To Find The Winter Fairies

Cricket’s Slice Of Life this week has a prompt entitled Too Good To Be True.

I immediately remembered this event where my cousins and I were subject to a bit of the old Irish blarney.

to_find_the_winter_fairies_by_wilhelmine

When we were kids visiting our grandmother in Ireland she used to tell us lots of fairytales. She used to show us all the local spots where there were fairy rings, wishing stones, enchanted trees. We believed it all and walked around with our eyes wide with wonder, glad to be alive in such a magical place.

In our childlike enthusiasm and merriment we often thought we saw fairies frolicking in the woods.

We spent many a happy hour cooking up batches of toffee to leave as offerings to our little fey friends, as well as making them little hats and coats out of felt and searching for perfectly formed tiny shells on the beach so they could use them to drink their cup of morning dew.

But there was one problem. In the winter the fairies didn’t come. Any offerings we left were quickly covered by snow and ice.

‘Fairies don’t like the cold,’ my grandmother announced. ‘Wait till spring, then they’ll be back.’

Trouble is, we couldn’t wait until spring. Fairies were an integral part of our lives. Without them our spirits ebbed. We hung our heads and shuffled restless and half-hearted through the day.

‘Where do you think they go?’ my cousin Aine asked.

‘Maybe to Spain or the south of France. It’s always warm there,’ I replied.

‘But they can’t fly that far,’ my other cousin Jessie said. ‘They only have tiny wings. They would get too tired and fall into the sea.’

We pondered the horror of this for over an hour, unable to utter a word.

‘I think they must stay here in the wood. Maybe they have a little house where it’s warm and dry,’ Aine was almost in tears.

Jessie and I hoped she was right.

The next day was the village fair. A Christmas season tradition. There was candy floss, caramel popcorn and toffee apples. Jessie went on a donkey ride while Aine and I laughed at how ungainly she looked, for she was a tall girl and she had to hold her feet up to stop them from dragging in the dirt.

She was miffed with us for a while afterwards but quickly recovered when she saw the fortune teller booth. ‘The fortune teller has powers,’ she squealed. ‘She can tell us how to find the fairies.’

I wasn’t so sure. I was wary of Irish fortune tellers. Most of them were gypsies –  tinkers – as they called them in Ireland. They were light-fingered and quick, rumoured to steal your soul if you weren’t looking.

But Jessie wouldn’t be swayed. She pulled Aine and I into the booth before we could protest further.

‘What would you three little lasses be wanting?’ the fortune teller asked. She had on a purple headscarf and enormous silver earrings. Bangles jingled on her arms. I was sure there were more than a hundred.

‘We want to find the winter fairies,’ Aine stammered.

The fortune teller raised one eyebrow.

‘A difficult and arduous task,’ she said. ‘Fairies don’t like to be disturbed in winter. It is their resting time. But there is a way.’

We leaned forward expectantly, hanging on her every word.

The fortune teller coughed. ‘You’ll have to cross my palm with silver first,’ she said. ‘The way to find winter fairies isn’t cheap.’

We had one sixpence left between us. We had been saving it to buy a box of coloured pencils at the craft stall. They had silver, gold and lilac pencils there. We had already planned what we were going to draw with colours like that.

But the fairies were more important. Jessie crossed the fortune teller’s palm with our last sixpence. She searched in a box behind her chair, pulling out a dusty looking forked stick.

‘The branch of the rowan,’ she said. ‘Guaranteed to find a fairy. It will shake when the fairies are discovered. Happy hunting.’

I caught her smirking to herself as we left the booth and knew she had tricked us. I was angry that an adult would take pleasure in tricking three little girls but I couldn’t say anything because Aine and Jessie were so excited. And I was afraid of tinkers. ‘Typical,’ I thought. ‘I knew it was too good to be true.’

Every day for the next week we went out with our rowan branch. I was dispirited and grumpy but Aine and Jessie remained optimistic the entire time even though we found nothing that would guide us to the fairies.

But we did see robins in a nest-like structure they had built to keep out the cold, their little red breasts as bright as winter scarves. We saw a blackberry bush completely frozen, the berries hard as glass. We counted snowflakes until we got as high as a million, then stopped in awe at the sheer volume of snow, sticking out our tongues to catch the flakes, pretending it was ice-cream sent from heaven.

Trying to find the winter fairies kept us busy and happy and together. We played in the cold for so long our cheeks turned redder than freshly picked apples, taking hours to return to their normal hue. We laughed and slid and huddled, pretending we were hedgehogs standing in a row. Sometimes we brought along flasks of hot chocolate, watching our hot breath turn to mist in the chilled winter air, pretending we were movie starlets from the 1940s smoking French cigarettes and saying: ‘Allo, darlink. I zink I love yoo’ until we choked with laughter.

We never did find the winter fairies, but maybe what we found instead was good enough to be true.

{Image by Wilhelmine at Deviant Art}

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21 thoughts on “To Find The Winter Fairies

  1. Oh, what joy! I love these tales from your childhood.

    I have a feeling you found the fairies, but instead of them entertaining you with their antics, YOU entertained them. It’s only fair, you know…dahlink!

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  2. PAISLEY – the ultimate accolade coming from a sublime storyteller like yourself. Thank you!!!

    GROOVY – absolutely not, I disagree
    no drivel from Groovy that I can see 😀

    KAREN – oh, dahlink, I think it was entirely possible. I remember the joy I felt actually believing all that stuff. It was as if magic really did exist in this world. When I began to realise that maybe it wasn’t real, I was bereft. The woods lost their lustre for a while. Yet I now know magic can be found in other forms such as the arts and true friendship. So all is not lost!

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  3. I came here through Adams Wife Weblog and found this delightful story. I totally enjoyed it. I wish I would have believed in fairies. What fun that would have been hunting for them.

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  4. CHRISTINE – how lovely of you to visit. I am so glad you enjoyed the story. It really was fun hunting for the fairies. So nice to meet you!!!

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  5. What a wonderful story.

    I think most of the pleasure is in the seeking. It’s like holidays – half the fun is planning them and imagining what they will be like.

    Your story was very Blytonesque. I could almost hear the wisha-wisha-wisha of the trees!!!

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  6. I agree with Reluctant Blooger, the fun is in the journey not the destination. This is such a wonderful story of the imagination of children, how I wish we adults could take down our defenses and just live in the moment.

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  7. The winter fairies were there while you were laughing and exploring. They’re just really shy.

    Isn’t it wonderful that you started out looking for a magical presence, and had a magical time instead.

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  8. Hi Selma,
    I haven’t ever told this to anybody before but I think that it is time to come clean.
    The fairies while away their wintertime drinking cups of tea with Alice and visiting Tinkerbell in Neverneverland so that she doesn’t get too lonely.
    See, you had nothing to worry about.
    As for the tinker, she got her just deserts, a fairy told me that they ‘sicced’ the leprechauns on her.

    Thats it, I’m off with the fairies, WOO-HOO!!

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  9. MELEAH – I think I did too. It was fun to look back on this. The things we used to get up to. Hope you are having fun on your holiday.

    RELUCTANT – I was a huge Blyton fan as a kid so I take that as an enormous compliment. Thank you so much. And yes, most of the pleasure is in the seeking.

    CRICKET – I do too. It would be such a relief to just live in the moment, wouldn’t it? Not worrying all the time about what was going to happen. If only….

    EPIPHANY – it’s funny how things turn out, for sure. You just never know how amazing something is going to be. 😀

    CHRIS – at last I know the truth. What a load off my mind. I wouldn’t like a bunch of leprechauns after me. Those guys are too much like ventriloquist dummies for my liking! LOL.

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  10. Hi Selma,
    Hmmm……Leprechauns and ventriloquists dummies, you might be able to create an interesting horror tale combining both elements rather than just the one?
    Just a thought.

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  11. As a child, I was most pragmatic: I really can’t remember ever believing in Santa Claus but made sure my younger sisters did. I knew fairies and other such creatures did not exist, but wished they did. I can’t remember just how young I was when I discovered a discarded Grimes Fairy Tale book on top of a neighbor’s trash can and took it home to ask if I might keep it. From that day on, books allowed my imagianation to carry me to wherever I wished to travel and to engage in all sorts of exciting experiences. Thanks for the memories.

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  12. ROMANY – awwww, you are far too kind. Thank you!

    CHRIS – I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Having a phobia about the dummies I would scare myself silly. I know it’s a silly thing to be scared of, but there you have it. That’s why I never followed a career in the theatre. LOL.

    MARY – I owe so much to the books I read as a child. They really were better than anything like television or even films. There is nothing like snuggling up with a good book and reading for hours. I still love doing it today!

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  13. ROMANY – awwww, you are far too kind. Thank you!

    CHRIS – I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Having a phobia about the dummies I would scare myself silly. I know it’s a silly thing to be scared of, but there you have it. That’s why I never followed a career in the theatre. LOL.

    MARY – I owe so much to the books I read as a child. They really were better than anything like television or even films. There is nothing like snuggling up with a good book and reading for hours. I still love doing it today!

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  14. This story is delightful. I am of Irish heritage and you were so lucky to visit your grandmother in Ireland. I enjoyed my visit.

    Blessings,
    Mary

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