A Pictish Ballad

Merlin's Shadow by Robert Treskillard

I had to write a ballad in Pictish for my current work in progress, Merlin’s Shadow. The problem is that we don’t know what language, exactly, the Picts spoke.

Many scholars think it was related to Gaelic, while my daughter, Adele, is of the persuasion they spoke a Germanic language older than English, and this became the lowland Scots of today.

The real difficulty is that my book is in English, and I need to portray three languages:

  1. Merlin’s language (“translated” into standard English, of course)
  2. A northern form of Merlin’s language
  3. Pictish, an even further northern dialect.

To do this, I am going to write (2) as if it were Scottish, and (3) as if it were a “gaelicized” form of English.

Gaelicized English? By this I mean I am changing the spelling of the English words based on some VERY simple rules of Gaelic (with the help of my daughter and a lot of her books), as well as replacing a few words here and there. My goal is to make the speech sound and look strange, while still making it readable by an English reader.

Anyway, see if you can figure out the meaning of the following short ballad. (Note: If you know Gaelic, use English pronunciations for best results.)

Over an land, from mount and glen
Chame we peiple, across am fen.
Where is an king, O where is he?
Tha’ fhights for you, tha’ fhights for me?

Chame we to Tull, to Twylloch-Scwane
To shee his light, our fleish and bain!
To mhake a king, a king to thrain
To shwear our aith, air hill and plain.

Upon am mound, upon an stone
Bhled he his blood, our hiearts to own
Crithan-Tuath! Crithanas-Mor!
Mhade we a pact, in diays of yhore.

Member’ive, sons! Member’ive, men:
Yiur king, yiur oath! Yiur fealty ken!
Take’ive yiur shpears! Take’ive yiur bhows!
And come’ive now, to Duntarv Rhows!

The Merlin Spiral

4 thoughts on “A Pictish Ballad

  1. Thanks, Steven. :) It’s a challenge to “translate” correctly, but it’s also kind of fun.

    Even though the text is readable, I’m going to try and limit the amount that has to be read in this dialect and narrate what is said more than give it … but a little here and there will hopefully give it an old feel.

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