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The Piskey-Purse Legends and Tales of North Cornwall   By:

The Piskey-Purse Legends and Tales of North Cornwall by Enys Tregarthen

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THE PISKEY PURSE Legends and Tales of North Cornwall


Illustrated by J. LEY PETHYBRIDGE

London Wells Gardner, Darton & Co., Ltd. 3, Paternoster Buildings, E.C. And 44, Victoria Street, Westminster


The tales given in this small volume, with one exception, are from North Cornwall, where I have always lived.

The scene of 'The Piskey Purse' is from Polzeath Bay (in maps called Hayle Bay, which is not its local name), in St. Minver parish. This charming spot was once much frequented by the Piskeys and other fairy folk, and many a quaint story used to be told about them by the old people of that place, which some of us still remember. The spot most favoured by the Piskeys for dancing was Pentire Glaze cliffs, where, alas! half a dozen lodging houses now stand. But the marks of fairy feet are not, they say, all obliterated, and the rings where Piskeys danced may yet be seen on the great headland of Pentire, and tiny paths called 'Piskey Walks' are still there on the edge of some of the cliffs.

'The Magic Pail' is a West Cornwall story, the scene of which is laid on a moorland between Carn Kenidzhek (the Hooting Carn) and Carn Boswavas, and not a great distance from the once celebrated Ding Dong tin mine.

The ancient town of Padstow provides the 'Witch in the Well'; lovely Harlyn Bay, in the parish of St. Merryn, is the scene of 'Borrowed Eyes and Ears'; and the 'Little White Hare' is from the Vale of Lanherne, at St. Mawgan in Pydar.

Readers will gather from these tales that we have several kinds of fairies in Cornwall the Good Little People, the Merry Little People, and the Bad Little People. To the latter belong the Spriggans, who are spiteful and lovers of money, and who have all the hidden treasures in their keeping. The Merry Little People are the Piskeys and the Nightriders, and are the best known of all the Wee Folk. The Piskeys are always dancing, laughing, and 'carrying on.' Their special delight is in leading the traveller astray, and who is at their mercy till he turns a garment inside out. The Nightriders take horses out of the stable and ride them over the moors and downs when their owners are in bed.

There are many quaint accounts as to the origin of the Cornish fairies. According to one tradition they are the Druids, who, because they opposed Christianity when it was first preached in Cornwall, were made to dwindle in size till they became the Little People they now are. The worst opposers of the Christian Faith dwindled to ants!

Another tradition says that the Wee Folk are the original inhabitants of Cornwall, who lived here long centuries before the Birth Star of the Babe of Bethlehem was seen in the East. In North Cornwall they are still sometimes called the 'little Ancient People.'

Whoever the Cornish fairies are, and whatever their origin, they are not without their interest from the folklore point of view, and we hope that these stories about them will be pleasing, not only to Cornish people themselves, but to those who come to visit 'the land outside England.'

I am indebted to my kind publishers for their deep interest in these folklore tales, and to Mr. J. Ley Pethybridge, a Cornishman, for so faithfully depicting many of the scenes referred to.




I. The Piskey Purse 1 II. The Magic Pail 59 III. The Witch in the Well 111 IV. Borrowed Eyes and Ears 168 V. The Little White Hare 191


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