Two friends went hunting on the moors for wildfowl. One of them strayed into some woodland where he had seen some birds descending. He thought he saw a movement in the distance, certainly not a bird but possibly a deer, and he walked towards it through the trees. Pausing at the bank of a stream, he saw a figure emerge from the trees on the other side of the stream. A man it was, and yet like a wild animal. He seemed to be composed of the very things of the woodland itself, of moss and bark and leaf-mould. He was not so much seen as experienced by other senses than sight, sound and smell, although all of these senses were stimulated by him. So his voice, when he spoke, was harsh and strong:
“What do yer mean by coming here after the animals I have care of?”
His voice was terrible and yet it was enticing.
”Come over here and I’ll tell yer how to behave in my woodland.”
It was as if the hunter had no choice but to put down his gun and cross the stream. Just then he heard his friend’s voice behind him and turned around. When he looked back the figure across the stream could not be seen.
“Did you see that?” he asked. But his friend had seen nothing. When he told him what had happened, his friend was fearful.
“Oh, it’s lucky I came, if you’d crossed the stream he would have torn you apart! It’s only that water that saved you. We’d better go and forget hunting for today.”
But as they were leaving a bird flew up from the undergrowth. The hunter lifted his gun and fired, bringing down the bird. But as he did so his arm froze and the chill never left it. It was said that he was cursed by the ‘Brown Man of the Muirs’ and he pined away and died soon after.
Scottish Borders/Northumberland. Passed on by letter to Walter Scott.
Said to have happened in 1641.