State of the Savage: March 2015

by Keith Savage · 6 comments

King Loth's burial stone, East Lothian, Scotland

Just across the street from Traprain Cottage B&B, in the private backyard of another house hardly a stone’s throw from Traprain Law, stands a great stone menhir. The setting is incongruous for this stone, hidden, as it is, among trees, buildings, and the detritus of modern living, for it is believed to be the burial stone of King Loth, for whom the Lothians are named.

Loth has many legends attached to his name, but the most famous of them is his connection to King Arthur, where he is variously the father of Sir Gawain and the husband of Arthur’s sister. Of course he is also known to have been a Pictish king of the 6th century AD who ruled from Traprain Law. A man of such power and legend, and all that remains is stone devoid of marking.

And this isn’t even where King Loth is buried.

A farmer moved the stone over a hundred years ago because it was in the middle of his farm field. It’s hard to blame the guy; he was just trying to live. So the marker is severed from its progenitor.

This isn’t a post about King Loth. Rather, his tale exemplifies the cross-section of history and myth, story and reality, that I find compelling, how the facts and knowledge of today are built upon fragile foundations bulwarked, largely, by belief. Though it often goes unnoticed in the drone of day-to-day life, much of what we “know” is believed to be known. It’s a scary thought, for what is more frightening than not understanding the world around us, than seeing everything as alien and inscrutable?

But it also cracks open the lid on what is possible. What will the generations of the future interpret to be truth based on the artifacts they find from today? A stone? A book?

Are they not one and the same? It sure feels like it as I was work on the first draft of my novel. I’ve just crested 134,000 words, and today I begin the fourth and final part of the tale. I have all of April to finish it before I leave for Europe at the beginning of May. When the first draft is finished, it will have the metaphorical look of Loth’s Stane: A form, the raw ingredients unearthed and brought to light, but little shape, no finesse, no singing corners.

That is not despair in my words.

This is simply what the first draft yields. Subsequent drafts require the hammer and chisel, a thousand strokes to reveal the idea and present it in its purest form. I’m generally happy after tens of thousands of words. Sure, there are parts that feel bloated, where little happens, and I’ve forgotten about minor characters and plot devices that I will need to add back in. I’m positive many thousands of words will be cut like shards of stone chiseled off the block. All the ingredients must be brought together, though not used. There is an alchemy that happens when the rights ones are chosen, an alchemy that elevates the work beyond its parts.

In May I will be taking some R&R in southern Spain before diving into Scotland’s Lochaber and Argyll regions for a week. I hope you’ve enjoyed the lengthy coverage of Dumfries & Galloway and the Scottish Borders. I’m currently writing my way through East Lothian, and articles on Stirling and the Kingdom of Fife will follow.

This is probably a good place to note that in the last three months Traveling Savage has earned more profit than in the previous couple years combined thanks to the scores of excited travelers requesting my help planning their trips to Scotland. Thanks to everyone for your support!

Until next time,


GaylaNo Gravatar May 24, 2015 at 9:35 AM

I so enjoy the way you weave the past and the present into your articles. It is the legends and the myths that inspire me when I travel, both of which Scotland has in spades. I know I’ll get back there someday, but until then I see it through your words. Now, I have to go read more about King Loth 😉
p.s. Best of luck with the finishing touches on your book.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar May 25, 2015 at 9:06 PM

Cheers, Gayla. Thanks for the kind words and well wishes!

Natalie SindenNo Gravatar April 2, 2015 at 3:33 AM

Hi Keith,

I’m very glad I found your travel guide and enjoy reading each post. You have a lovely way with words. In a couple of years my father (originally from Aberdeen) and I will travel to Scotland and so far you have been very inspiring. Good luck with your book, I’m sure I will enjoy reading it one day and I’m looking forward to your articles on the Kingdom of Fife. Thanks again, Nat.

Keith SavageNo Gravatar April 2, 2015 at 7:04 AM

Hi Natalie,

Thanks for the kind words. I’m glad I could inspire and help you plan/think about your trip to Scotland. Thanks for reading!

DarlaNo Gravatar April 1, 2015 at 12:03 PM

Hi, Keith –
I loved this piece; thanks for sharing parts of your journey in writing as well as the ever-enticing Scotland.
I personally adore the mystery of belief and not knowing, long ago having realized that there is very little “known” because everything is shaped by the interpreter, from story to science, from past to today.
Take care!

Keith SavageNo Gravatar April 1, 2015 at 4:36 PM

Thanks for reading, Darla!

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