Burg Hill's On Fire
: Good Stories For Great Holidays
A CELTIC FAIRY TALE
BY ELIZABETH W. GRIERSON (ADAPTED)
Once upon a time there was a rich farmer who had a thrifty wife. She
used to go out and gather all the little bits of wool which she could
find on the hillsides, and bring them home. Then, after her family had
gone to bed, she would sit up and card the wool and spin it into yarn,
then she would weave the yarn into cloth to
ake garments for her
But all this work made her feel very tired, so that one night, sitting
at her loom, she laid down her shuttle and cried:--
"Oh, that some one would come from far or near, from land or sea, to
No sooner had the words left her lips than she heard some one knocking
at the door.
"Who is there?" cried she.
"Tell Quary, good housewife," answered a wee, wee voice. "Open the door
to me. As long as I have you'll get."
She opened the door and there on the threshold stood a queer, little
woman, dressed in a green gown and wearing a white cap on her head.
The good housewife was so astonished that she stood and stared at her
strange visitor; but without a word the little woman ran past her, and
seated herself at the spinning-wheel.
The good housewife shut the door, but just then she heard another knock.
"Who is there?" said she.
"Tell Quary, good housewife. Open the door to me," said another wee, wee
voice. "As long as I have you'll get."
And when she opened the door there was another queer, little woman, in a
lilac frock and a green cap, standing on the threshold.
She, too, ran into the house without waiting to say, "By your leave,"
and picking up the distaff, began to put some wool on it.
Then before the housewife could get the door shut, a funny little
manikin, with green trousers and a red cap, came running in, and
followed the tiny women into the kitchen, seized hold of a handful of
wool, and began to card it. Another wee, wee woman followed him, and
then another tiny manikin, and another, and another, until it seemed
to the good housewife that all the fairies and pixies in Scotland were
coming into her house.
The kitchen was alive with them. Some of them hung the great pot over
the fire to boil water to wash the wool that was dirty. Some teased the
clean wool, and some carded it. Some spun it into yarn, and some wove
the yarn into great webs of cloth.
And the noise they made was like to make her head run round. "Splash!
splash! Whirr! whirr! Clack! clack!" The water in the pot bubbled over.
The spinning-wheel whirred. The shuttle in the loom flew backwards and
And the worst of it was that all the Fairies cried out for something
to eat, and although the good housewife put on her griddle and baked
bannocks as fast as she could, the bannocks were eaten up the moment
they were taken off the fire, and yet the Fairies shouted for more.
At last the poor woman was so troubled that she went into the next room
to wake her husband. But although she shook him with all her might, she
could not wake him. It was very plain to see that he was bewitched.
Frightened almost out of her senses, and leaving the Fairies eating her
last batch of bannocks, she stole out of the house and ran as fast as
she could to the cottage of the Wise Man who lived a mile away.
She knocked at his door till he got up and put his head out of the
window, to see who was there; then she told him the whole story.
"Thou foolish woman," said he, "let this be a lesson to thee never to
pray for things thou dost not need! Before thy husband can be loosed
from the spell the Fairies must be got out of the house and the
fulling-water, which they have boiled, must be thrown over him. Hurry
to the little hill that lies behind thy cottage, climb to the top of
it, and set the bushes on fire; then thou must shout three times: 'BURG
HILL'S ON FIRE!' Then will all the little Fairies run out to see if
this be true, for they live under the hill. When they are all out of the
cottage, do thou slip in as quickly as thou canst, and turn the kitchen
upside down. Upset everything the Fairies have worked with, else the
things their fingers have touched will open the door to them, and let
them in, in spite of thee."
So the good housewife hurried away. She climbed to the top of the little
hill back of her cottage, set the bushes on fire, and cried out three
times as loud as she was able: "BURG HILL'S ON FIRE!"
And sure enough, the door of the cottage was flung wide open, and all
the little Fairies came running out, knocking each other over in their
eagerness to be first at the hill.
In the confusion the good housewife slipped away, and ran as fast as she
could to her cottage; and when she was once inside, it did not take her
long to bar the door, and turn everything upside down.
She took the band off the spinning-wheel, and twisted the head of the
distaff the wrong way. She lifted the pot of fulling-water off the fire,
and turned the room topsy-turvy, and threw down the carding-combs.
Scarcely had she done so, when the Fairies returned, and knocked at the
"Good housewife! let us in," they cried.
"The door is shut and bolted, and I will not open it," answered she.
"Good spinning-wheel, get up and open the door," they cried.
"How can I," answered the spinning-wheel, "seeing that my band is
"Kind distaff, open the door for us," said they.
"That would I gladly do," said the distaff, "but I cannot walk, for my
head is turned the wrong way."
"Weaving-loom, have pity, and open the door."
"I am all topsy-turvy, and cannot move," sighed the loom.
"Fulling-water, open the door," they implored.
"I am off the fire," growled the fulling-water, "and all my strength is
"Oh! Is there nothing that will come to our aid, and open the door?"
"I will," said a little barley-bannock, that had lain hidden, toasting
on the hearth; and it rose and trundled like a wheel quickly across the
But luckily the housewife saw it, and she nipped it between her finger
and thumb, and, because it was only half-baked, it fell with a "splatch"
on the cold floor.
Then the Fairies gave up trying to get into the kitchen, and instead
they climbed up by the windows into the room where the good housewife's
husband was sleeping, and they swarmed upon his bed and tickled him
until he tossed about and muttered as if he had a fever.
Then all of a sudden the good housewife remembered what the Wise Man had
said about the fulling-water. She ran to the kitchen and lifted a cupful
out of the pot, and carried it in, and threw it over the bed where her
In an instant he woke up in his right senses. Then he jumped out of bed,
ran across the room and opened the door, and the Fairies vanished. And
they have never been seen from that day to this.