The Fairies of Cornwall (11) Two short stories

Today, I’m just going to let you read two short stories from William Bottrell’s “Stories and Folk-Lore of West Cornwall— Third Series” which Bottrell self-published in 1880.

The first story is told about a young farmer called Richard Vingoe who was targeted by fairies, for no good reason other than it was within their power to do so, near Treville Cliffs in West Cornwall:

“After wandering for five hours over places which appeared strange to him, Richard followed the path through the rocky bottom or glen into an underground passage or cavern, from which, on emerging, he found himself in a pleasant looking country.”

“Walking on, he heard the sounds of merrymaking and came to a place where people appeared to be having a feast. He noticed a great number of persons playing bowls. Being fond of that game, he was about to run and seize the silver ball as it fell near him, when a female darted from behind a rock, which had screened her from view, and made eager signs for him to stop playing and to follow her. She went into an orchard near at hand. He approached and saw that she was a young lady who he had once loved, but who had been dead for a number of years. She told him she was changed into the fairy state by having trespassed on the fairies’ domain, and that he had narrowly escaped the same fate.”

“She was disposed to save him for the sake of their former attachment. When the persons playing bowls and spectators of the game had all gone out of sight, she conducted her former lover to the upper world by a shorter road than that by which he entered; on the way she told him that, as he was engaged to be married within a few weeks, she had no desire to detain him. She advised him, however, to defer his wedding three years, that he might be sure he knew his own mind. When Vingoe promised to follow her advice, they passed through an opening in a carn, and he saw Nanjizal” (which is a real place):

His conductress then said good-bye, and vanished. Being fatigued with his journey, he lay on the grass, near the spot where he again saw the light of day, and there he was found asleep nearly a week after. Vingoe was never the same man again, for he took to hard drinking and he died unmarried.

Notice how many of the usual themes are introduced…..

………wandering for hours, disorientation, caverns in the rocks, a distant feast and merrymaking, an orchard, playing bowls, a dead person who is not dead but has been captured by the fairies and finally, the poor innocent victim who, like all the rest, is affected by his time with the fairies.

The map below shows you where Nanjizal is, thanks to the efforts of the Orange Arrow. This is the very last bit of England (hence Land’s End) and the dark grey shading in the top right represents the western edge of the town of Penzance. As an area, it is full of magic and witchcraft, even nowadays, and it must contain at least fifty Stone Age circles and other types of monument.

The second story concerns a servant girl called Grace who has been tricked into going to work for a human sized fairy:

“Grace told her master (the human sized fairy)  that she wasn’t used to going to bed so early. He answered,  “Please yourself on that score, and stay up as long as you want to.”

He then brought her a basket of fruit and told her to eat what she pleased of them. Afterwards, he gave her a cup of fruit juice that she found delicious. By the time she had drunk it to the last drop, she forgot her home and playmates among the hills. She forgot her brothers and her sisters, her father and her mother even. She no more remembered her former life, and only thought of her kind Master and the delightful place in which he lived. She dreamed of it that night and nothing else.”

This last tale could well have been something from a science-fiction short story. Not only do we have the familiar tale of eating or drinking something, and then there is no escape ( rather like the Greek Persephone) but we also have that feeling of lethargy yet total happiness, and a forgetfulness that leads to a perfect life, almost as if Grace had joined a modern day sect:

If you ever see the gentleman in the picture, make sure that you tell him what a “helter-skelter” is in England. It’s not what he thought it was.


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

17 responses to “The Fairies of Cornwall (11) Two short stories

  1. jackchatterley

    The gentleman in the picture is not a gentleman.

    Just saying…

    • I agree with you absolutely 100%. And if you follow the link to the wikipedia page about “helter skelter”, you can see just how completely nuts he was.
      One of his major errors was that, because he wasn’t English, he didn’t know the real meaning of a “helter skelter” which is the very long and steep children’s slide, built around what looks like a twenty foot or so wooden lighthouse.
      The lyrics then fit perfectly the feeling of coming down the slide, and then rushing back to the top for another go. It even refers to the danger of collision:

      When I get to the bottom
      I go back to the top of the hill
      Where I stop and I turn and I give you a thrill
      ‘Til I get to the bottom and I see you again

      I’m coming down fast, but I’m miles above you

      I’m coming down fast, but don’t let me break you

    • I hope you enjoyed them, Derrick. As far as fairies are concerned, that’s more or less the end.
      I have never been able to understand why people seem to have no contact with them any more, but, on the other hand, during our years of holidaying in Cornwall, we hardly ever saw farm workers out in their fields. Perhaps you need to be more familiar with the landscape to make contact with the being s who may live their still, for all we know.

      • Jeff Tupholme

        Apparently fairies are supposed to be afraid of cold iron, and I read recently the suggestion that the coming of the railways (i.e., the iron rails) had driven them elsewhere.

      • That’s very interesting, Jeff, thank you. Your idea certainly ties in with the decreasing frequency of fairy sightings, as opposed, say, to the number of ghosts which are still seen.

  2. That picture of Manson still gives me the willies!!

    • It’s certainly not one for Grandma’s mantelpiece!
      I believe that there is an urban myth that Manson actually auditioned to be one of the Monkees. He was probably attracted by the advertisement in Daily Variety seeking “4 Insane Boys, Age 17-21″ for the new TV series. You certainly don’t get any crazier than Charles Manson!

  3. How fun and interesting. One day I will make it to Cornwall. I love that picture of the sliver of light through the cliffs – Nanjizal is that the rock formation or a magical place one goes to if you slip through the door?

    • I do apologise. I’ve merely forgotten to insert the map of where Nanjizal is and that’s why you are a little puzzled. Nanjizal is a valley which leads down to the sea, just to the south of Land’s End. The name is also applied to the bay at the end of the valley.
      Nowadays, it is beloved of bird watchers, because it sometimes plays host to American birds blown across the Atlantic by mistake on migration. In 2014, there was an alder flycatcher, the first ever in England.

  4. It’s been a fascinating journey John. These fairies have certainly not turned out to be the sweet little darlings we once thought they were. Those poor devils who crossed their paths seem to have been changed for the worst and left in a rather terrible state. Perhaps all of Cornwall has been taken by them and it’s actually another world, after all, there is only one road in and one road out!

    • Ain’t that the truth ! We began going there in 1987, with very little then in the way of dual carriageway, although over the years more and more has been constructed. We used to employ the strategy of “Leave the A30 and just follow your nose west”. At least that way you were always moving, if only slowly. And now, I have no idea at all where we went except that we repeatedly used the same wonderful shortcut on a couple of minor roads south of the A30 at a place called Temple.

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