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Touching the Elements


In the following tale which appeared in 'Some Folk-Tales and Legends of Shetland (1920)' by John Nicolson, the 'elements' referred to are the bread and wine of the Eucharist and I suppose it is supposed to show the reputed strength of Christianity over pagan fairy magic.

'A fiddler belonging to Yell was waylaid and carried off by the trows while on his way to supply music to a Halloween gathering that was being held in a neighbouring district. After playing for some considerable time he was allowed to depart, and immediately proceeded homewards. When he came to his house, however, he saw with amazement that the roof was off, the walls decayed and crumbling into ruins, and the floor grown over with rank grass. He questioned the neighbours, but they were utter strangers to him and could cast no glimmer of light on the remarkable situation. The place had been in that ruinous condition all their time, they said. He sought out the oldest inhabitant, but even he had no recollection of anyone staying in the place, but he did remember hearing a tale to the effect that at one time the guidman of that house had mysteriously disappeared, and never returned. It was commonly supposed that the hill-folk had taken him.

The fiddler, of course, knew no one, and had nowhere to go, and when the old man asked him to spend the night at his house, he very gladly accepted the invitation. It so happened that the following day was Sacrament Sunday, and they both went to church. The fiddler asked to be permitted to communicate. This request was granted, but no sooner did he touch the "elements" than he crumbled into dust.'


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