The portrayal of young Nanny, the witch who is not one of the
rigwoodie hags, is crucial to the poem’s denoument. She catches Tam’s eye as
ae winsome wench and waulie.
She is a new recruit so we are given a list of her future crimes, supplied by the speaker, who has a wealth of local knowledge about Nanny. The
cutty sark was a present from her
grannie and she still wears it. Her character emerges realistically as a vigorous and
vauntie young woman, with both vicious and sentimental streaks, out to prove herself.
In the description of Nanny, the strong past tenses of
flang, rather than,
louping and flinging used for the other witches, help us to appreciate her strength and enthusiasm. We are so caught up in this and in the comical sight of Satan as a dog playing excitedly that Tam’s outburst
Weel done, Cutty sark! takes us aback.
And in an instant all was dark. The dance is over and the chase is on.
This moment of contrast between comic stupidity and horror is one of the poem’s most dramatic moments.