Welsh: The Fishermen of Shetland

This story is part of the Welsh (Emerson) unit. Story source: Welsh Fairy-Tales and Other Stories by Peter H. Emerson (1894).

The Fishermen of Shetland
There was a snug little cove in one of the Shetland Islands. At the head of the cove stood a fishing hamlet, containing some twenty huts. In these huts lived the fisher-folk, ruled by one man — the chief — who was the father of two beautiful daughters.

Now these fishermen for some years had been very lucky, for a fairy queen and her fairies had settled there, and she had given her power over to a merman who was the chief of a large family of mermaids. The fairy queen had made the merman a belt of sea-weed which he always wore round his body. The merman used to turn the water red, green, and white, at noon each day, so that the fishermen knew that if they cast their nets into the coloured waters they would make good hauls.

Amongst these fishermen were two brave brothers who courted the chief's daughters, but the old man would not let them get married until they became rich men.

Whenever the fishermen went off in the boats the merman was used to sit on a rock, and watch them fishing.

Close by the hamlet was a great wood, in which lived a wicked old witch and a dwarf.

Now this witch wished to get possession of the merman's belt and so gain the fairy's power. Telling her scheme to the dwarf, she said to him: "Now you must trap the merman when he is sitting on the rocks watching the fishing fleet. But I must change you into a bee, when you must suck of the juice in this magic basin, then fly off and alight on the merman's head, when he will fall asleep."

So the dwarf agreed, and it happened as she had said, and the merman fell asleep, and the dwarf stole the belt and brought it to the witch.

"Now you must wear the belt," said the witch to the dwarf, "and you will have the power and the fairy will lose her power."

They then translated the sleeping merman to the forest and laid him before the hut, when the witch got a copper vessel, saying: "We must bury him in this."

Then she got the magic pot and told the dwarf to take a ladleful of the fluid in the pot and pour it over the merman, which he did, and immediately the merman turned into smoke that settled in the copper vessel. Then they sealed the copper vessel tightly.

"Now take this vessel and heave it into the sea fifty miles from the land," said the witch, and the dwarf did as he was bid.

"Now we'll starve those old fishermen out this winter," said the witch, and it happened as she had said — they could catch nothing.

In the spring the queen fairy came to one of the young fishermen who was courting one of the chief's daughters and said: "You must venture for the sake of your love, and for the lives of the fishermen, or you will all starve — but I will be with you. Will you run the risk?"

"I will," said the brave fisherman.

"Well, the dwarf has got my belt; he stole it from the merman, and so I have lost power over the world for twelve months and a day, but if you get back the belt, I can settle the witch; if not, you will all starve and catch no fish."

So the bold fisherman agreed to try.

"Now I must transform you into a bear, and you'll have to watch the witch and the dwarf, and take your chance of getting the belt, and you must watch where he hides his treasure, for he is using the belt as a means to get gold, which he hides in a cave."

And so the sailor was turned into a bear, and he went to the wood and watched the dwarf, and saw that he hid his treasure in a cave in some crags.

The bear had been given the power of making himself invisible by sitting on his haunches and rubbing his ears with his paws.

One night, when it was very boisterous, the bear felt like going to see his sweetheart. So he went and knocked at the door. The girl opened the door, and shrieked when she saw the bear.

"Oh, let him in," said her old mother.

So the bear came in and asked for shelter from the storm, for he could speak.

(700 words)





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