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on heaths and greens, as Lavater thinks with Tritemius, and as Olaus Magnus adds, leave that green circle which commonly we find in plains and fields, which others hold to proceed from a meteor falling, or some accidental rankness of the ground, so Nature sports herself; they are sometimes seen by old women and children. Hierom Pauli in his description of the city of Bercino (in Spain), relates how they have been familiarly seen near that town, about fountains and hills. Giraldus Cambrensis gives instance in a monk in Wales that was so deluded. Paracelsus. reckons up many places in Germany, where they do usually walk in little courts some two feet long."
“ Our mothers' maids have so frayed us,” says gallant Reginald Scot, “ with Bul-beggars, Spirits, Witches, Urchens, Elves, Hags, Fairies, Satyrs, Pans, Fauns, Syrens, Kit with the Canstick, Tritons, Centaurs, Dwarfs, Giants, Imps, Calcars, Conjurors, Nymphs, Changelings, Incubus, Robin Goodfellows, the Spoon, the Mare, the Man in the Oak, the Helwain, the Fire-drake, the Puckle, Tom Thumb, Hobgoblin, Tom Tumbler, Boneless,* and other such Bugs, that we are afraid of our own shadows : insomuch that some never fear the devil but in a dark night; and then a polled sheep is a perilous beast, and many
* There is a personage in Eastern history, who appears to have been of kin to this grim phenomenon. He was a sorcerer of the name of Setteiah. He is described as having his head in his bosom, and as being destitute of bone in every part of his body, with the exception of his skull and the ends of his fingers. It was only when he was in a rage that he could sit up, anger having the effect of swelling him ; but he could at no time be made to stand on his feet. When it was necessary to move him from place to place, they folded him like a mantle ; and when there was occasion to consult him in the exercise of his profession, it was the practice to roll him backwards and forwards on the floor, like a churning skin, till the answer was obtained. See Major Price's “Essay towards the History of Arabia, antecedent to the birth of Mohammed,” p. 196.
times is taken for our father's soul, especially in a churchyard, where a right hardy man heretofore scant durst pass by night but his hair would stand upright.” *
In consequence of this opinion in the popular Mythology, the merry and human-like Fairies during a degrading portion of the history of Europe, were made tools of, in common with all that was thought diabolical, to worry and destroy thousands of miserable people ; but it is more than pleasant, --- it is deeply interesting to an observer, to see what an instinctive impulse there is in human beings to resist the growth of the worst part of superstition, and vindicate nature and natural piety. Do but save mankind from taking intolerance for God's will, and exalting the impatience of being differed with into a madness, and you may trust to the natural good humor of the best of their opinions, for as favorable a view as possible of all with which they can sympathize. Even their madness in that respect is but a perversion of their natural wish to be liked and agreed with. ' The first thing that men found out in behalf of the Fairies, was that they were a good deal like themselves; the next was to think well of them upon the whole, rather than ill ; and when Reginald Scot and others helped us out of this cloud of folly about witchcraft, the Fairies became brighter than before. In England the darker notions of them almost entirely disappeared with the bigotries in Church and State ; and at the call of the poets, they came and adorned the books that had done them service, and became synonymous with pleasant fancies.
* The list of the unclean spirits in Middleton's tragicomedy of the "Witch," is closely copied from the passage in Reginald Scot. - See the Speech of Hecate.
Urchins, elves, hags, satires, pans, fauns, silence.
The spoon, the mare, the man i' th' oak, the hellwain, the fire-drake, the puckle.
It may be agreeable to follow up the growth of this good-humored light in something like chronological order. The old romances began it. Oberon, the beautiful and beneficent, afterwards king of the Fairies, made his appearance very early. He is the Elberich, or Rich Elf, of the Germans, and became Oberon, with a French termination, in the romance of “Huon de Bourdeaux.” The general reader is well acquainted with him through the abridgment of the work by the Count de Tressan, and the Oberon of Wieland, translated by Mr. Sotheby. He is a tiny creature, in the likeness of a beautiful child, with a face of exceeding loveliness ; and wears a crown of jewels.
His cap of invisibility, common to all the Fairies (which is the reason why they must not lose it), became famous as the Tarn-Kappe, or Daring Cap, otherwise called the Nebel or Mist-Cap, and the Tarn-hut, or Hat of Daring.* In the poem of the German Voltaire, he possesses the horn which sets everybody dancing. He and his brother dwarfs, of the Northern Mythology, are the undoubted ancestors of the fallen but illustrious family of the Tom Thumbs, who became sons of tailors and victims of cows. Of the same stock are the Tom Hickathrifts and Jack the Giant Killer, if, indeed, they be not the gods themselves, merged into the Christian children of their former worshippers. Their horrible coats, caps of knowledge, swords of sharpness, and shoes of swiftness, are, as the “ Quarterly Reviewer” observes, “all out of the great heathen treasury.” Thumb looks like an Avatarkin, or little incarnation of Thor. Thor was the stoutest of the gods, but then the gods were little fellows in stature, compared with the giants. In a chapter of the “ Edda,” from which the reviewer has given an amusing extract, the giant Skrymner rallies Thor upon his pretensions and size, and calls him 66 the little man. As the god, nevertheless, was more than a match for these lubbers of the skies, his worshippers might have respected the name in honor of him ; a panegyrical raillery not unknown to other mythologies, nor unpractised towards the “gods of the earth.” † The West of England, it may be observed, is a great Fairy country, though even the miners and their natural darkness have not been able to obscure the sunnier notions of Fairy-land, now prevailing in that quarter as much as any. The Devonshire Pixies or Pucksies are the reigning elves, and are among the gayest and most good-humored to be met with. Mr. Coleridge, in his juvenile poems, has put some verses into their mouths, not among his best, but such as he may have been reasonably loth to part with. The sea-air which he breathed at a distance, and “the Pixies' Parlour” (a grotto of the roots of trees, in which he found his name carved by the hands of his childhood), were proper nurseries for the author of the “ Ancient Mariner.”
* “Tarn, from taren, to dare (says Dobenell), because they gave courage along with invisibility. Kappe is properly a cloak, though the tarn-kappe or nebel-kappe is generally represented as a cap or hat.” — Fairy Mythology, vol. ii. p. 4. Perhaps the word cape, which may include something both of cap and cloak, might settle their apparent contradiction. Hood implies both ; and the goblin is sometimes called Robin Hood, and Hoodekin.
* In the agreeable learning which the reviewer has brought to bear on this subject, in the “ Antiquities of Nursery Literature," he has deprived us of our old friend the Giant Cormoran, who turns out to be a mistake of the printer's devil for Corinoran, “the Corinæus, probably, of Jeffery of Monmouth and the Brut.” However, a printer's devil has a right to speak to this point; and we cannot help thinking that Cormoran ought to be the word, both on account of the devouring magnitude of the sound, and its suitability to the brazen tromp of a Cornish mouth
“Here's the valiant Cornish man,
Who slew the giant Cormoran.”
Abraham Cann or Polkinghorn ought to speak it; or the descendants of the Danish hero Kolson, who have ora rotunda in that quarter.
† “ Little Will, the scourge of France,
Chaucer's notion of Fairies was a confused mixture of elves and romance-ladies, and Ovid, and the Catholic diablerie. We had taken his fairies for the regular little dancers on the green (induced by a line of his to that effect in the following passage); but the author of the “Fairy Mythology” has led us to form a different opinion. The truth is, that a book in Chaucer's time was a book, and everything to be found in those rare authorities became a sort of equal religion in the eyes of the student. Chaucer, in one of his verses, has brought together three such names never met, perhaps, before or since,
“Samson, Turnus, and Socrates.” He calls Ovid's Epistles “ The Saint's Legends of Cupid.” Seneca and St. Paul are the same grave authorities in his eyes ; in short, whatever was written was a scripture: something clerkly, and what
says Prior, speaking of William the 3d, and rebuking, at the same time, Boileau's deifications of Louis. So Frederick or Napoleon, or both, were called by their soldiers “the Little Corporal.”