The Fairy and the Miller's Wife
One of the children reached out to touch her, trying to take a hold of the gold hanging loosely around her figure. The child’s fists closed around air, grasping nothing at all. She couldn’t touch the lady.
By Liana Paraschaki
One day, one gloomy autumn evening, a mother, as mothers often do, was rocking her babe to sleep. Once the baby was asleep at last, the mother looked up, only to abruptly stop her lullaby. Her words caught in her throat. Before her stood a woman like no other, dressed in a dark green dress, embroidered with gold. A crown of pearls stood on her head, her tall neck and drawn-back shoulders equally adorned in gold. She stood like a queen would, all elegant and courtly. The mother had heard no one enter, but still, she rose to welcome her visitor. She offered the strange woman a chair, but the lady refused. All she asked for was a bowl of oatmeal. The humble meal, so unlike the lady’s riches and adornments, was immediately placed before her, in a bowl overflowing. The mother’s husband was a miller after all, so they were never in need of porridge. The strange lady made a promise to return the meal, even naming the very day she would do so. And with those final words uttered, she turned to leave.
One of the children reached out to touch her, trying to take a hold of the gold hanging loosely around her figure. The child’s fists closed around air, grasping nothing at all. She couldn’t touch the lady. The mother was initially terrified, thinking this was a bad omen, a curse, to her child. But her daughter grew up to be strong, never losing use of her hands.
Days passed, then weeks, and finally the day the lady had named arrived. This time, there was a knock on the door, and the porridge was returned, not by the same strange lady clad in green, but by a strange little figure with a yelping voice, similarly clad in green robes. The little figure cried out: “Braw meal, it’s the top pickle of the sin corn!” and urged everyone in the household to partake of the meal she had prepared for them. They all followed her advice, but one servant, a young lad who was soon found dead. The miller and his wife decided that the lad died because he refused the lady’s meal, and concluded that the first lady must have been the Queen of the Fairies, coming to their humble home to test them.
A few days later, as the sun set and night slowly creeped in, there was another knock on the miller’s door. Another little figure appeared before the miller’s home and asked him to set the mill in order, for she was tasked with grinding some corn. She promised, in a shrill voice, that he would find all just as he had left them, so he need not worry. He did as she desired: he set the mill in order and returned to bed. The next morning, when he and his wife arose, they found everything just as he had left them. So much for the honesty of fairies.
Adapted from George Douglas’ Scottish Fairy and Folk Tales