Fairies Working For Men


It was once thought that kind Fairies took compassion on good folk, who

were unable to accomplish in due time their undertakings, and finished in

the night these works for them; and it was always observed that the Fairy

workman excelled as a tradesman the mortal whom he assisted. Many an

industrious shoemaker, it is said, has ere this found in the morning that

the Fairies had finished in the night the pair of shoes which he had on

commenced the evening before. Farmers too, who had in part ploughed a

field, have in the morning been surprised to find it finished. These

kind offices, it was firmly believed, were accomplished by Fairy friends.

Milton in L'Allegro alludes to this belief in the following lines:--

Tells how the drudging Goblin swet,

To earn his cream-bowl duly set,

When in one night, ere glimpse of morn,

His shadowy flail hath thresh'd the corn,

That ten day-labourers could not end.

MILTON, L'Allegro, lines 105-9.

In Scotland the sprite, or Fairy, called Browny, haunted family abodes,

and did all manner of work in the night for those who treated him kindly.

In England, Robin Goodfellow was supposed to perform like functions.

Thus sings Robin:--

Yet now and then, the maids to please,

At midnight I card up their wooll;

And while they sleepe, and take their ease,

With wheel to threads their flax I pull.

I grind at mill

Their malt up still;

I dress their hemp, I spin their tow.

If any 'wake.

And would me take,

I wend me, laughing, ho, ho, ho!

Percy's Reliques, vol. iii., p. 169.

Welsh Fairies are not described as ordinarily inclined to lessen men's

labours by themselves undertaking them; but there are a few tales current

of their having assisted worthy persons in their manual works. Professor

Rhys records one of these stories in Y Cymmrodor, vol. iv. 210. He

writes thus:--

One day Guto, the Farmer of Corwrion, complained to his wife that he was

in need of men to mow his hay, and she answered, 'Why fret about it? look

yonder! there you have a field full of them at it, and stripped to their

shirt sleeves.' When he went to the spot the sham workmen of the Fairy

family had disappeared. This same Guto, or somebody else, happened

another time to be ploughing, when he heard some person he could not see

calling out to him, 'I have got the bins (that is the vice) of my

plough broken.' 'Bring it to me,' said the driver of Guto's team, 'that

I may mend it.' When they brought the furrow to an end, there they found

the broken vice, and a barrel of beer placed near it. One of the men sat

down and mended it. Then they made another furrow, and when they

returned to the spot they found there a two-eared dish, filled to the

brim with bara a chwrw, or bread and beer.