Katie Crackernuts

Brian Timmis has contributed pictures for ‘Katie Crackernuts.’ This is a Scottish story where a stepmother is so jealous of a princess’s beauty that she arranges for her to be enchanted and her head magically swapped for that of a sheep. The princess’s step-sister, Katherine, is angry with her mother for this and both princesses run away together. They come to a castle where Katherine is given a job looking after a prince who is sick. She discovers that he is under a spell so that every night he visits a fairy hill and dances to the point of exhaustion. Katherine follows him and finds first a wand that restores her sister’s head to its original beauty and secondly, a bird that she cooks for the prince and restores him to health.

Brian makes a couple of interesting observations about the story. Firstly, he wonders whether the fairy hill may in fact be an ancient burial mound signifying that the prince is nursed back from the point of death. (Folklorist Katharine Briggs has identified the disease as ‘consumption’ or tuberculosis). Also, Brian points out that the bird that is eaten could be a wren. He comments that wrens were used in sacrificial rituals in ancient times and that ‘The Hunting of The Wren’ (though the wren is now not a real one, of course!) is a tradition continued into the present with various layers of meaning.

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