ADDLERS AND MENTERS
An old lady in Yorkshire related as follows:--My eldest daughter Betsey was about four years old; I remember it was on a fine summer's afternoon, or rather evening, I was seated in this chair which I now occupy. The child had been in the garden, she came into that entry or passage from the kitchen (on the right side of the entry was the old parlour-door, on the left the door of the common sitting-room; the mother of the child was in a line with both the doors); the child, instead of turning towards the sitting-room made a pause at the parlour-door, which was open. She stood several minutes quite still; at last I saw her draw her hand quickly towards her body; she set up a loud shriek and ran, or rather flew, to me crying out "Oh! Mammy, green man will hab me! green man will hab me!" It was a long time before I could pacify her; I then asked her why she was so frightened. "O Mammy," she said, "all t'parlour is full of addlers and menters." Elves and fairies (spectres?) I suppose she meant. She said they were dancing, and a little man in a green coat with a gold-laced cocked hat on his head, offered to take her hand as if he would have her as his partner in the dance. The mother, upon hearing this, went and looked into the old parlour, but the fairy vision had melted into thin air. "Such," adds the narrator, "is the account I heard of this vision of fairies. The person is still alive who witnessed or supposed she saw it, and though a well-informed person, still positively asserts the relation to be strictly true. [a]
Ritson, who was a native of the bishoprick of Durham, tells us [b] that the fairies frequented many parts of it; that they were described as being of the smallest size, and uniformly habited in green. They could, however, change their size and appearance. "A woman," he says, "who had been in their society challenged one of the guests whom she espied in the market selling fairy-butter. [c] This freedom was deeply resented, and cost her the eye she first saw him with. Some one informed him that an acquaintance of his in Westmoreland, wishing to see a fairy, was told that on such a day on the side of such a hill, he should be gratified. He went, and there, to use his own words, "the hobgoblin stood before him in the likeness of a green-coat lad," but vanished instantly. This, he said, the man told him. A female relation of his own told Mr. Ritson of Robin Goode fellow's, it would seem, thrashing the corn, churning the butter, drinking the milk, etc., and when all was done, lying before the fire " like a great rough hurgin (hugging?) bear." [d]
The Menyn Tylna Têg or Fairy-butter of Wales, we are told in the same place, is a substance found at a great depth in cavities of limestone-rocks when sinking for lead-ore.
The Barguest used also to appear in the shape of a mastiff-dog and other animals, and terrify people with his skrikes. (shrieks). There was a Barguest named the Pick-tree Brag, whose usual form was that of a little galloway, "in which shape a farmer, still or lately living thereabouts, reported that it had come to him one night as he was going home; that he got upon it and rode very quietly till it came to a great pond, to which it ran and threw him in, and went laughing away."
In Northumberland the belief in the fairies is not yet extinct. The writer from whom we derive the following legends tells us [e] that he knew an old man whose dog had pointed a troop of fairies, [f] and though he could not see them he plainly heard their music sounding like a fiddle and a very small pair of pipes. He also tells us, that many years ago a girl who lived near Nether Witton, as she was returning from milking with her pail on her head, saw the fairies playing in the fields, and though she pointed them out to her companions they could not see them. The reason it seemed was her weise or pad for bearing the pail on her head was composed of four-leaved clover, which gives the power of seeing fairies. Spots are pointed out in sequestered places as the favourite haunts of the elves. A few miles from Alnwick is a fairy-ring, round which if people run more than nine times, some evil will befall them. The children constantly run this number, but nothing will induce them to venture a tenth run.
[a] And true no doubt it is, i.e. the impression made on her imagination was as strong as if the objects had been actually before her. The narrator is the same person who told the preceding Boggart story.
[b] Fairy Tales, pp. 24, 56.
[c] In Northumberland the common people call a certain fungous excrescence, sometimes found about the roots of old trees, Fairy-butter. After great rains and in a certain degree of putrefaction, it is reduced to a consistency, which, together with its colour, makes it not unlike butter, and hence the name. Brand, Popular Antiquities, ii. 492, Bohn's edit.
[d] Comp. Milton, L'Allegro, 105 seq.
[e] Richardson, Table-book, iii. 45
[f] This word, as we may sea, is spelt faries in the following legends; so we may suppose that fairy is pronounced farry in the North, which has a curious coincidence with Peri.