Journey With Story

JWS

Journey With Story

The Birthday Honours of the Fairy Queen

The Birthday Honors of the Fairy Queen

March 14, 2024The Birthday Honors of the Fairy Queen  by Hapgood Moore

E:261

Do you know anyone who is always a little sad, someone who always seems to be yearning for something and who never ever seems contented no matter what happens?

Hello everyone.  I’m Kathleen Pelley.  Welcome to Journey with Story.  Since we are getting ready to celebrate. St. Patrick’s day on March 17th, today’s tale is a lovely old Irish tale about a wee girl who is always gloomy and sad until one day, when she is out in the woods, she meets….well, let’s just listen and find out what kind of creature she meets.

Oh, mums and dads, don’t forget – in honor of St. Patrick’s day, we will be airing a special ENCORE St. Patrick’s Day Playlist for all of our listeners.  So be sure to check it out on March 17th.

Now let’s take a journey with The Birthday Honors of the Fairy Queen by Hapgood Moore.

ONCE upon a time in Ireland, there lived a little girl by the name of Nora. Her home was a small thatched cottage of stone beside the brae at the foot of a mountain, in the midst of a woodland so deep that even in the summer, the sun’s rays could barely pierce the darkness.

This was a favourite meeting place for the Little Folk from the heather above and for the Little Folk from the woodland below.  Night after night they skipped and danced and twirled all through the soft green shamrocks.

Now Nora had heard all about these fairies from her grandmother and from her mother, but still, she herself had never set eyes on one of these sprightly creatures of the forest, because fairies only appear to those people who believe in them or to those people who need them.  

And although Nora believed in fairies she had never yet been in need of them. But as time went by, Nora became one of those girls who suffered from a wee bit of a gloomy disposition and no matter what unfolded during the day, Nora found nothing to make her smile or be glad about.  And so of course, it became clear to the fairies that this was a lass who needed them.

On one day, when Nora was feeling particularly down, she set off to one of her favorite secret spots in the middle of the woods.

There was a shelter of rocks above, almost like a cave or roof, and below there was a tiny stream of water that ran out of a spring in the back of the hill and sang its way down the slope to the brae below. In this pool Nora nearly always laid some field flowers, because they kept fresher there than anywhere else. From the low seat that Nora had made out of a stone in the back of her shelter she looked out into a sunny place in the woods, around which stood, as if they were pillars of a woodland palace, six gray beeches.

Now upon this sunny afternoon that I am speaking of, hardly had Nora reclined upon her bench, feeling a bit drowsy no doubt with the heat, yet not quite sleepy you know, listening to a robin singing with the voice of Eden, when she heard a light tapping on the wall of the largest beech, the one that was nearest to the place where she was lying. 

At first when she heard this sound she thought that it was the robin redbreast that she had noticed hopping up and down in the open place in the sunlight, and yet she knew well that robins do not drum upon the bark of trees like woodpeckers. 

So she jumped lightly up and ran to the tree, and at once she was aware that the tapping was from inside the tree. And between the taps that were no louder than those of a branch against a window-pane she distinctly heard a very tiny voice.

So tiny was the voice, that Nora had to put her ear up as close  as she could against the bark of the beech-tree and even then the voice sounded no louder than the sound of a beech-leaf when it falls from a branch into the moss-bed. 

But she could just make out what that voice was saying, and it was these words: “Nora, my darling, turn the key and let me out.” 

Nora looked around in amazement, but sure enough, there on the bark of the beech, about the height of her heart, was a small key, the same color as the bark, that she had never noticed before, though she had hugged that beech-tree every morning of her life. So Nora turned the key at once, and out stepped——”

A fairy, only even better than a fairy because it was the fairy of the tree.  And the fairy of a tree is much higher ranking than a fairy of a meadow, in the same way that a duchess is much higher ranking than a goose-girl.

She was about the size of the robin redbreast, and she was dressed all in green, except a lovely cloak of red that, when it was folded about her, made her look very much indeed like the redbreast himself, and she was no bit bigger than the robin either.

“Nora Mavourneen,” said the dryad. (another name for a tree fairy)  “I have been noticing that you seem a bit sad-hearted of late, and for no reason either that anybody knows, so if you don’t mind I will take you with me for a walk this afternoon through fairyland, and we will see if we cannot do something to restore your good spirits again.”

At these words Nora danced for joy, and you would never have been able to guess that she had ever known a downhearted moment. So the dryad clapped her tiny hands three times, and out of the open door into the beech-tree stepped a little gnome who came and bowed low before them, holding in his hands a silver salver on which lay a little pellet.

So Nora took the pellet from the platter and thanked the gnome kindly and she ate it down, and no sooner had she swallowed it than she was no bigger than the dryad herself.

So the dryad took her by the hand and they walked happily into the beech-tree door, and the door shut behind them.

They went down and down a lot of winding stairs that were lighted only by small windows in the bark of the tree that Nora had never noticed before and could never find afterward. 

It was very cool and pleasant, for they could hear the sap go singing on its way from the roots up to the branches and leaves and when a summer shower went by they could hear the raindrops as they went singing down the trunk outside to the roots. After they had reached the foot of the stairs they walked for a long way through a cool corridor. 

It was not quite dark, for Little People stood at every turn who seemed to be doing what fireflies do on summer nights in the grass, and each one whistling to himself as he held his softly shaded lantern aloft. Down the side passages Nora could see thousands of tiny miners at work.

They were tending the woodland plants that hang their golden blossoms in the pathways and carrying up the dewdrops that sparkle like diamonds from their leaves in the daybreak. And it was pleasant to see them work, for they were all singing.

By and by Nora and the dryad came to a place where there was a brighter light ahead, and as they drew nearer Nora could see that they had come to the bank of the pond that is below Nora’s cottage, only that they were under the surface, looking up through a light so soft that it cast no shadows. And now the dryad took Nora’s hand and she found herself in a little boat, no bigger than a leaf, sailing across the pond but still beneath its surface. And here she saw on every hand, working amid the mire and the mirk, such jolly little divers, who were feeding the fish and tending the pond lily roots, and, like all the others, singing at their tasks.

Now you will know of course that they were on their way to the home of the fairy queen. And it was but a short while before they were there standing in front of beautiful palace with a golden floor, silver walls, and hangings all the colors of the rainbow.  And the Fairy Queen herself had wings like a butterfly and a gown like the morning and a face like the sun.

It was the Queen’s birthday and so she was giving what was called the birthday honors – that is special words of praise and honor to all the different worker fairies as she pronounced them knights of the court.

As each came forward, the royal herald announced their name and the trumpets pealed in triumph, as a gold star was pinned on each of their chests.

Then Nora herself, in a breathless moment of fear, was presented to the queen, and the queen kissed her daintily just above her lips on both sides. And suddenly Nora found herself back on her stony bench by the spring with the branches of the beech-tree waving silently before her.

“Oh, mother, grandma!” she cried as soon as she got home, “let me tell you about the wonderful visit I have been making out in the wildwood.” 

And after she had told her story, her mother said, “I think Nora has been dreaming,” but her grandmother said, “No, daughter, I think our little cushla (Irish word for darling)  has had her eyes opened the day.” 

Then Nora proudly showed the two dimples where the fairy queen had kissed her.  And if truth be told, ever after, if anyone kissed Nora upon those two dimples or even touched them or even looked at them, she would break into the sweetest smile, and never again was she sad or gloomy or downhearted.

So, what cheers you up when you are feeling a bit sad and gloomy?  And do you know what cheers your mum or dad or one of your siblings when they feel sad?  Sometimes, stories can cheer us up, can’t they?  Maybe you could try telling a story to someone, next time they are sad to see if that will cheer them up.

Don’t forget to check out our Encore St. Patrick’s Day Bonus Playlist on March 17th.

Cheerio then, join me next time for Journey with Story.

Recent Podcasts