Tuesday's Tales - Irish Tale

“Good Night, My Brave Michael”

One evening, there was a big gathering of neighbours sitting around a fire, telling stories, and one of them says, “There’s the strongest bolt and lock in all Ireland on the door there, and it couldn’t be broken at all.”

With that the Good People who were listening outside began to laugh.  And didn’t they then whip the lock off the door and dance through the fields with them?

Says the man of the house, “I’m thinking there’s danger abroad; let the lot of you stop here till dawn.”

But there was a big, adventurous man among them and he decided he’d go home despite the fairies.  He started off alone, and had to pass through a wet sort of field with a great bog to one side.  It was an awful and dangerous place to any who did not know it, but he was not troubled by this for he knew his way.

He was travelling at good speed when all of a sudden he heard the tramping of a score of horses behind him.  Then they came up around himself, but he seen no person at all, nor a sign of a horse.

“It be the fairies,” says he.

With that, one of them took hold of him by the collar and turned him around on the path.  “Good night, my brave Michael,” says the horsemen.

Then another took him by the shoulder and faced him around again.  “Good night, my brave Michael,” says he.

The whole score of fairies kept turning him around and round until he seen the stars dropping down from the sky and his ears were deafened with a sound like the sea.  And every one that took him by the shoulder would say, ““Good night, my brave Michael, good night!”

The poor fellow did not know what he was to do.  He seen they were setting him astray, but he couldn’t continue to keep himself on the path, and was in terrible dread that they’d lead him into the bog where he’d sink from the sight of man.

A sudden thought struck him then, a saying he’d heard from his ma.  He whipped the coat off his back and put it on with the wrong side turned out.  And then he found he was standing alone in the field, on the edge of the bog, and no person near him at all.  So he went away home without any mishap, but all the while trembling with dread.

 

When I first read this story, I wondered about the effect of turning the coat inside-out, and why the fairies suddenly stopped tormenting him.  There doesn’t seem to be one, single explanation; some say it changes the person’s identity, others that it neutralises the fairies' magic … that it confuses them enough for you to make your getaway … To think, that something so simple can be so effective.