Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Is fro Ailpein Bird

This is #1 of 26 blog posts, as part of the April 2014 A-to-Z Blog Challenge. Instead of the English alphabet, however, I’m going to be doing the Scots Gaelic alphabet, which is a bit different. You’ll see how if you keep following these!

A: Ailm, or Elm. 

World folktales include different magical species of intelligent creatures—birds, animals, even fish.

A Phoenix
Magical birds include eagles, hawks, falcons, owls, swans, cranes, thrushes, and wrens. Myths or legends include the Russian firebird,  Sinbad’s roc, and the phoenix. In Scotland, one such bird was the Ailpein bird.

Ailpein  means “white” in Gaelic, but in Granny’s version, is a shape-shifter that can change color. Here are the bones:

Good king’s kingdom and castle are invaded by Evil King’s army, which is soundly defeated, but after they've slunk away, the good king’s daughter is missing. GK mourns her as dead. BK's kidnapped her; decides a year later to wed her to his son.
A harper sees her, tells GK through a new song.
GK calls army. Young Knight spies, disguised as a friar .

Ailpein Bird rescues Stolen Princess, takes her to 3 castles in 3 lands, last one his. YK, given 3 feathers by SP's maid, searches, proves worthiness, brings her home.

My Ailpein Bird
Telling this, I use a stuffed bird from a Tartan Day “white haggis” sale. It’s not white, as you can see  but considering that color is to some extent in the eye of the beholder, I simply say that that's how it appeared to the princess. 

You can read a version, "The Ailpein Bird, the Stolen Princess, & the Brave Knight" in Heather & Broom, collected by Sorche nic Leodhas. If you know any other Ailpein bird stories, please tell me!


  1. I still love your challenge theme :) And I will definitely look up this story! I love magical birds. A while ago I did a blog post on the Phoenix and where the story could have originated. It was a very interesting rabbit hole to go down into. I always wonder if people long ago could have seen pictures or feathers of tropical birds that far North. Makes a good story! :)
    Happy A to Z!

  2. Thanks, Csenge! And thanks for talking/writing me into trying this challenge! That speculation that pictures or feathers of tropical birds inspired them is certainly possible--but all things from Faery were exotic and amazing1

  3. Ooh, love this!! Looking forward to reading more! :) Visiting from A-Z.

  4. Thanks, Phoenix! And now I know what a zentangle is. Interesting!

  5. I am interested in foreign languages, and I enjoyed reading your story of A in the Scots Gaelic alphabet.

  6. Thanks for lessons in nature and story. Hugs!

  7. I like your alphabet idea! I have a seanchaí friend here in Austin whom I'm going to invite to follow along.

    Hard to imagine just how fascinating birds must have been to earlier peoples. Stories help us remember. Thank you!


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