Nine Maidens of Dundee

Girl at a well

The Nine Maidens of Dundee is a myth that centres on the tragic tale of nine beloved maidens, a heroic townsperson, and some interesting wordplay (this will all make sense in a minute). 

However, the maidens are used as a plot device and are not the main characters. All of a sudden, this is getting more interesting, right?

In this post, we’ll look at our interpreted version of the legend, the lessons we can take from it, and cue you to some real-life remnants in Scotland today.

Important Characters

  • A farmer 
  • The farmer’s nine lovely daughters, i.e. the nine maidens referred to in the title
  • Martin, the town blacksmith and hero-in-training — a brave young man and the supposed lover of one of the nine sisters 
  • An angry mob (for moral support) 
  • A serpent-like monster or dragon (the villain)

The Legend of Nine Daughters 

According to the Nine Maidens of Dundee legend, a farmer was graciously blessed with nine beautiful daughters. After a long and prosperous day in the fields under the scorching sun, the farmer was extremely parched and required water from the well. Noo (Scottish slang for “now”), this is where things start to kick off.

Their father sends out the eldest daughter to get his water. She obeys and fulfils her filial duty but does not return. He then sends out his second oldest daughter to check up on her sister and hasten her along. When she does not return, he sends his next oldest daughter, the next daughter, and the next.

This cycle continues until, you guessed it, he runs out of daughters to send. Does this suggest that if you don’t succeed at first, try, try again, and try some more until your eldest daughter and all her sisters have disappeared? Perhaps not!

Anyway, eventually, the farmer goes in search of his daughters and discovers their bodies at the well. Snugly curled around their corpses is an insatiable dragon with a filled stomach.

The farmer runs away from the horror of this dreadful scene. During his run, we’d like to imagine he realised that he was, in fact, responsible for sending his nine daughters to their deaths — for a humble pail of water.

Back to the story! The distressed farmer rallies some town companions into an angry mob, and at the forefront leading the ‘quest’ is an intrepid young man called Martin.

Martin was said to be the suitor to one of the daughters, which is why he was so upset and had no qualms about taking charge. When they reached the creature, the mob (and, most vehemently, Martin) set on it, beating the dragon.

The dragon tried to escape, but Martin was relentless. He was cheered on by the townspeople’s chants: “Strike, Martin. Strike, Martin!” and with that, he managed to land the final blow.

The conquering site of the dragon’s death was then proclaimed as Strike-Martin, which eventually evolved into the Strathmartine of today, located in the north of Dundee.

Key Takeaways 

We might question why there’s a statue of the story’s villain or how the farmer did not think to act sooner and save some of his daughters. However, we can still garner some valuable information from this cautionary Scottish folklore tale.

Firstly and most obviously, try to avoid sending each one of your nine children to a well, unaccompanied. As depicted in the Nine Maidens of Dundee myth, they will probably end up being killed by a monster.

Secondly, if you lead the charge against a fearsome creature and actually manage to kill it, parts of a town or city will be named after you — just like our guy Martin.

Thirdly, the tale speaks to how gallant heroes get significant places named after them (Martin), but how the real heroes get entire legends named after them (the daughters).

Finally and most importantly, with a little bit of cheerleading, an insane amount of luck, and the right motivation, you, too, can conquer any task set before you. 

How to See the Nine Maidens

There are many local landmarks in Scotland tying themselves to the tale of the Nine Maidens of Dundee, and some can be experienced during fascinating walking tours.

Nine Maidens’ Well: The Dundee Nine Maidens have a well dedicated to them in Pitempton located about 50 yards off the road leading down to West Mill of Baldoran. A farmer has since closed the well because visitors were trampling his crops.

Martin’s Stone: According to mythology, this is where brave Martin took down the dragon. It’s located in a railed enclosure on a field in Balluderon. It consists of a carved stone with a dragon or serpent-like creatures depicted on it.

Martin's Stone

It also has a rhyme associated with it that reads:

‘Tempted at Pitempton

Draigled at Baldragon

Stricken at Strathmartine

And killed at Martin’s Stane.’

Strathmartine Dragon Statue:

Dundee dragon statue

In the Dundee City centre, as you walk through Murraygate, there is a dragon statue down Dundee’s High Street. I suppose a dragon statue draws more attention than a statue of an ordinary man would, but it’s a fascinating site nonetheless.

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