

Then upward glanced the little wee son as he cried aloud, 'I will shoot the linnet there on the tree and the larks as they wing their flight, and I will carry them home to my mother dear that she may weep no more.'

Yet neither with linnet nor with lark could her little wee son woo the smiles back to his dear mother's face.

Now a day came when Hynde Etin in his greenwood home thought the hours passed but slow, and that same day he took his gun and his dog and off he went alone to hunt. His seven little wee sons he left at home with their mother.

'Mother,' said the eldest little son, 'mother, will ye be angry with me an I tell you what I heard?'

'Nay now, my little wee son,' said she, 'I will never be cross with you.'

'I heard the church bells ring as I went hunting over the hill, mother. Clear did they ring and sweet.'

'Ah, would I had heard them too, my little dear son,' cried Margaret, 'for never have I been in the holy church for twelve long years and more, and never have I taken my seven bonny sons to be christened, as indeed I would they were. In the holy church will my father be, and there would I fain go too.'

Then the little young Etin, for that was the name of Margaret's eldest son, took his mother's hand and called his six little brothers, and together they went through Elmond wood as fast as ever they could go. It may be that the mother led the way, it may be that so it chanced, but soon they had left the greenwood far behind and stood on an open heath. And there, before them, stood a castle.

Margaret looked and Margaret smiled. She knew she was standing once again before her father's gate.

She took three rings from her pocket and gave them to her eldest wee boy.

'Give one,' she said, 'to the porter. He is proud, but so he sees the ring, he will open the gate and let you enter.

'Give another to the butler, my little wee son, and he will show you where ye are to go.

'And the third ye shall hand to the minstrel. You will see him with his harp, standing in the hall. It may be he will play goodwill to my bonny wee son who has come from Elmond wood.'

Then young Etin did as his mother had said.

The first ring he gave to the porter, and without a word the gate was opened for the little wee boy.

He gave the second ring to the butler, and without a word the little wee boy was led into the hall.

The third ring he gave to the minstrel, and without a word he took his harp and forthwith played goodwill to the bonny wee boy from the greenwood.

Now, when the little Etin reached the earl, he fell on his knee before him.

The old earl looked upon the little lad, and his eyes they were filled with tears.

'My little wee boy, ye must haste away,' he cried. 'An I look upon you long my heart will break into three pieces, for ye have the eyes, the hair of my lost May Margaret.'

'My eyes are blue as my mother's eyes, and my yellow hair curls as does hers,' cried the little wee boy.

'Where is your mother?' then cried the earl, and the tears rolled down his cheek.

'My mother is standing at the castle gate, and with her are my six little wee brothers,' said the bonny young Etin.

'Run, porter boys, run fast,' said the earl, 'and throw wide open the gates that my daughter may come in to me.'

Into the hall came Margaret, her six little sons by her side. Before the earl she fell upon her knee, but the earl he lifted her up and said, 'Ye shall dine with me to-day, ye and your seven bonny little sons.'

'No food can I eat,' said Margaret, 'until I see again my dear husband. For he knows not where he may find me and his seven dear little sons.'

'Now will I send my hunters, and they shall search the forest high and low and bring Hynde Etin unto me,' said the earl.

Then up and spake the little wee Etin.

'Search for my father shall ye not, until ye do send to him a pardon full and free.'

And the earl smiled at the young Etin. 'In sooth a pardon shall your father have,' said he.

With his own hand the earl wrote the pardon, and be sealed it with his own seal. Then the hunters were off and away to search for Hynde Etin. They sought for him east and they sought for him west, they sought all over the countryside. And at length they found him sitting alone in his home in Elmond wood. Alone, and tearing his yellow locks, was Hynde Etin.

'Get up, Hynde Etin, get up and come with us, for the earl has sent for you,' cried the merry hunters.

'The earl may do as he lists with me,' said Etin. 'He may cut off my head, or he may hang me on a greenwood tree. Little do I care to live,' moaned Etin, 'now that I have lost my lady Margaret.'

The lady Margaret is in her father's hall, Hynde Etin,' said the hunters, 'nor food will she eat until ye do come to her. There is a pardon for you here sealed by the earl's own hand.'

Then Hynde Etin smoothed his yellow locks, and gay was he as he went with the hunters to the castle.

Down on his knee before the earl fell Hynde Etin. 'Rise, Etin, rise!' cried the earl. 'This day shall ye dine with me.'

Around the earl's table sat the lady Margaret, her husband dear, and her seven little wee sons. And the little Etin looked and looked and never a tear did he see on his mother's face.

'A boon I have to ask,' cried then the little wee boy; 'I would we were all in the holy church that the good priest might christen me and my six little brothers. For in the greenwood gay never a church did we see, nor the sound of church bells did we hear.'

'Soon shall your boon be granted,' cried the earl, 'for this very day to the church shall ye go, and your mother and your six little wee brothers shall be with you.'

Lady Margaret returns to church


To the door of the holy church they came, but there did the lady Margaret stay.

'For twelve long years and more,' she cried, and bowed her head, 'for twelve long years have I never been within the holy church, and I fear to enter now.'

Then out to her came the good priest, and his smile was sweet to see. 'Come hither, come hither, my lily-white flower,' said he, 'and bring your babes with you that I may lay my hands upon their heads.'

Then did he christen the lady Margaret's seven little wee sons. And their names, beginning with the tiniest, were these—Charles, Vincent, Sam, Dick, James, John. And the eldest little wee son was, as you already know, named after his father, Etin.

And back to the earl's gay castle went the lady Margaret with Hynde Etin and her seven little new-christened sons. And there they lived happy for ever after.