The Hoose o Haivers by Matthew Fitt, Susan Rennie and James Robertson

Itchy Coo, 2002, 90 p.

The Hoose o Haivers cover

This slim volume contains retellings of tales from Ovid’s Metamorphoses, reimagined in a living, vibrant Scots.

The first piece, The Hoose O Haivers by James Robertson introduces the eponymous Hoose, a place where earth, sea and sky meet and the whole world can be seen. A house of rumour and tale telling, of scoom, scandal, clatter, claik, crack, claivers, clish-clash and clype.

Phaethon’s Hurl in the Sky by James Robertson
Phaethon, the mortal son of Phoebus the Sun god, boasts so much about his father that he is challenged to prove the relationship. He asks to drive Phoebus’s chariot across the skies. The task is beyond him.

The Weavin Contest by Susan Rennie
The goddess Athena hears of Arachne’s skill with weaving and challenges her to a contest. She doesn’t like the result.

King Mehdas by Matthew Fitt
Takes as a starting point Midas’s famous greed for gold but elaborates on the theme of his thoughtlessness.

The Cave o Dreams by James Robertson
Is where Hypnus sleeps and where all manner of dreams lie. But when his son Morpheus comes to you, is what you see real?

Echo An Narcissus by James Robertson
Echo and Narcissus.

Ariadne in the Cloods by Susan Rennie
Tells of how Ariadne helped Theseus to slay the Minotaur and escape the Labyrinth but then her dancing attracted the attention of the god Dionysus who took her up to Olympus where she dances on the clouds still. With a side serving of Dædalus and Icarus.

The Man That Made a Meal o Himsel
Starts with a discussion on the pronunciation of Erystichthon’s name before relating how he angers the goddess Ceres by cutting down her favourite oak tree. She then arranges for him to be afflicted with constant hunger, which no amount of food can assuage.

Orpheus an Eurydice by Matthew Fitt
Orpheus and Eurydice.

The Aipple Race by Susan Rennie
Atalanta can run so fast she can dodge even Eros’s arrows. These miss her and go on to hit others who as a result moon over her. One such, Hippomenes, engages the services of the goddess Aphrodite who provides him with enchanted apples to distract Atalanta so that Hippomenes can beat her in a race and so marry her. His lack of gratitude for this annoys Aphrodite.

The Twelve Trauchles o Heracles by Matthew Fitt
The labours of Hercules. Trauchles however is more nuanced than labours. A trauchle is an unavoidable and difficult task that “ends up daein yer napper in.” This story contained the wonderful phrase, “fair ripped Hera’s knittin’,” (which can be rendered much less pithily as “discommoded Hera greatly.”)

The Hoose o Pythagoras by James Robertson
Is a companion tail to The Hoose O Haivers’s tip. A discussion on the necessity of change and on whether the fantasies in this book are any more unreal than things we commonly take for granted.

This is a delightful little book but anyone without experience of spoken and written Scots will likely struggle with its content. The writing does however show what a vital, earthy and vigorous language Scots can be.

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