Fairy Tales

Vanity Fair magazine has just published an interesting article on Iceland’s financial debacle.  Iceland seems a very peculiar country if the reporter can be believed.   And not just because everyone is listed by their first name in the phonebook.

One of the larger industries there is aluminium smelting.  When the aluminium giant, Alcoa, first set up its giant smelting plant in 2004, the company was forced to check the site extensively for ‘hidden people’ (elves) and certify there were none occupying the area.

Too bad there were no elves or little people, who are notoriously interfering forces, to run checks on the financial dealings of the Icelandic banks.  

In the fields of Ireland, there are still ‘raths’ – old mounds or rings of stone and sod which date back to ancient times.  These survived because farmers thought they were fairy ‘forts’ and the fairies would kill anyone who removed a stone.  The belief in fairies may still endure in pockets in rural Ireland, if my experience is anything to go by.

When I lived in Galway in Ireland  in the 80’s, a friend and I were hitchhiking on a road outside the town.   A tradesman in a truck picked us up and drove us into Galway.  We passed an interesting old house that seemed deserted.  I had seen it several times and wondered about it.

“Nobody seems to live in that house.” I said to the driver, thinking he might know something about it.

“Someone lives there, all right.”  he said seriously. “Fairies do.”

“Really?” I said, a bit startled.  I wasn’t  sure I had heard him correctly.  “So no people want to live there?

 “Oh, people want to live there.  Fairies won’t let ’em.”

My friend, who was Irish, later assured me the man was serious and that some of the country people were still believers.


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