The Fairies of Cornwall (5)

After a short respite (or perhaps, time off for good behaviour), this is another story about the man-sized evil fairies of Cornwall. We met them for the first time quite a while ago.

This is another typical Droll Teller’s tale . It concerns the behaviour of the fairies towards a Mr Noy,  a farmer who is travelling from his distant home to a particular village, on the night before the village’s Harvest Festival. There’s an especially fine crop of biscuits this year:

Mr Noy goes down to the pub, sinks a few pints, and then, cue Droll Teller….

“……. eventually, Mr Noy, with his dogs, left the public house to go home, but he didn’t arrive there that night or the next. It was thought at first that he must have enjoyed himself at the inn until late, and only then have gone home. Mr Noy had no wife or anybody else to be much alarmed about him, as he was an elderly bachelor.

The next day people from the village of Pendrea along with scores of neighbours from other farms came to attend the feast at the Harvest Festival, but none of them had heard or seen Mr Noy from the time he left the inn. They became somewhat uneasy. Yet they still supposed that Mr Noy might have gone to some merry-making down near the village of St Buryan. (about eight-ten miles away, look for the orange arrow)…

In the meantime, a local woman, Dame Pendar, sent messengers to all the places where she thought Mr Noy might have gone, but they returned, just as the Harvest Festival feast was coming to an end, without any news of him. At this everyone became anxious, and they all volunteered to search everywhere they could think of, before going to bed. So away they went, some on horseback and some on foot, to examine pools, streams, cliffs and other dangerous places, both near and far away. They returned at night, but nobody had seen or heard of the missing gentleman.

The next day, horsemen were despatched to other districts, and, as Mr Noy was well known and well liked, there was a good general turn out to hunt for him. But this day too was passed in a fruitless search.

On the third day, in the grey of the morning and very close to Mr Noy’s own farm, a horse was heard neighing and dogs were heard barking, among a dense group of trees and bushes on a dry piece of ground almost surrounded with bogs and pools on the side of Selena Moor (which is between Penzance and St Buryan):

Nobody had even considered looking for Mr Noy so close to his own home, but when a score or so of men discovered a path onto this island in the bogs, they saw Mr Noy’s horse and hounds. The horse had found plenty of grass, but the dogs were half starved. Both the horse and the dogs were excited and they led the men through thorns and brambles that might have been growing there for hundreds of years. Eventually they came to some large trees and the ruins of an old sheep fold that nobody knew was there. In winter, hunters never attempted to cross the boggy ground that almost surrounded this island of dry land, and in summer nobody was curious enough to penetrate this wilderness of bushes which was swarming with poisonous snakes:

The horse stopped at an old doorway and whinnied. The dogs, with several people, pushed through the brambles that choked the entrance, and inside they found Mr Noy lying on the ground fast asleep. It was a difficult matter to wake him up. At last he awoke, stretched himself, rubbed his eyes and said, “Why, you are all from the village of Pendea! Why have you all come here? Today is the Harvest Festival and I am miles and miles away from home. What district is this? How could you have found me? Have my dogs been home and brought you here? Mr Noy seemed like one dazed and numb, so without staying to answer his questions, they gave him some brandy, lifted him onto the back of his horse, and then left the animal to pick its way out, which it did without hesitation and even discovered a shorter way out than Mr Noy’s rescuers had.

Though he was on his own land and less than half a mile from his farm, Mr Noy was unable to recognise the countryside, until he crossed the running water that divides the farms. “I am glad,” said Mr Noy, “however it came about, to have got back in time for the Harvest Festival”. When they told him how the Festival had taken place three days previously, he said they were joking, and wouldn’t believe it until he had seen all the mown hay in the barn, and all the harvest tools put away until next year.”

Another fairy abduction, then. For what reason we do not know, but Mr Noy had been absent for several days. He was then found right next to his own home, although he didn’t recognise any of the landmarks he could see. Only crossing running water restores normality. Vampires then, are not the only supernatural beings who can be thwarted by water.


Filed under Cornwall, Criminology, Cryptozoology, History, Literature, Personal, Wildlife and Nature, Writing

21 responses to “The Fairies of Cornwall (5)

  1. An interesting tale John, I enjoyed it!

    • Excellent! It is just one of many tales recorded by Bottrell, often with similar details throughout, even though they frequently date from widely separated periods.

  2. Good fun – you found some apt illustrations, too

  3. Those pesky little trouble makers! Cute story (but they could have left out the snakes).

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it. I suspect that the original authors, all those hundreds of years ago, wanted to emphasise the evil of the fairies and their creations in contrast to God’s world which is essentially innocent and good. Snakes are actually very rare in England and only one is poisonous, the one in the picture, the adder, or viper. Sometimes they replace their beige/white background with a gold colour which is very beautiful.

  4. A charming story! Do you live by Penzance? I have always wanted to visit.

    • No, we live in Nottingham which is about 330 miles away. We used to go on holiday every year to Penzance but after thirty consecutive years the problems of old age have eventually proved too much and we can’t go any more. We were so lucky to have enjoyed the area for so long!

  5. It’s nice to know those pesky fairies didn’t do away with poor old Mr Noy, I was fearing the end would not go so well! What a relief!

    • Yes, a good happy ending is a pre-requisite to any decent story. I bought the books many years ago but recently I have become intrigued by the similarities of these fairy stories, and events in the USA’s national parks, where people go missing, in large numbers, every year. This phenomenon was first detailed by David Paulides who produces short podcasts at
      His books are very expensive, unfortunately, but it is an intriguing phenomenon.

      • Are there really that many that go missing? Maybe there is more to this than meets the eye!

      • Well the news says that Britain manages 350,000 people who disappear every year, mainly as their own decision. In the USA, their wilderness areas surely claim a lot more, but it’s enough that the Parks Service don’t keep a record, or so they say!

      • Good grief, that’s a lot of people just ‘disappearing’. You wouldn’t have thought it possible would you, there must be some mightily busy fairies about!

  6. An intriguing tale. Mr. Noy is lucky to be alive.

    • He certainly is, and it’s only through the persistence of that one local woman, Dame Pendar, who got the ball rolling so that eventually that Mr Noy was found.
      Most of the people at the Harvest Festival were happy to avoid the issue and presume that he must have gone off drinking somewhere. A perfect solution for them, because they avoided having to do anything!

  7. It’s such a shame when people don’t get to go to a Harvest Festival.

    • This might be the year when that happens in England. After record floods over the winter and three or four weeks of blue skies and sunshine, we are now getting rain,rain and more rain. It’s such a pity that we can’t find a way of getting the water to the places that need it!

  8. Really fascinating. I would feel very scared if it happened to me :

  9. I think we all would! And what is more worrying is that Mr Noy had to be rescued by all those searchers. If they hadn’t looked for him, he would never have been found.

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