Sawney Bean

Adulterous young husband facing criminal punishment in medieval Scotland flees into the hideout of the notorious cannibal family.

In the early 14th century, handsome young NIALL McPHEE struggles to keep his family alive in his medieval Scottish village. The ceaseless rain and freezing temperatures of the "Little Ice Age" have caused famine throughout Europe. Now, Niall's "wee bairn" AENGUS has died in infancy. His wife MARIOUN, mad with grief, and Aengus's brother, nine-year-old BRIAN trudge behind the priest in the muddy funeral cortege --- but Niall, the father is not among them.

Niall is at that moment making love in an alleyway to the well-meaning village slattern, CAITRINA, who had stopped to offer him only condolences --- but Niall wanted comfort of another sort. Niall, bitter and hopeless, has driven his wife insane with his wild ways ---although his son Brian adores him and forgives him everything.

Late that night, Niall arrives home drunk to their wattle-and-daub hut. He offers the grieving Marioun a crude stone jug of liquor: "Wyfe, douse thy sorrow," he tells her. She flies at him: "Return to your whore, you devil!" As Brian huddles on his filthy straw bed, the two fight and blame each other for Aengus's death.

Marioun's rage drives her to denounce Niall to the local priest as a "wolf by night." She includes the well-meaning young slut Caitrina in her denouncement. Frightened by his mother's fury, little Brian tries to intercede, but it is too late. Goaded by the superstition and scapegoating of the era, a board of priests brings charges against the adulterous pair, who fail the dunking test. Caitrina is burned at the stake. But Niall, locked in the town dungeon and awaiting the same fate, is set free by his son, Brian, aided by a kindly guard ---and by yet another of his lovers, the lecherous LADY FERGUSSON, who has been cuckolding her rich, dull-witted older husband with Niall.

In another part of the countryside, on the Ballantrae Road, a comfortable carriage with four fine horses flies through the night. Inside, a Bishop stuffs himself with fruit, wine, and sweetmeats to while away the long ride. When the carriage passes near an ominous-looking, deserted cave, it is set upon by the gang of SAWNEY BEAN --- who murder them and take the bishop hostage.

Meanwhile, as he runs, Niall comes upon a fracas in one of the muddy fields of Lord Ferguson: An older man, LEOD LENNOX, is brawling with three others. He calls upon Niall: "Help me if ye be a Christian. I'm set upon!" The three ghoulish attackers, with their pointed teeth and glowing eyes, are unlike anything Niall has ever seen.

"This ain't yer fight," declares one of the attackers, TAVISH. Get on wi' ye!"

But Niall takes them on and disperses them. Old Leod declares, "They could have had his Lordship's sheep and be done with it. But t'was me they wanted!"

Far away, in a hovel near the coast, a young man DONAL pushes a loaf of bread at a pretty young girl, JANE. She is a prisoner of SAWNEY BEAN, the notorious cannibal outlaw, the patriarch of a large family who have taken to robbing AND eating unfortunate travelers who venture near his cave on the stormy Galloway coast. Sawney Bean and his gang have waylaid and captured the wealthy family of young Jane as they traveled by coach to visit relatives for Michaelmas. Jane, a beautiful young girl, was spared the fate of her parents. The good-hearted young man Donal tries to get Jane to eat but she, traumatized and horrified by the cannibals, is determined to die. Only when Donal promises to help her escape, does she distastefully eat the bread that he swears was not made with human blood!

Weeks have passed, and Niall, stumbling along alone, has deteriorated without food or shelter and is near death: "What a bitter thing, to come this far and now to die, here, alone, despised, falsely accused, and hounded by all. It's final payback for me sins I've earned. This is what me life has come to, and now it shall end."

Suddenly, a voice speaks up: "Will ye listen to that one talking away to thin air? For a dyin' man he's got a huge load o' clatfart left in him." Amid rough male laughter, Niall recognizes the three attackers of Leod Lennox, now drunk and convivial, following him on horseback. They take Niall with them and introduce him to Sawney Bean, who declares him a stout fellow and worthy of saving. After weeks of delirium, Niall begins to recover, nursed by the beautiful and fiery MOIRA, who falls in love with him. Niall becomes one of the family, horrified by their deeds, but understanding of what might drive them to it, what with the wholesale corruption and famine everywhere.

Sawney also lectures him: "Outlaw and unspeakable as I am, it's been nigh on twenty-five years I married and nivver have I betrayed me marriage bed. When ye hold that bed sacred, then yer wife is yer ally and lover. Else she is your sworn enemy, and all the divils in hell cannot take her measure." Sawney's wife smiles affectionately at him --- with teeth shaved into points.

As time passes, Niall finds out that the King's authorities are closing in on Swaney Bean. Their luck is running out. Niall makes plans with Donal and Jane to escape. But Moira refuses to leave her family and the only home she's ever known. "Then it's over," Niall tells her. "The king is ridin' for Sawney with his nobles. Ye'll all be hanged or worse."

But just as he has her convinced, they are all betrayed and imprisoned deep in the Sawney cave: "Ill eat your liver raw, you stinking turncoat!" Sawney shouts.

As they await their fate, they hear the sounds of battle outside: The king and his men have arrived! Amid the fierce righting, Sawney is defeated and taken prisoner, but Niall and Moira manage to escape with Jane and Donal and their baby, Ella, to start a new life. As a harbinger of better times, the sun rises above the horizon and the sky slowly turns blue.

Script Excerpt
Written by:
Starring Roles For:
a young Colin Farrell type
A young Lena Heady
Stellan Skarsgard
In the Vein Of:
Name of the Rose
Rob Roy
Author Bio:
I graduated from UC Berkeley with a degree in English. I'm a produced screenwriter who has also written three novels, and I was just nominated for a 2021 Pushcart Prize in fiction, my second nomination.

Author page: Amazon page:

I wrote the feature film, Murder in Fashion, about the killing of designer Gianni Versace by serial killer Andrew Cunanan. The film played at theatres and festivals and was reviewed in the NY Times: https://www.

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