Fairy Cup Legends

Migratory Legends of Christiansen Type 6045
and other stories of drinking vessels
stolen from or abandoned by fairies
translated and/or edited by

D. L. Ashliman

© 2009-2012


Contents

  1. The Oldenburg Horn (Germany, Hermann Hamelmann).

  2. The Oldenburg Horn (Germany, Adalbert Kuhn and Wilhelm Schwartz).

  3. Link to The Osenberg Dwarfs (Germany, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm).

  4. The Stolen Cup (Germany, Karl Müllenhoff).

  5. Church Cups (Germany/Denmark, Karl Müllenhoff).

  6. The Altar Cup in Aagerup (Ågerup) (Denmark, Thomas Keightley).

  7. Svend Fælling and the Elle-Maid (Denmark, J. M. Thiele).

  8. The Öiestad (Øyestad) Horn (Norway, Benjamin Thorpe).

  9. The Trolls Celebrate Christmas (Sweden, Benjamin Thorpe).

  10. Origin of the Noble Name of Trolle (Sweden, Benjamin Thorpe).

  11. The Fairy Banquet (England, William of Newburgh).

  12. The Fairy Horn (England, Gervase of Tilbury).

  13. The Story of the Fairy Horn (England, Ernest Rhys).

  14. The Rillaton Gold Cup (England, Sabine Baring-Gould).

  15. Link to The Luck of Edenhall (Eden Hall) (England).

  16. The Fairy Cup of Kirk Malew (Isle of Man, George Waldron).

  17. The Silver Cup (Isle of Man, Sophia Morrison).

  18. The Trowie Pig (Scotland, John Nicolson).

  19. Links to related sites.


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

The Oldenburg Horn

Germany

In the time of count Otto of Oldenburg, who succeeded his father Ulrich in the year 967, a wonderful transaction occurred. For as he, being a good sportsman, and one who took great delight in the chase, had set out early one day with his nobles and attendants, and had hunted in the wood of Bernefeuer, and the count himself had put up a roe, and followed him alone from the wood of Bernefeuer to the Osenberg, and with his white horse stood on the top of the hill, and endeavoured to trace the game, he said to himself, for it was an excessively hot day, "Oh God! If one had now but a cool drink!"

No sooner had the count spoken the word than the Osenberg opened, and out of the cleft there came a beautiful maiden, fairly adorned and handsomely dressed, and with her beautiful hair divided on her shoulders, and a garland on her head. And she had a rich silver vessel, that was gilded and shaped like a hunter's horn, well and ingeniously made, granulated, and fairly ornamented. It was adorned with various kinds of arms that are now but little known, and with strange unknown inscriptions and ingenious figures, and it was soldered together and adorned in the same manner as the old antiques, and it was beautifully and ingeniously wrought. This horn the maiden held in her hand, and it was full, and she gave it into the hand of the count, and prayed that the count would drink out of it to refresh himself therewith.

When the count had received and taken this gilded silver horn from the maiden, and had opened it and looked into it, the drink, or whatever it was that was in it, when he shook it, did not please him, and he therefore refused to drink for the maiden. Whereupon the maiden said, "My dear lord, drink of it upon my faith, for it will do you no harm, but will be of advantage;" adding farther, that if the count would drink out of it, it would go well with him, count Otto, and his, and also with the whole house of Oldenburg after him, and that the whole country would improve and flourish. But if the count would place no faith in her, and would not drink of it, then for the future, in the succeeding family of Oldenburg, there would remain no unity.

But when the count gave no heed to what she said, but, as was not without reason, considered with himself a long time whether he should drink or not, he held the silver gilded horn in his hand and swung it behind him, and poured it out, and some of its contents sprinkled the white horse, and where it fell and wetted him the hair all came off.

When the maiden saw this, she desired to have her horn back again, but the count made speed down the hill with the horn, which he held in his hand, and when he looked round he observed that the maiden was gone into the hill again. And when terror seized on the count on account of this, he laid spurs to his horse, and at full speed hasted to join his attendants, and informed them of what had befallen him. He moreover showed them the silver gilded horn, and took it with him to Oldenburg, and the same horn, as it was obtained in so wonderful a manner, was preserved as a costly jewel by him, and by all the succeeding reigning princes of the house of Oldenburg.




The Oldenburg Horn

Germany

Once Count Anton Günther was hunting, when in the fury of the chase he rode ahead of his party, arriving at Mount Osenberg, not far from Oldenburg Castle. The fast ride had made him thirsty, and it so happened that as he approached Mount Osenberg it opened up, and a maiden stepped out. She offered him a drink from a magnificent horn. Taking hold of the horn with his right hand, with his left hand the count quickly swung himself back into his saddle. He threw out the drink backwards over his head, then hurriedly rode away.

In the distance he heard the maiding wailing. Looking back he saw the mountain open up again and the maiden disappear inside. On the place where the spilled drink had touched his horse all the hairs had been singed away.

He took the horn with him, keeping it a long time at Oldenburg Castle as an eternal reminder of the miraculous event. Later it was removed to the Hannover Art Treasury. Especially miraculous is the fact that when the cup's point was broken off no goldsmith or silversmith was able to repair it, for it is made of a metal unknown to humans.




The Stolen Cup

Germany

1.

A man by the name of Klaus Fink from Tensbüttel one day rode his horse into one of the mountains named Mannigfallige Bargen or Mannigfule Bargen that stretch between Tensbüttel and Alversdorf. There the underground people were holding a cheerful feast, and they invited the peasant to participate. However, he stole a silver cup from them and hurriedly rode away with it.

When New Year's Eve arrived he took the cup from his trunk in order to drink from it. Suddenly the cattle in the barn began to cry terribly. Everyone ran outside to see what was wrong, but they found nothing. When they came back inside they discovered that the underground people had taken back their property.

From Rhode, Antiquitäten-Remarques, p. 77.


2.

Two small peasant boys were playing in the field one day at noon. While they were busily scraping the earth looking for colored or rounded stones, a cavern suddenly opened up before them.

"Let's crawl inside," said the one.

"No," said the other. "Underground people live in there for sure."

"Then I want to go inside," said the first one, a daring boy. "Dwarfs sleep at noontime."

Throwing himself to the ground, he crawled inside on all fours. There was indeed an entire little family of underground people there, sound asleep. They were lying near the walls on mats. The boy became afraid, and he was about to creep away when he saw a beautiful little cup sitting on a little round table. He picked it up and took it with him.

When he arrived home his mother was very pleased with treasure that they had so easily gained. But the father scolded the boy, insisting most earnestly that he take it back to the place where he had found it.

The boy set forth, but the little people, who had discovered their loss, in order to hide their dwelling had made all the surroundings look alike, so no trace could be seen of where they had been.

Crying, the boy returned home with the cup.

His father was an innkeeper, and a merchant had just arrived there. After examining the cup, he said, "This is of the finest gold. You are not going to be so stupid as to return it to the rabble. Why should something like this be under the earth!"

"Na!" said the innkeeper. "It will be something else if they try to get it back!"

Evening came, and a young man was returning late to the village from the field when the underground people surrounded him and told him to let it be known in the village that the following night whoever took the cup from them should place it on a certain boundary stake, where they could pick it up. If that did not happen the entire village would suffer, but if an honest person returned it, he and his property would receive special protection. When the innkeeper heard this he took his son by the hand and had him take the cup to the boundary stake.

The boy never forgot this as long as he lived, and afterward he and his family always enjoyed good fortune.

From O. St. of the Stapelholm Church.





Church Cups

Germany/Denmark

1.

One night a man from the parish of Viöl was riding from Bredstedt to Norstedt. As he approached the village an underground person stood next to the road in front of a hill where he had lived since ancient times. He offered him a drink from a glistening golden cup. The man accepted the cup without dismounting from his horse. He was about to place it to his lips when he was struck with fear, and instead of drinking he emptied the cup's contents behind himself, gave his horse the spurs, and rode away with his booty.

He immediately heard the little man calling his comrades or subjects. They all suddenly appeared, pelting him with stones.

Fortunately the village was not far away; otherwise he would have been lost. With his horse he jumped the gate that blocked the entrance, and was safe. The stones thrown at him now bounced off the village gate. Coming to a halt and examining his horse, he saw that all the hair had been burned off where he had spilled the drink.

To give thanks for his fortunate rescue he presented the cup to the church at Viöl, where it was used for a long time. A few years ago when the parsonage was struck by lightening, it was destroyed in the ensuing fire.

From Mr. Petersen, a teacher in Norstedt.


2.

Late one evening a peasant from Ragebøl was riding home from Satrup. As he passed by a hill called Boehøi he saw that it had been lifted up and was sitting on four golden pillars. Inside they were cheerfully drinking and making merry. Then the peasant shouted out that they should give him something to drink as well.

One of them came out immediately and offered him a golden cup. However, the peasant did not dare to drink from it, and he poured out its entire contents behind himself. This singed off the horse's hair and skin. Then with the cup in his hand he rode off quickly toward the village.

The one who had brought the cup to him shouted in the direction of the hill, "Come quickly, Onehorn; Goldhorn is gone!"

The two of them ran after the rider, and as he rode in at the stall door, they grabbed the horse by a leg and nearly tore it off.

After that the man did not dare to keep the cup at home, but instead presented it to the church.

From Sundewith.


3.

The church at Hjordkær received its altar cup in the same manner. Because it was used not only in the church, but also to deliver communion to the sick, it was proven that the cup possessed a miraculous healing power. Most sick people who drank from it recovered. It was also lent out at weddings for the use of the newlyweds, for it was believed that it promoted marital happiness and blessing.

After this had been the custom for many years, one day a poor man dressed in rags appeared at a wedding in Alsleben and asked for a drink from the cup, because -- as he had been told -- it could cure him of an otherwise incurable illness. The compassionate wedding couple granted his wish, but no sooner did the beggar have the cup in his hand than he disappeared with it, before the eyes of everyone present.

From Pastor Hansen in Hjordkær.





The Altar Cup in Aagerup (Ågerup)

Denmark

Between the villages of Marup and Aagerup in Zealand, there is said to have lain a great castle, the ruins of which are still to be seen near the strand. Tradition relates that a great treasure is concealed among them, and that a dragon there watches over three kings' ransoms. Here, too, people frequently happen to get a sight of the underground folk, especially about festival times, for then they have dancing and great jollity going on down on the strand.

One Christmas Eve, a farmer's servant in the village of Aagerup went to his master and asked him if he might take a horse and ride down to look at the troll meeting. The farmer not only gave him leave but desired him to take the best horse in the stable; so he mounted and rode away down to the strand. When he was come to the place he stopped his horse, and stood for some time looking at the company who were assembled in great numbers. And while he was wondering to see how well and how gaily the little dwarfs danced, up came a troll to him, and invited him to dismount, and take a share in their dancing and merriment. Another troll came jumping up, took his horse by the bridle, and held him while the man got off, and went down and danced away merrily with them the whole night long.

When it was drawing near day he returned them his very best thanks for his entertainment, and mounted his horse to return home to Aagerup. They now gave him an invitation to come again on New Year's night, as they were then to have great festivity; and a maiden who held a gold cup in her hand invited him to drink the stirrup-cup. He took the cup; but, as he had some suspicion of them, he, while he made as if he was raising the cup to his mouth, threw the drink out over his shoulder, so that it fell on the horse's back, and it immediately singed off all the hair. He then clapped spurs to his horse's sides, and rode away with the cup in his hand over a ploughed field.

The trolls instantly gave chase all in a body ; but being hard set to get over the deep furrows, they shouted out, without ceasing:

Ride on the lay,
And not on the clay.

He, however, never minded them, but kept to the ploughed field. However, when he drew near the village he was forced to ride out on the level road, and the trolls now gained on him every minute. In his distress he prayed unto God, and he made a vow that if he should be delivered he would bestow the cup on the church.

He was now riding along just by the wall of the churchyard, and he hastily flung the cup over it, that it at least might be secure. He then pushed on at full speed, and at last got into the village; and just as they were on the point of catching hold of the horse, he sprung in through the farmer's gate, and the man clapt to the wicket after him. He was now safe; but the trolls were so enraged, that, taking up a huge great stone, they flung it with such force against the gate, that it knocked four planks out of it.

There are no traces now remaining of that house, but the stone is still lying in the middle of the village of Aagerup. The cup was presented to the church, and the man got in return to best farmhouse on the lands of Eriksholm.




Svend Fælling and the Elle-Maid

Denmark

Svend Fælling was, while a little boy, at service in Sjeller-wood-house in Framley; and it one time happened that he had to ride of a message to Eistrup. It was evening before ho got near home, and as he came by the hill of Borum Es, he saw the Elle-maids, who were dancing without ceasing round and round his horse. Then one of the Elle- maids stepped up to him, and reached him a drinking cup, bidding him at the same time to drink. Svend took the cup, but as he was dubious of the nature of the contents, he flung it out over his shoulder, where it fell on the horse's back, and singed off all the hair. While he had the horn fast in his hand, he gave his horse the spurs and rode off full speed.

The Elle-maid pursued him till he came to Trigebrand's mill, and rode through the running water, over which she could not follow him. She then earnestly conjured Svend to give her back the horn, promising him in exchange twelve men's strength. On this condition he gave back the horn, and got what she had promised him; but it very frequently put him to great inconvenience, for he found that along with it he had gotten an appetite for twelve.




The Öiestad (Øyestad) Horn

Norway

Near the river Nid in Nedenæs there is a mansion called Neersteen, in which there once dwelt a man named Siur, who was both powerful and rich; for besides Neersteen he owned six other mansions, and a considerable salmon fishery in the Nid; but what was more than all these, he had a daughter, who was the fairest maid of all the surrounding neighbourhood. She was courted by a Westland man named Ring, but the wealthy Siur rejected him for a son-in-law, although his daughter was fondly attached to him.

The lover, however, was not disheartened, so while the father one St. John's Day was at matins in Öiestad Church, Ring came to the mansion and found his lass, although her father had taken the precaution of locking her up in one of the presses -- which, according to the custom of the time, were made at the foot of the bed -- a corner of her apron having protruded and betrayed her. They now fled, and Siur, the instant he was apprized of their elopement, mounted his horse and went in pursuit of them.

On the way he was stopped by a troll, who came out of a mount, and bade him welcome, at the same time presenting to him a full drinking horn. Instead of emptying it, he cast its contents behind him, but some drops that fell on the horse's loins instantly singed the hair off. Siur, who had from the first suspected mischief, put spurs to his horse, and galloped away with the horn in his hand and the troll whining after him.

He was now in a most serious dilemma, from which he was unexpectedly rescued by another troll, who was on terms of hostility with the former one, who called to him when he had just reached a large field: "Ride through the rye and not through the wheat."

Following this counsel he got the start of his pursuer, who could not proceed so rapidly through the tall rye. The danger was not, however, completely over until he came near the mansion of Bringsvær, when the cock crew and the troll vanished. Siur now continued his pursuit without further delays, and overtook the fugitives on a hill where they had stopped to take a few moments rest. When the men got sight of each other, they immediately drew their knives, and a contest ensued, the result of which was, that Siur stabbed Ring in the belly, who instantly gave up the ghost.

In expiation of this homicide, Siur was compelled to make heavy compensation. The horn, which he kept, was preserved in the family down to our times. Of the daughter's fate tradition makes no mention.

The (or rather a) horn, which had long been an heirloom in Siur's family, has lately been presented by Shipmaster Berge to the public library and museum of Arendal School, where it now is. It is very handsome, and has on its three silver-gilt rings the following inscription, in monkish characters: potum servorum benedic deus alme [tuorum reliqvam unus benede le un]? caspar, melchior, baltazar.

A similar occurrence to the above took place many years ago near Hahauger in Hallingdal, where one Christmas Eve a subterranean woman presented drink in a horn to a man named Gudbrand Goelberg, which he threw over his shoulder and rode off with the horn; but down to the ninth generation, his posterity, as a penalty, were afflicted with some bodily blemish or defect, as the troll had threatened. This horn, which was long preserved at Halsteensgaard in Aal, contained nearly three quarts, and was encircled by a strong gilt copper ring about three inches broad, on which, in monkish characters, stood melchior, baltazar, caspar. In the middle was a small, gilt copper plate, in which an oval crystal was set.




The Trolls Celebrate Christmas

Sweden

Of the manner in which the trolls celebrate Christmas Eve there are traditions throughout the whole North. At that time it is not advisable for Christian men to be out. On the heaths witches and little trolls ride, one on a wolf, another on a broom or a shovel, to their assemblies, where they dance under their stones. These stones are then raised on pillars, under which the trolls dance and drink. In the mount are then to be heard mirth and music, dancing and drinking. On Christmas morn, during the time between cock-crowing and daybreak, it is highly dangerous to be abroad.

One Christmas night in the year 1490, as Fru Cissela Ulftand was sitting in her mansion at Liungby in Scania, a great noise was heard proceeding from the trolls assembled at the Magle stone, when one of the lady's boldest servants rode out to see what was going on. He found the stone raised, and the trolls in a noisy whirl dancing under it. A beautiful female stepped forth, and presented to the guest a drinking horn and a pipe, requesting him to drink the troll-king's health and to blow in the pipe. He took the horn and pipe, but at the same instant clapped spurs to his horse, and galloped straight, over rough and smooth, to the mansion.

The trolls followed him in a body with a wild cry of threats and prayers, but the man kept the start, and delivered both horn and pipe into the hands of his mistress.

The trolls promised prosperity and riches to Fru Cissela's race, if she would restore their pipe and horn; but she persisted in keeping them, and they are still preserved at Liungby, as memorials of the wonderful event. The horn is said to be of an unknown mixture of metals with brass ornaments, and the pipe of a horse's leg-bone.

The man who stole them from the trolls died three days after, and the horse on the second day. Liungby mansion has been twice burnt, and the Ulftand family never prospered afterwards. This tradition teaches that Christians should act justly even towards trolls.

It is also related of some priests, who were riding before daybreak by a mount on a Christmas morning, while the trolls were at their sports, how a berg- or mount-woman came out and offered them drink in metal bowls; and how they cast the drink behind them, but that some drops chanced to fall on the horses' loins and burned the hair off. The bowls they carried away with them, and such are still to be found in several churches, where, it is said, they were formerly used as chalices.

This drink, which the trolls were in the habit of offering so liberally, was believed to have the property of obliterating from the memory all the past, and of rendering the guest who partook of it contented with all he met with in the mount.




Origin of the Noble Name of Trolle

Sweden

On the wall of Voxtorp church in Småland there is a painting representing a knight named Herve Ulf, when one Christmas morning he received a drinking horn from a troll-wife with one hand, while with his sword he struck off her head with the other, kept the horn and rode to church. In remembrance of this deed, the king commanded him to call himself Trolle, and to take a troll without a head for his armorial bearing. Such is the origin of the noble name of Trolle.

This wonderful horn was of three hundred colours, and was first preserved in the cathedral of Wexiö; but when the Danes in 1570 burned Wexiö, the horn was carried to Denmark.

It is said that the trolls are very prolific, but that their offspring for the most part dies when it thunders; whence the saying: "Were it not for thunder, the trolls would destroy the world."




The Fairy Banquet

England

In the province of the Deiri (Yorkshire), not far from my birthplace, a wonderful thing occurred, which I have known from my boyhood. There is a town a few miles distant from the Eastern Sea, near which are those celebrated waters commonly called Gipse.... A peasant of this town went once to see a friend who lived in the next town, and it was late at night when he was coming back, not very sober; when lo! from the adjoining barrow, which I have often seen, and which is not much over a quarter of a mile from the town, he heard the voices of people singing, and, as it were, joyfully feasting.

He wondered who they could be that were breaking in that place, by their merriment, the silence of the dead night, and he wished to examine into the matter more closely. Seeing a door open in the side of the barrow, he went up to it, and looked in; and there he beheld a large and luminous house, full of people, women as well as men, who were reclining as at a solemn banquet. One of the attendants, seeing him standing at the door, offered him a cup. He took it, but would not drink; and pouring out the contents, kept the vessel.

A great tumult arose at the banquet on account of his taking away the cup, and all the guests pursued him; but he escaped by the fleetness of the beast he rode, and got into the town with his booty.

Finally, this vessel of unknown material, of unusual colour, and of extraordinary form, was presented to Henry the Elder, King of the English, as a valuable gift, and was then given to the queen's brother David, King of the Scots, and was kept for several years in the treasury of Scotland; and a few years ago (as I have heard from good authority), it was given by William, King of the Scots, to Henry the Second, who wished to see it.




The Fairy Horn

England

There is in the county of Gloucester, a forest abounding in boars, stags, and every species of game that England produces. In a grovy lawn of this forest there is a little mount, rising in a point to the height of a man, on which knights and other hunters are used to ascend when fatigued with heat and thirst, to seek some relief for their wants. The nature of the place, and of the business, is, however, such, that whoever ascends the mount must leave his companions, and go quite alone.

When alone, he was to say, as if speaking to some other person, "I thirst," and immediately there would appear a cup-bearer in an elegant dress, with a cheerful countenance, bearing in his stretched-out hand a large horn, adorned with gold and gems, as was the custom among the most ancient English. In the cup nectar of an unknown but most delicious flavour was presented, and when it was drunk, all heat and weariness fled from the glowing body, so that one would be thought ready to undertake toil instead of haying toiled. Moreover, when the nectar was taken, the servant presented a towel to the drinker, to wipe his mouth with, and then having performed his office, he waited neither for a recompense for his services, nor for questions and enquiry.

This frequent and daily action had for a very long period of old times taken place among the ancient people, till one day a knight of that city, when out hunting, went thither, and having called for a drink and gotten the horn, did not, as was the custom, and as in good manners he should have done, return it to the cupbearer, but kept it for his own use. But the illustrious Earl of Gloucester, when he learned the truth of the matter, condemned the robber to death, and presented the horn to the most excellent King Henry the Elder, lest he should be thought to have approved of such wickedness, if he had added the rapine of another to the store of his private property.




The Story of the Fairy Horn

England

Once upon a time there was a knight that had a Wyvern on his shield ; but he was none the better for that, as you shall hear.

One day as he was riding in the country beyond Gloucester, he came to a forest abounding in boars, stags, and every kind of wild beast. Now in a grovy lawn of this forest there was a little mount, rising in a point to the height of a man, on which knights and other hunters were used to ascend when fatigued with heat and thirst, to seek some relief. The nature of the place -- for it is a fairy place -- is, however, such that whoever ascends the mount must leave his companions, and go quite alone.

As the knight rode in the wood, and came nigh this fairy-knoll, he met with a wood-cutter and questioned him about it. He must go thither alone, the wood-cutter told him, and say, as if speaking to some other person, "I thirst!"

Immediately there would appear a cup-bearer in a rich crimson dress, with a shining face, bearing in his stretchedout hand a large horn, adorned with gold and gems, such as was the custom among the most ancient English. The cup was full of nectar, of an unknown but most delicious flavour, and when it was drunk, all heat and weariness fled from those who drank of it, so that they became ready to toil anew, instead of being tired from having toiled. Moreover, when the nectar was drunk, the cup-bearer offered a towel to the drinker, to wipe his mouth with, and then having done this courtesy, he waited neither for a silver penny for his services, nor for any question to be asked.

Now the knight with the Wyvern laughed to himself when he heard this. "Who," thought he, "would be fool enough, having within his grasp such a drinking-horn, ever to let it go again from him!"

Later, that very same day, as he rode back hot and tired and thirsty from his hunting, he bethought him of the fairy-knoll and the fairy-horn. Sending away his followers, he repaired thither all alone, and did as the wood-cutter had told him. He ascended the little hill, and said in a bold voice, "I thirst!"

Instantly there appeared, as the wood-cutter had foretold, a cup-bearer in a crimson dress, bearing in his hand a drinking-horn. The horn was richly beset with precious gems; and the knight was filled with envy at sight of it. No sooner had he seized upon it, and tasted of its delicious nectar, which glowed in his veins, than he determined when he had drained it to make off with the horn. So, having gotten the horn, and drunk of it every drop, instead of returning it to the cup-bearer, as in good manners he should have done, he stepped down from the knoll, and rudely made off with it in his hand.

But, learn ye then what fate overtook this knight that bore the Wyvern on his shield, but was without true knighthood, and robbed the Fairy Horn. For the good Earl of Gloucester, who had often quenched his thirst, and restored his strength, standing on the fairy-knoll, when he heard that the wicked knight had destroyed the kind custom of the horn, attacked the robber in his stronghold, and forthright slew him, and carried off the horn.

But alas! The earl did not return it to the fairy-cupbearer, but gave it to his master and lord, King Henry the Elder.

Since then you may stand all day at the fairy-knoll, and many times cry, "I thirst!" but you may not taste of the Fairy Horn.




The Rillaton Gold Cup

England (Cornwall)

A curious instance of the persistency of tradition may be mentioned in connection with the cairn near the Hurlers and the Cheesewring, in which a gold cup was found a few years ago.

The story long told is that a party were hunting the wild boar in Trewartha Marsh. Whenever a hunter came near the Cheesewring a prophet -- by whom an archdruid is meant -- who lived there received him, seated in the stone chair, and offered him to drink out of his golden goblet, and if there were as many as fifty hunters approach, each drank, and the goblet was not emptied. Now on this day of the boar hunt one of those hunting vowed that he would drink the cup dry. So he rode up to the rocks, and there saw the grey druid holding out his cup. The hunter took the goblet and drank till he could drink no more, and he was so incensed at his failure that he dashed what remained of the wine in the druid's face, and spurred his horse to ride away with the cup. But the steed plunged over the rocks and fell with his rider, who broke his neck, and as he still clutched the cup, he was buried with it.

Immediately outside the rampart of the stone fort above the Cheesewring is a large natural block of granite, hollowed out by the weather into a seat called the Druid's Chair.




The Fairy Cup of Kirk Malew

Isle of Man

One story in particular was told me of a man who had been led by invisible musicians for several miles together; and not being able to resist the harmony, followed till it conducted him to a large common, where were a great number of little people sitting round a table, and eating and drinking in a very jovial manner. Among them were some faces whom he thought he had formerly seen, but forbore taking any notices or they of him, till the little people offering him drink, one of them, whose features seemed not unknown to him, plucked him by the coat and forbad him, whatever he did, to taste anything he saw before him; for if you do, added he, you will be as I am, and return no more to your family.

The poor man was much af frighted but resolved to obey the injunction: accordingly a large silver cup, filled with some sort of liquor, being put into his hand, he found an opportunity to throw what it contained on the ground. Soon after the musick ceasing, all the company disappeared, leaving the cup in his hand, and he returned home, tho' much wearied and fatigued. He went the next day and communicated to the minister of the parish all that had happened and asked his advice how he should dispose of the cup: to which the parson reply'd, he could not do better than devote it to the service of the church; and this very cup, they tell me, is that which is now used for the consecrated wine in Kirk Merlugh [Malew].




The Silver Cup

Isle of Man

There was once a man living in the south of the island whose name was Colcheragh. He was a farmer, and he had poultry on his street, sheep on the mountain, and cattle in the meadow land alongside the river.

His cows were the best cows in the parish. Nowhere could you see such a fine head of cattle as he had; they were the pride of his heart, and they served him well with milk and butter.

But after a time he began to think that something was amiss with the cows. He went to the cow-house the first thing every morning, and one morning he noticed the cows looking so tired they could hardly stand. When it came to milking time they found not a drop of milk. The girls, who went out to milk the cows, came back with empty cans, saying, "The milk has gone up into the cows' horns!"

Colcheragh began to think that some one had put an evil eye on his cows, so he swept up some of the dust from the cross four-roads close by, in a shovel, and sprinkled it on their backs. But the cows got no better. Then he wondered if some one was coming at night to steal the milk. He made up his mind to sit in the cow-house all night to see if he could catch the thief.

So one night after everyone had gone to bed he crept out of the house and hid himself under some straw in a corner of the cow-house. Hour after hour of the dark lonesome night crept on, and he heard nothing but the cows' breathing and their rustle in the straw. He was very cold and stiff, and he had just made up his mind to go into the house when a glimmering light showed under the door; and then he heard things laughing and talking -- queer talk. He knew that they were not right people.

The cow-house door opened, and in came a whole lot of little men, dressed in green coats and leather caps. Keeking through the straw, he saw their horns hung by their sides, their whips in their hands, and scores of little dogs of every colour -- green, blue, yellow, scarlet, and every colour you can think of -- at their heels. The cows were lying down. The little fellows loosed the yokes from the cows' necks, hopped on their backs, a dozen, maybe, on each cow, and cracked their little whips. The cows jumped to their feet, and Themselves galloped off.

Colcheragh ran to the stable, got on a horse, and made chase after his cows. The night was dark, but he could hear the whizz of the little whips through the air, the click of the cows' hoofs on stones, and the little dogs going, "Yep, yep, yep."

He heard, too, the laughing of Themselves. Then one of them would be singing out to the dogs, calling them up by name, giving a call out of him, "Ho la, ho la, la!"

Colcheragh followed these sounds, keeping close at their heels. On and on they went, helter-skelter over hedges and over ditches till they got to the Fairy Hill, and Colcheragh was still following them, though on any other night he would not have gone within a mile of the great green mound.

When the little fellows came to the hill they sounded a tan-ta-ra-ra-tan on their horns. The hill opened, bright light streamed out, and sounds of music and great merriment. Themselves passed through, and Colcheragh slid off his horse and slipped unnoticed in after them. The hill closed behind them and he found himself in a fine room, lit up till it was brighter than the summer noonday. The whole place was crowded with little people, young and old, men and women, all decked out for a ball, that grand -- he had never looked on the like. Among them were some faces that he thought he had seen before, but he took no notice of them, nor they of him. In one part there was dancing to the music of Hom Mooar -- that was the name of the fiddler -- and when he played all men must follow him whether they would or no. The dancing was like the dancing of flowers in the wind, such dancing as he had never seen before.

In another part his cows were being killed and roasted, and after the dance there was a great feast, with scores of tables set out with silver and gold and everything of the best to eat and drink. There was roast and boiled, and sollaghan and cowree, and puddings and pies, and jough and wine -- a feast fit for the Governor himself.

When they were taking their seats one of them, whose face he thought he knew, whispered to him: "Don't thee taste nothin' here or thou will be like me, and never go back to thy ones no more."

Colcheragh made up his mind to take this advice.

When the feast was coming to an end there was a shout for the joughy-dorrys, the stirrup cup. Someone ran to fetch the cup. The one among the little people, who seemed to be their king, filled it with red wine, drank himself, and passed it on to the rest. It was going round from one to another until it came to Colcheragh, who saw, when he had it in his hands, that it was of fine carved silver, and more beautiful than anything ever seen outside that place.

He said to himself, "The little durts have stolen and killed, and eaten my cattle. This cup, if it were. mine, would pay me for all."

So standing up and grasping the silver cup tightly in his hand, he held it up and said, "Shoh Slaynt!" which is the Manx toast.

Then he dashed the cupful of wine over Themselves and the lights. In an instant the place was in black darkness, save for, a stime of grey dawn light which came through the chink of the half-closed door. Colcheragh made for it, cup in hand, slammed the door behind him, and ran for his life.

After a moment of uproar Themselves missed the cup and Colcheragh, and with yells of rage they poured out of the hill, after him, in full chase. The farmer, who had a good start, ran as he had never run before. He knew he would get small mercy at their hands if he was caught; he went splashing through the wet mire and keeping off the stepping stones; he knew they could not take him in the water. He looked over his shoulder and caught a glimpse of the whole Mob Beg behind him, close at his heels, waving their naked arms in the light of the torch each one held up. On they come, shrieking and howling in Manx:

Colcheragh, Colcheragh,
Put thy foot on the stone,
And do not put it in the wet!

But he ran in the water till he came to the churchyard, and they could not touch him there. When he went into the cowhouse the next morning the cows had all come home and they got rest after that.

He put the cup in the church at Rushen, and they are saying it was there for, many years; then it was sent to London. It is said that after this the farmer would not go out of his house of an evening after dark.




The Trowie "Pig"

Scotland (Shetland)

Laurence Farker was a highly nervous man. He suffered from innumerable maladies, and was often unable either to go to the fishing, or lend a hand at working the croft. This annoyed his better half considerably. She did not sympathise with her husband in the least, for she believed, and perhaps not without some reason, that his ills were more imaginary than real.

One morning Laurence found that he was quite unable to go to the fishing with the other men. He lay in bed all that day, and his wife went about her manifold duties, and paid very little attention to him. At nightfall she titied up the house and went to visit a neighbour, and Laurence was left alone.

He was lying bemoaning his unhappy lot, when he perceived a number of little folks come trooping in over the floor. One of them carried a stone pig (earthenware bottle) in his hand. The trows, for such Laurence knew them to be, seated themselves on the hearth round the blazing peat fire. After a little, one of them spoke.

"The guidman is no weel," said he.

"No," remarked another, "but if he had somethin' oot o' wir pig, dat wid better him."

A short silence followed, and the listener waited eagerly.

"His wife is not guid til him," said the first speaker; "she'll be comin' back, so we had better go."

With this they got up in a body and made for the door, but when they were opposite the bed, Laurence cried out, "Loard surround me, an' sae da pig!"

The trows immediately vanished, but the pig was left behind.

Laurence recollected what the trow had said. He took "somethin' oot o' da pig," and after a few doses all his ills departed. The fame of that pig went far and wide. Its contents never grew less, and proved a never-failing cure for all diseases.




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Revised Winter Solstice, 2012.