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  1. Fairy Bakers
  2. The Ill Princess and the Wizards
  3. The Farmer and His Sons

Fairy Bakers

A man and his wife lived in a Guernsey country farm-house at St. Brioc. The farm-house had old walls of grey granite, a thatched roof, small diamond-paned windows, and a large bread oven built into the thick wall on the ground floor.

The man gained his living by fishing when the weather was good. And after gales of wind he was up with the first dawn of day to secure his share of the sea-weed that the waves had cast up on the shore. At other times he cultivated his own small plot of ground, or hired himself out as a day labourer to some of the neighbouring farmers who needed some help. In such ways he was never idle.

His wife also was never idle, and content with a diet of bacon and cabbage, barley-bread and cider. Night after night, when her husband had returned home adn gone to rest and was sound asleep after the fatigues of the day, she would sit up till a late hour and ply her spinning wheel by the dim light of lamp hanging on the stone wall.

One night when she was working in this way, she heard a knock at the door, and a voice asked whether the oven was hot and whether a batch of dough might be baked in it. A voice from within the house then asked who it was that stood outside the house. When the newcomer told it, the door was opened to let him in. She could hear the noise of the dough when it was placed in the oven, and a talk between the two, but she did not see anyone.

After the usual time the bread was taken out of the oven and the invisible visitor went his way. A nicely baked cake lay on the table for her.

This happened often and regularly from then on. At last the woman mentioned it to her husband. He was gripped with a strong desire not to leave such matters well alone, contrary to what his wife advised him.

On the night when the invisible baker was expected, the husband should take his wife's place by the spinning wheel, wearing her clothes, while she was in bed. Knowing that her husband could not spin, the housewife thought it prudent not to put the usual supply of flax or wool on the distaff, to avoid that her husband should spoil it.

He had not been long by the spinning wheel, pretending to spin, when the expected visitor came. The husband could see nothing, but he heard one of the two say to the other:

I see a distaff, but nothing is spun.
Tonight there's a beard, last time none.

Then both left the house as if in anger and were never again known to visit it again.


From William Le Poidevin, confirmed by Mrs. Savidan. In Edgar MacCulloch: Guernsey Folk Lore: A Collection of Popular Superstitions, Legendary Tales, Peculiar Customs, Proverbs, Weather Sayings, etc., of the People of that Island. (London: Elliot Stock, 1903, 214–23).

The French folklore collector Paul Sébillot gives a somewhat similar story, in Traditions et Superstitions de La Haute Bretagne, Vol. I: 116-117. (Ib.)

The tale is about household spirits who rarely made themselves visible to the humans in the house. So long as no attempt was made to pry into their secrets, the spirits could be kind to the honest and industrious ones that lived in the house, according to a traditional folk belief on the island. (Ib.)



The Ill Princess and the Wizards

Long ago, when few people lived on Guersney, a peasant and his wife were overtaken by a violent storm of wind, rain and thunder on their way home from town. They pressed forward, hoping to reach their cottage before night set in. However, the storm increased, so they sought shelter in an old ruin that stood by the roadside.

Scarcely had they entered, before they heard on all sides of the building the cries of "Ke-hou-hou," and remembered that it was Friday, the day when it was said that all the wizards and witches of the island held their weekly meetings in that ruin. It was too late to think of going out again, but they were not yet discovered. Looking round they saw a very large oven, and crept into it. The woman spread her black petticoat over the entrance, and thereby hid them well. A tumultuous crowd of wizards entered the building. They talked with one another with great delight about all the mischief they had caused. One of them mentioned the illness of the King of England's only daughter, telling that the berst physicians of the realm had been unable to cure her or find out what ailed her., or even to discover the cause of. "I alone know the cause and the remedy," said the chief wizard with a roaring laughter.

The others pressed him to tell. Wearied out by their entreaties, he said: "A hair, which this princess has happened to swallowed, is the cause of her illness. The one means of cure is a piece of skin of pork with some of the bristles attached to it. It has to be well secured by a string. Let the princess swallow this, and the hair will become entangled in the bristles, and may be drawn up. Then she will get well again."

Shortly afterwards the meeting broke up. As soon as the day dawned, the countryman and his wife returned to town and told the authorities about their adventure. A boat set sail for England at once. On board was a messenger bound for the king, and the princess was soon restored to health after she had swallowed pork skin with bristles on, and it was drawn up again with some hair on it. The court sent a handsome sum of money a present to the man and woman to thank them. With the money they could buy a farm and get animals too.

How they had come to richessoon became known. A man was tempted by hopes of gains and hid himself in the large ofen of the ruin on a Friday night. After a while the the wizards entered, but before a word was uttered they searched through the house and soon discovered the trembling man, so he learnt nothing useful.



The Farmer and His Sons

Fairy tale A farmer had seven sons, who could never agree among themselves. He had often told them how foolish they were to be always quarreling, but they kept on and paid no heed to his words. One day he called them before him, and showed them a bundle of seven sticks tied tightly together.

"See which one of you can break that bundle," he said.

Each one took the bundle in his hands, and tried his best to break it; but it was so strong that they could not even bend it. At last they gave it back to their father, and said:

"We cannot break it."

Then he untied the bundle, and gave a single stick to each of his sons.

"Now see what you can do," he said.

Each one broke his stick with great ease.

"My sons," said the farmer, "you, like these sticks, will be strong if you will stand together, but weak while each is for himself."

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