Sacred Texts  Sagas and Legends  Celtic  Index  Previous  Next 

The Fairies' Revenge

THE fairies have a great objection to the fairy raths, where they meet at night, being built upon by mortal man. A farmer called Johnstone, having plenty of money, bought some land, and chose a beautiful green spot to build a house on, the very spot the fairies loved best.
The neighbours warned him that it was a fairy rath; but he laughed and never minded (for he was from the north), and looked at such things as mere old-wives' tales. So he built the house and made it beautiful to live in; and no people in the country were so well off as the Johnstones so that the people said the farmer must have found a pot of gold in the fairy rath.
But the fairies were all the time plotting how they could punish the farmer for taking away their dancing ground, and for cutting down the hawthorn bush where they held their revels when the moon was full. And one day when the cows were milking, a little old woman in a blue cloak came to Mrs. Johnstone and asked her for a porringer of milk.
"Go away," said the mistress of the house, "you shall have no milk from me. I'll have no tramps coming about my place." And she told the farm servants to chase her away.
Some time after, the best and finest of the cows sickened and gave no milk, and lost her horns and teeth and finally died.
Then one day as Mrs. Johnstone was sitting spinning flax in the parlour, the same little woman in the blue cloak suddenly stood before her.
"Your maids are baking cakes in the kitchen," she said; "give me some off the griddle to carry away with me."
"Go out of this," cried the farmers wife, angrily; "you are a wicked old wretch, and have poisoned my best cow." And she bade the farm servants drive her off with sticks.
Now the Johnstones had one only child; a beautiful bright boy, as strong as a young colt, and as full of life and merriment. But soon after this he began to grow queer and strange, and was disturbed in his sleep; for he said the fairies came round him at night and pinched and beat. him, and some sat on his chest and he could neither breathe nor move. And they told him they would never leave him in peace unless he promised to give them a supper every night of a griddle cake and a porringer of milk. So to soothe the child the mother had these things laid every night on a table beside his bed, and in the morning they were gone.
But still the child pined away, and his eyes got a strange, wild look, as if he saw nothing near or around him, only something far, far away that troubled his spirit. And when they asked him what ailed him, he said the fairies carried him away to the hills every night, where he danced and danced with them till the morning, when they brought him back and laid him again in his bed.
At last the farmer and his wife were at their wits' end from grief and despair, for the child was pining away before their eyes, and they could do nothing for him to help him. One night he cried out in great agony--
"Mother! mother! send for the priest to take away the fairies, for they are killing me; they are here on my chest, crushing me to death," and his eyes were wild with terror.
Now the farmer and his wife believed in no fairies, and in no priest, but to soothe the child they did as he asked and sent for the priest, who prayed over him and sprinkled him with holy water.
The poor little fellow seemed calmer as the priest prayed, and he said the fairies were leaving him and going away, and then he sank into a quiet sleep. But when he woke in the morning he told his parents that he had a beautiful dream and was walking in a lovely garden with the angels; and he knew it was heaven, and that he would be there before night, for the angels told him they would come for him.
Then they watched by the sick child all through the night, for they saw the fever was still on him, but hoped a change would come before morning; for he now slept quite calmly with a smile on his lips.
But just as the clock struck midnight. he awoke and sat up, and when his mother put her arms round him weeping, he whispered to her--
"The angels are here, mother," and then he sank back, and so died.
Now after this calamity the farmer never held up his head. He ceased to mind his farm, and the crops went to ruin and the cattle died, and finally before a year and a day were over he was laid in the grave by the side of his little son; and the land passed into other hands, and as no one would live in the house it was pulled down. No one, either, would plant on the rath; so the grass grew again all over it, green amid beautiful, and the fairies danced there once more in the moonlight as they used to do in the old time, free and happy; and thus the evil spell was broken for evermore.
But the people would have nothing to do with the childless mother, so she went away back to her own people, a brokenhearted, miserable woman--a warning to all who would arouse the vengeance of the fairies by interfering with their ancient rights and possessions and privileges.

Next: Fairy Help--The Phouka