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Wonder Tales from Scottish Myth and Legend
Chapter XIV. Exiles from Fairyland


The Fairy Queen banishes from Fairyland any fairy who disobeys her orders. Then the exile wanders about alone through the land in search of companions. As the queen's subjects shun the banished fairy man or woman, he or she must needs make friends with human beings.

The Goona is the name given to one class of fairy exiles. A Goona is very kindly and harmless, and goes about at night trying, to be of service to mankind. He herds the cattle on the hills, and keeps them away from dangerous places. Often he is seen sitting on the edge of a cliff, and when cattle come near he drives them back. In the summer and autumn seasons he watches the cornfields, and if a cow should try to enter one, he seizes it by a horn and leads it to hill pasture. In winter time, when the cattle are kept in byres, the Goona feels very lonely, having no work to do.

Crofters speak kindly of the Goona, and consider themselves lucky when one haunts their countryside. They tell that he is a little fairy man with long ;olden hair that falls down over his shoulders and back. He is clad in a fox's skin, and in wintry weather he suffers much from cold, for that is part of his punishment. The crofters pity him, and wish that he would come into a house and sit beside a warm fire, but this he is forbidden to do. If a crofter were to offer a Goona any clothing the little lonely fellow would have to go away and he could never return again. The only food the exiled fairy can get are scraps and bones flung away by human beings. There are songs about the Goona. One tells:

He will watch the long weird night,
When the stars will shake with fright,
Or the ghostly moon leaps bright
O'er the ben like Beltane fire.
If my kine should seek the corn
He will turn them by the horn,
And I'll find them all at morn
Lowing sweet beside the byre.

Only those who have "second sight"—that is, the power to see supernatural beings and future events—can behold a Goona. So the song tells:

Donald Ban has second sight,
And he'll moan the Goona's plight
When the frosts are flickering white,
And the kine are housed till day;
For he'll see him perched alone
On a chilly old grey stone,
Nibbling, nibbling at a bone
That we've maybe thrown away.

He's so hungry, he's so thin,
If he'd come we'd let him in;
For a rag of fox's skin
Is the only thin,, he'll wear.
He'll be chittering in the cold
As he hovers round the fold,
With his locks of glimmering gold
Twined about his shoulders bare.

Another exiled fairy is called "The Little Old Man of the Barn". He lives to a great age—some say until he is over two hundred years old —but he remains strong and active although his back is bent and his long grey beard reaches to his ankles. He wears grey clothing, and the buttons of his coat are of silver. On his high peaked cap there is a white owl's feather. The face of the little old man is covered with wrinkles, but his eyes are bright and kindly. He is always in a hurry, and hobbles about, leaning on his staff, but he walks so quickly that the strongest man can hardly keep up with him. When he begins to work he works very hard and very quickly. He will not hold a conversation with anyone once he begins to perform a task. If a man who has second sight should address him, saying: "How are you, old man?" he will answer: "I'm busy, busy, busy." If he should be asked: "What are you doing?" he will give the same answer, repeating it over and over again. It is no use trying to chat with the little old man.

There was once an old crofter whose name was Callum. He had seven strong sons, but one by one they left him to serve as keepers of the deer. Callum was left to do all the work on the croft. He had to cut the corn and thresh it afterwards, and had it not been for the assistance given him by the "Little Old Man of the Barn", he would never have been able to get the threshing done.

Each night the fairy man entered the barn and worked very hard. The following verses are from a song about Callum:-

When all the big lads will be hunting the deer,
And no one for helping old Callum comes near,
Oh, who will be busy at threshing his corn?
Who will come in the night and be going at morn?

The Little Old Man of the Barn.
Yon Little Old Man
So tight and so brave, he will bundle the straw,
The Little Old Man of the Barn.

When the peat will turn grey, and the shadows fall deep,
And weary old Callum is snoring asleep;
When yon plant by the door will keep fairies away,
And the horseshoe sets witches a-wandering till day,

The Little Old Man of the Barn,
Yon Little Old Man
Will thrash with no light in the mouth of the night—
The Little Old Man of the Barn.

There was once a fairy exile who lived in a wood in Gairloch, Ross-shire. He was called Gillie Dhu, which means "dark servant", because he had dark hair and dark eyes. He wore a green garment made of moss and the leaves of trees. Nobody feared him, for he never did any harm.

Once a little girl, whose name was Jessie Macrae, was wandering in the wood and lost her way. It was in summer time, and the air was warm. When evening came on Jessie began to grow afraid, but although she hastened her steps she could not find her way out of the wood. At length, weary and footsore, she sat down below a fir tree and began to weep. A voice spoke to her suddenly from behind, saying: "Why are you crying, little girl?"

Jessie looked round and saw the Gillie Dhu. He had hair black as the wing of a raven, eyes brown as hazel-nuts in September, and his mouth was large; he had a hundred teeth, which were as small as herring bones. The Gillie Dhu was smiling: his cream-yellow cheeks had merry dimples, and his eyes were soft and kindly. Had Jessie seen him at a distance, with his clothing of moss and leaves, she would have run away in terror, but as he seemed so kindly and friendly she did not feel the least afraid.

"Why are you crying, little girl?" the Gillie asked again. "Your tear-drops are falling like dew on the little blue flowers at your feet."

"I have lost my way," said Jessie in a low voice, "and the night is coming on."

Said the Gillie: "Do not cry, little girl; I shall lead you through the wood. I know every path—the rabbit's path, the hare's path, the fox's path, the goat's path, the path of the deer, and the path of men."

"Oh, thank you, thank you!" Jessie said. She looked the fairy up and down, and wondered to see his strange clothing.

"Where do you dwell, little girl?" asked Gillie Dhu.

Jessie told him, and he said: "You have been walking every way but the right way. Follow me, and you'll reach home before the little stars come out to peer at me through the trees."

The Gillie turned round about, and began to trip lightly in front of the girl. He went so fast that she feared she would lose sight of him, but he turned round again and again, and when he found she was far behind, he danced a pretty dance until she came up to him. Then he scampered on as before.

At length Jessie reached the edge of the wood, and saw her home beside the loch. The Gillie bade her good-bye, and said: "Have I not led you well? Do not forget me. I am the Gillie Dhu, and I love little girls and little boys. If ever you get lost in the wood again, I shall come to your aid. Good-bye, little girl, good-bye."

He laughed merrily, and then trotted away and was soon lost to sight among the trees.

There was once a fairy exile who was a dummy. The Fairy Queen had punished him for some offence by taking away his powers of speech and hearing, and forbade any other fairy to go near him. He wore a bright red jacket and green breeches, and from beneath his little red cap his long curling hair, which was yellow as broom, dropped down on his shoulders. The dummy had checks red as rowan berries and laughing blue eyes, and he was always smiling. It made one happy to look at him. He was always so contented and pleased and playful, although he was deaf and dumb, that he put everyone who met him in good humour.

For a long time the fairy dummy lived all alone beneath a treat heap of stones, called the Grey Cairn, on a lonely moor in the Black Isle, in Ross-shire. This cairn is in a fir wood which skirts the highway.

When a cart came along the highway the fairy dummy used to steal out from behind a big grey stone, smiling and smiling. Then he would jump on the axle of a wheel, and whirl round and round; and the faster the cart would go the better he would be pleased. He would drop off the axle at the edge of the wood, but he never forgot to turn round and smile to the driver as he ran away.

The people liked to see the little fairy dummy whirling round and round on the cart-wheel, because they believed he always brought them luck.

One day a farmer and his wife were going to the Fair of St. Norman at Cromarty to sell their butter and eggs, but when they reached the big grey stone the Little Red Dummy did not come in sight.

The farmer, who was ill-tempered that day, wanted to go on without giving the little fellow a whirl on the cart-wheel, but his wife said: "No, no; if you will not wait for him, I'll get down and walk home; for we would have no luck at the Fair if we missed the bonnie wee red man."

The woman was looking through the trees, and suddenly she began to laugh.

"Look, Sandy dear, look!" she cried, "there comes the Little Red Dummy—the bonnie wee man—oh, the dear little fairy!"

The farmer was frowning and ill-tempered, but when he looked round he began to smile, for the little red fairy was smiling so sweetly to him. He whipped up his mare, and cried over his shoulder to his wife: "Is he on the wheel yet, Kirsty dear; is he on the wheel?"

"Yes, yes, Sandy dear," Kirsty answered, "he's on now. Go faster, Sandy—the faster you go the better he'll be pleased."

The farmer cried to the mare: "Gee-up, Jenny, gee-up, my lass!" and the old mare went trotting along the highway, while the little red fairy sat on the axle, whirling round and round with the wheel, and smiling and smiling all the time.

When he dropped off at the edge of the wood, his bright yellow hair was streaming over his laughing eyes, and his cheeks were redder than hazel-berries. The fairy smiled to Sandy and smiled to Kirsty, looking over his shoulder as he ran away.

"The dear wee man!" cried the farmer's wife.

"The happy little chap," cried the farmer.

They both looked back to see the glint of the fairy's red jacket as he ran merrily through the trees. They both felt very happy, and they were happier still when they were on their way homeward, because they had secured good prices for their butter and eggs at the Fair.

There was a miller who had a mill with a waterwheel in a woody dell not far from the Grey Cairn. The little fairy dummy was fond of him, because he got many a fine whirl on the mill-wheel. Every morning and every evening the miller left a little cog of oatmeal porridge on the window-sill for the wee red man. Sometimes, when he was busy tying the bags of meal, the fairy would look in at the door and smile and smile, until the miller felt so happy that he forgot he was old, and began to whistle or sing like a young lad on a bright May morning.

When the miller was getting frail, the little red fairy used to help him at his work. Every now and then he would run out to whirl round the mill-wheel, and he would come back with the spray clinging to his hair like dew-drops on whin blossom.


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