His arch-enemies sat around him enjoying a sumptuous banquet. After a suitable period of toying with his prey, the host cackled evilly, pulled a lever and sent his guests plunging to the deaths in a concealed pit below.It may sound like something out of an Austin Powers film, but this is actually a medieval explanation for the mysterious "disappearance" of the Picts, with the Dr Evil character played by no less than Kenneth MacAlpin, reputedly the first King of Scots. With their nobility wiped out, the story went, it was easy for MacAlpin to take over and enforce Scottish ways on the rest of the Picts.Stories telling how the Scots came to live in Scotland contain someof the more inventive tales among its myths and legends.
the Scots are the descendents of an Egyptian princess, Scota, and their
language, Gaelic, was humanity's original form of speech as spoken by
Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.
These beliefs were taken seriously
in times gone by. The idea that the Scots are the sons and daughters of
Scota and her husband, Gaythelos, whose name supposedly gave us Gaels
and Gaelic, gave them a connection to one of the world's great cultures
and a touch of its status. And creating a lineage with a special
connection to the Bible was another good idea, emphasising the shared
membership of the international club of Christianity.
The people who seemed to
have been displaced by the Scots were something of a puzzle to early
historians. Henry of Huntingdon, who lived from 1080 to 1160, commented
inhis book, Historia Anglorum that the Picts, mentioned by the
Venerable Bede in his earlier history, had inexplicably vanished.
Alex Woolf, a historian who
specialises in early medieval history at St Andrews University, says:
"His [Henry's] idea is to continue Bede's history up to the present,
which was about 1140. So he starts copying out Bede's introductory
chapter, and, when he gets to the bit about the four languages of
Britain, he says:, 'Hang on a minute, that's not right, the Picts don't
exist anymore,' and that 'they have so completely disappeared even
their language has gone.'"
The story about the
fiendish use of trapdoors beneath the seats of his dinner guests was an
attempt at an explanation that dates back at least as far as the 12th
century. "It's the Dr Evil version of Kenneth MacAlpin," says Woolf.
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