13    Ken's mum, Rosie

Ken takes Jack & Catherine to meet his mum,Rosie

Rosie says the lady & the tramp are fairies 

Ken's mum Rosie, reading tarot cards
Art: Gloria Dexter

“Sounds like fairies to me,” said Rosie.

“Fairies?” Catherine could not believe her ears.

 “Now, Catherine, I know you have strong opinions, but you don’t know these things like I do. In Cornwall we believe in fairies. Great-grandma saw one when she was a girl and the same one when she was old. The fairy hadn’t aged a day.”

Catherine opened her mouth, but Rosie was too quick. “Fairies change from old to young at will. They take children and sometimes leave a changeling, a fairy child grown up wrong, twisted and full of spite.”

 “Do you think the tramp’s a changeling?” Jack cried.

 “Or fairy himself. Be careful, they’re not like us,” warned Rosie. “They’re vicious and play cruel tricks. I don’t want to scare you, but if fairies took your brother, you may be next.”

 A shiver ran down Jack’s back.

 “Nonsense. I am surprised at you Rosie. Jack imagined it. You should not encourage him.” Catherine sounded very adult.

from Chapter 7    Rosie Trelawney

She led a fairy herd out of the lake

Art: Paul

Rosie tells Jack an old story that’s been in her family for generations…

It is based on an ancient Celtic legend. Here is my retelling...

A young farmer fell in love with a fairy maid who lived beneath the lake on his land. Though she loved him too, his entreaties fell on deaf ears and she refused his hand. For she heard it said men could break a heart in two, and no prudent maid should trust a careless man with anything so precious.

But he was persistent as he was handsome. Each dawn and dusk found him standing beside the lake with his fiddle: sounding bright as a lark ascending or sweet as the evening nightingale. Other times he would sing in a warm tenor voice, which rang over meadow and fell like the laughter in a brook, and spoke of secrets shared. When he sang, his words were always the same. He listed womanly charms, beauty chief among them; then crowned them with her name.

His tunes, though starting merry, invariably slipped into lament as the weary day yielded to night. Wrapped in purple shadow, with breaking voice caught between sigh and sob, no stronger than a breath snatched by the cruel east wind, he would weep and plead with the evening stars to take pity upon a fool such as he.

In the end, I suppose he wore down her resolve; although his ready smile and the twinkle in his eye may have had something to do with it. One day, dressed in green and gold, she came to him; pretty as sunrise on Mayday morn. From the cool still waters she summoned a dowry of milch-cows led by a proud strong bull. Fairy beasts they were, white with red eyes and ears, as fairy beasts are said to be. The herd made him rich. For the butter and cheese from the creamy milk was so golden they lit the darkest winter kitchen like a buttercup held to the throat. With his new-found wealth he built a fine house and she wanted for nothing.

They were such a loving couple, the happiest in the county it was said. Over the years she bore him strong handsome sons and pretty, pretty girls. But as time slipped past, as time does, a canker crept between them. Laughter left the house. He was angry: all the time finding fault with her. One day he snapped at some trifle and made to raise his hand. But the look in her eye caught him, and brought him to his senses.

Maybe this was the beginning of the end. Who knows? For who really ever knows how something dies?  But die her love did. Murdered some might say. Or perhaps it was simply the pain of watching the husband and children she loved beyond life itself grow old and infirm. Knowing death grew ever closer; yet powerless to stay the reaper's hand.

One evening unable to bear it any longer, her heart broke and she left without a backward glance. He was slumbering by the fire when she left, his old body worn out from the day’s labour. He did not know she was gone until he heard mournful lowing in the meadow. Rushing from the house he saw her vanish into the lake, driving her magic beasts before her through the cold dark waters. Snatching up his fiddle, he played the whole night through. But he could not sing, and could not speak, for he no longer trusted his voice was true. As sunrise brought a cheerless morn his heart congealed, and he never again smiled for the rest of his days.

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The Fairy Road

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Jack Hughes & Thomas the Rhymer

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