THE WEE BANNOCK

This tale was told me by my mother. It’s a bit like the story of the gingerbread man but with a happier outcome. Selkirk, a town in the borders of Scotland, is especially famous for its bannocks, which are more like fruitcakes than the traditional oatmeal type of bannock. They taste delicious.



There was once a guid-wife who was married to a guid-man and their favourite thing to do was to eat lots of food.

One day the guid-wife decided to make some bannocks as a special treat.

“Mmm...” The guid-man rubbed his tummy. “I’m looking forward to this!” he said as he watched his wife bringing out buttermilk, oatmeal, raisins and sultanas.

The guid-wife stirred the fruit, the oatmeal and the buttermilk all together. Next she rolled the mixture out until it was just the right thickness whereupon she shaped it into two big round bannocks.

The she poured some fat into her cooking pan and set it on the fire. When it was sizzling hot she placed the two bannocks into the pan.

“Mmmm...” The guid-wife rubbed her tummy. “What a wonderful sight!” she said as she watched the bannocks begin to turn toasty-roasty brown.





These two big bannocks were almost cooked when the guid-wife noticed that there was a small amount of the mixture left. Quickly she made this into a third, wee bannock. And she placed it in the pan beside the others.

Now the two big bannocks were ready so the guid-wife lifted them out of the pan and set them on two plates, one for her guid-man and one for herself. The guid-wife and her guid-man sat down to eat. In less than a minute they’d gobbled up the big bannocks for they both ate their food very fast indeed.

Then the guid-wife saw the third wee bannock was toasty-roasty brown and she tought “Oho!, I’ll have that wee bannock for myself.” And she reached out her hand to lift the wee bannock from the pan.

But her guid-man had sniffed the air and smelled the lovely smell coming from the pan. And he thought to himself, “Oho! That’s a bonnie wee bannock. I think I’ll eat it up before anyone else does.”.

At the exact same moment the two of them made a grab for the wee bannock. The pan wobbled over the fire.

As the wee bannock slid to one side he glanced up and he thought, “Look at those two greedy folks. I’ve jsut seen them eat a whole big bannock each. They don’t need a wee bannock like me.”

So the wee bannock jumped out of the pan and skipped across the floor.





The guid-wife and the guid-man rushed to try to catch the wee bannock. Wham! They bumped into each other and fell over in a heap.

The wee bannock sang out as he scampered from the house:

I’m the wee bannock who

Jumped out of a pan

To run away as fast as I can.

The wee bannock ran down the village street and he came to the cobbler’s shop. Now the cobbler, a fat man, was working at his shop door. Bent over his last, he was nailing some new soles onto a pair of boots. He heard the commotion and raised his head.

When the cobbler spied the wee bannock running towards him he thought, “Oho! There’s a bonnie wee bannock. I’d like to have a wee bannock like that for my breakfast!”

But the wee bannock had spied the cobbler and he thought, “The cobbler is well fed. He doesn’t need a wee bannock like me”.

So the wee bannock ran straight at the cobbler, and the cobbler fell back with his arms up. The boot he was holding flew into the air and came down and landed on his head.

And the wee bannock laughed as he ran away:

I’m the wee bannock who jumped out of a pan

To run away as fast as I can

I left the guid-wife and the guid-man

And now I’m running away from thee

For you don’t need a wee bannock like me!





Further down the street a young girl was sitting at her window. She was winding a long skein of wool. When she saw the wee bannock she smacked her lips and thought, “Oho! I’d like to have a wee bannock to eat for my lunch.”

She raced into the street and she tried to stop the wee bannock.

But the wee bannock saw her and thought, “There’s a fine handsome lass. She doesn’t need a wee bannock like me.”

So the wee bannock dodged this way and that. Then he ran about in a circle – not two, but twenty times. The girl twisted round and round trying to follow the wee bannock. The more she turned, the more the wool tangled about her.

Soon she was caught fast and couldn’t move. The wee bannock laughed, and ran on, singing:

I’m the wee bannock who jumped out of a pan

To run away as fast as I can

I left the guid-wife and the guid-man

And now I’m running away from thee

For you don’t need a wee bannock like me!

At the end of the village was the smithy. The blacksmith was at his forge, hammering a horseshoe with a big hammer. When he saw the wee bannock running towards him he said, “Oho! There’s a bonnie wee bannock. I could eat that wee bannock for my dinner.”



But the wee bannock spotted the blacksmith and saw how big and strong the blacksmith was, and he thought, “The blacksmith doesn’t need a wee bannock like me.”

The blacksmith spread out his hands and legs to try to catch the wee bannock.

But the wee bannock ran between the blacksmith’s legs, and he tripped him. The blacksmith dropped his hammer on his own toe and he hopped about squealing in pain.

And the wee bannock laughed and called back to him:

I’m the wee bannock who jumped out of a pan

To run away as fast as I can

I left the guid-wife and the guid-man

And now I’m running away from thee

For you don’t need a wee bannock like me!

And the wee bannock ran on out of the village toward the forest. At the edge of the forest there were two poor children carrying a basket between them. They were collecting berries to eat for there was no food for them at home.

When the wee bannock saw the two hungry children, he thought, “Look at those two poor children. I’m sure they I’d like a wee bannock to eat!”

And the wee bannock called out:

I’m the wee bannock who jumped of a pan

To run away as fast as I can.

I left the guid-wife and guid-man

I ran from the cobbler; the wool-winder; the smith

But I’ll not run away from the likes of thee

For you folks do need a wee bannock like me!


So the wee bannock jumped into their basket. And they took him home, and that night the two poor children enjoyed a tasty wee bannock for their supper.


"An illustrated Treasury of Scottish Folk and Fairytales" written by Theresa Breslin and Kate Leiper.

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