A Captured Fairy

migratory legends of type 6010
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2016


  1. A Fairy Caught (England).

  2. Skillywidden the Fairy (England).

  3. Colman Grey (England).

  4. A Woman Caught a Fairy (Wales).

  5. The Wonderful Plough (Germany).

  6. Krachöhrle! Where Are You? (Germany).

  7. Link to The Leprechaun: Ireland's Fairy Shoemaker, additional tales about captured fairies.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

A Fairy Caught


The following, communicated to me on the 8th of August, is too good to be lost. I therefore give it in my correspondent's own words:

I heard last week of three fairies having been seen in Zennor very recently. A man who lived at the foot of Trendreen hill, in the valley of Treridge, I think, was cutting furze on the hill.

Near the middle of the day he saw one of the small people, not more than a foot long, stretched at full length and fast asleep, on a bank of griglans (heath), surrounded by high brakes of furze. The man took off his furze cuff, and slipped the little man into it, without his waking up; went down to the house; took the little fellow out of the cuff on the hearthstone, when he awakened, and seemed quite pleased and at home, beginning to play with the children, who were well pleased with the small body, and called him Bobby Griglans.

The old people were very careful not to let Bob out of the house, or be seen by the neighbours, as he promised to shew the man where the crocks of gold were buried on the hill.

A few days after he was brought from the hill, all the neighbours came with their horses (according to custom) to bring home the winter's reek of furze, which had to be brought down the hill in trusses on the backs of the horses. That Bob might be safe and out of sight, he and the children were shut up in the barn.

Whilst the furze-carriers were in to dinner, the prisoners contrived to get out, to have a "courant" round the furze-reek, when they saw a little man and woman, not much larger than Bob, searching into every hole and corner among the trusses that were dropped round the unfinished reek.

The little woman was wringing her hands and crying, "Oh, my dear and tender Skillywidden, wherever canst ah (thou) be gone to? Shall I ever cast eyes on thee again?"

"Go 'e back," says Bob to the children. "My father and mother are come here too."

He then cried out, "Here I am, mammy!"

By the time the words were out of his mouth, the little man and woman, with their precious Skillywidden, were nowhere to be seen, and there has been no sight nor sign of them since.

The children got a sound thrashing for letting Skillywidden escape.

Skillywidden the Fairy


"I wish we could but catch a spriggan, a piskey, or a knacker," says Capt. Mathy one night. "Ef one can but lay hands on any of the smale people unawares before they vanish, or turn into muryans (ants), they may be made to tell where the goold es buried."

"Ded 'e ever hear of anybody who ever catched one?" Jack asked.

"Why ess, and knowed his son too; he was my near neighbour, and lived in Trevidga: he told me all about et."

One day Uncle Billy, his father, was over in the craft, Zennor church-town side of the hill, cuttan away down in the bottom, where the furze was as high as his head, with bare places here and there, among the brakes all grown over with three-leaved grass (white clover), hurt-trees (whortleberry plants), and griglans (heath). Uncle Billy was cuttan an openan into one of these places, thinkan to touch pipe there, eat his fuggan (heavy cake), and have a smoke.

As he opened the furze, to come to work his hook handy, he spied the prettiest little creature of a smale body one ever seed, sleepan away on a bank of wild thyme all in blossom. The little creature wasn't bigger than a cat, yet every inch like a man, dressed in a green coat, sky-blue breeches and stockings, with diamond-buckled shoes; his little three-cocked hat was drawn over his face to shade en from the sun while he slept. Uncle Billy stopped and looked at am more than a minute, langan to carry an home some way or other.

"Ef I could but keep am," thought he, "we should soon be rich enow to ride in a coach."

Then he put down the furze-hook easy, took off the cuff from his arm, and slipped the little gentleman into the cuff, feet foremost, before he waked up.

The little fellow then opened his pretty brown eyes and said, "Mammy! where are 'e, mammy and daddy! and where am I? And who are you? You are a ?ne great bucca sure enough; what are 'e caled, an?" says he to Uncle Billy. "I want my mammy! Can 'e ?nd her for me?"

"I don't know where abouts she do put up," says Uncle Billy. "Come, you shall go home with me, ef you will, and live with our people till your mother do come for 'e."

"Very well," says the spriggan. "I dearly love to ride the kids over the rocks, and to have milk and blackberries for supper. Will 'e give me some?"

"Ess, my son, and bread and honey too," says the old man Uncle Billy, as he took the small body up in his arms and carried him home.

When the little chap was took out of the furze-cuff and placed upon the hearth-stone, he begun to play with the children as if he had lived with them all his lifetime. The old man and woman were delighted. The children crowed for joy to see the pretty little man jumpan about, and they called am Bobby Griglans. Twice a day a little chayne cup of milk, fresh from the cow, was given to Bobby. He was very nice in his diet, and didn't care for anything but a drop of milk, and a few blackberries, hurts, or hoggans (haws) for a change.

In the mornings, when the work was going on, he would perch himself up on the furze and ferns in the top of the wood-corner, to be out of the smut and dirt. There he would sing and chirrup away like a robin redbreast. When the hearth was swept, the turfy ?re made up, and the old woman ?xed on the chimney stool, to knit for the afternoon, Bobby would dance for hours together on the hearth-stone, before her. The faster the knitting-needles clicked, the quicker Bobby would spin round and round.

Uncle Billy and An Mary wouldn't leave Bobby go out to play, for fear he might be seen, or run away, before the next good moonlight nights, when he promised to show the old couple the exact spot, on Rosewall Hill, where there was lots of money buried, and another place on the hill where there was a good lode of tin.

Three days after Bobby Griglans was catched and carried up to Trevidga, half-a-score or more of the neighbours came, with their horses and leaders, to help Uncle Billy get home his furze from the hill, in trusses, and to help him make the rick for winter, as the custom was before wheel-roads were made and wains came into use.

The old man didn't like for the spriggan to be seen, so he shut him and the youngest children up in the barn and put a padlock on the door. The smale people had been getting scarcer and scarcer, as so much larning and love of unpoetical facts came into fashan, until they were nearly all frightened away. However, Uncle Billy would keep his out of sight for the time, because you see it was become such a rare thing to see a spriggan or piskey that the folks would be coming about in troops to have a look at Bobby, who didn't like to be gazed at and made to show all his parts to strangers.

"Now, stay in the barn and play like good children, but ef one of 'e cry, or try to get out, you will get your breeches warmed with a good wallopan," says Uncle Billy.

The children were sometimes heard laughan and sometimes cryan. Bobby passed the time dancean on the barn-boards and peepan through the cracks in the door at the furze-carriers; but, as soon as ever the men went in to dinner, up jumped Bob, unbarred the winder, called to the children, "Come along, come, quick; now for a game of mop-and-heede' (hide and seek)."

Bob and the children jumped out and away, to play among the trusses of furze dropped all round the stem of the rick. In turnan a corner they saw a little man and woman no bigger than Bob. The little man was dressed just like an, only he wore high ridan boots with little silver spurs. The little woman's green gound was spangled all over with silver stars; diamond buckles shone in her high-heeled shoes; and her little steeple-crowned blue hat, perched on a pile of golden curls, was wreathed round with griglan blossoms.

The pretty little soul was wringan her hands and cryan, "Oh! my dear and tender Skillywidden; wherever can'st a be gone to? Shall I never cast eyes on thee any more, my only joy?"

"Now go 'e back, do," says Bob to the children. "My dad and mam are come here too!" On the same breath he called out, "Here I am, mammy."

By the time he said "Here I am," the little man and woman, with their precious Skillywidden, were no more to be seen, and they have never ben seen there since.

The children got a good threshan for leavan Skillywidden get away, and serve them right, for ef they had kept an in tell night, he would have shown their daddy where plenty of crocks of gold are buried, and all of them would be gentry now.

Colman Grey


A farmer, who formerly lived on an estate in our vicinity, was returning one evening from a distant part of the farm, when, in crossing a particular field, he saw, to his surprise, sitting on a stone in the middle of it, a miserable-looking little creature, human in appearance, though diminutive in size, and apparently starving with cold and hunger. Pitying its condition, and perhaps aware that it was of elfish origin, and that good luck would amply repay him for his kind treatment of it, he took it home, placed it by the warm hearth on a stool, and fed it with nice milk.

The poor bantling soon recovered from the lumpish and only half-sensible state in which it was found, and, though it never spoke, became very lively and playful. From the amusement which its strange tricks excited, it became a general favourite in the family, and the good folk really felt very sorry when their strange guest quitted them, which he did in a very unceremonious manner.

After the lapse of three or four days, as the little fellow was gamboling about the farm kitchen, a shrill voice from the town-place or farm yard, was heard to call three times, "Colman Grey!" at which he sprang up, and gaining voice, cried "Ho! ho! ho! my daddy is come," flew through the key-hole, and was never afterwards heard of.

A Woman Caught a Fairy


Pant Shon Shenkin, it must be her remarked, was a famous place for the Carmarthenshire fairies. The traditions thereabout respecting them are numerous. Among the strangest is, that a woman once actually caught a fairy on the mountain near Pant Shon Shenkin, and that it remained long in her custody, retaining still the same height and size, but at last made its escape.

The Wonderful Plough


There was once a farmer who was master of one of the little black ones, that are the blacksmiths and armourers; and he got him in a very curious way.

On the road leading to this farmer's ground there stood a stone cross, and every morning as he went to his work he used to stop and kneel down before this cross, and pray for some minutes.

On one of these occasions he noticed on the cross a pretty bright insect, of such a brilliant hue that he could not recollect having ever before seen the like with an insect. He wondered greatly at this, yet still he did not disturb it; but the insect did not remain long quiet, but ran without ceasing backwards and forwards on the cross, as if it was in pain and wanted to get away.

Next morning the farmer again saw the very same insect, and again it was running to and fro, in the same state of uneasiness. The farmer began now to have some suspicions about it, and thought to himself, "Would this now be one of the little black enchanters? For certain, all is not right with that insect; it runs about just like one that had an evil conscience, as one that would, yet cannot, go away."

And a variety of thoughts and conjectures passed through his mind; and he called to mind what he had often heard from his father, and other old people, that when the underground-people chance to touch any thing holy, they are held fast and cannot quit the spot, and are therefore extremely careful to avoid all such things. But he also thought it may as well be something else; and you would perhaps be committing a sin in disturbing and taking away the little animal; so he let it stay as it was.

But when he had found it twice more in the same place, and still running about with the same marks of uneasiness, he said, "No, it is not all right with it. So now, in the name of God!" and he made a grasp at the insect, that resisted and clung fast to the stone; but he held it tight, and tore it away by main force, and lo! then he found he had, by the top of the head, a little ugly black chap, about six inches long, screeching and kicking at a most furious rate.

The farmer was greatly astounded at this sudden transformation; still he held his prize fast and kept calling to him, while he administered to him a few smart slaps on the buttocks: "Be quiet, be quiet, my little man! If crying was to do the business, we might look for heroes in swaddling clothes. We 'll just take you with us a bit, and see what you are good for."

The little fellow trembled and shook in every limb, and then began to whimper most piteously, and to beg hard of the farmer to let him go.

But "No, my lad," replied the farmer, "I will not let you go till you tell me who you are, and how you came here, and what trade you know, that enables you to earn your bread in the world."

At this the little man grinned and shook his head, but said not a word in reply, only begged and prayed the more to get loose; and the farmer found that he must now begin to entreat him if he would coax any information out of him. But it was all to no purpose. He then adopted the contrary method, and whipped and slashed him till the blood ran down, but just to as little purpose; the little black thing remained as dumb as the grave, for this species is the most malicious and obstinate of all the underground race.

The farmer now got angry, and he said, "Do but be quiet, my child; I should be a fool to put myself into a passion with such a little brat. Never fear, I shall soon make you tame enough."

So saying, he ran home with him, and clapped him into a black, sooty, iron pot, and put the iron lid upon it, and laid on the top of the lid a great heavy stone, and set the pot in a dark cold room, and as he was going out he said to him, "Stay there, now, and freeze till you are black! I'll engage that at last you will answer me civilly."

Twice a-week the farmer went regularly into the room and asked his little black captive if he would answer him now; but the little one still obstinately persisted in his silence. The farmer had now, without success, pursued this course for six weeks, at the end of which time his prisoner at last gave up. One day as the farmer was opening the room door, he, of his own accord, called out to him to come and take him out of his dirty stinking dungeon, promising that he would now cheerfully do all that was wanted of him.

The farmer first ordered him to give him his history.

The black one replied, "My dear friend, you know it just as well as I, or else you never had had me here. You see I happened by chance to come too near the cross, a thing we little people may not do, and there I was held fast, and obliged instantly to let my body become visible; so, then, that people might not recognise me, I turned myself into an insect. But you found me out. For when we get fastened to holy or consecrated things, we never ean get away from them unless a man takes us off. That, however, does not happen without plague and annoyance to us, though, indeed, to say the truth, the staying fastened there is not over pleasant. And so I struggled against you, too, for we have a natural aversion to let ourselves be taken in a man's hand."

"Ho, ho! is that the tune with you?" cried the farmer. "You have a natural aversion, have you? Believe me, my sooty friend, I have just the same for you; and so you shall be away without a moment's delay, and we will lose no time in making our bargain with each other. But you must first make me some present."

"What you will, you have only to ask," said the little one. "Silver and gold, and precious stones, and costly furniture -- all shall be thine in less than an instant."

"Silver and gold, and precious stones, and all such glittering fine things will I none," said the farmer. "They have turned the heart and broken the neck of many a one before now, and few are they whose lives they make happy. I know that you are handy smiths, and have many a strange thing with you that other smiths know nothing about. So come, now, swear to me that you will make me an iron plough, such that the smallest foal may be able to draw it without being tired, and then run off with you as fast as your legs can carry you."

So the black swore, and the farmer then cried out, "Now, in the name of God; there, you are at liberty," and the little one vanished like lightning.

Next morning, before the sun was up, there stood in the farmer's yard a new iron plough, and he yoked his dog Water to it, and though it was of the size of an ordinary plough, Water drew it with ease through the heaviest clay-land, and it tore up prodigious furrows.

The farmer used this plough for many years, and the smallest foal or the leanest little horse could draw it through the ground, to the amazement of every one who beheld it, without turning a single hair. And this plough made a rich man of the farmer, for it cost him no horse-flesh, and he led a cheerful and contented life by means of it.

Hereby we may see that moderation holds out the longest, and that it is not good to covet too much.

Krachöhrle! Where Are You?


In the valley between Wehr and Hasel there was a hole in the ground. A man assumed that there was a badger inside it. He sent his dog into the hole while firmly holding an open sack at its opening. Before long something jumped into the sack. The man immediately tied it shut, lifted it onto his back, and went on his way.

Suddenly an elf cried out from nearby: "Krachöhrle! Where are you?"

A voice answered: "On his shoulders in the sack!"

The man now knew that instead of a badger he had captured an elf, and without delay he turned it loose.

Return to D. L. Ashliman's folktexts, a library of folktales, folklore, fairy tales, and mythology.

Revised December 5, 2016.