Today the family and I visited a living history event called The Gathering, at a place called Macktown. Apart from being immensely enjoyable and fascinating, we also came across a pewter trader who sold all sorts of items, including various Scottish thistle themed necklaces, earrings, and pins. Needless to say, I was ecstatic. I didn't purchase anything right then, but I certainly plan to when we go to a Celtic Fest next week, where the same vendor will be setting up shop again.
Now to my point. Before we left, the pewter trader, noticing my interest in the thistles, handed me a slip of paper about the Legend of the Scottish Thistle. This is how it goes....
When Alexander III (1241-1285) was King of Scotland, King Haakon of Norway landed an army on the shores of that Kingdom and attempted to conquer it. According to tradition, during a sneak attack at night on the Scottish camp at Largs, a barefooted Norseman trod on a thistle and cried out in pain. The Scots were alerted, and the attack failed. King Haakon withdrew his army and the lowly thistle became the Scottish national symbol.
Whether or not things happened just as the legend says is obviously a point for debate, but since the thistle has become such a prominent Scottish symbol, something must have happened. That explanation is good enough for me. Besides, whether the facts are straight or not, it's the sentiment that's been preserved, and that's what really counts.