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   Chapter 2 FAIRY RULERS.

Brownies and Bogles By Louise Imogen Guiney Characters: 9173

Updated: 2017-12-01 00:03

THE forming of character among the fairy-folk was a very simple and sensible matter. You will imagine that the Pagan, Druid and Christian elves varied greatly. And they did; still their morals had nothing to do with it, nor pride, nor patriotism, nor descent, nor education; nor would all the philosophy you might crowd into a thimble have made one bee-big resident of Japan different from a man of his own size in Spain.

They saved themselves no end of trouble by setting up the local barometer as their standard. The only Bible they knew was the weather, and they followed it stoutly. Whatever the climate was, whatever it had helped to make the grown-up nation who lived under it, that, every time, were the "brownies and bogles." Where the land was rocky and grim, and subject to wild storms and sudden darknesses, the fairies were grim and wild too, and full of wicked tricks. Where the landscape was level and green, and the crops grew peacefully, they were tame, as in central England, and inclined to be sentimental.

And they copied the distinguishing traits of the race among whom they dwelt. A frugal Breton fairy spoke the Breton dialect; the Neapolitan had a tooth for fruits and macaroni; the Chinese was ceremonious and stern; a true Proven?al fée was as vain as a peacock, flirting a mirror before her, and an Irish elf, bless his little red feathered caubeen! was never the man to run away from a fight.

If you look on the map, and see a section of coast-line like that of Cornwall or Norway, a sunshiny, perilous, foamy place, make up your mind that the fairies thereabouts were fellows worth knowing; that you would have needed all your wit and pluck to get the better of them, and that they would have made live, hearty playmates, too, while in good humor, for any brave boy or girl.

We do not know nearly so much about the genuine fairies as we should like. They must have been, at one time or another, in every European country. Most of the Oriental spirits were taller, and of another brood; they figured either as demons, or as what we should now call angels. But in the Germanic colonies, from very old days, fairy-lore was finely developed, and we count up tribe on tribe of necks, nixies, stromkarls and mermaids, who were water-sprites; of bergm?nnchen (little men of the mountain), and lovely wild-women in hilly places; of trolls around the woods and rocks; of elves in the air, and gnomes or duergars in caverns or mines. Yet from Portugal, and Russia, and Hungary, and from our own North American Indians, we learn so little that it is not worth counting.

If the good dear peasants who were acquainted with the fairies had made more rhymes about them, and handed them down more attentively; if it had occurred to the knowing scholar-monks to keep diaries of elfin doings, as it would have done had they but known how soon their little friends were to be extinct, like the glyptodon and the dodo, how wise should we not be!


But again, though there were hosts of supernatural beings in the beliefs of every old land, we have no business with any but the wee ones. And as these were settled most thickly in the Teutonic, Celtic and Cymric countries, we will turn our curiosity thither, without farther grumbling, and be glad to get so much authentic news of them as we may.

Fairies, as a whole, seem at bottom rather weak and disconsolate. For all of their magic and cunning, for all of their high station, and its feasting and glory, they could not keep from seeking human sympathy. They did, indeed, hurt men, resent intrusions, foretell the future, and call down disease and storm, but they stood in awe of the weakest mortal because of his superior strength and size; they came to him to borrow food and medicine, and even to ask the loan of his house for their revels. They rendered themselves invisible, but he had always at his feet the fern-seed, the talisman of four-leaved clover (or, as in Scotland, the leaf of the ash or rowan-tree), with which he could defeat their design, and protect himself against the attacks of any witch, imp, or fairy whatsoever.

Their government was a happy-go-lucky affair. The various tribes of fairies had no common interests which would make them sigh for post-offices, or cables, or general synods. Each set of them got along, independent of the rest. Once in a while a mine-man would live alone with his wife, pegging away at his daily work, without any idea of hurrahing for his King or, more likely, his Queen; or even of hunting up his own cousins in the next c


If we had elves in the United States nowadays, they would no doubt be American enough to elect a President and have him as honest, and steady, and sound-hearted as needs be. But dwelling as they did in feudal days, they set up thrones and sceptres all over Fairydom.

According to the poets, Mab and Oberon are the crowned rulers of the little people. In reality, they had no supreme head. Among many parties and factions, each small agreeing community had its own chief, the tallest of his race, who was no chief at all, mind you, to the fairy neighbors a mile east. The delicate yellow Chinese fairy-mother was Si Wang Mu; and in the Netherlands, the elf-queen, who was also queen of the witches, was called Wanne Thekla.

We snatch an item here and there of the royal histories. We find that the sweet-natured Elberich in the Niebelungen is the same as Oberon. In Germany was a dwarf-king named Goldemar, who lived with a knight, shared his bed, played at dice with him, gave him good advice, called him Brother-in-law very fondly, and comforted him with the music of his harp. But Goldemar, though the knight loved him and could touch and feel him, was unseen. He was like a wreath of blue smoke, or a fragment of moonlight, and you could run a sword through him, and never change his kind smile. His royal hands were lean, and soft, and cold as a frog's. After three years, perhaps when Brother-in-law was dead, or when he was married, and needed him no longer, the gentle dwarf-king disappeared.

Sinnels, Gübich, and Heiling were other dwarf-princes, probably rivals of Goldemar, and ready to have at him till their breath gave out. Their little majesties were quarrelsome as cock-sparrows. The elf-monarch Laur?n was once conquered by Theodoric; and because he had been treacherous in war (which was not "fair" at all, despite the proverb), he got a very sad rebuff to his dignity, in being made fool or buffoon at the court of Bern.


We are told in the Mabinogion how the daughter of Llud Llaw Ereint was "the most splendid maiden in the three islands of the mighty," and how for her Gwyn ap Nudd, the Welsh fairy-king, battles every May-day from dawn until sunset. Gwyn once carried her off from Gwythyr, her true lord; and both lovers were so furious and cruel against each other that blessed King Arthur condemned them to wage bitter fight on each first-of-May till the world's end; and to whomsoever is victorious the greatest number of times, the fair lady shall then be given. Let us hope the reward will not fall to thieving Gwyn.

We have said that we should do pretty much as we pleased in ranging the myriad fairy-folk into ranks and species. If, as we prowl about, we see a baby in the house of the Elfsmiths, who has a look of the Elfbrowns, we will immediately kidnap him from his fond parents, and add him to the family he resembles. Now that might make wailing and confusion, and bring down vengeance on our heads, if there were any Queen Mab left to rap us to order; but as things go, we shall find it a very neat way of smoothing difficulties.


Of course there are certain pigwidgeons too accomplished, too slippery, too many things in one, to be ticketed and tied down like the rest; such versatile fellows as the Brown Dwarves of the Isle of Rügen, for instance. They lived in what were called the Vine-hills, and were not quite eighteen inches high. They wore little snuff-brown jackets and a brown cap (which made them invisible, and allowed them to pass through the smallest keyhole), with one wee silver bell at its peak, not to be lost for any money. But they did some roguish things; and children who fell into their hands had to serve them for fifty years! With caprice usual to their kin, they will, on other occasions, befriend and protect children, and give them presents; or plague untidy servants, like Brownie, or lead travellers astray by night into bogs and marshes, like the Ellydan and the Fir-Darrig, and mischievous double-faced Robin Goodfellow himself.

An ancient tradition says that while the grass-blades are sprouting at the root, the earth-elves water and nourish them; and the moment the growth pierces the soil, affectionate air-elves take it in charge. Therefore we borrow a hint from the grass; and after first going down among the swarthy fairies who burrow underground, we shall pass up to companionship with little beings so beautiful that wherever they flock there is starlight and song.

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