Something a little different for you today from deepest Cronwall (where they put jam on their scone then the cream). So without further ado I shall hand you over to your host for the day. R.A. Kennedy.
When asked to do an article about Cornish Fae by Aunty Fox, I immediately knew what it was I wanted to write about. Animals.
It comes as no surprise that animals are prevalent in Folklore, and Cornish folklore is certainly no different.
The relationship between Fae and animal shows that the two can coexist, and their destinies coincide and collide with one another on a regular basis.
I remembered hearing a story when I was in Primary School and since have heard only a few times after, although very different versions to what I originally heard. I havent been successful in finding it any publications online or otherwise. I did however manage to find out from other sources such as friends etc that such a story is within existence. However, the many different versions makes it difficult to confirm where in Cornwall it happened. Folklore is like Chinese whispers i.e A barrel can roll to one end of the street and in the next town that barrel can be something else. Its one of the many wonderful things about such stories.
So I took up my trenchcoat and fedora and went into the Private Investigation business. So let me tell you about it, its quite extraordinary.
Romeo Kennedy F.I.
Thats my name over the door. The F is for Folklore and the I is for Investigator, or on a bad day the F can stand for Innumerable amount of things that I’m not willing to repeat.
Tracking down stories is my thing. Stories that lay hidden for years, stories that tell of the Spyrys and all manner of wonderful creatures, among other things.
I was sitting at my desk, late one misty Monday evening when there was a knock at the door. With a creak and a groan I got up from my comfy chair and casually opened the door.
Said she was a Spriggan, told me her brother had gone missing, asked me to find him.
I asked how long he had been missing?
She told me a thousand years.
The look on my face said it all. ‘Did you not think to search for him a bit sooner?’ I asked
Thats me, always try to go for the cheap shot. Needless to say she wasn’t Impressed and the snarl and large hands around my throat told me as much.
Looks like I have a new client, I thought, and I wasn’t in any position to argue.
The Spriggan told me that her brother’s name was Tiddy and he just upped and disappeared one night. Spriggans don’t tend to leave explanations. Hell they never usually leave anything except bones. Especially when treasure is involved.
Before Tiddy’s departure, he would regularly make long distance journeys to somewhere and come back with nets full of fish. When his sister asked where he had been Tiddy said not to ask. This went on for months, until he vanished.
‘Maybe he doesn’t want to be found?’ I said taking a sip of my stone cold coffee.
Apparently that wasn’t the case.
A few days before our meeting she was handed a note by a Pisky named Trevara. I say ‘a note’; it was more of a cryptic scrawl written on a leaf in a watery blue ink.
She handed me the screwed up leaf and I held it under the lamp. I couldn’t read whatever the hell it said but knew someone who could. I asked if it was okay to hold on to it.
That was all she could tell me. Other than: ‘Find him.’ Which was either a threat or just a friendly reminder that if I didn’t I would probably have a lot more free time on my hands, if you catch my drift?
Tuesday. After a few hours sleep, and some weird dreams. My secretary stomped into the office.
Through sleep crusted eyes, it almost looked like the office was sneezing inward.
I greeted Jammas and was met with a series of squeaks. Apparently, that’s how goblins greet one another and those they respect.
Respected by my goblin employee. That was one thing I could tick off my bucket list.
I took the note-leaf from my desk and showed it to Jammas.
He snatched it out of my hand and climbed on the desk, tilting the leaf to the light, squeaking all the while he studied it.Then he threw the leaf on the floor and leapt off the desk and approached me.
‘Leaf say, say. Long Tayle, Tayle.’ Jammas said.
It pays to know that Goblins should be kept away from copper and every other word is repeated.
I asked Jammas if he knew what Long Tayle meant. The goblin shook his head.
I couldn’t shake the feeling that I had heard the name before somewhere. It was a feeling that I couldn’t shake. A place? No. An item? Seemed unlikely. Had to be a name.
I asked the goblin to go through the old case files for anyone or anything with that name.
Looking for files with a goblin secretary is not an activity I would recommend, so I left the office – and the mess the goblin had made – and hit the mean streets of Cornwall in search of a Pisky named Trevara.
I hit the usual Pisky hang outs and came up empty, I considered speaking to the Knockers in the mines but I really didn’t fancy having my spirit encased in stone if I didn’t offer them something in return.
Then it hit me. I mean really hit me.
A flint Pisky hammer right in the noggin. It knocked me straight off my feet. And In between seeing stars I saw the perpetrator dash in the other direction.
With a wobble and a stumble I took off after it.
It wasn’t long till I found myself in a dead end. I panicked and thought I had been Pisky laden. Of all the things I was glad I did that morning it had to be changing my underwear and turning my coat inside out.
The Pisky that had thrown the hammer stepped out behind some rubble.
‘I hear you’re looking for me?’ asked Trevara.
I nodded, feeling the thrumming pain in my temple.
Said she had thrown the hammer to get my attention. I told her she needed to watch her aim. She told me she hadn’t missed.
I asked her how she got Tiddy the Spriggan’s note. Trevara told me she was meeting with a potential buyer. Although this buyer was more interested in handing her the leaf-note with the instruction to hand it to Tiddy’s sister. She told me she was a trader. In Dust.
Pisky dust. Its like drug to the Spyrys.
‘Thats all he said?’ I asked.
She shook her head: he’d said the note was written with a bluebell. I pressed Trevara about this “buyer” all she was willing to tell me was that he had a tail and a long running scar down his face.
I thanked Trevara for the bump on my head and for her help.
This gumshoe needed a lie down, a bite to eat, and some time to piece this puzzle together.
I eventually arrived back at the office, and sat down in my chair.
I was reminded of the old superstition that if a Cornishman or woman ever crossed the Tamar River and entered Devon, their tails would drop off, and something niggled at me. It wasn’t the cheap whiskey and Pasty I had for crowst. Why, after a thousand years would someone pass on a note from a missing Spriggan? It was going to have wait. My digestive system wasn’t happy with me I needed some rest, and possibly a sick bowl.
Wednesday. Feeling better I decided to go through all the information I had and a thought occurred to me. They dont happen often but when they do I try to pay attention.
Where was Tiddy getting all that fish from? And why? Spriggans were the spirits of giants after all. They didn’t need to eat. Who was Tiddy feeding?
As if sensing my thoughts, Jammas chimed in. ‘Stinky fish, fish for Dowrgi, Dowrgi.’
Dowrgi. Otters! Spriggans look after nature as well as treasure.
I needed to speak to the Otters. I needed Jammas to help: Otters are notorious for telling many different versions of a story, and being very territorial. Jammas would be handy if there was a scrap.
With a handful of Pisky dust and with Jammas doing whatever he does to get somewhere, we arrived at the river bank and went about our enquiries.
It was easier than I expected. Tiddy’s story seemed to have been passed down through generations of Otters for a thousand years, and I only got prodded with a spear about twenty times. Thats twenty times less than last time.
Of course weaving together the strands of stories was where the difficulty lay.
Some said Tiddy never fed them, others that Tiddy stole from them, and others that Tiddy was a fish.
After a while we managed to get everything we needed. It was time to weave the story together.
We arrived back at the office and took to the note covered cork board to lay out our findings. It would have to wait till morning. Getting prodded with Otter spears takes it out of a guy.
Thursday. Our notes looked better in the morning light. Whereas I looked like I’d slept on a bed of papers and pizza boxes. The answer was there. And it was all starting to make sense.
Looks like Tiddy was stealing fish to feed the Otter clan. Stealing fish from the Kings River.
King Long Tayle the Fox.
At dusk each day, Tiddy would shape-shift into an Otter and take as many fish as he could carry to the Otters, after the tyrant King Long Tayle had banished the Otters from his land, cutting off their steady supply of fish. With this detail from the Otters, I studied the crudely drawn map and saw how it all came together.
Unfortunately, Tiddy was caught. The King vowed to punish Tiddy for his crime in the harshest manner. Tiddy was bound in gorse and brambles for three days whilst the King could think of a suitable punishment for the Otter – not realizing what Tiddy was.
On the third day Tiddy escaped, killing two Pisky guards.
He made it to the edge of King Long Tayle’s Kingdom one step from freedom, but King Tayle was waiting for him in the field of bluebells. Tiddy quickly changed back into his Spriggan form but was thwarted by a stone ring, which bound him in his Otter form.
And so the Fox King decreed Tiddy would remain, and that he would tend the bluebells for ever more. If he took one step away from the bluebells, he would turn to dust. A thousand years later he managed to get a message out to his sister. Better late than never I suppose.
Friday. Tiddy’s sister came to the office I told her everything. She accepted my findings as only a Spriggan could. She bowed and left.
Looked like I wasn’t going to have that excess of free time then.
Still there were some things that were on my mind that I couldn’t shake.
Who was the fox with the scar? Why did he deliver the note to Trevara? This and so much more.
Just another day in the life of a Folklore Investigator.
Now, to get that bloody Goblin in here and tidy up the office.