Anne Jeffries and the Fairies

 

 

Anne Jeffries was the daughter of a labourer who lived in the parish of St Teath. At nineteen she went to work as a servant. Anne was clever and mischievous, she shocked the neighbours with her brazenness. She was also highly imaginative and whereas everybody in those days believed in the existence of fairies, Anne decided to find a fairy man for herself. Every afternoon, after she had finished her morning chores, Anne would go to look for fairies. As she looked amongst the trees and flowers Anne sang,

‘Fairy fair and fairy bright,

Come and be my chosen sprite.’

Although she had a good and loyal boyfriend, Anne had grown bored of him. Anne wanted someone more exciting, someone so clever and full of life they would be a match for her high spirits and only a fairy man would do.

‘Moonshines bright. Water runs clear,

I am here, but where is my fairy dear?’ Anne sang.

She put a lot of effort into searching for the fairies and thought she really should have found a fairy man by now. What Anne wasn’t aware of as she walked alongside the stream each afternoon, was the fairies were watching her.

One day, after she had finished her morning’s work, Anne didn’t take off to look for fairies. Instead, she took her kitting into the garden and sat on a bench under a tree. She heard a rustling in the bushes and a laugh. Thinking it was her boring boyfriend, Anne ignored him and concentrated on her knitting. When she heard the laugh again, she got up to look about but there was no one there. She was turning round in confused circles, trying to locate the source of the laughter, when the garden gate opened and six little men in very smart green outfits and hats, walked up to meet her. They all stood in a row in front of Anne and smiled up at her. Anne smiled back. She had been waiting for a fairy man and here were six of them. One of the fairies stood forward and held out his hand for Anne and she lifted him up. He had a huge red feather in his hat. She bought him nearer to take a closer look and he began kissing her on her hair, her cheeks. How charming, Anne thought and she lifted the others so they were all along her arm patting and kissing her. One scraped his finger across her eye and Anne screamed in pain and the garden went dark.

They raced through the air, in her ears was a humming and she felt the wind rubbing against her but Anne couldn’t see anything until she was put down. A beautiful palace stood before her and she walked with the fairy men in its wonderful gardens. Her eyesight back, Anne found herself dressed in a lovey dress of fairy silk. Diamonds and crystals were woven into her miraculously curling hair, tiny soft slippers wrapped her feet and she was small as her new friends. Anne lived in the palace for what seemed forever. At first she spent her days with all the fairy men. As she fell in love with the fairy in the red feathered hat, she had time only for him.

The other five fairy men were jealous of Anne and her favourite and they followed them everywhere. One day, Anne found a hidden garden and hoped to spend time alone with her friend but the others soon found Anne and were in an ugly, angry mood. One threw himself at Anne. Her lover tried to defend her but his sword was knocked away. Five were no match for one and the red feather soon lay crumpled, the charming fairy fatally injured on the ground. As Anne stood crying, one of the fairies scraped his fingers over her eyes, she did not scream this time but said her silent goodbyes to her fairy friend. She heard the buzzing in her ears and the scrunching of wind on her arms and soon felt the grass of the garden and saw her master standing over her.

‘This one has had a funny turn,’ he said.

Anne knew she hadn’t suffered a funny turn, or a funny anything, Anne knew it was very serious, she had been in love

 

retold by Anna Chorlton

 

from Mabel-Quiller-Couch ‘Cornwall’s Wonderland’

Hunt ‘Romances of the West of England’

 

 

  • North Cornwall Coast