The Stolen Bride

By Eily Kilgannon

Adopted from The Land of Heart's Desire

Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of
Weeping than you can understand.
WB Yeats

The faery people in Ireland are the people of the De Danann. They lived under the ground and near the surface of the ground. They are the Forgetful People and their most earnest wish is that they should not be disturbed. My grandmother, when throwing out hot water at the back door at night, would always use the words Huda, huda, uisce salach, which means, Beware, dirty water coming. But some people are very vulnerable to the fairies - babies and newly married brides. And sometimes the fairies are very active - on May Eve and at Halloween.

On May Eve long ago in County Sligo in the Bruin's house Bridget was working hard in the kitchen and she was being watched by her new daughter-in-law, Mary. Mary was the bride of her son Sean and she dreamt of the ribbons which Sean would bring home to her from the fair. Bridget's husband Maurteen was helping her with the fire and Father Hart, the local priest, called to visit the family. Mary took up the book she was reading and when the priest asked her about the book Mary told him, in a trance-like state, of the story of Princess Edain who went off on a May Eve to the land of Faery. Maurteen was afraid when he heard Mary's voice and he asked the priest to use his influence to stop her reading. He was especially anxious because it was May Eve. He checked if Mary had hung out the whin bushes to prevent the fairies from coming into the house. But Mary told that no sooner had she hung the yellow gorse on the wall than a child ran up and caught it in her hand and fondled it. Suddenly Mary gave a start as she sees a child, as though of the woodland, stretch towards her with an empty cup, indicating her thirst. Mary takes milk to the child. Then a little old man asks for a light for his pipe and Mary carries a lighted coal to the door, but Sean has seen neither the child nor the old man. Old Bridget feels the power of the Faery people pushing towards the house and she is upset that Mary has given milk and fire on May Eve.

Mary has grown restless - she is weary of her father-in-law's wisdom, Bridget's bitterness, the priest's piety and even of Sean's drowsy love. But with a few kind words from Sean she begins to consider that she may be selfish. And just then, a child humming a strange tune comes in by the door. Her manner is so mild and courteous that Bridget welcomes her warmly. She asks for bread and wine and then asks for space to be cleared so that she can dance. She gets ready for the dance and is about to begin when she sees the crucifix hanging on the wall. The strange child bawls and screams until the crucifix has been hidden from her sight. It is then that she dances and twirls her fingertips in a trance-like state over all in the house.

She sings, as she dances:

The wind blows out of the gates of the day,

The wind blows over the lonely of heart,

And the lonely of heart is withered away.

Mary is enchanted by the dance. Sean tries to coax her away from the dance but all in vain. The Faery child has cast a spell on the household and now begins to lure the newly married bride to the woods, and the waters and pale lights. Mary hesitates as she sees her husband's loving face. But the pull of the Faery-world is magnetic. And so Mary went

To the waters and the wild,

With a faery, hand in hand,

From a world more full of weeping than

She could understand.