Tegan and her brother Thomas lived with their Great-Granny under a hill facing Polzeath bay. They loved to hear their Great Granny’s stories about the small people. Often Tegan and Thomas would watch through their garden hedge as piskeys danced on the cliffs.
Tegan had a secret. She had found a piskey purse covered in golden rings, with a small person trapped inside it. The small person wanted Tegan to take the purse to the Tolmen stone on the moors. Once there, she must pass the purse through the hole in the stone three times, then leave the purse on the stone, the first rays of the morning sun will smite it and open the purse. The small person wanted very much to be reunited with her True Love, who she had not seen for over a hundred years.
The spriggins, who had trapped the small person in the purse, wanted Tegan to take the purse to the Piskey Goog on the beach, where she was to be married to their king. Tegan’s Great-Granny also wanted her to take the purse to the spriggings. They had offered the family gold in return. Great-Granny sent the children down to the beach, with instructions not to come back until they had found the purse.
Down on the beach, Tegan, who had already found the purse, sat looking at shells and out to sea. Along came farmer Vivian, who was their landlord.
‘Why haven’t you been out picking limpets?’ he asked.
‘Great-Granny ordered us to look for the piskey’s purse but I am looking for piskey shoes and I believe you may have them.’
‘ Well there you are. I have them in my pocket,’ said farmer Vivian and he took out a pair of tiny moss coloured shoes.
‘How ever will I fit those on my big feet?’ Tegan asked, disappointed.
‘See if they fit you, go on just for fun.’
And Tegan tried on the piskey shoe and it fitted perfectly. Later that afternoon, when Tegan was still on the beach pretending to look for the piskey purse, she got cut off by the sea. She saw water all around her and a sheer cliff beside her. Then she saw the spriggin leaning down at her from a ledge on the cliff.
‘I will help you to escape the sea if you give up the purse,’ said the spriggin. ‘Or, if you choose not to give it to me, you will be left to drown,’ he said nastily.
Tegan didn’t want to accept the spriggin’s help but the sea was getting rough all about her and night would soon come. She was just about to accept the spriggin’s help, when she heard farmer Vivian calling down to her,
‘Tegan, put on the piskey shoes and you will find tiny steps leading all the way up the cliffs.’ Tegan did as he told her and sure enough, her shoes fitted into the tiny stone steps and she was up the cliff in no time. Farmer Vivian smiled down at Tegan and gave her a tiny lantern to light her way home.
Great-Grannie was very upset Tegan had nearly drowned. The old lady realized it was wrong of her to expect the children to find gold.
Tegan went up to her room as it was already dark.
‘You won’t be afraid to take me across the moors now you have used the shoes to escape the spriggin and the sea,’ said the voice in the purse.
‘I suppose not,’ said Tegan.
‘The enchantment on the purse can only be broken, if a kind girl helps me out of love and nothing else. You know I cannot give you the gold the spriggins are offering, don’t you Tegan?’
‘I don’t want to be rich, I would rather help you,’ said Tegan kindly.
‘Bring me with you in the pocket of your dress and wear the shoes. The spriggins know you have the shoes but they don’t know you have the lantern. The lantern with bring you warmth, courage and hide you from the spriggins.’
It was nearly sunrise by the time they got to the moor and they worried they might not make it in time to catch the first rays of light. Tegan bravely journeyed across the dark, boggy moor.
‘I hope we get there in time,’ said the little voice in the purse.
‘I want a rest,’ said Tegan.
‘You can’t, the spriggins are all about us throwing their thunder axes and we haven’t much time.’
Tegan walked on, at last they saw the Tolmen lit by the moon.
‘We have reached the Tolmen before the sun,’ shouted Tegan.
‘Pass me through the Tolmen three times and leave me on the stone.’
Tegan did as she was asked. She stood back just as the sun was about to rise. The flame of the sun smote the purse lying on the Tolmen and there sat a lovely little creature.
‘How can I thank you enough Tegan,’ she said.
‘You don’t look old,’ Tegan said in surprise.
‘I am a royal fairy, I am forever young,’ said the fairy. ‘Look, here comes your friend, farmer Vivian.
‘He is getting smaller,’ said Tegan.
‘Can you guess who he is?’
‘No, who is he?’
‘My True Love.’
Tegan didn’t have time to ask any more because hundreds of small people surrounded her and bowed to the fairy sitting on the Tolmen stone. They gave Tegan food and drink and lead her through a rock door to a beautiful place.
‘Come with us Tegan,’ said the fairy, we are going to meet the king and queen of the Good Little People.’ They walked to a palace and into a magnificent thrown room. It was bursting with small people all singing in excitement. On two throwns sat the King and Queen,
‘Welcome back daughter,’ they said, smiling at the fairy.
‘Thank you for staying close by and being her loyal true love,’ they said to farmer Vivian.
Then the king and queen told Tegan how well she had done, in rescuing their daughter. ‘We have many qualities to give you in return, each will help you in your life. We will teach you the eye to see all that is good in human hearts, the power to bring it out which will in turn make you loved. We will teach you to love grass, flowers and herbs and reveal their charms, virtues and healing properties. All the Good Small People will always love you.’
The fairy princess and mini farmer Vivian, took Tegan by the arms and lead her through the beautiful fairy kingdom to a little door in the cliff. They each kissed her cheeks.
‘Goodbye Tegan, until we meet again,’ said her fairy friend.
And Tegan found herself back in her little bed at her Grandmother’s house
Next day, Great-Grannie sent Tegan straight down to the beach to pick limpets for the ducklings. As she filled her bucket, Tegan wondered if it had all been a dream. She could not find the purse, shoes or lantern anywhere. Passing Piskey Goog, she met a brown man who was a real piskey. He told her the spriggins had been sent away to another cave to do hard labour and the Goog had been returned to the piskeys. ‘We thank you kind little Cornish girl, we have our cave back.’
In time, Tegan grew up and everyone in St Minver parish loved her dearly. She was never rich but she saw the goodness in people. They came to her with illnesses of the body and the heart and she could always cure them. She often saw the Little princess and her True Love. The little people came to see her when the moon was up and bought her herbs and flowers and helped her to make special balms for healing. The piskeys danced for her on top of Pentire Glaze cliffs and laughter rang out over Polzeath sands.
Retold by Anna Chorlton
from Enys Tregarthen, ‘The Piskey Purse’
- North Cornwall Coast