English Fairy Stories

Here are some accounts of fairies from Nancy Arrowsmith’s A Field Guide to the Little People. Like a lot of such stories they seem somehow incomplete, as if the heart of the story has been lost through retelling, or mishearing over time. :

A little girl had wandered far from he friends while picking flowers. Clutching a nice bundle of primroses in her hand, she started home to show them to her mother. she walked and walked until she came to  large rock she had never seen before.

‘But this rock isn’t in the right place!’ She looked hesitatingly around herself and then wandered on until she came to another strange rock.

‘Maybe this really isn’t the way home.’

She sat down on the rock and the primroses, slightly wilted by now, knocked against the stone. She started crying.

‘There’s no reason to cry, little girl,’ a voice said softly beside her. She turned around and saw many tiny Fairies come out of the rock.

‘But where did you come from?’ she asked. ‘and how did you get here?’

‘We’ve come from another land, and your flowers opened our door. Here’s a ball we’ve bought you to play with,’ they replied and handed her a large golden ball. Sh was delighted and laughed merrily as they accompanied her home.

A conjuror was at the house when she arrived and listened carefully to her story. He thought he could also get a golden ball for himself.

The next day he went to the meadow and picked an enormous bunch of primroses. He wasn’t as lucky as the little girl, for he had gathered the wrong number of flowers and had come on the wrong day. The Fairies who came out of the rock this time weren’t gentle and kind, but very angry. The magician was never seen again. Most likely, he still lives under the rock, ‘taken’ by the Fairies.

Cakes that aren’t marked with a cross before baking often get tiny pock-marks on them when set out to cool. The Somerset people say that the holes are made by the Vairies who dance on them with high-heeled shoes.

An Oxfordshire man had a fine apple tree. It produced the best fruit in the parish and never had an off-year. Many people came from mils around to marvel at it and all who came went away with a couple of apples.

One neighbour wasn’t content just to look at the tree. He refused the apples the man offered him, but stayed awake at nights thinking how he might own such a tree.

One night he looked over into the farmer’s yard and saw tiny lights in the tree and heard songs coming from inside its branches. Trembling with envy, he grabbed his rifle and went running out of the house. He fired straight into the middle of the tree. The lights suddenly went out and the songs stopped. A flock of tiny green birds swarmed angrily at him and pecked at his eyes.

That didn’t stop greedy Jack. He didn’t heed the warning of the fairy birds. The next night he took an axe and copped the tree down. It fell with a crash to the ground, and the lights went out for good. Maybe he hoped that the birds would move into his own tree. If he did, he was sorely disappointed. His neighbour had lost the magic tree but greedy Jack had lost his luck and died a poor and bitter man.

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