Site Map
English and Welsh Folktales and Legends
Section › 14 Set Search Previous Next

Reservations Contents  

The Glass-Ball

There was once a woman who had two daughters. She gave each of them a beautiful glass ball, and they were very fond of them.

As they were playing together one day, one of the girls tossed her ball over the wall into the next garden. Now the house in that garden belonged to a fox who would not talk to his neighbours.

The girl that had tossed her ball over the wall was very much afraid of this fox, but she was also very fond of the glass ball, so she said to herself, "I must not lose my ball without first trying to get it back."

So she bravely walked up to the fox's house, but she knocked at the door rather timidly. The fox opened the door himself and she told him how she had lost her glass ball in his garden and asked him if she might fetch it out.

"You can have your ball," said the fox, "if you will come and be my housekeeper for a year, but you shall not have it if you won't."

As there was no other way of getting the ball back the girl agreed to live in the fox's house for a year. She was very comfortable and happy there; but she saw very little of the fox, because he went out early every morning and came back late at night.

Now before the fox went out as usual one morning, he called the girl to him and said to her, "I am going away for a little time. While I am away there are five things you must not do: you must not wash up the dishes or sweep the floor or dust the chairs or look into the cupboard, and you must not look under my bed."

With that the fox went away. As soon as the fox had gone, the girl began to wonder why he had forbidden her in this way, and she said to herself, "I will see what happens if I don't do as he tells me."

So first of all she washed up the dishes. As soon as she had done that a great bag full of copper fell down before her.

"Very good," said the girl.

Next she swept the floor. As soon as she had done that, down fell a bag full of silver.

"Better still," said the girl.

'Next she dusted the chairs, when down fell a bag full of gold.

"That's just what I want," said the girl.

Next she looked into the cupboard, and there was her glass ball!

"Oh, you don't know how glad I am," she said and clapped her hands.

Last of all she went upstairs and looked under the bed, and there was the fox! She was awfully frightened and ran downstairs, through the garden and up the town street. She came to a lane, and at the top of the lane she met a horse and said to the horse,

"Horse of mine, horse of thine,
If you meet a fox today,
don't tell I've passed this way."

And the horse neighed and said, "I will not."

A little further on she met a cow and said,

"Cow of mine, cow of thine,
If you meet a fox today,
don't tell I've passed this way."

And the cow lowed and said, "I will not."

A little further on she met a mule and said,

"Mule of mine, mule of thine,
If you meet a fox today,
don't tell I've passed this way."

And the mule brayed and said, "I will not."

A little further on she met a dog and said,

"Dog of mine, dog of thine,
If you meet a fox today,
don't tell I've passed this way."

And the dog barked and said, "I will not."

A little further on she met a cat and said,

"Cat of mine, cat of thine,
If you meet a fox today,
don't tell I've passed this way."

And the cat mewed and said, "I will not."

Last of all she met an owl and said,

"Owl of mine, owl of thine,
If you meet a fox today,
don't tell I've passed this way."

And the owl hooted and said, "I will not."

The fox had followed the girl, and now he came to the same lane where he met the horse and sang to him with such a lovely voice,

"Horse of mine, horse of thine,
Have you met a maid of mine?"

And the horse said, "She's just passed by."

Next he met the same cow and sang to her,

"Cow of mine, cow of thine,
Have you met a maid of mine?"

And the cow said, "She's just passed by."

A little further on he met the same mule and sang,

"Mule of mine, mule of thine,
Have you met a maid of mine?"

And the mule said, "She's just passed by."

A little further on he met the same dog and sang,

"Dog of mine, dog of thine,
Have you met a maid of mine?"

And the dog said, "She's just passed by."

A little further on he met the same cat and sang,

"Cat of mine, cat of thine,
Have you met a maid of mine?"

And the cat said, "She's just passed by."

Last of all he met the owl and sang,

"Owl of mine, owl of thine
Have you met a maid of mine?"

And the owl said, "She's just passed by."

"Which way did she go?" said the fox.

The owl answered, "You must go over that gate and across that field, and behind the wood you might just happen to find her."

Away ran the fox, over the gate and across the field and into the wood, but no matter how the fox looked he found neither the girl nor the glass ball.

[Addy 1865, p. 18-22. From Norton, in Derbyshire.
(Try and imitate the animal sounds.) Retold]


The Hen-pecked Husband

There was once a poor husband who was ruled by his wife. One day she tormented him so much that he made up his mind to leave her and go into another country.

So he set out on his way and he had not gone far before he came to a farmhouse by the road side. Just as he was passing the door a cock crowed and he thought the bird said, "Women are masters here!"

He went a few miles further and came to another farmhouse. As he went by, a cock crowed again and he thought the bird said, "Aye and everywhere!"

Then said the husband, "I will go back and live with my wife, for now I am certain that women are the rulers of men."

[Addy 1895, p. 27. From Norton in Derbyshire]


The Old Man of Cury and the Mermaid

More than a hundred years ago, on a fine summer day when the sun shone brilliantly from a cloudless sky, an old man from the parish of Cury was walking on the sands in one of the coves near the Lizard Point. While the old man was walking on, lost in thought, when suddenly he came upon a rock where a beautiful girl with fair hair was sitting. Her hair was so long that it covered her whole body.

On the in-shore side of the rock was a pool of clear water, which had been left by the receding tide in the sandy hollow the waters had scooped out. The young girl was so absorbed in arranging her hair while looking into the clear surface of that pool that she did not notice the intruder. The old man stood looking at her for some time until he made up his mind to speak to the maiden.

"Hello, young one. What are you doing there all by yourself, at this time of the day?" he asked.

As soon as she heard the voice, she slid off the rock and into the water.

The old man could not tell what to make of it. He thought the girl would drown herself, so he ran onto the rock to help her, thinking that she had fallen into the pool in her fright at being found naked by a man. And perhaps the pool was deep enough to drown her. He looked into the water, and could see the head and shoulders of a woman, and long hair floating like fine seaweeds all over the pond, hiding what appeared to him to be a fish's tail. He could not, however, see anything distinctly, because of all the hair that was floating around the figure. The old man had heard of mermaids from the fishermen of Gunwalloe, and thought this lady must be one. At first he was very much frightened, but then he saw that the young lady was quite as much terrified as he was, and that she tried to hide herself in the crevices of the rock and bury herself under the sea-weeds.

The old man summoned courage and spoke to her again, "Don't be afraid, my dear. You need not mind me. I would not do you any harm. I'm an old man, and would not hurt you any more than your grandfather."

After he had talked in this soothing way for some time, the young lady took courage and raised her head above the water. She was crying bitterly, and as soon as she could speak, she begged the old man to go away.

"I must know, dearie, something about you, now I have caught you. It is not every day that an old man catches a merrymaid, and I have heard some strange tales of you water ladies. Now, my dear, don't be afraid, I would not hurt a single hair of that beautiful head. How did you happen to come here?"

After some further coaxing she told the old man that she and her husband and little ones had been busy at sea all the morning, and at last grew tired with swimming in the hot sun. So the merman proposed that they should withdraw to a cavern that they used to visit. Away they all swam, and entered the cavern at mid-tide. As there was some nice soft weed, and the cave was pleasantly cool, the merman wanted to sleep, and told them not to wake him till the tide started to rise.

He was soon fast asleep. The children crept out and were playing on the lovely sands, so the mermaid thought she should like to look at the world a little. She looked with delight on the children rolling to and fro in the shallow waves, and laughed heartily at the crabs fighting in their own funny way.

"The scent from the flowers came down over the cliffs so sweetly," said she, "that I longed to get nearer the lovely things that sent forth those rich odours. I floated on from rock to rock until I came to this one. And finding that I could not get any further, I thought I would seize the opportunity and dress my hair."

She passed her fingers through her locks and shook out a number of small crabs and broken sea-weed. She went on to say that she had sat on the rock amusing herself till the voice of a mortal had terrified her. Till then she had no idea that the sea was so far out, and a long dry bar of sand now was between her and it. "What shall I do! what shall I do to get out to sea? Oh, what shall I do!"

The old man tried to console her; but in vain. She told him her husband would "carry on" most dreadfully if he woke up and found her absent, and he would be certain to wake up when the tide turned, for that was his dinner time. He was savage when he was hungry, and might eat the children if there was no other food at hand. He was also dreadfully jealous. So she begged the old man to bear her out to sea. If he would but do so, she would get him any three things he would wish for.

The old man knelt down on the rock with his back towards her. She clasped her fair arms around his neck, and locked her fingers together on his throat. Then he got up from the rock and carried her across the sands. As she rode in this way, she asked the old man to tell her what he desired.

"I will not wish for silver or gold, but give me the power to do good to my neighbours and break the spells of witchcraft; next, to charm away diseases; and thirdly, to discover thieves, and restore stolen goods," he said.

All this she promised him; but he must come to a half-tide rock on another day, and there she would instruct him how to accomplish the three things he desired.

They reached the water. Taking her comb from her hair, she gave it to the old man, telling him he had but to comb the water and call her at any time, and she would come to him. The mermaid loosened her grasp, and sliding off the old man's back into the sea, she waved him a kiss and disappeared.

At the appointed time the old man was at the half-tide rock, and was duly instructed in many mysteries. Among others he learned to break the spells of witches from man or beast; to prepare a vessel of water to show the face of the thief of property in it; to charm several diseases, and he also learnt the mysteries of bramble leaves, and the like.

The mermaid had a woman's curiosity, and she persuaded her old friend to take her to some secret place where she could see more of the dry land and of the funny people who lived on it. On taking the mermaid back to the sea, she wished her friend to visit her abode, and even promised to make him young if be would do so. However, the old gentleman respectfully declined that favour [1].

Descendants of the man used to show the mermaid's comb as evidence of the truth of his story, although some people are unbelieving enough to say the comb is only a part of a shark's jaw. Sceptical people are seldom all enjoyable people.

[Hunt 1865, p. 159-64. Retold]

  1. There are many sides to keeping young. First, it is fine to stay young at heart and remain healthy for long. Second, so many want to live long, but not all welcome the aging. However, some consider the alternatives and find it not too bad in such a light. And lastly, staying young and watching relatives and friends and society changes does not have to be pleasant, unless the relatives and acquaintainces were rascals, and the society in for better times. And there is so much new to learn!


English, Cornish, and Welsh fairy tales, folktales, legends, tales of Wales, Cornwall tales, Literature  

English folktales, Cornish folktales, Welsh folktales, British fairy tales, legends, tales of Wales, Cornwall tales, Folk tales legends fairy tales of England, Cornwall and Wales., To top Section Set Next

English, Cornish, and Welsh fairy tales, folktales, legends, tales of Wales, Cornwall tales USER'S GUIDE: [Link]
© 2010–2017, Tormod Kinnes. [Email]  ᴥ  Disclaimer: [Link]