Emerald Isle

The Fairy Path

Irish and Celtic myths and legends, Irish folklore and Irish fairy tales tales of Ireland

Beware the Wrath if you Build on a Fairy Path

There was a farmer in County Kerry who had a nice little cottage for himself and his wife, but the thatched roof was in a terrible state of disrepair and unlikely to last another winter. Unlike the stone houses and cottages in the west, Kerry cottages were less sturdy, and so he knew he had to build himself another place to live.

He searched through the plot of land he was renting until he came upon a likely spot, and he gathered the neighbours to help with raising his new house, as was the way back then. They came and soon the house was almost done, so they stopped to take a bite to eat and have a drink.

It happened that an old man was passing by, and he paused to survey the work. Shaking his head, he proclaimed that nobody who stayed in that house would get a night's sleep, but made off before he could be questioned about such an outlandish statement.

That very night the farmer and his wife were settled down and fast asleep, when just after midnight they were awakened by a terrible battering and rattling sound, as though the cupboard had come down from the wall and the table was dancing around the kitchen!

Scrambling out of bed he looked out the door to find everything looked the same as it had before, and nothing had moved. So, shaken, he went back to bed, but twice more that night the same thing happened, so the couple got no rest at all!

The next night he was ready and wore his clothes into the bed, and sure enough when the racket began again, he sprang out and grabbed his stick, going to the front door and back door, hoping to catch the blaggards who were battering on his wall. But not a soul was in sight, only the silent darkness of the countryside, even while his crockery toppled from the shelf.

He was at his wits end, but his wife suggested they should go to talk to the priest, a man with a fearsome reputation, and if he wouldn't do it, she would! And so she did, bringing the priest back with her the next day.

The priest arrived and said a Mass in the house, so the husband and wife went to sleep that night with an air of cautious optimism. But it was to no avail, for again the whole house shook and rocked!

Night after night it went on until the farmer was in a wretched state, but he had to bring his cattle to the market or he'd be out on his ear, so the next day he pulled himself slowly to the nearest town and managed eventually to sell his few head of cattle. He decided he'd stop off in the pub for a rest on the way back, but no sooner had he ordered his pint but he saw the same old man who had made the odd comment while his house was being built!

Quick as a flash he went out the door of that pub and asked the old man why he had said they would never sleep in that house, and the old man took in his appearance.

“You look like a man who hasn't been getting much sleep,” he declared, “but I'll tell you what, finish up your pint there and we'll take a look at your house.”

So he did, and the farmer told him everything that had happened. They went back to the farm house and the old man stood at the back door, pointing outwards.

“What is that you see there?” he said.

“Why, it is a white thorn tree,” replied the farmer.

Then the old man went to the front door, and pointed out that way.

“And what about in that direction?” he asked.

“Another white thorn tree!” said the farmer.

“And what did you expect,” said the old man, “you built your house between two hawthorns, each split into three bushes from the one trunk, for it is well known that the fairies will troop between two such trees and have been doing so since the land itself was young. You have built your house on a fairy path, and that commotion you hear nightly is nothing but the fairies trying to get through your house and running into the wall!”

“But what can I do about it?” asked the farmer as understanding dawned.

“Well what you must do is leave the front door open when night falls, and the back door as well, so that the fairies can pass through without hindrance. If you do this, the fairies won't trouble you again.”

So taking the old man's advice, the farmer left the front and back door open in his house every night, and never again was he bothered by the fairies. To this day, the doors of that house will never quite close fully, and it can be found near to the spot marked on the map below.

Further Folk and Faerie Tales of Ireland

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