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 eke 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.
What is this story about?
Did the poor man have confidence in himself?
Did the farmworker have enough food for his family?
Vocabulary & Grammar
“but eventually you will see a mound of jagged rocks...”
What does jagged mean?
smooth (b) rough (c) bleak (d) spiky
“no doubt he made use in his spells of the black peat that was all around him...”
What is the other meaning of spell ?
(a) spit (b) spout (c )write with correct letters (d)dreams
“he had to feed his wife and two wee bairns”
What is another word for wee ?
(a) big (b) shapely (c ) little (d) weak
The poor man had X choice but to do as he was told
What is the missing word?
good (b) little (c) much (d)very
He set X on his journey home with a spring in his step
What is the missing word?
to (b) from (c) back (d) off
Do you think the man should have done what his master wanted or what the fairy told him to do?
What do you think about the master giving his man some milk when he was pleased with him? What can we infer from this?
Discuss situations when what you think is quite different from what other people think. Do you think it is right to laugh at other people when they don’t agree with you?