SHROPSHIRE men must have been well acquainted with the fairies five hundred years ago. It was reported then that our famous champion, Wild Edric, had had an elf-maiden for his wife. One day, we are told, when he was returning from hunting in the forest of Clun, he lost his way, and wandered about till nightfall, alone, save for one young page. At last he saw the lights of a very large house in the distance, towards which he turned his steps; and when he had reached it, he beheld within a large company of noble ladies dancing. They were exceedingly beautiful, taller and larger than women of the human race, and dressed in gracefully-shaped linen garments. They circled round with smooth and easy motion, singing a soft low song of which the hunter could not understand the words. Among them was one maiden who excelled all the others in beauty, at the sight of whom our hero's heart was inflamed with love. Forgetting the fears of enchantment, which at the first moment had seized him, he hurried round the house, seeking an entrance, and having found it, he rushed in, and snatched the maiden who was the object of his passion from her place in the moving circle. The dancers assailed him with teeth and nails, but backed by his page, he escaped at length from their hands, and succeeded in carrying off his fair captive. For three whole days not his utmost caresses and persuasions could prevail on her to utter a single word, but on the fourth day she suddenly broke the silence. "Good luck to you, my dear!" said she, "and you will be lucky too, and enjoy health and peace and plenty, as long as you do not reproach me on account of my sisters, or the place from which you snatched me away, or anything connected with it. For on the day when you do so you will lose both your bride and your good fortune; and when I am taken away from you, you will pine away quickly to an early death."
He pledged himself by all that was most sacred to be ever faithful and constant in his love for her, and they were solemnly wedded in the presence of all the nobles from far and near, whom Edric invited to their bridal feast. At that time William the Norman was newly made king of England, who, hearing of this wonder, desired both to see the lady, and to test the truth of the tale; and bade the newly-married pair to London, where he was holding his Court. Thither then they went, and many witnesses from their own country with them, who brought with them the testimony of others who could not present themselves to the king. But the marvellous beauty of the lady was the best of all proofs of her superhuman origin. And the king let them return in peace, wondering greatly.
Many years passed happily by, till one evening Edric returned late from hunting, and could not find his wife. He sought her and called for her for some time in vain. At last she appeared. "I suppose," began he, with angry looks, "it is your sisters who have detained you such a long time, have they not?" The rest of his upbraiding was addressed to the air, for the moment her sisters were mentioned she vanished. Edric's grief was overwhelming. He sought the place where he had found her at first, but no tears, no laments of his could call her back. He cried out day and night against his own folly, and pined away and died of sorrow, as his wife had long before foretold.
1 Miss C. S. Burne, Shropshire Folk-Lore, p. 59; from Walter Mapes.