Dangerous Fairies

“He shall find the thornies set
In his bed at night.”

Be careful: Not all fairies are benign, ethereal sweeties. The Fairies, by 19th-Century Irish poet William Allingham, is a dark-themed children’s poem that includes the abduction (and eventual death) of a child. This artwork by Boris Artzybasheff adds to the creepiness. The poem and illustration were included in the Collier’s Junior Classics’ The Young Folks Shelf of Books, Volume 1 (“ABC GO!”; 1962) under the heading “Best-Loved Poems.” As a pre-schooler, I found the picture especially disturbing. It always comes to mind when I think I feel something scratchy in my bed at night.

Here are some excerpts from the poem:

Up the airy mountain

Down the rushy glen,

We daren’t go a-hunting,

For fear of little men;

Wee folk, good folk,

Trooping all together;

Green jacket, red cap,

And white owl’s feather. …

 

They stole little Bridget

For seven years long;

When she came down again

Her friends were all gone.

They took her lightly back

Between the night and morrow;

They thought she was fast asleep,

But she was dead with sorrow.

They have kept her ever since

Deep within the lake,

On a bed of flag leaves,

Watching till she wake.

 

By the craggy hill-side,

Through the mosses bare,

They have planted thorn trees

For pleasure here and there.

Is any man so daring

As dig them up in spite?

He shall find the thornies set

In his bed at night. …

You can find the entire poem at Poetry Archive

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