Faeries, The Fay & The Hidden > Faeries & The Fay

Visitations from the Realm of Shadow


This is a story from my childhood I thought would be good to share with everyone to start this topic off. It sent me into a frenzy doing research on the things involved in the story, and similar creatures. If you have stories ( local or well known, obscure myth, whatever ) that has to do with the Darker side of the Fae, please share!

     When the snows of yesteryear lay across Iceland, glistening under the winter moon, a young girl arrived in Hesteyri, near the north cape of the island. She came to serve as a housemaid at a farm there. She was a brave and merry girl, and she had need of both qualities, for the farmer's land was said to be haunted. It was whispered in the neighborhood that night trolls roamed there.
     Nevertheless, the girl - Gudrun by name - liked her new home. She had come from a poor hamlet, and this was a rich farm, with a great grain barns and a fine stone house. Because she was just fourteen years old and an outlander, she ranked lowest among the servants. But she went about her chores in the scullery and nursery cheerfully, singing as she worked.
     She did not even complain when the entire household - master and mistress, men and women servants, all of them blanketed in furs and crowded into sleighs - traveled to a neighboring farm for Evensong and feasting on Christmas Eve, leaving her alone in charge of the mistress;s infant daughter. When the sleighs had faded to specks in the silvery snow field, Gudrun closed the door and bolted it. Then she carried the baby into her mistress's winter parlor and settled down by the hearth to feed the child.
     It was most satisfying. The warm firelight brightened the gay colors of flowerpainted storage chests and gleaned on copper pots. In a deep window embrasure, a beeswax candle shone steadily. The baby snuffled happily as it fed and at length subsided in milky contentment in its cradle. Gudrun's eyes grew heavy.
     But before sleep claimed her, she was startled by a curious noise. Something - an animal perhaps - scratched loudly along the doorsill. Then the scratching sounded around the bolt and along the lintel, higher than any animal could reach. The bolt rattled; the door strained at its frame. It did not open, however, and after awhile the scratching and creaking faded away.
     Gudrun gave the now whimpering child a cloth soaked in milk to suckle. No sound came through the thick house walls. bit after some moments, the candle in the window flickered. Se saw the movement, and her head snapped around. A night troll's enormous face - large pored, open mouthed, broken toothed - filled the frame and pressed against the glass. Its oily green eyes were fixed upon the cradle.
     Gudrun looked away from the window. Hands clenched in her lap, she sat perfectly still and stared into the fire. Then she smiled grimly and, in a loud, clear voice, recited the following words:
     "An iron gray with a flaxen tail, and a brass boy driving."
     Child of the country that she was, Gudrun had done a clever thing. She had challenged the creature to a contest whose rules were understood and obeyed by all beings that could speak. The adversaries posed each other riddles; whoever could not answer lost the game and was place at the mercy of the winner.
     In a time when riddles are no more than children's games, it may seem strange that a life could depend on them. but in those days, when language was young and words were charged with magic, riddles - the first metaphors - were important rituals. To solve a riddle affirmed the power of the intellect over the world's mysteries. Even divine comprehension was tested this way: "Riddle reader I am called," sang Odin, the Icelanders' ancient god of wisdom and war. Among mortals, riddling contests were held at seasonal festivals, at marriages, in princely courts and - as many a tale records - when life was threatened. The troll had no choice but to answer the human girl's challenge.
     It grunted and sputtered at the window. then, in a grating voice, with the clumsy inflections of a mouth unused to forming words, it slowly answered.
     "Iron gray: needle. Flaxen tail: thread. Brass boy: thimble," it said, and made a gargling noise that might have been laughter. Now it had become the riddler.
     Gudrun waited. When the troll spoke again, the words came more smoothly:
     "Brothers and sister have I none, but that man's father is my father's son."
     Gudrun shrugged at the old chestnut and replied at once: "That man is the riddler's son."
     Then she told another riddle, and the troll solved it and answered her in kind.

     In this manner, they thrust and parried through the night. Outside, in the frozen dark, the troll shambled near the window; inside, in the firelit parlor, the girl rocked the cradle and threw logs on the hearth when the flame dwindled. Her voice grew as hoarse as the troll's, yet still she spoke on, making magic with words and forcing the troll to make magic, too.
     At last, when the candle was no more than a puddle of wax and the last log had died to glowing embers, the troll posed this riddle: "Thirty white horses upon a red hill; now they champ, now they stamp, now they stand still."
     Trembling with fatigue, Gudrun hesitated. Her silence lengthened. The troll gave its gargling laugh, spattering the glass with spittle. But she had the answer at last. "Your teeth and your tongue,"she said, and tears filled her eyes.
     The troll snarled. It moved from the window for a moment, revealing a line of scarlet along the horizon. Then Gudrun said, "On yonder hill there is a red deer. The more you shoot, the more you may you cannot drive that deer away." The only reply was a howl and a rain of blood against the windowpane. The troll had vanished, and a shaft of morning light streamed into the room. Gudrun sank to the floor beside the heart. "The red deer is the rising sun," she said to the baby in the cradle. The infant stared at her. Then Gudrun went to the window and peered out through the film of blood. In the snow stood a boulder that had been the troll.

"Nursery Bogles" use to be used as threats to make sure little children behaved properly. One of the most famous ones was Rawhead-and-Bloody-Bones.
( this guy appeared in a book by Laurell K. Hamilton, and I was immediately super excited! )
"Children knew all too well the terrors of the night. One long-armed creature of darkness laired beneath the stairs in houses, waiting for small victims."

Stories of Hags terrified parents and children all over the world. These "broken" women would come at night, steal children away or torture them in their cribs. Fevers, disease... vanishing into the night. A story of a woman cursed to wander into houses at night, to steal the blood of a human child for nourishment for the demon infant she carried in her arms. "Nightwalker, Nocnitsa" different names, different descriptions.

I love these tales. When I was around 8 we visited Ireland for the first time. During our stay in a small country B&B the fey (good & bad) were very real. At night I was tucked tightly into bed, the windows & doors  locked all of which had an iron horseshoe or nail above them. When my parents inquired as to the extreme measures all the innkeeper's wife would say was 'we have to keep her safe,lots of bogies about.' I do have an older sister but the same precautions weren't taken with her. I was also told of Jenny Greenteeth; a nasty spirit found in wells that will pull children down to their death if they come too near the well at night.

I liked anything that had to do with Pan when I was little. They were my FAVORITE stories ( "the bestest stories of all stories" ).

My oldest likes stories about the Brown Man of the Moors, huldras, kelpies, pucas... anything mischievous.

Kelpies have always fascinated me. Little Red Riding Hood was & still is my favorite "fairy tale" of all time. I've read every version from countries around the world. My grandma & all my nannies used to tell me stories about pucas, elves, gnomes, etc from their home country & I always laid there hanging on every word.


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