Emerald Isle

The Lost Bride

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

Mind how you go in the Irish countryside, for you never know who might be watching

Once upon a time, not so long ago,  a lovely young couple had just gotten married in the Irish countryside. It was a wonderful ceremony and all had remarked on how beautiful the bride looked, when suddenly their festivities and dancing were interrupted by the groom, who rushed into the crowd shouting that his Margaret was missing!

Well they dropped their cups and ran about the place, searching high and low for her, but to no avail. The whole of that day and night, and the next day too they scoured the countryside about, but all they found was a twist of thistle on her pillow at home, which as everyone knew was a fairy sign.

Eventually in exhaustion the poor man laid himself down to rest, and at midnight seemed to awaken from a troubled dream. The moon was shining in his window and among the slanting rays stood his Margaret in her white bridal clothes! He tried to speak or leap out of the bed, but his tongue was still and his limbs wouldn't move.

“Do not be disturbed, dear husband,” said the apparition, “I am now in the power of the fairies, but if only you have courage and care, we may soon be happy together again!”

“Next Friday will be May-eve, and the whole court will ride out of the old fort after midnight. I must be there along with the rest. Sprinkle a circle with holy water and have a knife hafted in old bog oak as well as a blackthorn stick with you. If you have the courage to pull me off the horse and pull me into the ring, their powers will be of no use to them!”

“You must leave some food for me every night on the dresser until then, for if I taste a mouthful of their food, I will be lost to you forever. They caught me because I was thinking of you and not of my sins when I made confession, and so was not prepared for the sacrament of marriage, and then I wandered into a fairy ring during the wedding celebrations. I made a bad confession, and now I am suffering for it!”

“Oh no, my darling!” he cried, regaining his strength, but when he leaped from the bed, there was no living soul only himself in the room.

Until that Friday night the poor man had a terrible time of it, fretting and pacing back and forth, but he did leave the food where he was told to, and everyone rejoiced to see that it had vanished by the morning.

A little before midnight he was at the entrance to the old Dun, pouring the circle of holy water and standing in the middle of it. In one hand he held the blackthorn stick, and in the other the knife hafted in ancient bog oak, some might say a wood as old as the fairies themselves.

He swung between nervousness at the thought of losing his wife, and impatience for the struggle. At last, the old fort with its dark bushy fences cutting against the sky was replaced by a palace and its court, a marvellous place of heavy stone and carven boughs with light flashing from a thousand windows!

From the lofty hall entrance came attendants holding bright torches, and and a parade of richly attired lords and ladies emerged on horseback, moving towards the gate where he stood waiting. As they rode by him laughing and jesting, he couldn't tell if they saw him or not.

He looked intently at each face as it passed, but it took a while for him to catch a sight of the one he was looking for – his very own dear Margaret, borne on a milk white steed! She recognised him well enough and her features broke into a worried smile, strained with anxiety.

She was unable to move her horse closer to him through the throng, so he suddenly sprang out of his circle, seized her in his arms, and carried her off over his shoulder! Cries of rage and fury rose from every side, the couple were hemmed in and weapons were pointed at his head and chest to terrify him into returning their prize.

But he was inspired with a superhuman strength and courage, and lashed about him with the knife and stick, beating aside the fairy weapons and forcing them back, for they seemed to have a horror of the knife.

He lost no time, but pulled his wife into the ring, and none of the myriads around dared to follow. Shouts of contempt and defiance filled the air for some time, but the procession could not be delayed. As the last of the fairies filed past the gate and the circle, the two mortals held each other with great determination, and silence and darkness fell once more on the old rath.

The rescued lover and her husband made their way happily home, and the tale went around the county for the next five months, although they lived happily a good deal longer than that!

You can find the location of the fairy abduction on the map below.

Further Folk and Faerie Tales of Ireland

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