The Hobyahs: A Scottish Nursery Tale

Hobyahs DC nce there was a old man and an old woman and a little girl, and they lived together in a hut made of birch bark. They had a wee dug called Tavish, and he was a good dug and barked a warning when anyone came near the hut. 

One night, when the old man and the old woman were fast asleep, the hobyahs came creeping out of the darkness, crying, “Hobyah! Hobyah! Hobyah! Tear down the hut, eat up the old man and woman, and carry off the little girl!” but Tavish barked so long and so loudly that the hobyahs ran off. The old man said to the old woman, “Wee dug Tavish barks so that I cannot sleep nor slumber, and if I live until morning I will cut off his tail!” And so it was that in the morning, the old man cut off poor Tavish’s tail. 

Hobyahs

The next night the hobyas came again and said, “Hobyah! Hobyah! Hobyah! Tear down the hut, eat up the old man and woman, and carry off the little girl!” but Tavish barked so long and so loudly that the hobyahs ran off. The old man said to the old woman, “Wee dug Tavish barks so that I cannot sleep nor slumber, and if I live until morning I will cut off one of his legs!” And so it was that in the morning, the old man cut off one of poor Tavish’s legs. 

The next night the hobyas came again and said, “Hobyah! Hobyah! Hobyah! Tear down the hut, eat up the old man and woman, and carry off the little girl!” but Tavish barked so long and so loudly that the hobyahs ran off. The old man said to the old woman, “Wee dug Tavish barks so that I cannot sleep nor slumber, and if I live until morning I will cut off another of his legs!” And so it was that in the morning, the old man cut off another of poor Tavish’s legs. 

Hobyahs

The next night the hobyas came again and said, “Hobyah! Hobyah! Hobyah! Tear down the hut, eat up the old man and woman, and carry off the little girl!” but Tavish barked so long and so loudly that the hobyahs ran off. The old man said to the old woman, “Wee dug Tavish barks so that I cannot sleep nor slumber, and if I live until morning I will cut off his head!” And so it was that in the morning, the old man cut off poor Tavish’s head. 

The next night the hobyas came again and said, “Hobyah! Hobyah! Hobyah! Tear down the hut, eat up the old man and woman, and carry off the little girl!” and when the hobyahs found that wee dug Tavish’s head was off, they dore down the hut, ate up the old man and old woman, and carried the little girl off in a bag. 

Hobyahs

When the hoyahs came to their home they hung up the bag with the little girl in it, and every hobyah knocked on top of the bag and said, “Look me! Look me!” and then they went to sleep until the next night, for the hobyahs slept in the daytime. 

Hobyahs

The litle girl cried a great deal, and a man with a big dug came by and heard her crying. When he asked her how she came there and she told him, he put the big dug in the sack and took the little girl safe to his home. 

The next night the hobyahs took down the bag and knocked on the top of it and said “Look me! Look me!” and when they opened the bag- 

Hobyahs

-the big dug jumped out and ate them all up, so there are no hobyahs now. Good riddance!

Hobyahs

This delightful little tale, despite having been published in More English Fairy Tales in the late 1800’s, cannot be traced in England at all. It was collected by an American author, a Mrs S.V. Proudfit, for the Journal of American Folklore of April to June, 1891. She notes:

“When a child I used to hear the following story told in a Scotch family that came from the vicinity of Perth. I have spelled the 0word ‘hobyah’ as it was pronounced. The effectiveness of the story lies in a certain sepulchral monotone in rendering the cry of the hobyah, and his terrible ‘look me!’.” -S.V.P



  • Tarkabarka

    It took me a moment to figure out what a dug is :D Poor dug!!!

    @TarkabarkaHolgy from
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    • http://weewhitehoose.co.uk Fee

      Poor dug indeed :(

  • Tarkabarka

    Also, I plugged your blog in the A to Z Twitter chat today :)

    • http://weewhitehoose.co.uk Fee

      Thanks for that, I didn’t know there was a Twitter chat! :)

      • Tarkabarka

        There are two chats on Thursdays, 1 and 8 pm EST. They run under #azchat and they are usually a lot of fun :)

  • Melanie Allen

    Ooh! I’ve heard this story, or something like it, but in the version I have heard, the dog was named Turpy, and he barked every night at the hobyahs, and the really wicked owners cut off one of his limbs each time, and so when, limbless, he sees the hobyahs coming once more, he just says something like, “go on in,” or “third door on the right” and does not bark. Then, presumably, the hobyahs do something dreadful to the people in the house, and serves them right, too.

    • http://weewhitehoose.co.uk Fee

      Poor Turpy! :(

  • Heidi Dahlsveen

    Great story!