The Magic Ointment

The Magic Ointment

Any tale you may choose to name will tell you one thing of the faerie folk: they are never to be trusted. Make a deal with a fairy and you may be greatly rewarded; but break a promise to a fairy and the mistake will cost you dearly. The following story is from the village of Netherwitton, just a few miles west of the Northumbrian town of Morpeth.

A long time ago in the village of Netherwitton lived a cottager and his wife. Though they were not rich by earthly means, they had all that they felt need or want for save one: a child of their own. This loss grew until it became an unbearable sadness for them both. When the cottager was cutting peat in the sunny days of June he would look down upon the boys playing in the valley below and wish that one of them was his. When he sat in front of the fire in the depth of winter he would whittle away and secretly wish he had a boy to make toys for; a little lad, he thought, would be perfect: to play in front of the fire; to follow him out into the meadows; a son he could teach to fish and to learn the ways of all living creatures. His wife sat beside him and also dreamed of a child to whom she could tell the many stories her mother had told to her, and sing the many songs she remembered from her own childhood.

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The Magic Brocade

The Magic Brocade

Think about the ancient civilisations of Asia, and if you’re anything like me, it won’t be long before you begin conjuring up mental pictures of beautiful men and women dressed in fabulously rich and decadent clothing; the iconic Japanese kimono [着物], the elegant Chinese cheongsam or qipao [旗袍] or perhaps even the Korean hanbok [한복]. The fabrics used to make these garments have long been popular trade commodities between the east and west – especially silk, which has been developed in China since around 3500 BC – and intricately decorated, through printing, dyeing, weaving and embroidery.

Silk brocade remains a popular Chinese export even today and its history goes back to at least the third century AD. Often mistaken for tapestry or embroidered fabric, brocade is in fact woven and is traditionally used for clothing, bedspreads, furniture and many other household items. The fabulous patterns and scenes depicted on brocade were often so intricate and beautiful that they appealed to the belief they were real…

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The Page-boy and the Silver Goblet

The Page-boy and the Silver Goblet

Since I visited Edinburgh yesterday, it’s only fitting that today’s story is from Scotland.

There was once a young lad who worked as a page-boy at a grand castle which stood on a cliff overlooking the sea. He was a pleasant boy and a hard worker, so all who knew him were fond of him; from the Earl he served every day to the fat old butler for whom he ran errands.

As I said, the castle itself stood on a cliff by the sea; its walls were impenetrable and there was no way to enter the castle from that direction, save a little door cut into the thick walls and a well-hidden stairway among the rocks. The people who lived in the castle used this passage whenever they wanted to bathe on the pleasant sea shore.

On the inland side of the castle were many beautiful gardens and pleasure grounds, which lay on land which gently sloped upwards to meet an expanse of heather-covered moorland, framed by distant hills. It was here that the page-boy loved to roam after his day’s work was done. He ran about the moor chasing bumble-bees and catching butterflies; and when nesting time came, he would search for the hidden bird’s nests to peep at the tiny speckled eggs.

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