Manx Fairy Tales | Annotated Tale

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Little Footprints, The

CLOSE to the Niarbyl, the great tail of rock that stretches into the sea at Dalby, is a little house on the strand. It is sheltered behind by the high rock which rises above its thatched roof. Before it lies Bay Mooar, the great bay, held by a chain of mountains purple with ling. Standing before its door and looking to the west, you may see the sun set behind the distant Mourne Mountains. At dawn you may see him rise over Cronk-yn-Irree-Laa, the Hill of the Rising Day. Here lived Juan, the fisherman.

               He knew, as well as any person, that the Little People were all around. When he was a boy he had many a time looked out of the door on moonlight nights to try if he could put sight on them dancing on the lonely shore. He had not seen them--they make themselves invisible when they know that mortal eyes are on them. But he had seen the tiny riding lights of their herring fleet in the bay, and had helped his father to draw in the nets full of good fish, which were sure to be caught the night after. Many a time he had wakened from his sleep in the dark, and, in the pauses of the wind and the lull of the great breakers, he had heard the sound of hammering. He knew it was the Little People hammering at their herring barrels in Ooig-ny-Seyir, the Coopers' Cave, under the hills, and that as the chips flew out on to the waves they became ships.

               He had heard the story of the fisherman, a friend of his father's, who was fishing one night at Lag-ny-Keilley, when a dense grey mist rolled in. He thought he had best make for home while the footpath above the rocks was visible. When he was getting his things together he heard what sounded like a lot of children coming out of school. He lifted his head, and, behold, there was a fleet of fairy boats each side of the rock, their riding lights shining like little stars on a frosty night. The crews seemed busy preparing to come on shore, and he heard one little fellow shout:

               'Hraaghyn boght as earish broigh, skeddan dy liooar ec yn mooinjer seihll shoh, cha nel veg ain!'

               Poor times and dirty weather, herring enough at the people of this world, nothing at us!

               'Then,' said the fisherman, 'they dropped off and went agate o' the flitters.'

               When Juan was a big boy he himself saw a thing which he never forgot. One day he left a boat over at the farther side of Bay Mooar, and at night he had to go over to fetch it. It was a moonlight night and the bay was as smooth as glass as he rowed across. There was no sound but the lapping of the little waves on the shore, and now and again the cry of a gannet. Juan found his boat on the strand where he had left her and was setting to work to launch her, when he thought he saw a glimmering light, which was not the light of the moon, in one of the caves near him. He stood where he was, and listened, and he heard the sound of faint music. Then he went as silently as he was able to the cave, and looked in. No light was there but the dim light of the moon. The shadows in the corners of the cave were as black as pitch.

               Juan was trembling all over, and at first he was blinking his eyes and could see nothing. But after some minutes he saw a great stone in the midst of the cave and the floor of fine white sand. And on the sand around that stone there were little footprints--marks of tiny clogs they were, no bigger than his thumb!

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Little Footprints, The
Tale Author/Editor: Morrison, Sophia
Book Title: Manx Fairy Tales
Book Author/Editor: Morrison, Sophia
Publisher: David Nutt
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1911
Country of Origin: Isle of Man
Classification: unclassified

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