The Fairy Thorn
Written by: Sir Samuel Ferguson
Retold/Modernized by: Jonathan Wilson
“Get up, Anna dear – get up from the weary spinning-wheel. Your Father is on the hill and your mother is asleep; come up to the hill and we’ll dance a highland-reel around the fairy thorn on the steep.”-at Anna Grace’s door ‘twas thus the three maidens (unmarried girl or woman, which I presume are Anna’s friends) cried.
Three merry maidens fair in kirtles of the green; and Anna laid aside the rock and the weary wheel - the fairest of the four, I wean. They’re glancing through the glimmer of the quiet eve; away they went and their milky bare necks and ankles shown bright in the moonlight – white gowns waving behind them. Anna and the maidens, three, followed the heavy-sliding stream of the fairy song that was reverberating from the crag (hill) in the ghostly air.
Linking hand in hand, the girls sing as they go, following the dreamy song along the hill-side –leading them fearlessly away into where the rowan trees grow in their lonely beauty and beside the Fairy Hawthorn grey. The Hawthorn stands between the ashes tall and slim, like matron with her twin grand-daughters at her knee. The rowan berries cluster over her low head, grey and dim. The four merry maidens have arranged them in a row, between each lovely couple, a stately rowan stem. Anna Grace and her maidens fair let the bitter-sweet berry juice stream down their throats as they bite down on the tasty morsels.
Afraid in their vulnerable drunken stupor, the girls hunch together and shield their bare necks. Their heads hang bowed together, soft over their bosom’s beating – the only human sound around. They hear the silky footsteps of the quiet fairy crowed, like a river in the air, gliding round. No scream can any raise, no prayer can any say, but wild, wild the terror of the speechless three – for they feel fair Anna Grace pulled silently away, by who they dare not look.
They feel their hair twine with her parting locks of gold, and the curls of elastic falling as her head withdraws; they feel her sliding arms from their tanked arms unfold, but they may not look to see the cause; for the heavy enchantment still lies, weighted on their senses. Through all that night of anguish and perilous amaze; and neither fear nor wonder open their quivering eyes or lift their limbs from the cold ground until sunrise. With every haunted mountain and streaming vale below; when the mist dissolves in the yellow morning tide, the maidens’ trance dissolves.
The girls ran swiftly away from the ghastly crag to tell their tale of sorrow to anxious friends in vain – they pined away and died within the day, and never was Anna Grace ever seen again.