Once upon a time, many years ago, before steam-engines or aeroplanes were thought of, the Fairies still dwelt in one or two favourite spots in Scotland. The chief rendezvous in the Midlands was the "Fairy Knowe," near the Allan Water, where the King of the Fairies ruled over a goodly company, and spent the time in doing good to those who did not speak ill of them. Many a merry revel did they hold when the moon shone clearly over the summit of Dunmyat, dancing in the moonbeams and playing their funny games beside the Wharry Burn.

One of the merriest Fairies was one called Red Bonnet, from the circumstance that he always wore a red cap. When the King summoned his company to issue out upon a midnight frolic, you may be sure that Red Cap was amongst the first to obey the summons, and became the leader of their merry dances, races, and exploits. The people in the neighbourhood who loved these little folk could tell many a queer tale about Red Cap and his friends, for they often left behind them traces of their merry doings, and many a good turn did they do to those who were considered to be among their friends.

The King of the Fairies was a very handsome fairy, tall and slim, compared to the rest of his band; and he was very fond of going off by himself occasionally, so that he might see how mortals lived, and how they conducted themselves in their moments of merriment and leisure. Sometimes he would go to watch the mill-wheel at Menstrie go round, and see the sparkling water splash as it came tumbling down from Menstrie Glen. He thus came to know the miller.

This miller had a very handsome wife, who sometimes came to the mill to speak to her husband, and tell him the news of the day. Her laugh was like the sound of the gurgling water that drove the mill-wheel round so merrily, and the King of the Fairies would stand, himself unseen, and watch with pleasure the pretty wife of the sonsy miller. The more he saw and heard the miller's wife the more he fell in love with her, so that one day, meeting her when she was taking a walk upthe hillside, he made himself visible, and entered into conversation with her.

The miller's wife had never seen so handsome a man before, and as he spoke to her she felt quite flattered. This meeting was followed by many more, and by-and-by the silly matron was head over ears in love with the Fairy. She did not know that the handsome lover was a fairy, having never asked him such a question, but she had given her foolish heart into his keeping and did not care any more for the honest miller, who loved her all the same, and often wondered what had come over his pretty wife. He never said a word to her about the change which he perceived had come over her affection for him: he thought that everything would come right again, and so he held his peace, like a wise man.

One day, not long after, when the miller came from his mill, he found that his wife had left him, and gone off with her lover. The poor man was perfectly distracted with grief, and went about like one demented. He could not attend to his work, and the music of the mill-wheel was silent, the water rushed past without turning the big wheel, and the farmers could not get their corn ground, because the miller's wife had gone and left him.

At last the miller of Menstrie went to consult an old woman who was said to be a witch. He told her all his trouble, how his wife had left him, and that he would do anything to get her back again, for he loved her even more than ever. The old witch said that she would cast a spell and find out who it was who had carried off his lovely wife, for until they knew this nothing could be done. It took some time before the spell could be properly cast, but at length it was done, and the witch told the sorowing miller that his wife had been carried off by the King of the Fairies, and there was only one way by which she could be restored to him again. He was to go back to his mill, set the wheel agoing again, and resume his ordinary employment. Then, when he was riddling the corn, he was to give the riddle a certain magic turn, which she showed to him, and if that were done correctly his wife would drop down at his feet.

The miller returned home cheerier than he had been for many a day, and began to work as usual. The big wheel began to turn and drone out its usual song, the water came splashing over the weir, and the hum of industry was once more heard at the old mill. One bright summer day, as the miller was busy riddling the corn, he heard singing in the air, and the notes reminded him of his wife's voice. Listening attentively, he heard her singing a plaintive air, of which he made out this verse:

Oh, Alva woods are bonny, Tillicoultry hills are fair;

But when I think o' the bonny braes o' Menstrie,It makes my heart aye sair.

Although the miller heard the singing he could not see his wife, but he was convinced that it was she. Each day he heard the same song in affectionate notes, but the singer was always invisible. The music always came at the time when he was engaged riddling the corn, and try as he would he never seemed to be able to make the magic movement which the old witch had showed him.

At last, one day, as he was standing at the barn door with the corn riddle in his hand, he succeeded in making the magic turn, the spell that held his wife in captivity was instantly dissolved, and she dropped down from the air at his feet. The old mill-house was full of joy that night, and the miller invited his friends to share his hospitality as he told them how he had got his beloved wife back from Fairyland. The miller's wife would never tell anything she had seen when with the Fairies, and her husband never asked her what she had seen or done; he was too pleased to have her restored to his desolate home.

And it is good to know that they lived happy together ever afterwards. The Fairy King was seen no more, and the miller and his wife sang together the old songs they loved so well.


The Ochil Fairy Tales: The King of the Fairies by R. Menzies Fergusson

Email me at .
Gura Mi Ayd!

Copyright 1998 The Sacred Fire. All rights reserved.
Revised: October 31, 1998.