This week’s bit of weird fiction being discussed over at LibraryThing.
Review: “The Child That Went with the Fairies”, Sheridan Le Fanu, 1870.
I seem to recall seeing this story mentioned in Fortean Times as a good literary representation of fairy beliefs among the Irish.
The story is fairly simple.
It starts out with a description of the Slieveelim hills and a solitary road between Limerick and Dublin.
In that area, lives the widow Mary Ryan with her four children. The magical protections around her simple cottage are several: mountain ash trees believed to be “inimical to witches”, two horseshoes above the door, bits of house-leeks along the thatch roof. Inside, Mary has her rosaries and holy water.
The story takes place in the autumn and, in this area, out of fear of fairies, the so-called “Good people”, the locals get inside at twilight.
After coming home carrying some turf, Mary asks her elder daughter Nell where the other three children are. She didn’t see them outsides. (This part of the story renders the conversation dialectically in, for me, an often times incomprehensible fashion.) Nell goes outside to look for her two brothers Con and Bill and sister Peg. She can’t find them by the nearby bog, and she casts an apprehensive eye towards the rocks of Lisnavoura, reputed home of the fairies. She remembers the stories she’s heard of children stolen by the fairies at nightfall.
Nell comes back to the cottage to tell her mother she can’t find the children. Nell thinks they’ve just ran down the road, but Mary is sure “they’re took”. The nearest help is Father Tom, three miles away.
Just then, mother and daughter see the rest of the children approach up the road. Except there are only two of them. When asked where Bill is, Con says “they took him away”. “He’s gone away with the grand ladies”, says Peg.Continue reading