"The Weeping Lass at the Dancing Place." in Sorche Nic Leodhas. Twelve Great Black Cats & Other Eerie Scottish Tales. New York: E. P. Dutton & Co., Inc., 1971.
Ethnic Origin: Scottish
Power Center & Why:
The power center of this story for me is when the girl’s lover reveals himself to her as a ghost and tells her that all of her grieving has prevented him from resting beyond the grave, and then tells her that he’s taking her back with him so that he can get some rest. Up until this point the readers (listeners) have suspected that he’s a ghost but she’s been oblivious to any clues. This is the power center because it’s her first realization that her lover is still really dead and that this is his ghost. It’s also the power center because it’s probably the scariest part of the story—especially the bit where he says he’s going to make her rest in the grave with him. In another sense it’s a power center because it’s an interesting way of looking at mourning, not as something that honors the dead but rather something that prevents them from resting. In this way the story becomes a moral, a reason for not grieving for things beyond your control.
The weeping lass
Her dead lover (and horse)
The dancers at dancing place (they don’t have any lines but they’re there)
The villagers who find the lass
A young girl who has recently lost her lover to the sea comes to the dancing place where they were once happy to watch the other revelers. She mourns him constantly, weeping even in her sleep. She cannot sit by his grave because his body was washed ashore and buried at a village some miles away from her own, so she swears that she will never dance or laugh again. A horseman rides up and joins the dancers. After all others have left, the mysterious stranger confronts the girl and tells her that there is no use mourning for the dead because it will not bring them back. He then asks her to dance with him. Not recognizing him for the tears in her eyes, she refuses, but is forced to dance at the dancing place. It is then that a shaft on moonlight falls upon his face and she sees that it is her lover. Incredulous but not suspecting anything supernatural, she tells him that everyone has thought he was dead and begs that they should be together from that point on. He tells her it’s not a good idea, says that his dwelling place is unsuitable (all the time making references to a grave) and tells her she should find someone else. When she refuses, he throws her on the back of the horse and races off, for he has to be back to the by dawn.
He takes her to a graveyard, and, dismounting, leads her to his grave. He tells her that it is her mourning day and night that has prevented him from resting. He also tells her that he’s going to take her with him to the grave so that he can have some peace. The girl screams, gets off the horse and runs away. The ghost, now appearing as a sketelon, chases behind her, grabbing her shawl as he attempts to get her. Freeing herself from the shawl, she runs on, and when almost exhausted, looks back to see the dawn break and the horse and rider disappear. She collapses on the road and is found by a dairy maid, who takes her to the village. She tells villagers the story and they are skeptical until a bit of the shawl is found by a grave. On closer inspection, a villager finds that the shawl is buried in the earth, and they dig deeper and deeper until they reach the grave itself, but cannot dislodge. Finally the priest gives leave to open the grave and the villagers see that the shawl is being grasped in the hand of the skeleton of the dead lover. The girl eventually returns to her village but mourns no longer for her lover "since she had no wish to disturb him, lest he come and carry her off again."
The Scottish dialect seemed to add much to the story and so I tried to keep a lot of it in. The following quotations are important either because of the unique Scottish phrases or because they are lines that I specifically want to use because they convey the mood of the story.
"You were once a bonnie, bonnie lass…and you’d be bonnie again if your face were not so raddled with weeping and your eyes not so swollen dead."
"Greeting and grieving will not bring the dead back to life again."
"My dwelling place is small and low,…I doubt you’d like it o’ermuch. The walls are damp and it is dark, and there is little more than room enough for me."
"This is my dwelling place…You gave me no rest in my grave. The sound of your voice lamenting kept me awake night and day. And if my clothes are wet, ‘tis little wonder, for the tears you have shed have gathered and run down into the place where I lay."
Young adult and up…Young adults like scary stories, and this is a sort of scary story with a lot of action so I thought it would hold their attention. It’s a bit frightening for younger kids, but not so gruesome or scary that young adults should have a problem with it.