The Coming of the Unicorn

Scottish Folk Tales for Children

Duncan Williamson; Edited by Linda Williamson

Available to buy

Quick Look

A wonderful collection of traditional Scottish stories for children, full of animals and ogres, kings and broonies, fairies and ordinary folk.

216 x 138 mm
Floris Books
Kelpies; Story Books & Anthologies
Age Range:
From 8 to 12 years
160 pages
Publication date:
22 Mar 2012


'Stories are something you carry with you, something to last your entire life, to be passed on to your children, and their children for evermore.'
Duncan Williamson

Duncan Williamson came from a family of Travelling People, who told stories around the campfire for entertainment and for teaching. As a child, Duncan learnt the ways of the world through stories: 'My father's knowledge told us how to live in this world as natural human beings -- not to be greedy, not to be foolish, not to be daft or selfish -- by stories.'

In this collection, he passes on some of these wonderful children's folk and fairy tales. For over sixty years Duncan travelled around Scotland -- on foot, then in a horse and cart, and later an old van -- collecting tales, which not only come from the Travelling People but from the crofters, farmers and shepherds he met along the way.

This collection includes tales about cunning foxes and storytelling cats, hunchbacked ogres and beautiful unicorns, helpful broonies and mysterious fairies, rich kings and fearsome warriors, as well as those about ordinary folk trying to make their way in the world. The stories have been written down as faithfully as possible to Duncan's unique storytelling voice, full of colour, humour and life.


'A fine collection to share, whether read aloud or told.'
-- Kirkus Reviews

'Mesmerising Scottish storyteller... Duncan Williamson was one of the most celebrated storytellers in Scotland ... one of the world's best-known storytellers'
-- The Times

'The story-teller and singer Duncan Williamson was one of the greatest voices of Scots traveller culture'
-- The Independent

'Scotland's greatest contemporary storyteller'
-- The Guardian

'Scotland's greatest traditional storyteller'
-- The Scotsman

'The Coming of the Unicorn by Duncan Williamson is a wonderful collection of Scottish folk and fairy tales for children. The stories are beautifully told and perfectly written to be read aloud to the small child or children in your life. What is especially nice is that although these are stories with many familiar "folk tale" elements, they also have a freshness and originality which really keeps you turning the page. The novelty of the stories mean that you don't know the end before you start, and as a result this is a book that is every bit as interesting and enjoyable for the adult doing the reading as it is for the child doing the listening. Or, of course, for slightly older children reading the stories for themselves ... What really brings the stories to life is an understanding of their background and purpose, set out in the introduction. Duncan Williamson lived from 1928 to 2007. He was a Traveller, born in a tent in Argyll, and one of fourteen children ... The stories in this collection are the stories of his childhood or others collected later: in many cases originally heard from his father, his grandmother, or her brother. Stories played a central role in entertaining and educating children in the Traveller community, and this volume helps give some insight into a way of life now all but gone: as well as dishing up a bunch of extremely good stories!'

'This engaging collection of Scottish folktales opens with a splendid bit of scene-setting in the introduction ... The conversational style, replete with collquialisms and slang (helpfully defined in the glossary in the back), not only draws the reader in with its direct addresses and playful winks but also serves to pay a powerful tribute to the oral tradition that gives rise to these stories.'
-- Bulletin of the Center for Children's Books

'The rythms o the speak are sae naitral an douce tae the lug, ye can near hear the vyce o the shenachie, an ye wish ye had been ane o thae bairns couried roun the fire tae listen… Thae stories hae been fashiont frae the claith buttons o fowk memory. They are as auld as the hills an, lik Jack, wha fun the Keeng's keys tae the "Garden of Youth", they are eildless.'
-- Lallans


Duncan Williamson is a Floris Books featured author. Read all about this author's life and work on our dedicated author page.

Duncan Williamson was born in 1928 on the shores of Loch Fyne. He was the seventh of sixteen children born to a family of Travellers, who set up camp in the same place every winter and wandered the Highlands during the summer, hawking their tin and natural willow wares. Duncan left home at the age of fifteen and spent the next forty years travelling, continuing the traditional trades of his people. In 1980 he moved into a farm cottage in Fife with his second wife, Linda, who transcribed some of his vast repertoire of songs, stories and family history. Duncan died in 2007, leaving behind a worldwide legacy. His reputation was extraordinary and the impact of his storytelling continues in literary editions of his work, published by Canongate, Cambridge University Press, Penguin, Mondadori, and more recently Birlinn, Luath Press and Floris Books.

Linda Williamson was born in Madison, Wisconsin in 1949. She has a PhD from Edinburgh University, and is an American folklorist, storyteller and editor. She has three children and five grandchildren -- on both sides of the Atlantic.


Don't miss the Discover Kelpies website for children with exclusive author interviews, fun stuff and latest gossip on your favourite Scottish stories.


Also available as an eBook:
Coming of the Unicorn(eBook edition)

Find out more about Duncan Williamson, his life and his storytelling on our Duncan Williamson Biography page.

If you love Scottish folk tales and mythology, you may also be interested in:
An Illustrated Treasury of Folk and Fairy Tales
The Shifty Lad and Tales He Told: Celtic Folk Tales

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