Jean Markale reports here one of the stories that was told to him in the 80s in Wales. It should be noted that the belief in "Fairy Circles" is widespread in the British Isles. We thought then that it was not in good taste to enter these circles, because they were a path to another world, the world of the Little People (or small people), a place where time always flows at a different pace and where the rules of life are very different from home.
Remember, however, that fairy people in general are kind to humans, as long as we respect them and do them no harm. If this should happen, rest assured that our pretty fairies will always know how to take revenge, and in a sometimes very cruel way.
One day, a 12-year-old boy led his father's flock of sheep on the slopes of Petit-Freni, not far from the village of Crymych. When he arrived at the pasture, there was still some fog around the top of the mountain, and the boy was trying to see where the fog had come from. The locals said that when the fog came from Cardigan's side, it would be bad.
As he looked around him at this quiet and silent landscape, he was suddenly surprised: he saw, on the slopes of the Grand-Freni, a group of people he thought were soldiers, busy in a circle, as if for an exercise. But the boy was beginning to know the soldiers' habits, and he thought to himself that it was far too early in the day for them to be there already. Leaving the herd to graze quietly under the care of the dogs, he walked in this direction and, when he got closer, he noticed that it was not soldiers he saw like that, but people belonging to the fairy people. And they were busy dancing in circles, regardless of what was going on around them.
The boy had heard many times from the village elders about fairies and, himself, he had often seen the circles that the "little people" had left on the grass in the morning after dancing all night. But he had never met one before. His first idea was to hurry home and tell his parents what he had seen, but he gave up on the project, thinking that the fairies might not be there when he came back.
He decided to approach carefully to better observe them. Anyway, he knew that the "little people" would not attack him: all he feared was that they would disappear when they noticed the presence of a human being. He therefore moved forward along the hedges to better hide himself and thus arrived safely as close as possible to the circle. There, he stood still and opened his eyes wide so as not to lose anything from the scene.
He could see that among the "little people" there were an equal number of men and women, but all were extremely elegant and playful. Not everyone was dancing and some were quietly standing in the immediate vicinity of the circle, waiting to enter the circle. Some women rode small, dashing white horses. But they all wore beautiful clothes of different colours, and it was because some of them had red clothes that the boy thought of soldiers.
He was there, in the midst of contemplating this unusual spectacle, when the "little people" saw him. Instead of appearing hostile or fleeing, they waved to him to enter the circle and join in their dances. He did not hesitate, but as soon as he entered the circle, he heard the sweetest and most irresistible music he knew. Immediately, without understanding what was happening, he found himself in the middle of an elegant residence, with walls covered with tapestries of all colours. Beautiful young girls welcomed him and led him to a large room where appetizing foods were placed on a table. They invited him to eat, and the boy, who knew only the usual buttermilk potatoes that made up the farm meal, enjoyed exquisitely fine dishes, all made from fish. And he was given the best wine to drink, which was in golden cups set with precious stones.
The boy thought he was in heaven. Music and wine numbed him, and the sight of these eager young girls around him delighted him. One of them then said to him in a kind tone:
- You can stay here as long as you want. You will rejoice with us day and night and you will have as much food and drink as you want. But there is one thing you should never do: drink the water from the well in the middle of the garden, even if you are very thirsty, because then you could no longer stay here.
The boy hastened to assure that he would take great care not to violate this prohibition. And when he was well satisfied, the girls took him dancing. He did not feel tired at all and felt able to have fun in this way during his entire life. He had never been to such a celebration, never had he experienced such joy, such happiness to find himself in the middle of an unknown luxury, with elegant and distinguished people who treated him in this way with gentleness and courtesy. Sometimes he thought of the farm, his herd, his parents, but he quickly drove these images out of his mind to better absorb himself in dance and music.
One day, however, as he was taking in the air in the garden, amidst the most beautiful and fragrant flowers, he approached the well and bent down to see what was inside: he saw a multitude of bright fish wriggling and reflecting the sunlight back towards him. Then he could not resist: he reached out his arm and his hand touched the surface of the water.
Immediately, the fish disappeared and a confused cry spread through the garden and the house. The earth began to shake suddenly and the boy found himself in the middle of his flock, on the slope of Petit-Freni. There was still mist on the top of the mountain, but no matter how much the boy looked everywhere, he could not find any trace of the circle, any trace of the well or the fairy house. He was alone on the mountain, and his sheep grazed peacefully as if nothing had happened.
Contes et légendes des pays celtes