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The Fairies of Merlin’s Craig
For the first time on Storynory we bring you fairies – Real Ones ! Yes, it’s true. A man who was working near Merlin’s Craig in Scotland saw one, and then another, and then another. And before too long he was dancing with the fairies and they were dragging him underground into their house beneath the moor.
There are certain places where the very earth itself is charged with that fiery, unpredictable energy, known as magic. One of those centres of enchantment, is in Lanarkshire, in Scotland. You have to tramp for miles and miles across a bleak, soggy moorland to reach it – but eventually you will see a mound of jagged rocks rising out of the peat bog. And that will be Merlin’s Craig.
The folk who live thereabouts say that over a thousand years, ago the famous wizard called Merlin lived and practiced his magic among those rocks. No doubt he made use in his spells of the black peat that was all around him. You see peat is like no other earth: For it burns, and gives warmth and life to the people who eek out a living on the moorlands.
A few hundred years ago, a poor but honest man, worked on a farm near Merlin’s Craig. One day his master sent him to the Craig to dig up slabs of peat and fetch them back for fuel. The man did as he was told. He had just begun to slice the ground with his shovel and lift up the peat when all at once the smallest wee woman that he had ever seen in his life appeared before him. She was certainly a dainty little creature – perhaps no more than two feet high. She was clad in a green grown and red stockings, and her long yellow hair tumbled down to her waist.
The man was dumbfounded. He stuck his spade in the ground and gaped at her. She wagged her finger at him and said angrily:
“What do you mortals think you are doing when you dig up our roof? How would you like it if I came along with a giant spade and took the lid off your house?”
She stamped her wee foot and demanded:
“You put that turf back at once, or you will rue the day that you ever lifted it”.
Now the poor man’s teeth began to chatter with fright, for he had heard stories of how when a mortal offends the fairy-folk, the fairies wreak a terrible revenge. He swiftly shovelled the peat back into its place, patted it down nicely, and returned to his master to tell him what had happened.
But the master jeered at him: “A fairy you say? Taking the roof off her house were you? Drinking whisky more like it… No go back at once and fetch me some peat or there will be no wages for you this very week.”
The poor man had little choice but to do as he was told – for he had to feed his wife and two wee bairns – those were his children.
And so he spent the next few days working hard, digging peat and fetching it back to the farm. And during this time no fairies appeared to him – not a single one.
A year went by and the man still had not caught sight of another fairy – and he began to think that his master might have been right – perhaps he had only seen the fairy in a dream.
Autumn went by, and then winter and spring, and once again it was summer. It was the very same day that he had lifted the peat the year before. The man had been working hard on the farm, and his master was pleased with him, and gave him a present of some milk to take home to his family. He set off on his journey home with a spring in his step, and was humming a happy tune. As it was such a nice evening, he went home the long way over the moor, by a path that led past Merlin’s Craig. When he reached the craig his legs felt strangely tired, and he sat down on the ground, and soon fell into a deep sleep.
It was near midnight when he was awoken by some strange but lively music. He rubbed his eyes and what a shock he had when he saw that a band of fairies was dancing around him, glowering at him, and pointing their wee fists in his face.
He got up and tried to start on his way, but where ever he went, the fairies danced in a ring around him. Then out of the ring stepped the bonniest wee lady and the other fairies laughed and called out:
“Dance man, Dance !”
And when the lady reached up and took him by the hands. And although he had never been much of a dancer in his youth, he found himself waltzing and reeling as if he had been a dancer all his life. His head felt happy and light and he forgot all about his home, his wife, and his wee bairns. The whole night long they danced on until at last they heard the shrill sound of the farmyard cock greeting the morning with his loudest crowing.
All at once the merriment ceased. The fairies stampeded headlong toward the Craig, and they dragged the man along with them. A door opened up in the rocks and in they all clattered.
The door closed behind them and they led the man down below the ground into a dimly lit hall.
Here the fairies busied themselves with tasks: some dipped quill pens in magic ink, and copied out spells and fairy laws onto scrolls of parchment. Others were making fairy honey out of flowers. And still others were distilling fairy whisky.
The man could do nothing but sit down and watch and be amazed. Towards evening time, the wee woman in red stockings whom he had first seen a year ago came before him and led him back up to the door by which they had entered. She said:
“The turf which you took from the roof of our house has reformed, and there is grass growing over it once again. Now you may go home. But you must swear never to tell any mortal any of our secrets.”
The man swore never to tell the fairy secrets to a living soul – for he had seen some things which I have not been able to tell you about - and the door opened and he went back out onto the moor.
But when he reached home, his wife stared at him in amazement. She seemed somehow to have aged. Then his children came into the hall of the house – but they were not longer wee infants, but lads and lasses, and they did not know him.”
“Where have you been these long long years?” demanded his wife.”How could you do such a thing as to run off and leave your wife and wee bairns to fend for ourselves?”
The man did not know what to say to this, but he soon learned that the one day he had spent underground had lasted seven years, while the turf grew back over their roof. And from that day on, he never again dug peat from that part of the moor, or even dared to venture near to Merlin’s Craig.