Monday, April 13, 2020

More Folk From ...?

WHO GOES THERE? .... please.

 This is one of the best. It's a Diarmuid MacManus tale, and it consists of several witnesses of the same Little Man type at several times. The central location: Connacht Ireland, and early 20th century (and earlier.) MacManus knew all the witnesses of the central cases. 

The longest presence was for an 18 year old girl and a younger girl in a bedroom in the younger girl's house. The older girl was doing her hair when the younger called out. Turning, she was just 9-10 feet away from one of the Little People. They had a very good look: 4 foot tall, clean, neat clothes, brimless green "flowerpot" hat, close-fitting green cutaway tailcoat, yellowish waistcoat and cravat, buff knee breeches, grey stockings, brogues, blue eyes, light brown hair, and (sorry about not working the art entirely this time) clean shaven. Imagine a trimmer guy with no mustache or beard. 

The girls only stared at him and he them. Then, poof, he just vanished. A few weeks later, the Little Man made a brief appearance at the dinner table, this time also being seen by the Colonel who owned the house. That Colonel ultimately visited an old man in the country, who told him of seeing this same type of man in a field, and who just disappeared after being cursed at. The maid at that man's house said that she had seen this being several times. Quite the cluster of tales, and all first hand to MacManus.

Isle of Muck, Scottish western coast, 1910.  The story has much more convoluted provenance. The first part is OK: a minister taking the story from one of the elders of his church. But that person is not indicated to be one of the witnesses. The elder knew the FATHER of the two witnesses and its from that distance that the story comes.

These two sons were beachcombing one morning and found an unopened "tin."It was hard to open, so they took it up to some rocks with a crevice in order to attempt to pound or pry it open. As they struggled with it, two small men appeared and asked them what they were doing. The men were dressed in green and spoke both english and gaelic. Down at the seashore, they then saw a little boat, wherein stood a small lady also in green. Alongside her was a dog no larger than a rat, barking away. 

She offered for them to come aboard and eat. This they wouldn't do, so she brought some walnut-sized cakes on shore, which they ate and very much enjoyed. The three small people then boarded and departed saying that they'd not be returning but others of their kind would. 
The boys family believed that they had seen the fairies and eaten the fairy cakes.
Lis Ard Fairy Fort, Ireland. Early 1900s.  This is a MacManus story told to him personally by the witness. The witness had been, in fact, the head gardener at MacManus' family home. 

The gardener was working well away from the house grounds near this so-called fairy fort. The tale, like all good ones, is simple: he looked up towards a bank of earth to see it lined with fairy folk. These he described as "life-sized" so possibly of normal height. They were both genders. The women were young and good-looking and wore shawls over their heads. The men wore red or brown coats and had brown hair --- some bare-headed, some with tall conical hats "set jauntily on their heads." 

There were twenty or more of them, all with such hard penetrating eyes that he became frightened and left hastily for his house. 

 Southend-on-sea, UK early 1900s. This story is one of those which came to Edward Gardner after he and A Conan Doyle publicized The Cottingley Fairies claims. So, it's a long distance letter from someone who Gardner did not know. The letter seems earnest, but what can we really say? 

This is one where I think it's good to just type out the witness' own brief words.

" I think I have always seen fairies. I see them constantly in the shrubbery by the sea. They congregate under the trees and float around about the trees, AND GNOMES COME AROUND TO PROTECT THEM (emphasis mine). The gnomes are like little old men, with their green caps, and their clothes are generally neutral green. The fairies themselves are in light draperies. I have also seen them in the conservatory of my house, floating about the flowers and plants. The fairies appear to be perpetually playing, excepting when they go to rest on the turf or in a tree, and I once saw a group of gnomes standing on each other's shoulders like gymnasts on the stage. They seem to be living as much as i am. It is not imagination. I have seen the gnomes arranging a sort of moss bed for the fairies, just like a mother-bird putting her chicks to bed. I don't hear any sounds from the gnomes or fairies, but they always look happy, as if they were having a real good time." 

THAT is indeed a mind-boggler of a tale. This is where you wish that somebody with some sense would have gone down to Southend to meet and get to know "Mrs Rose" and try to get us just a little closer to judging this situation. 

But as no one seems to have done so, we're stuck with the lone letter. There are a few worthy things which can be said I believe. 
1. Note that Mrs Rose is "naturally aware" that there exist more than one type of creature in Faery, and that gnomes and what she labels "the fairies" are two easily distinguishable things. They may be closely associated beings, but they are radically different in size and form;
2. Note that IF a census taker would poll Mrs Rose about something called fairies, she would not necessarily include gnomes in that response. I'll bet that all along the timeline this confusion has existed --- some will lump these together; some will see them very differently. I intuit that our recent Fairy Census suffers from a BIG deficit in "gnome" and other beings reported due to a fixed and exclusionary idea of what seeing a fairy amounts to;
3. IF the above mental dichotomy in some minds makes sense (I really believe so). then how much more will it exclude OTHER folkloric entities from being reported. If it does, do the virtual absences of fauns, dryads, naiads, giants, even merfolk, centaurs, unicorns, winged genii et al represent a true absence or only a categorical restriction? My intuition is that there wouldn't be MUCH of those latter entity reports, but there might be SOME at least ( note for example that the independently reported --- i.e. NOT for a "census" --- set of encounters by Moira Doorly contained many alternate types of entities); 
4. It's not a certain thing, but I do not see a definite statement by Mrs Rose that her fairies had wings. They floated about the trees and plants in diaphanous clothing, but although giving herself ample opportunity to describe wings, she does not do so. This floating about plants without wings is just like the two Wigan cases of the previous posting.

Those four remarks are simple extractions of the letter and don't depend much upon credibility factors. However if I try to take the descriptive content about the fairies seriously, then I'm making more assumptions. But just to speculate: 

What if the gnomes and the "fairies" were somehow dramatically different yet still closely "socially" associated? Would this not point to another reality from ours wherein several "species" of entities existed --- sometimes associating sometimes not? Old paintings show gatherings of various such "species" (often throwing in fauns, Pan, Puck, dryads etc) in festive modes of "fairy" feasting. Are there hints of multiple types of Middle Earth beings in many reports? It doesn't feel that way --- maybe I haven't been paying enough attention. Do one type of beings have "duties" to others? Is there an "order" to things there? Are any such duties genuinely friendly and/or helping? Is there a "moral compass" there --- despite the prejudices against anything in the fairy world having "soul-full" works? 

The above raw speculations are why (mainly) I wish that fairylore cases were better done, and why I treasure a guy like MacManus who can look me in the eye and say: I KNOW this person and they are TRUE. 

Till next time.

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