Thrawn Janet

Last updated
"Thrawn Janet" illustration, from William Strang: Catalogue of His Etched Work (1906) Thrawn Janet Illustration - Image from page 311 of "William Strang; catalogue of his etched work" (1906) (14803149913).jpg
"Thrawn Janet" illustration, from William Strang: Catalogue of His Etched Work (1906)

"Thrawn Janet" is a short story, written in Scots, by the Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson. He wrote the story in the summer of 1881 while he stayed at the rented Kinnaird Cottage in Kinnaird, a hamlet near Pitlochry, with his parents and wife. When he read the story to his wife Fanny, she said of it that it "sent a cauld grue [shudder] along my bones" and "fair frightened" Stevenson himself. It was first published in the October 1881 issue of the Cornhill Magazine . It is a dark tale of satanic possession. [1] [2] [3] [4]


The story was later included in Stevenson's 1887 collection The Merry Men, and Other Tales and Fables. [5]

Plot summary

In 1712, a newly graduated preacher arrives in a small town, and hires Janet, an old crone, as his housekeeper—a woman whom many of the townspeople believe to be in league with the devil. When some of the local women attempt to dunk Janet in the river to prove that she is a witch, the preacher rescues her and has her abjure the devil before them. From the next day forward, Janet's appearance is altered; she has a thrawn (twisted) neck, with her head on one side, like someone who has been hanged. Later, after an encounter with a strange "black man" in the churchyard, the preacher finds Janet's corpse hanging by a thread from a nail in her room. He is pursued by the dead woman's body, until he invokes the power of God. The body turns to ash, and the black man, believed to be the devil, leaves town. Thereafter, the preacher often frightens his flock with the intensity of his admonitions against the forces of evil. [6]

Publication history

The story is one of only two stories ever written by Stevenson in Scots, the other being "The Tale of Tod Lapraik". Stevenson was aware that his readers might not understand the broad Scots the story was written in and so fully expected the Cornhill Magazine to reject "Thrawn Janet" on its first submission. [7] However, Cornhill Magazine's editor, Leslie Stephen, put it straight into print in the next issue. [7]

Related Research Articles

Robert Louis Stevenson Scottish novelist, poet, essayist, and travel writer

Robert Louis Stevenson was a Scottish novelist and travel writer, most noted for Treasure Island, Kidnapped, Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, and A Child's Garden of Verses.

Andrew Lang Scottish poet, novelist and literary critic

Andrew Lang was a Scottish poet, novelist, literary critic, and contributor to the field of anthropology. He is best known as a collector of folk and fairy tales. The Andrew Lang lectures at the University of St Andrews are named after him.

Pitlochry town in Perthshire,  Scotland

Pitlochry is a burgh in the county of Perthshire in Scotland, lying on the River Tummel. It is administered as part of the council area of Perth and Kinross, and has a population of 2,776, according to the 2011 census.

Feck has several vernacular meanings and variations in Hiberno-English, Scots and Middle English.

<i>Kidnapped</i> (novel) historical fiction adventure novel by Robert Louis Stevenson

Kidnapped is a historical fiction adventure novel by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, written as a boys' novel and first published in the magazine Young Folks from May to July 1886. The novel has attracted the praise and admiration of writers as diverse as Henry James, Jorge Luis Borges, and Hilary Mantel. A sequel, Catriona, was published in 1893.

Sidney Colvin English curator and literary and art critic

Sir Sidney Colvin was an English curator and literary and art critic, part of the illustrious Anglo-Indian Colvin family. He is primarily remembered for his friendship with Robert Louis Stevenson.

Barry Pain British writer

Barry Eric Odell Pain was an English journalist, poet and writer.

J. Habakuk Jephsons Statement Short story by Arthur Conan Doyle

"J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement" is an 1884 short story by young Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. It is in the form of a first-person testimony by a survivor of the Marie Celeste, a fictionalised version of the Mary Celeste, a ship found mysteriously abandoned and adrift in the Atlantic Ocean in 1872. Conan Doyle's story was published anonymously in the January 1884 issue of the respected Cornhill Magazine.

Fanny Stevenson wife of Robert Louis Stevenson

Frances (Fanny) Matilda Van de Grift Osbourne Stevenson was an American magazine writer. She became a supporter and later wife of Robert Louis Stevenson, and the mother of Isobel, Samuel Lloyd Osbourne, and Hervey Stewart Osbourne.

<i>The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables</i> book by Robert Louis Stevenson

The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables (1887) is a collection of short stories by Robert Louis Stevenson. The title derives from the local name given to a group of waves in the title short story, not from the Merry Men of Robin Hood tales.

<i>The Wrecker</i> (Stevenson novel) adventure novel

The Wrecker (1892) is a novel written by Robert Louis Stevenson in collaboration with his stepson Lloyd Osbourne.

Island Nights' Entertainments is a collection of short stories by Robert Louis Stevenson, first published in 1893. It would prove to contain some of his final completed work before his death in 1894.

"The Merry Men" is a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson first published in 1882 in Cornhill Magazine 45-6. The story was later published in Stevenson's collection The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables (1887). It is set on the fictional island Eilean Aros, based on the Isle of Erraid. The title derives from the local name given to a group of waves in the story, not from the Merry Men of Robin Hood and his merry men

The Pavilion on the Links short story by Robert Louis Stevenson

"The Pavilion on the Links" (1880) is a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson. It was first published in Cornhill Magazine. A revised version was included in New Arabian Nights (1882).

Jack Buckland Australian trader

John Wilberforce "Jack" Buckland (1864–1897), also known as "Tin Jack", was a trader who lived in the South Pacific in the late 19th century. He travelled with Robert Louis Stevenson and his stories of life as an island trader became the inspiration for the character of Tommy Hadden in The Wrecker (1892).

Janet Buchanan Adam Smith OBE was a writer, editor, literary journalist and champion of Scottish literature. She was active from the 1930s through to the end of the century and noted for her elegant prose, her penetrating judgement, her independence of mind – and her deep love of mountains and mountaineering.

Arthur D. Howden Smith American historian, writer and journalist

Arthur D. Howden Smith (1887–1945) was an American historian and novelist.

Moulin, Scotland settlement in Perth & Kinross, Scotland

Moulin is a village in Perthshire in central Scotland. It is located in the Tummel valley, 1 kilometre (0.62 mi) north of Pitlochry, and 40 kilometres (25 mi) north of Perth.

<i>Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde</i> 1886 novella by Robert Louis Stevenson

Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is a gothic novella by Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson, first published in 1886. The work is also known as The Strange Case of Jekyll Hyde, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, or simply Jekyll & Hyde. It is about a London legal practitioner named Gabriel John Utterson who investigates strange occurrences between his old friend, Dr Henry Jekyll, and the evil Edward Hyde. The novella's impact is such that it has become a part of the language, with the phrase "Jekyll and Hyde" entering the vernacular to refer to people with an unpredictably dual nature: usually very good, but sometimes shockingly evil.

Tales and Fantasies is a short story collection by Robert Louis Stevenson. The book was published posthumously in 1905. It contains three stories, which were not published as a part of a collection during Stevenson′s lifetime:


  1. Mehew, Ernest (2004). Oxford Dictionary of National Biography: Stevenson, Robert Louis (1850–1894). Oxford: Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/26438.
  2. Stevenson, Robert Louis (1881). "Thrawn Janet". The Cornhill Magazine. London: John Murray (October): 436–443.
  3. Gray, William (2004). "Robert Louis Stevenson: A Literary Life". Palgrave Macmillan. p. 51. ISBN   978-0-230-51034-0.
  4. J&H Mitchell Solicitors. "Kinnaird Cottage, Kinnaird, Pitlochry, PH16 5JL" (PDF).
  5. Book News . Vol. 5. 1887. p. 270.
  6. Dziemianowicz, Stefan R. (2017). "Thrawn Janet". In Cardin, Matt, ed., Horror Literature through History: An Encyclopedia of the Stories That Speak to Our Deepest Fears. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO Greenwood. p. 796. ISBN   978-1-4408-4202-3
  7. 1 2 Hodges, Jeremy (2013). "Introduction". Strange Tales: Three Uncanny Stories by Robert Louis Stevenson. Glasgow: Association for Scottish Literary Studies. p. ix. Retrieved 27 August 2017.