Invasion of the Fairies

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This dark fairy tale has been told down the generations, and is similar to the events of 1372 described in La Déscente des Aragousais. In her book Folklore of Guernsey, Marie De Garis says that the tale dates from an earlier invasion of Guernsey in 1338, when the island was occupied by the French for two years. Such was the frequency of siege and occupation of Guernsey between 1204 and 1480 that memories of all such events naturally found their way into many tales and were eventually written down in similar forms.

The tale started with the arrival of Michèle De Garis, the young woman whose beauty gave the island the Guernsey lily, in the fairy kingdom ruled by her father-in-law. Michèle was so loved and admired by the bachelors in her new homeland that they too desired their own Guernsey wives, so as is the wont of fairy-folk they immediately set off to get them. A cowherd tending his cattle high above Vazon was startled to see thousands of p’tits gens, as Guernsey people called the fairies, emerge from a cave at the Hommet headland and surge over La Grande Mare. The frightened cowherd was captured and told he must go and inform the islanders the p’tits gens had arrived to claim their women. If any men refused to give up their women they would be taken by force. Naturally the islanders refused to give in to such outlandish demands, and the men prepared to do battle for the honour of their women - all except two who cowered in a brick kiln.

The men fought bravely but were no match for the magical powers of the fairies. A last stand was made on the heights above St Peter Port where mortal blood flowed down the hillsides and all the Guernseymen were slaughtered. The Guernsey women had no choice but to marry the victorious p’tits gens and appeared to bear their fate with stoicism. The two men who hid in the brick kiln were apparently left to get on with their lives, with life on the island soon settling into a normal and generally happy routine. Eventually the p’tits gens had to leave Guernsey, their wives and their human-born children behind, due to the laws of their homeland which stated no-one could leave the fairy kingdom for more than a certain number of years.

The cave the p’tits gens emerged from is of course now known as the Creux des Fees, and the entrance is said to glisten and glimmer with golden fairy dust, although the doubters say it’s mica, and if you should get inside it is said you would see a huge granite table set for a magnificent feast with tableware made of stone. (It isn’t recommended trying to get into the cave unless with an experienced caver).

Ever since the invasion of the fairy-folk it is reputed that most indigenous Guernsey folk are of fairy ancestry, which the high number of short, dark-haired people is said to prove. Islanders who are tall and fair are said to be the descendants of the two men who hid in the brick kiln. (The truth behind this is possibly sadly prosaic, with the short, dark islanders possibly having dominant genes from the original Breton/Celtic inhabitants and the tall, fair islanders genes predominantly from the Normans).

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